Happy trails and goodbye
May 12, 2022
“I hope my hand is guided right.”
Those were the final words of Mark Woytowich’s “On The Go” column in last week’s Shelton-Mason County Journal.
They were the final printed words of his life.
On Friday, Woytowich suffered a heart attack and died at Mason General Hospital in Shelton.
The loss for our community is immeasurable, most of all for his wife, Linda.
When he sent in his column last week, he told me it was “a bit of a love letter to my wife, as you will see. And some of the hardest-culled words and descriptions I have ever struggled with.” He added he’d spent close to 20 hours working on it.
It certainly showed.
It was one of the best columns Woytowich wrote in his seven-plus years as the Journal’s outdoors columnist.
On the same day he submitted his column, we also exchanged emails about which of his columns from last year he’d like to have submitted to the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest.
“I am not the best person to select my own columns for judgment. Also, I don’t care too much about awards. The time spent overlooking my work is not productive. It is like putting on a necktie that doesn’t fit. Thanks for the offer, however. You may submit any or none on my behalf.”
To those who knew Mark, that response wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Soft-spoken, yet passionate. Humble and deep thinking.
All of those descriptors fit.
When I arrived in Mason County in December 2018 to cover sports for the Journal, he was one of the first to reach out. Welcoming a dried-out desert rat to one of Washington’s rainy winter seasons — what he aptly called the “season of ooze, the season of booze.”
Mark had the ability to turn a phrase and change the mundane into something magical.
His love for the outdoors and the thrill of exploring was second only to his love for his wife, Linda, and I’m sure if you ask her, some days she probably thought the forest won.
In 2019, Woytowich’s book “Where The Waterfalls And Wild Things Are” was published, and I bought a copy not long after.
I’ve spent many hours on dusty, well-worn Forest Service roads following the paths he laid out.
None is more special than the directions to a spot, a knob of a hill on Dow Mountain above Lake Cushman that offers a view unmatched in Mason County.
He called it “a thinking person’s spot.” A place where you could pour coffee from a thermos and watch the world from up high.
On a clear day, you can see from Mount Baker to Mount Adams, bits of land, water and even parts of Seattle and Tacoma, and the always majestic king of the north, Mount Rainier. Up close, its view of Hood Canal and the Olympics is stunning. I’ve been thinking about that spot a lot since I learned of his passing and plan to escape to it soon.
Mark’s columns and his friendship inspired me to explore our area, far faster than I would have had I not been blessed with a starting point. He patiently answered questions and gave directions, even to folks such as myself who didn’t always listen the first time.
Mark Woytowich was in many of the most important ways a living embodiment of Mason County’s best qualities. It’s hard to find someone around here he hasn’t crossed paths with. In the few days since his death, I’ve talked to a dozen people who had nothing but kind words and warm memories.
I have mine and I miss him already.
Happy trails, Mark.
■ Justin Johnson is the editor of the Shelton-Mason County Journal. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by leaving a message at 360-426-4412.