Monday, July 30, 2012

The Exultation of Jesus

One of my favorite passages of scripture is in Paul's letter to the Philippians, which appears to be a quote of an early Christian hymn or creed.  And since Philippians was written by 62 AD, it would have indeed been an early hymn.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death —
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
                                                    Philippians 2:5-11 NIV

Jesus Is Fully God

This 'hymn' describes the story of Jesus in 4 verses.  At the beginning of the story, Jesus is God.  He was in very nature God.  This chapter reminds me of two passages.  The first is John 1:1-3 where Jesus is identified as the Word; the Word who in the beginning was with God, who was God, and who created all that we see.  Jesus is fully God.

The second passage that this chapter brings to mind is Isaiah 14:12-15.  This passage, thought by many to refer to Satan, describes one who sought to be equal with God and found himself cast from his place and into the depths.  The expression in the Philippians passage, 'used to his own advantage', is apparently one that is hard to translate.  Other translations, including the NASB and KJV, render it as 'to be grasped'.  Being God was not something that Jesus had to grasp for.  It was his by nature rather than an attainment, unlike the one in the Isaiah passage for whom is was a prize to be obtained.

Jesus Is Fully Human

The second verse of the story of Jesus described in this hymn is challenging.  Jesus emptied himself, or made himself nothing, and took on the nature of man.  The word 'nature' here is the same one used earlier.  As Jesus was in nature God, he now became in nature man.  As he was fully God, now he became fully man.  Jesus humanity was not just a shell around his divinity that allowed  him to interact with mankind.  Hebrews 2:14-18 says that Jesus shared our humanity, becoming human in every way.

There are several ways that people have understood the expression 'made himself nothing', and many of them are so subtly different that I do not grasp the significance (see kenosis in Wikipedia for a look at how some understand this).  But it does tell me that when Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago, he did it as a man.  He developed both physically and intellectually, he got tired, he was emotional, he depended on the Father for the message he delivered to us, he was limited in his knowledge, he could be killed.  I do not believe that the Jesus we read about in the Gospels had any advantage by also being God.  Rather he set aside his nature as God to fully take on the nature of man.  I do not believe that he was not God during that time, but that somehow he was able to function simply as a man.

Jesus Gave His Life

In the third verse of the hymn Jesus further humbles himself by experiencing death on the cross.  While this hymn does not express why Jesus went to the cross, other than as an act of obedience, scripture elsewhere affirms that it was a redemptive action.  Jesus went to the cross to make it possible for me to experience life with God.  We celebrate the soldier or policeman who gives his life to save another.  How much more the man Jesus, who gave his life to provide salvation to all who would come to him in faith.

The Exaltation of Jesus

Because Jesus was willing to become a man, and was willing to go the the cross in obedience to the Father, God has exalted him to the highest place, made his name greater than any other, and will cause all to bow before him, acknowledging him as Lord.  But like Jesus emptying of himself, this passage is challenging to understand, at least for me.

It would seem to me that Jesus, as fully God, already had the highest place, honor and name.  The only way this makes sense to me is if it is the man Jesus that is being exalted by the Father.  Jesus twice sacrifices himself, first by becoming human, and secondly by dying for me.  The man Jesus lived a life without sin, always walking in the Father's will, up to and including death on the cross.  Jesus did not do that as God with a shell of humanity wrapped around him.  He did it as fully human in every way.  Could it be that Jesus faced the cross as an act of faith in the Father?  If he was fully human then he could not see the future and his resurrection; he had to trust what the Father told him.

And because of his faithfulness to the Father, the man Jesus is exalted to the highest place.  He is honored above every other, excluding of course the Father himself.  Is Jesus still human, or at least post resurrection human?  I believe so.  Is he also God, fully one with the Father?  I believe that to be true as well; that nature he set aside at his incarnation, I believe he has taken back up.

Join with me in bowing before Jesus, fully God and fully man, and proclaim him as Lord.  You will ultimately do so.  Why not now?

