An Old Dog Learns New Tricks

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What in the heck would make a seventy year old great grandfather give up the comfort and amenities of his thirty eight foot luxury motor home so he would end up sleeping on a $12 air mattress in a $24 tent, held down by big rocks on a field composed of crushed basalt and sticker burr weeds?

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How about two things? The first is an almost life-long love of roaming the outdoors and, probably most strange of all, his very first brand new Jeep Wrangler. That’s what started this whole unusual saga. My love of the outdoors started when I was about 14 or 15 when our family took a real vacation into the Maine woods. That’s where and when the beauty of nature and the forest, and the fun of fishing and the incredible smell of a wood-burning fireplace, caused the bug to bite. Hard. Unfortunately, that bug lay dormant for almost 20 years and it wasn’t until the ‘70’s, when my own family started to grow, that we all were able to relive that love of the outdoors.

It was in that era around 1971 or 1972 when the big “backpacking” rage began. I happened to be midway through a Navy career at that time, and we were stationed at Moffett Field Naval Air Station in central California. Nearby were the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite, and the historical Gold Country. They were only a couple of hours away, so backpacking is what we did. At that time, “we” meant me and my older son and some of our friends. Hauling all of our belongings in a backpack through the woods, eventually sleeping in a down bag on a foam pad in a little pup tent was real honest fun.

Of course, that naturally progressed because if Mom, Dad and our four kids were to be included in these excursions, that required a few more things for creature comfort. So in the great American way, a progression commenced of increasingly larger travel trailers and the purchase of my first off-highway vehicle, a brand new, shiny (and pretty unique for those times), 1972 Chevy K-5 Blazer. The Blazer pulled the trailer to the mountains and then, after the trailer was unhooked, it took the family on some great trails and mountain roads and across a number of rapid, scary streams. By this time we were ALL hooked on the adventure lifestyle: enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, roaming the hills, and challenging ourselves with some pretty moderate rock climbing.

Fast forward about a quarter century or more. I now find myself living in North Central Washington State. I accidentally ended up here after completing a career of aircraft maintenance in the Navy and another career as an Industrial Engineer with Boeing – helping to build 747’s. Never planned to be here as I am an uprooted Easterner, but will never go back now that I am out here in the “frontier.”

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