Book Review: Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington

Dan A. Nelson’s practical hiking guide, Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington, includes necessary information to ensure satisfaction for dog owners and their dogs while enjoying hikes in Western Washington.

Although dogs aren’t allowed on national park or monument trails, there are plenty of wonderful hikes to enjoy in Western Washington. In this guidebook, Nelson describes 85 hikes, complete with quick references for distance round trip, difficulty on a scale of one to five, highest elevation point, elevation gain, best season, map, contact information and GPS coordinates, followed by detailed descriptions of the individual hikes.

In addition to specific destinations, at the beginning of the book Nelson goes into some detail about hiking with a dog in general, which I found particularly interesting. In the “Getting Ready” section, Nelson emphasizes the importance of good training, including use of a leash on the trail. Permits and regulations must be obeyed, not only for human and dog safety, but for the sake of the environment.

“Leave No Trace” is discussed in detail and encompasses much more than hauling your own garbage out. It means camp a distance away from a water source such as a lake or stream, not wash in the water, but collect water in a container and take it back to camp. Camp on hard ground so you won’t trample grass or fragile vegetation. Nelson gives many more examples of ways to keep the wilderness intact by leaving no trace.

The trail etiquette section was an eye-opener for me. For instance, when dog owners meet any other trail users, dog and owner must yield the right-of-way, stepping well clear of the trail to allow the other users to pass without worrying about “getting sniffed.” Another: When a dog meets a horse, the dog owner must yield the trail and ensure the dog remains calm. Also, stay within view so that the horse isn’t suddenly spooked when he sees the dog.

Another rule of etiquette I learned is that when hikers meet other hikers, the group heading uphill has the right-of-way. There are many more important points the author makes, points that make sense once the reasons are explained.

Best Hikes with Dogs: Western Washington is a valuable reference for hikers with dogs, or even without dogs. Dan Nelson is the author of several guidebooks, all published by The Mountaineer Books.

Excuse Me: Isn’t That a Pig?

Note: The following is taken in part from my memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific.

Although every port-of-call was special to us, the hands-down favorite was the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga is a Polynesian sovereign state, which means it governs itself, and is an archipelago of 169 islands, 36 of which are inhabited. Four major groups of islands form the Kingdom: Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u, and Niua groups. Tonatapu is the main island and its capitol is Nuku’alofa. We spent about six weeks in Tonga, all in the Vava’u group.

The only Pacific Island nation never colonized by a foreign power, the Kingdom of Tonga is known as “The Friendly Islands.” Tongans are strongly Christian, the people helpful and friendly.

Upon arrival we anchored Impunity near the small town of Neiafu and rowed our dingy ashore. Tongans constantly swept their wooden sidewalks and packed earthen streets–we were impressed with how clean everything was.

Surprisingly, pigs wandered around at will. I wasn’t sure where they did their business, but we didn’t see any pig-doo along the streets. We saw pigs, of all different colors and sizes, on church steps, sidewalks, streets, in yards. They were apparently a part of the community.

Pigs had their useful purpose. The Tongans didn’t mow lawns; pigs kept them neat and trim. They ate much of the soft garbage, like fallen fruit. And, of course, pigs provided meat. We learned that domestic pigs played an important role in social obligations mainly for gifts and exchange at feasts, weddings and funerals.

During our stay in Tonga we moved Impunity around to anchor near different islands. The water was clear and beautiful–ideal for snorkeling.

Off one of the uninhabited islands where we regularly anchored, we often rowed ashore to feed a couple of piglets. Because of their coloration, we called one of the piglets Stars and the other Stripes. The mother stayed clear of us, hovering in nearby bushes, ready to protect her babies. I would have loved to hold them, but was afraid I would alarm their mother. We enjoyed the little pigs and saved our kitchen scraps for them.

Tonga was a paradise and those little pigs added immensely to our enjoyment.


Two Memoirs by John W. Evans

John and Katie Evans were again living and working abroad, this time in Romania. They met while serving with the Peace Corps in Bangladesh from 2000 to 2002.