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world. 

                                         Psalm 19:1-4 NIV
As I prepare for an extended trip out into the creation, this passage seems most appropriate.  For me there is no better place to encounter my creator than out in his creation.  A creation that proclaims his glory in everything I see.  The sun, moon and stars, the mountains and valleys, the rivers and streams, the trees and the meadows, the flowers, the animals, and even the bugs.  I travel through it all in amazement.

While I am thankful for science and its unveiling of how the creation works, I am even more thankful for the creator who made it in the first place.  And that in a creation as vast as this universe, he knows me and cares for me.  I feel sorry for those who are unable, or unwilling, to see beyond the creation itself; who have to settle for worship of that creation instead of the one who made it all.

Father, Lord, thank you for the opportunity to spend the next month alone with you in your creation, free from the distractions and concerns of everyday life.  As I walk the trail through your garden, help me to walk with you, to know your presence every step of the way and to rejoice in it.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Muppets, Chicken and Tolerance

Chick-Fil-A is a fast food restaurant specializing in chicken.  They have no stores where I live, but I have been into a couple while on travel.  They seemed to be clean and friendly with good food and service, so long as you did not want to eat on Sunday.  Chick-Fil-A is owned and operated by Christians who support Christian charities and traditional family values.  Anyone is welcome to eat at Chick-Fil-A’s, and, as far as I know, employment laws would prevent them from discriminating against people seeking employment based on sexual preference.

The Jim Henson Company is in the entertainment business and is most closely associated with the Muppets, although they have sold their rights to those characters to Disney.  The Jim Henson Company is a long term support of homosexual rights.

These two companies have been business partners for some time, with Henson making the toys that are included in the Chick-Fil-A children’s meals.  This relationship came to an end a few days ago because of public comments made by the Chick-Fil-A owner, who has expressed company support for traditional families and a belief that homosexuality is sin.  The Henson company responded by breaking their partnership and expressing support for homosexual rights.

Many others have piled on in the debate concerning Chick-Fil-A’s recent public stand, including the mayor of Boston who has refusing to allow Chick-Fil-A to open a store in his town because of their discrimination practices.  He makes it sound like they are monitoring who can come in and buy a sandwich, something that would land them in hot water should they try it.

Tolerance is a word that is bandied about quite a bit today with many calling Chick-Fil-A intolerant and holding up the Henson company as champions of tolerance.  But is that a fair assessment? The word tolerance, at least when used in this context, means: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

Both sides of this ‘dispute’ have opinions that vary from the other, although I am not sure how much their practices actually vary; I do not believe either company can discriminate based on sexual preferences.  I have yet to see anything that would suggest that Chick-Fil-A has not had a permissive attitude toward those with different opinions in this arena than their own.  They did, after all, partner with and supply toys produced by a company that was a strong supporter of the homosexual rights movement.  They serve anyone who comes in, no questions asked.  Their only crime, as far as I can tell, is having an opinion that is not popular in some circles.

On the other hand you have the Henson company that now refuses to do business with a former partner because of their opinion.  You have mayors and other prominent individuals roundly criticizing and opposing Chick-Fil-A for their opinion.  The media and Facebook have been filled with condemnation against Chick-Fil-A over the past few days because of their beliefs.

So who is being intolerant here?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Aurora Shooting: Why Did God Allow It?

You no doubt have heard of the shooting in an Aurora Colorado theater this past Friday morning.  It has been the topic of endless news releases and speculation as to just why an apparently quiet, intelligent and well adjusted individual would plot and execute such a grisly mass killing.  And, as of yet, no one other than the shooter seems to have any idea as to his motives.

But there is another question concerning this event that some are asking: why would a loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing God allow such a tragedy to occur.  If there is such a God, why would he not have acted to prevent this from occurring?  And I believe it is a valid question, although one with no easy answer.

