A Path with Heart: A walk for the wounded, part 2

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112792639927230.jpg’, ‘photo courtesy of www.scarsquirrel.org’, ‘The marmot, a charismatic rodent about the size of a house cat, is one of the more than 50 species of mammals Tom Bauschke will encounter on his nine-day journey around Mount Rainier near Tacoma, Wash.’);

Mount Rainier is a truly magnificent sight to behold. Towering nearly 2 miles over Mount Rainier National Park’s 378 square miles, this dormant volcano has snow on its summit and flanks year-round. Creeks flow abundantly off 28 permanent and named glaciers covering 37 square miles. Wild flowers bloom among thick woods and snowfields. The air is filled with wilderness as 60 percent of the park is covered in dense forest. Tree line is at 5,250 feet on the west side and 6,000 feet on the east side of the mountain due to weather patterns.

Wildlife includes, among others, black-and white-tailed deer, elk, black bears, mountain goats, marmots, cougars, lynx (bobcats), coyotes, squirrels, red fox, skunks, porcupines, raccoons, beavers and hares. More than 50 species of mammals are represented in Mount Rainier National Park. More than 15 species of birds fly overhead.

The hinterland

I will walk this trail in nine days, because I could only reserve these certain backcountry campsites during the time I can go. Walking this trail in 12 days or so would be a much more pleasant hike. There are only 20 wilderness trailside camps on the Wonderland Trail, 3 to 7 miles apart. Reserving wilderness campsites for a well-traveled trail in a national park means very limited use, and rightly so. Such a policy maintains the beauty of such a wonderful place. This itinerary is going to be a real challenge.

Bad weather can literally stop me cold. It can snow on this mountain any time of year. White-outs from snow in these mountains have suddenly appeared and left me so blinded I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. Early September is my best chance for good weather in the Pacific Northwest mountains, and the kids will be back at school! So I will just have to make do.

Who I’m really supporting

Am I just trying to stir up support for “The War”? NO! More than 2,100 Americans have died in the “War on Terror,” and more than 7,400 have been seriously wounded. For or against the war is an argument for another time and place. I’m walking The Wonderland Trail to muster support for the brave wounded men and women returning from war even as we speak.

If you wish to sponsor my walk, I ask for some amount per mile, e.g., 50 cents per mile (times 100 miles) will amount to a $50 donation, and so on. Please make your checks payable to The Wounded Warrior Project. I’ll send an update after I finish to tell you how it went and, as always, tell you what I’ve learned along the way. After all, I’m seeking donations for 100 miles walked.

If you’d like to make a pledge, please sign up on a sponsor sheet or just drop your donation off at or mail to The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101. Or, send your check directly to The Wounded Warrior Project Headquarters, 324 Washington Ave., Suite 1, Roanoke VA 24016-4312. You can even donate online at www.woundedwarriorproject.org. Donations are tax-deductible. The WWP’s federal ID number is 20-2370934.

Perhaps some of you think I’m diminishing such a beautiful journey by walking for wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines returning from war. I truly wish you wouldn’t. This is merely my small way of honoring what these courageous men and women do for us every single day. For those serving our country at this very moment, pray with me: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord have mercy on you and shine his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

From the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2005, issue

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