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For Chuck and Sam who live in Seattle and Vancouver respectively, it’s a shorter trek than for my husband, Dave, who hauled in from Florida. Long-standing mates from college days, their convention in the hills of Washington, ca.150 miles east of Seattle, has become a ritual over the last two decades. For the last 20 miles, the country road that meandered into the mountains becomes a mere dirt track, grated sporadically by National Forest workers. “I knew it would be a good idea to rent an SUV,” Dave says as our car is bobbing along. “This time of year you never know what state the path is in.” My back appreciates it. Occasional glimpses through cloud high fir trees on either side of the road reveal a steep berm on the left, the driver’s side. In winter when the snow easily reaches 12 feet, in can only be reached by snowmobile. At the entrance of Cascadia a bridge built of old wooden railway tracks crosses a river several feet wide. “Chuck and Sam must be here already,” Dave explains. “Normally the gate is chained.” After a manly embrace, accompanied by some backslapping and "How have you been’s" three grown-up, Ivy League educated boys plunge into each other’s comfortable company in a former mining camp that once produced ore and copper. Dave’s friends jointly bought the hideaway many years ago and named it Cascadia. For a few days, the men indulge in every boy’s dream of the Wild West. I, the new wife invited for the first time, lack the true pioneer’s spirit. Instead of being overwhelmed by the sheer breathtaking scenery of the site, my female sensitivity foremost registers mousetraps by the door, dead bugs on the floor, cobwebs, and damp cold permeating the rooms. For me it’s indoor camping. Bedrooms are Spartan, with either bunk beds or DIY jobs made of roughly hewn timber planks with sleeping bags lacking any charm. A film of dust is sitting on every surface; the kitchen table shows traces of mouse droppings. Within minutes Chuck, Sam, and Dave, equipped with beer cans and a smoke, settle on the porch overlooking the creek and the valley beyond. Their individual corporate American identities have been left behind in civilization at the foot of the mountains. The old timber lodge becomes alive again. A propane BBQ grill, idle for too long, welcomes Tbone steaks the size of trash can lids and corn on the cob. Night falls and the air is filled with smoke and unknown sounds. Mosquitoes start to visit and also critters on four legs, judging from the rustling in the undergrowth around the cabin. An owl, disturbed by the human intruders, screeches from the nearby woods. A nip is in the air, a reminder of the fast approaching fall. Hank, the local Park ranger who came by for a drink, entertains us with stories of brown bears spotted around here. A direct hint not to leave out any food or trash. How last year, a visiting wolf impregnated his dog and then disappeared again into the wilderness ignoring his resulting unruly offspring. The young dog at Hank’s heels does look a bit rough. Then the ultimate male bonding, liberating act occurs: relieving oneself in the great outdoors while watching the stars. Ah, nothing like a bit of fresh air to swirl around your organ! My bum freezes to the toilet seat, however; my bladder refuses to co-operate momentarily. I dread every pit stop. The next morning, the highest peak of the surrounding mountains has a slight sprinkling of snow. “That won’t last,” Chuck says with a certainty that only comes with years of experience of these
great outdoors. “Remember, how we got snowed in a few years ago?” “Yeah, that was fun,” my husband and Sam confirm, reminiscing. You wish; I shudder at the thought. The two days go by way too fast - for the males. Firewood needs to be chopped and collected, a screen door fixed, roof tiles repaired, pipes unclogging, and the water pump needs some tweaking with various mysterious looking tools I can’t identify. A verdant algae population in the metal tub curtails the promised outdoor Jacuzzi experience. It needs proper hosing down before further use. "We should bring a pressure washer next time." The three friends spend the time in unfettered bonhomie. What looks like a work camp to me is pure pleasure to them. With all the vigorous physical activities outside, the men don’t feel the cold. Men never seem to. They are now sporting trendy two-day beards. The shower is suspiciously dry. Their designer jeans look speckled and shiny from hands wiped off. They are enjoying themselves. For me, the two days feel like a lifetime. No wonder the other two wives didn’t join us. Who needs women at a bachelor pad?