John, 29, a writer, and Katie, 30, who worked in Bucharest leading an educational effort on HIV/AIDS and family violence prevention, joined friends on a hike in the Carpathian Mountains on June 23, 2007. They had planned to stay in a hostel near Bucharest for the night, but upon arrival found there were no rooms available. Although it was nearing evening and darkness, they felt there would be time to hike to the next hostel, about a mile away. On the way, the group became separated. John ended up with the faster group, anxious to get to the hostel while rooms were still available. Katie, with the slower group, nursed a sore ankle.

When he approached a stream, John decided to wait for the slower group to help them across, telling the others to go ahead and secure their rooms. When Katie’s group didn’t come, he circled back, but at first couldn’t find them. He heard screaming and found Katie, pinned down by a large brown bear.

Young Widower is the tragic story of this horrendous event and the aftermath of dealing with overpowering grief. The story goes back in time to their earlier years, their families, and day-to-day lives, allowing the reader to know those involved. Evans’ description of coping with his great loss, plus the horrific memory of witnessing and hearing his wife’s final moments is deeply moving.

Young Widower is an extraordinary read, both poignant and revealing about the human spirit.


John W. Evans’ Should I Still Wish is a sequel to his first memoir, Young Widower. In the first book, Evans tells the horrific story of his wife Katie being mauled to death by a brown bear in Romania, and his subsequent grief, guilt and adjustment.

In Should I Still Wish Evans renews a friendship with Cait, whom he also met ten years earlier while serving with the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. The memoir begins one year after the violent death of his first wife.

John and Cait eventually marry and have three sons. The author uses dreams, memories, and second-person accounts akin to letters to his first son and to his deceased wife, to share his struggle through the various stages of grief and recovery. He writes of his desire to make peace with the natural world again, and to acknowledge life’s abundant joys.

Should I Still Wish is a moving story of second chances and daring to love again. Evans is an excellent writer who has a talent for describing intricate details of emotions and scenes. He teaches creative writing at Stanford University. To learn more about John W. Evans, visit

Injured at Sea


Note: The following is taken in part from my memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific.

On-the-nose winds made the sail between American Samoa and The Kingdom of Tonga tough. After a five-month absence from sailing, my stomach rebelled. I wasn’t over-the-side sick, but for the first day and a half I didn’t feel my best.

On the second night, Bruce had gone off watch at 10:00 and settled down in Impunity’s midship bunk. I scanned the horizon and went below decks to make a cup of tea. Bruce had put the teakettle on the stove to heat the water for me, so I didn’t harness myself into the galley for the quick trip to fill my cup and grab a tea bag.

The boat surged up, then suddenly dropped off the back of a wave and threw me backwards across the cabin. I landed on the edge of the chart table, hitting my lower back, three inches from my spine on my right side.

I knew immediately I was hurt, that I’d probably broken a rib. Bruce had leapt out of the bunk with my scream as I crashed into the chart table. He wanted me to lie down right away, but I was anxious to see how badly I was hurt, so I insisted on standing my watch, with the understanding I’d call him if I needed to. Reluctantly, he agreed.

Sticking to our normal night watch routine, I set our kitchen timer for every 15 minutes and at that time did a 360-degree horizon check. I checked the knot-meter, compass, and trim of the sails, to make sure everything was okay. Because the seas were so rough, I sat tucked up under the dodger to stay out of the spray. By the 16th time I stood up on the rocking boat, I knew that nothing vital was broken. But I also knew that I was really hurting and that once I lay down, I’d probably not get up again until we arrived in Tonga.

At the end of my watch Bruce got me settled onto the bunk and that was it for me for the next day and a half, other than brief trips to the head. Keeping our regular ham radio schedule, Bruce talked to our doctor friend George on Wind-dancer in Pago Pago. I had already taken aspirin—lots of it. We had stronger pain medication on board, but I was hesitant to take it and be totally “out of it.” I knew if I had to I could get up and help Bruce. While George and Bruce talked on the radio, another person in Neiafu Harbor in Tonga chimed in, introduced himself and said he was a doctor, a fellow yachtie.

