Patrick Dodd didn’t have much positivity in 2019. The Renton resident went through his father’s health deteriorating from a decades-long battle with Melanoma and his death in August. Other close family members also died from cancer and a car accident.
After his father’s passing, he spoke with his cousin about wanting to go hiking— it was something his dad always enjoyed doing, and she wanted to join in. In that moment of grief, Dodd thought of a way to create something positive.
On Jan. 1, 2020, at the start of the new year, Dodd found himself documenting the first of 52 hikes, as part of his fundraising effort called “Hikes with Dad.” The 52-hike challenge will test Dodd in 2020, as he attempts these hikes while also trying to raise $5,200 for cancer research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
First, he got his new hiking gear, water and an emergency kit. He took note of the weather and also grabbed some rain gear.
“It is January 1st. I am overweight, out of shape, and it is raining; let’s do this,” Dodd’s blog post documenting the hike states.
Dodd also grabbed his dad’s favorite trail snack, Valley Oats and Honey Nature Bars. Dodd’s wife, Brook Dodd, said Patrick Dodd seemed sad for his dad, but also excited for this new challenge, when he left for that first hike.
His father Stan Dodd was an active person, before he lost mobility and was placed in a nursing home. Patrick Dodd wanted to be able to do what Stan Dodd missed out on for the last few years of his life. Part of his father’s love of hiking was bringing others with him, showing them trails and spots he thought was cool.
Brook Dodd said she thought it was the perfect way to honor his memory. Not only was his father an active hiker, but also a geologist that traveled all over the world for his work.
Patrick Dodd said the 52-hike challenge lets him take others on his dad’s favorite hikes, and also go on other’s favorite hikes. He wants folks (outside of donating and sharing the challenge to social media) to join in and offer hiking suggestions for all over Washington state. He said those interested should know the length or elevation of the hike, height doesn’t matter. He has a no-elevation nature trail walk planned with one person, and likely an extremely elevated climb planned with another. What matters is sharing this effort with others and getting engaged with the trails.
Interested participants don’t need to be shy about reaching out, Patrick Dodd said they can always change the schedule or find ways to try hikes that someone is passionate about.
That rainy day, Patrick Dodd traveled to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. He chose a trail without many scenic views, but with a lush tree canopy and thick vibrant moss as the backdrop for the first challenge, Jim Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trail. In the blog post, Patrick Dodd detailed the steep incline that starts off the hike. As it was rainy and a holiday, he didn’t see anyone else along the path.
The road hasn’t been easy for Dodd to get to that trailhead. He said he is also in recovery program for alcohol use. In those programs, they work to find optimism in tough times, instead of “drinking about it,” as he put it. He said he wasn’t able to last year, so he wanted something constructive that he could smile about in 2020. After the sheer magnitude of 2019, he said he yearned for something positive.
“This first hike was a new beginning for me,” Dodd said.
Brook Dodd also said the hike challenge will benefit Patrick in other ways— he gets to be active as he works through recovery, instead of just sitting at home with his grief. She’s proud of him for putting the whole thing together himself.
The trail has an abundance of life, even in the winter time. Patrick Dodd details in his blog post that he was sustained during the hike by the tenacity of life and beauty in the natural world. The greens and ferns reminded him, he stated in the post, that even in a dark winter life can thrive.
Patrick Dodd hiked on and off every couple months before this year, usually at Cougar Mountain. With the hike challenge, he also is looking forward to being alive, exploring and seeing more. Last year had him thinking more that he has a certain amount of time on planet Earth, and he needs to see sights and do something memorable while he still can. He wants to get into nature and see things not everyone gets a chance to.
At one point, Dodd crossed a creek during his first hike. In the blog post he states how he was surprised to see wetlands high on the trail where the creek comes from. He followed the creek along his hike with several small bridges.
Hiking like this was what he did as a kid in Bellingham with his father, Patrick Dodd’s wife Brooke Dodd said. He then kept hiking with his dad into adulthood, thanks to a treatment his father received 25 years ago from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Patrick Dodd said that is the reason he’s giving to the center, because they gave him a quarter of century with his father, when they used an experimental treatment on his melanoma and put his cancer in remission. He said he thanks the center for helping his family and other families keep their dads longer.
The donations for Hikes with Dad go directly to the center, via a donation set up on its website, and aren’t handled by a third party. Donors can even donate in monthly charges or in lump sums.
“I didn’t want to make it hard to contribute to the fight,” Patrick Dodd said.
Finally, the trail Patrick Dodd took leads to the highest point on Cougar Mountain. In the blog post, he said the dedication on the bench was “the perfect message for the first hike of this fight against cancer.” The bench is dedicated to a Japanese-American couple that endured the internment camps of WWII and says “Follow the path to Bushido,” Bushido being the way of the warrior.
When he got to the peak, Patrick Dodd said he felt hope, and a good chance that 2020 would be a different kind of year. He also felt that his goal was something achievable, and something his father would be proud of. He felt close to him at the top of Cougar Mountain.
For his last hike of 2020, Patrick Dodd hopes to go to Oyster Dome in Bellingham, the last hike he went on with his father. And if he raises the full $5,200, he will try the next challenge: training to summit Mount Rainier. A tongue-in-cheek challenge, he said, but a real challenge nonetheless.