By Sonia Garza, Army Spouse
I will never forget our trip west to Washington state. We were basking…well melting…in the sweltering North Carolina summertime heat when my husband received orders to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. We drove across the country in July, and the difference of 100-degree weather to 75-degree weather had me searching for a coat in our winter box.
Why I Love Being Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
It didn’t take long for me to feel right at home in the “Evergreen State” and although the winter months can be wet…..and long…it changed this Texas girl’s heart forever. Now, 7 years later (I know…we’re a rarity in the Army), I don’t ever want to leave.
Here are a few of the reasons why JBLM is my favorite military assignment so far:
The rain doesn’t stop anybody.
Washingtonians don’t carry umbrellas, and you’ll be noticed as a tourist right away if you’re seen holding one. But there is one thing I have discovered living here. People love being outside. Before our move to WA, I would hear complaint after complaint about the weather. My only knowledge of the Seattle area was from Sleepless in Seattle, after all. But when we arrived, it was summertime and sunny every single day. Blue skies and sunshine had me exploring every nook and cranny of this gorgeous area. And when our two children came along, I packed them up and took them exploring alongside me. There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing, right? So when the rainy season begins, I pull out our cutest rain boots and jackets and get outside.
There’s always something to do.
I am definitely a busybody. I always have been, and I’m thankful I’m this way because it has given me the fuel I need to explore my surroundings. Rain or shine, there is always something to do. Only 25 minutes north of JBLM, you’ll find Tacoma, aptly dubbed, “the city of destiny.” Visit the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, catch a show at the Tacoma dome or try your hand at one of the many area casinos. You can travel the Tacoma Narrows bridge to little towns on the water or head into Seattle (only an hour from base) to see Pike’s Place Market, the Great Wheel, the Seattle Aquarium and tons of restaurants…all on the pier. For something a little more quirky, head south a couple hours to Portland to visit their food trucks and the famous Voodoo Donuts.
If you’re looking for a longer trip, grab your passport and take the short Amtrak train into Vancouver or hop on the Clipper ferry from Seattle to Victoria, B.C. Whales are the main attraction in the area, so book a whale watching tour in Seattle or head to the San Juan Islands and island hop, where you’re sure to spot pods of orca whales, seals and more along the way. I have been to so many places, and there is still so much left to explore.
The scenery is unparalleled.
One thing most everyone who comes to this state can agree upon is that the Washington landscape is very green. I’m sure the rain helps, but it makes for such a breathtaking landscape year round. Seeing Mount Rainier the first time towering at over 14,000 feet left me speechless, and that’s hard to do. This majestic mountain is available to any outdoor enthusiast looking to hike, climb, or more. You’ll enjoy blackberry picking on any trail during the summertime, and you can easily spot bald eagles at least a couple times a day flying overhead.
Washington summers are the BEST.
Yes, the rainy season may be long, and seemingly never-ending, but the state makes up for it ten-fold with boundless sunshine in the summer and weather rarely topping 85 degrees, and by Washington standards, that’s a heat wave. Daytime stretches the day with sunshine arriving at your window at 5am and setting close to 10pm. That means you can spend every waking hour enjoying the great outdoors.
People are active and care about the community.
I see people walking, biking and running daily. It’s a very active state. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the mild weather and limited snowy season. To snowboard, ski or sled, head to Snoqualmie Pass or the numerous neighboring state parks. People not only love getting outdoors, but they take pride in living in this state, and there is a conscious effort to keep the state looking beautiful.
Community culture is big here as seen by the vast number of community gardens and co-ops, where community members share their bounty with each other and also with food banks. Shop the farmers’ markets, held in the summer and year-round in most nearby cities, and speak to the farmers offering their locally grown produce.
JBLM offers fantastic activities.
Both Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base offer wonderful amenities. You will find splash pads, bowling alleys with indoor play gyms and parks galore. There’s a skate park for the older kids and if you’re looking for a wilderness experience, head to Russell Landing Marina at North Fort Lewis to rent a kayak, motorized fishing boat or pontoon to launch on American Lake, right on post. They even have cabins and travel trailers for rent at a reasonable price located on post overlooking the lake. What more could you ask for?
It’s a very military friendly area.
Most everyone you meet will have some affiliation with the military, whether you live on post or not. Most restaurants and small businesses will offer a discount of some sort…served up with a side story of their service.
There’s very little you will find fault with living near JBLM. I can’t begin to list all the reasons I love living here and speaking about all of the places I have grown to love makes me absolutely giddy. Washingtonians just know how to have fun!
In fact, there are many military service members that end up retiring here! From the boundless things to do, to the hiking trails found at every corner, you will find yourself loving the state…far more than you may have expected.
PCSgrades Author: Sonia Garza is a proud Army wife of 10 years and mother to two wild kids. A journalist by trade with a BA in Communications/Journalism and a Masters in Nonprofit Management, her passion for writing has led her to write for print and online publications spanning from the West Coast to the East Coast, including local and on-post newspapers, lifestyle magazines and military spouse blogs.