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Irma; Mt Hood; Boring and Mossyrock; Ft Lewis; RODEO! Serving Spirit Class Tacoma; Olympic National Forest; Heather the Slayer

Tacoma, Washington – actually Joint Base Lewis-McChord, formerly known as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base – is our new home for almost three weeks. We are in a pleasant campsite alongside American Lake, with daytime temps in the high 60s, lows at night in the 40s, much better than the 90s our friends back in Florida have to contend with in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone effected by that terrible storm. 

Our house in The Villages survived without damage, in large part thanks to our great Navy and sailing friends Anthony and Annette Baker, who are staying in our house until power is restored at the marina where their beautiful trawler Magnolia is moored. Thanks, guys!!!

Even during catastrophes, one can find instances of humor… this photo of a golf cart in The Villages whose owner had driven into a flooded tunnel made me laugh – no one was injured, except perhaps the owner’s pride. What was he/she thinking???

We had a nice stop in Portland, Oregon, at Mt. Hood, where MLB decided to go backpacking overnight for a spiritual experience. I packed in 4 miles with her to make sure Burnt Lake lived up to the glowing remarks that a USFS ranger had given us, helped her set up camp, and then hiked out to enjoy some Pinot Noir with Rudy and Gretchen. You can see that Suzanne is loving her spartan accommodations (my cozy one-woman tent).

Burnt Lake (in Mt. Hood National Forest) is a lovely hiking destination, wooded all the way to the shore, with room for only 4 campsites (flat spots are in short supply). The fish were safe from my predation –  I didn’t have room in my pack to carry my fishing rod and hand grenades… 

The view of Mt. Hood from the lake is stunning. After a handful of dayhikers departed, Suzanne had this lake all to herself until mid-morning the next day. She had a can of bear spray, but didn’t need it. (I waited until the next day to tell her about the cartoon someone had sent me with a tent in the woods surrounded by 15 bears – the conversation bubble from inside the tent read, “Sweetheart, you have to stop thinking that every noise you hear here in the woods is a bear.”

The following day, I hiked back in to Burnt Lake to help her pack out tent, stove, sleeping bag, air mattress, extra food, first aid kit, camp chair, etc… I was happy that she had such a great time in the wilderness so close to Mt Hood (11,250 ft.). We had planned for me to get a 4-day backpack around the mountain on the Timberline Trail, but when we arrived at our campground in Mt Hood Village, our 42 ft coach wouldn’t fit in the 38 ft space they had assigned us (this is after making a reservation last December). Because this was eclipse week, all of the nearby campgrounds were full, so we had to relocate for five nights to a county CG in Boring, Oregon. Then for the eclipse itself, we had to drive to Mossyrock, Washington, two hours away and outside the totality cone. Mossyrock and Boring – You can’t make this stuff up. Mossyrock homeowners do like their privacy; this former Marine states it plainly: “Trespass at your own risk” and “Come in peace or leave in pieces!”

Our next stop was Tacoma, where Suzanne just completed another Serving Spirit class – the event was filled with 50 wonderful, enthusiastic students, several of whom are old friends to whom Suzanne had given readings or who had attended workshops she had given. Thanks especially to Heather McKay’s daughter Tatelyn (far left) who helped Suzanne both days, allowing me to hike and spend more time with Rudy and Gretchen. (See last paragraph below for more info on Heather the Slayer…)

One night MLB said, “Ty, git on yer jeans and boots… we’re a-going to the rodeo!” (Well, it was something like that.) We arrived at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup and enjoyed the bronco and bull-riders (all men – Suzanne’s favorites) as well as the barrel racers and flag riders (all women – my favorites – gee, I wonder why???). 

It was a fun evening; I almost looked cowboyish in my jeans and tee-shirt, but without the real Justin boots, fist-size belt buckle and Stetson hat, it was apparent that I wasn’t ready for bull-riding. MLB looked much more authentic. I offered to take her on the Twirling Teacup ride, but she declined…

Another evening found us on the shore of Puget Sound in Steilacoom, only a few miles from Ft. Lewis. This used to be a sleepy little ferry town, a suburb of Tacoma. Now, with the flood of people and money into Seattle for Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other tech-related firms (100,000 new residents in the past year), prices have skyrocketed, and Steilacoom is a highly desirable place to live.

Rudy and Gretchen got to meet two other long-haired Dachshunds while in Steilacoom. “Rudy, get your nose out of her butt!” 

Ft. Lewis has a great view of Mt. Rainier (14,410 ft.), and tons of hiking opportunities. Unfortunately, our coach has had more than its normal share of maintenance “issues” this summer, which has kept me from my normal 3-4 day long backpacking trips. Repairs to the following equipment have been completed: front end alignment, new steer tires, air compressor, dash air conditioner, roof air conditioner, interior door frame, refrigerator door, and even the car air conditioner… sheesh, I should have trained to be an RV repairman!

We did get up to Olympic National Forest for a dayhike on the Lower Skokomish River. This time we took Rudy and Gretchen in their backpacks (canine hikers are not allowed in National Parks, but are welcome in National Forests). The river is beautiful, massive gravel bars left from the many glaciers that covered the area until cave men started driving SUVs with stone wheels…

This Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) had fallen across the trail, which was then relocated around it – a smart move, since it’s over 200 feet long. (They can grow to 250 feet in height and 8 feet in diameter, and may live over 1,000 years.) You can just make out Suzanne at the far end of the tree if you look real carefully.

While at Ft. Lewis, MLB decided it would be a good idea (at this point I cringed) to get a personal trainer to help her with specific exercise goals. I thought, “Yeah, she’s going to get some 6′ 4″ Norwegian stud named Lars with pecs the size of my thighs and run off to Oslo…” Well, imagine my surprise when she said, “Ty, I found this cool gal named Heather who will help us both get in shape!” (My imagination ran wild…) So, we go to the gym to meet Heather. I am thinking she’s an impressionable young gal who will be impressed by my running prowess and suave, debonair manner… we meet, and learn that Heather is a former USAF military policewoman, military police dog trainer, parachutist with 200 jumps, and is married to a Green Beret.  Heather has a degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition (called Exercise Torture by some) and is also contracted by the Army to train (in her own words “destroy”) young Special Forces soldiers physically so they can pass their tougher than nails PT tests. She is 4′ 11″, about 90 lbs, and a very tough hard body! Our first weight workout was TWO HOURS LONG!   I AM DOOMED!!! 

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