As we approached Tonga, the seas calmed allowing me to gingerly walk around, even prepare meals. Bruce was weary, having run the boat by himself and taken care of me.

We pulled into Neiafu Harbor mid-day and a customs agent came aboard first, inquiring about me. Word had spread about my injury. I was again lying on the bunk, not able to stand comfortably while the boat jostled into place at the wharf for the customs inspection. Then a doctor to whom Bruce had talked on the radio, the yachtie, came aboard and verified it was likely a broken rib, or a badly bruised one. In any event, the treatment was the same. He gave me ibuprofen, a pain medication I’d never used before, which was more effective for me than aspirin. He offered to tape my torso, but I declined. It was just too hot. He suggested that I could swim, very gently, but no diving off the boat. Not to worry. I knew diving was not in my immediate agenda.

It felt so good not to be crashing around at sea. Once we were anchored, I carefully climbed down our boarding ladder to enjoy a cooling swim. Tonga was blissfully quiet and unbelievably beautiful. It didn’t take long before I could freely move around and enjoy life in this true paradise. It was awhile longer before I could dive.

Book Review: The Blues

Hang on to your cowboy hat for this action-packed contemporary western novel by Susie Drougas.

When Attorney Dusty Rose accepts a wrongful death case, he’s excited that he can combine business with pleasure since the location of the incident is the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Oregon. Together with his private investigator, Mike, who also happens to be Dusty’s riding side-kick, they load up the horse trailer and drive from the greater Seattle area to where the death occurred.

The case involves a couple who had made arrangements with an outfitter to celebrate their anniversary by taking a picnic lunch to the peak of the Eagle Cap. From their base camp, they rode horses as far as they could, but then planned to hike the last 500 feet to the peak. During this stretch of the trip, the woman fell to her instant death. The widowed husband was now suing the outfitter for wrongful death.

On the way to meet the outfitter and investigate the scene, Dusty and Mike stop at a bar for dinner, the only place open at that time of night. They encounter a beautiful young woman, Stevie, and there is an instant attraction between her and Dusty. It’s a regrettable encounter because Dusty already has a wonderful woman in his life, a fellow lawyer, and he instantly regrets his lapse in good judgement. But the damage is done.

The next day Dusty and Mike talk to the outfitter and ride their horses, then hike, to the scene of the accident. Later, they talk to the widowed husband, but are puzzled by the conflicts and inconsistencies of the various stories.

The Blues, a name which refers to a location in the book, is rich in landscape descriptions and of wilderness horseback riding. As a real-life court reporter, the author also exhibits professional knowledge of legal procedures, which add significantly to the realism of the story.

The Blues is the fourth of the Dusty Rose Series. To learn more about the preceding novels and the author, visit

Our First Landfall: The Marquesas

Note: The following is taken in part from my memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific.

We had been at sea for 35 days. Except for the day we left San Diego, we hadn’t seen another boat. It had been just the two of us in a world surrounded by endless water. Like a little kid, I asked Bruce when we would “get there,” reach the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

“Oh, probably early Wednesday morning.”

If that happened, I would be impressed with the exactness of his calculations. Without navigation know-how, you can miss an island by days, going right past it. If an island is more than 10 miles away, a small-craft sailor can’t see it. To cross an ocean with no landmarks, using only the stars and sun for navigation, takes skill.

In any event, I had my sights set on Wednesday. I was ready to get there, to set foot on land, take a long walk, and drink something cold. Strangely, I also felt reluctance to again open our lives to others. We’d been in a world of our own and we were comfortable with that.

On Wednesday, as we approached the Marquesas, from miles away we were aware of the islands’ aroma, a tropical arboretum rich with scents of earth tinted with tropical flowers and fruits. We passed north of Ua Nuka before approaching Nuku Hiva, the largest of the twelve Marquesas Islands.

As we neared land, dolphins greeted us with wild cavorting around Impunity’s bow, slicing the water at extraordinary speeds. Our depth sounder was turned on and the dolphins kept setting off the shallow water alarm. We finally turned off the depth sounder since we had plenty of good light to see any obstacles. I stood in the bow, ready to signal Bruce if I saw any coral heads or changes in water color. I had to laugh at the dolphins’ playful antics as they welcomed us to French Polynesia.

