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Drew Perine/The News Tribune
The romance that blossomed at Point Defiance Park eight years ago continues for Dorothy and John Morris. Their first date took them hiking, and they married soon after.

The romance of Point Defiance's Outer Perimeter Trail never fails John and Dorothy Morris.

It's where they first hiked together. It's where they first kissed.

It's where the sun, the salt air and the soil of Point Defiance keep them young.

Eight years ago, Dorothy was 70, a retired nurse, living in the house where she was born on Vashon Island and missing the friends who no longer hiked with her. John was 68, retired from a career as an airline executive and negotiator and living in Northeast Tacoma.

"My sister was having a going-away breakfast for a departing parish priest," said John, who calls his wife Dolly. "Dolly and her sister were invited to the same breakfast."

"For light conversation, mountain climbing took first place," Dorothy said.

"She's climbed every mountain in the United States, Canada and Europe - 52 peaks in the U.S.," said John, who is a skier and climber. "She's climbed Mount Rainier at least 14 times." She even slept on the top of Mount Rainier."

Ah, but she had never hiked the trails of Point Defiance Park. He offered to introduce her to them.

"A few days later, I found myself boarding a morning ferry to Point Defiance," Dorothy said. "John met me at the dock, slung on a small pack for goodies and headed for the trails, using the Outside Perimeter Trail. It was so beautiful and exciting, and we never stopped talking. By the time we reached Fort Nisqually, I got a thank-you kiss."

They hiked the park and kissed again and discovered a spot where the trees crown over a clearing.

"It's a big cathedral. It's a place we call the chapel," Dorothy said. "Others call it the fern grotto. We always get a kiss in there."

Within the year, they had married and moved to Gig Harbor, just across the bridge from what had become their park. Since then, they have headed over four to five times a week for a brisk 4- to 5-mile hike. They pack light - a sandwich, maybe, or fresh veggies, fruit, a candy bar and a drink. They don’t leave without their trekking poles.

"We like to see what kind of time we can make," Dorothy said. "It's just such an interesting place. You see the water, and I love the water. You can look out and see Vashon."

"We look for eagles," John said. "They're usually up in the big dead trees along the north side of Point Defiance. Occasionally there are some on the west side, too."

They joke that the frequent footfalls of their hiking boots have kept the trail as clear as any maintenance crew could.

"There's no better place in the Puget Sound area for hiking," John said.

Or for finding and sustaining love.

If you have personal stories or memories about the park you'd like to share, contact columnist Kathleen Merryman at kathleen.merryman@thenewstribune.com.