Bruce found a place to anchor among other boats in Taiahoe Bay, yachts from the United States, Sweden, New Zealand, France, Zambia in South Africa, Germany, plus a French Navy ship. The rattling of our ground tackle was a welcome sound as the anchor was lowered 28 feet into the bay.

We made it! We’d traveled 3,200 miles in 34 days. This was the first of many landfalls, but probably the most exciting. We’d proven to ourselves that Impunity was sail-worthy. And so were we.

Book Review: The Road We Traveled

Jane Kirkpatrick has written another memorable work of historical fiction, The Road We Traveled, which takes place in the mid-1800’s.

When Tabitha Brown’s son, Orus, returns from the Oregon Territory and announces that the whole extended family should return with him, Tabitha is excited. It’s daunting, but she’s game. But when she learns that he feels she’s too old, too lame to go, she’s incensed.

As it happens, her late husband’s brother, John, comes to visit and the two of them decide to partner and join the Oregon-bound party, despite her son’s objection. Not everyone in the family is happy about leaving their homes, but they succumb to Orus’s insistence. They pack only absolute necessities, leaving their homes, family treasures, and friends.

As the family travels west, together with other Oregon-bound families, they encounter difficulties they never imagined. On foot much of the time to lessen the strain on stock, at times without adequate food and water, they face trials that test their endurance, courage and faith.

When a part of the group hears of an alternate route, a short-cut, they agree to take it, not realizing how difficult it will be. During this period, Tabitha’s real courage is tested as she and John leave the starving families to venture even deeper into the wilderness to seek help.

The Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick is based on the true character, Tabitha Moffat Brown, a pioneer woman whom the Oregon State Capitol honors as “The Mother of Oregon” for her charitable and compassionate work in Oregon’s early days. The impeccably researched historical novel is rich in setting and the events surrounding the hardships of the Oregon Trail, and the early days of what would become the 33rd state of the Union.

I was delighted when the characters in The Road We Traveled linked with other true characters from Jane Kirkpatrick’s previous novels, such as Letitia Carson (A Light in the Wilderness) and Eliza Spaulding (The Memory Weaver).

I’ve always loved stories of the Oregon Trail. The Road We Traveled stands among the best.

To learn more about the author, visit

Rain! At Last!

Note: The following is taken in part from my memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific.

We were hungry for rain. There’s something a little sticky and abrasive about dried salt water. The backs of my legs became tender from the crustiness of it, so when in the cockpit I sat on a towel.

We bathed in salt water, but rinsed in fresh water, but we never felt completely clean. Salt water doesn’t suds with regular soap, but we had learned that Prell Shampoo worked for both hair and body in salt water. The same with laundry—we used Joy detergent for laundry and dishes. Although when doing laundry I used fresh water for the final rinse, our clothes felt a little stiff and didn’t smell as fresh as we’d like. But fresh water is at a premium at sea, too precious to squander on bathing and laundry.

One day, approaching the equator, we had a heavy rain squall. At first we rushed around to take advantage of the abundance of fresh water. After the scuppers and deck were cleaned with the hard-driving rain, Bruce opened the deck plate to fill the water tank. We took showers, letting the rain run off Impunity’s mainsail so we could get a good stream. We washed our hair, and I washed clothes. The deck got a good scrubbing. We exposed the boat’s salt-encrusted bench cushions to the fresh water.

When the rain passed, six hours later, we marveled at our soft skin and hair, at how clean everything felt. Coming from the Northwest, I was used to rain, but I’d never realized how important it would be at sea, and how much comfort rain would bring.

Book Review: Morning Glory

Author Sarah Jio takes her readers to a house boat community on Seattle’s Lake Union. Morning Glory was a fun novel for me as I vicariously revisited Lake Union houseboats and a part of Seattle I know so well.

Ada Santorini tries to find a new life after the tragic death of her husband and young daughter. She rents a furnished houseboat and discovers not only a new lifestyle, but an unsolved mystery that occurred a half-century earlier.

The story toggles in first-person accounts between Ada and a former resident of the houseboat, Penny Wentworth, the young wife of an established artist. Ada is intrigued when she discovers an old wooden chest left by Penny. The chest offers just enough clues to keep Ada on track to unravel the mystery of Penny’s disappearance.

Some residents on Boat Street remember Penny, but they are closed-mouth and avoid the subject when Ada asks. Ada and Penny’s stories come full-circle in a surprising revelation.

Sarah Jio is a best-selling author of several books and an acclaimed journalist of major magazines. For more information about the author, visit

Surrendering our Weapons in The Marquesas

First Landfall: Nuku Hiva, The Marquesas

First Landfall: Nuku Hiva, The Marquesas


Note: The following is taken in part from my memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific.

At our first landfall, The Marquesas, we had an experience we later laughed about, but which at the time was no laughing matter.

Upon Impunity’s arrival and after clearing customs, we were required to surrender our weapons at the police department, more property called gendarme, since French was the official language. We had brought our weapons on our journey in case we should be accosted by pirates at sea, a very real concern in some areas. Before relinquishing them to the local authorities, Bruce had put trigger locks on both our handguns, his Ruger .357 Magnum and my Smith & Wesson .38 Special. We had been warned to lock the triggers so they couldn’t be used by others. The law is that visitors leave the country with the exact weapons and ammunition they had when entering.

Surrendering our weapons made us nervous, but it was the law and we would comply. Luckily, this was the only location we would be visiting in the in the South Pacific where this action was required.

We found the gendarme, a Marquesan, helpful and friendly. He admired our guns and said French weapons lacked accuracy. He spoke a little English and explained that with a French gun you aim here (he pointed) but it shoots there (he pointed in a different direction). We were given a carbon copy of the form we had signed surrendering our guns and about 100 rounds of ammunition.

Two weeks later, when we prepared to leave The Marquesas, we walked the distance to the gendarme station and presented our receipt to the same fellow who had originally taken our guns. His dark face colored as he said, “Yes, well, the Commissioner would like to talk to you.”

“Is there something wrong?” Bruce asked.

“Oh, no, no. But before I can give you your weapons, the Commissioner has asked to see you.”

Oh boy, what was this all about? We followed his directions to a big concrete building, the Commissioner’s residence and office. We were escorted to a large bare room with only a wooden desk in the middle and a chair behind the desk, where the Commissioner sat, and two wooden chairs in front of the desk. A huge ceiling fan slowly rotated above his desk. Tall, shuttered windows lined the outside wall. For some reason, the movie Casablanca popped into my mind.

The Commissioner rose, warmly greeted us and invited us to sit. He could speak very little English and what little he could was difficult to understand. After saying what we supposed was something to the effect he hoped our visit there had been satisfactory, he came to the business at hand. Leaning forward and folding his hands, he directed his attention to Bruce.

“I want to sell your small gun.”

I looked at Bruce’s furrowed brow. He didn’t understand, either.

“Oh!” I said, the Commissioner’s meaning dawning on me. “You want to buy the Smith & Wesson.”

“Yes, yes! That’s it. I want to buy that gun.”

In the first place, what he asked was illegal. I’m sure that’s why the gendarme looked so embarrassed. The law dictated we leave with the exact number of weapons and ammunition with which we arrived. Now the top official on the island was asking us to do something illegal?

In the second place, that was my handgun, a gift from Bruce, and I didn’t want to part with it.

My mind whirled. I glanced at Bruce. He was thunderstruck.

“But you see,” I said, gesturing to Bruce, “my husband gave that gun to me for Christmas. I cannot part with it.” I looked lovingly at Bruce.

The Commissioner was quick to respond. “Oh, but of course. It was a gift from your husband. I do understand.” His manner was gracious and he seemed to completely agree with our position.

The Commissioner stood and shook our hands. “Enjoy the rest of your journey.” At least that’s pretty much what it sounded like.