It is probably worthwhile to affirm that I do believe in God: a God who is omnipotent; who is omniscient; and who cares about his creation.  It is probably also worthwhile to affirm that I do not accept the idea of God as being omni-benevolent.  I find the idea that God wants everyone in this world to be healthy, wealthy and happy to be contrary to the image I have of God and his purpose in creation.

If God is omniscient, or all-knowing, then at the time of creation he already knew that shortly after midnight on July 20th, 2012, that James Holmes would open fire on movie goers in Aurora Colorado, killing 12 and injuring 58.  And he would also know how that shooting could have been prevented.  And if God is also omnipotent, or all powerful, then he would have been able to act on his knowledge to prevent this atrocity from occurring. So why did he allow this to occur?  And by inference, all of the other tragedies that this world has seen and that have caused so much suffering and death?

There are many answers that people give to these questions, ranging from their being proof of God's non-existence, to God has a purpose in allowing it, to God actually instigated it to deal with some problem.  But none of those answers satisfy me; and it may be that it is not really possible to provide a satisfactory answer to the question without knowing the mind of God, something that at best we have in a limited amount.

The only answer that comes close to resolving the issue for me lies in my understanding of how God works in this world.  I am not a deist, one who believes that God created everything and then went on vacation and has no involvement in the how the world functions.  But I do believe that God created a universe that is basically self sustaining, regulated by laws and process that do not require his daily involvement to ensure that the earth continues to revolve and rotate; that flowers sprout, bloom and reproduce; or that weather systems function around the globe.  And that he has also granted to humanity a certain amount of self determination; allowing us to make real choices.  Sometimes those choices are good, and sometimes not so very good.

I also believe God is more concerned about the end of our journey through this life than he is with the journey itself.  If my future is an eternity with him, accomplishing whatever task he has for me to do, then what real difference does it make whether I had a little or a lot in this world?  What difference does it make if I lived a long and healthy life, or was cut down in my prime by disease, murder, or natural disaster?  What difference do any of the happenings of this life make, so long as I faithfully walk through it all with my creator?

And for those who have no eternal future; again, what difference does it make.  It is not as though God owes them anything.  Nor, after facing destruction, will it make any difference how much they had in this life or how good they had it.  When they are gone, they are gone and what happened here is irrelevant.

If you are thinking that it sounds like I am saying that God does not care, I would have to agree with you to some extent.  I do believe he cares, but has chosen to not interfere with the natural mechanisms of our world, whether they be earthquakes, hurricanes or disease.  Nor do I believe he interferes with our ability to make choices, even ones as horrific as choosing to walk into a theater and shoot as many people as possible.

What God really does care about is if I choose to trust him with my life and in the storms of life.  Will I trust him when life doesn't make sense?  Will I trust him when I am in pain?  Will I trust him when all is going well and I can see no advantage in trusting him?  Will I trust him even when many around me say it is foolish to do so?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Confessions of a Cell Phone Addict

Hi!  My name is Ed.  And I am addicted to my phone!  It all started out innocently enough about 8 years ago.  Just a simple clam shell type dumb phone to use for emergencies.  And I was happy with it for several years.  An occasional phone call and a rare text message.

But one day that wasn't enough.  For some reason, that escapes me now, I had to be able to more easily do text messages.  And the standard 12 button phone was just too unwieldy for me.  I had to have a keyboard with all of the letters on it.  And so I upgraded my phone to a hot little model that popped open to a fully equipped keyboard.  And now I could more easily send text messages; at least a dozen a month, to go along with the two phone calls a month. Aw, life was good!

Alas, my love affair with my phone eventually lost its passion and my eyes began to wander.  And it seemed like every other commercial during that football season was touting the upcoming and sexy new Motorola Droid.  At first I was able to resist the siren call of the Droid.  Of what possible use could I have with a smart phone?

But before long I realized the vacuum in my life, not being able to send and receive emails wherever I happened to be.  And it slowly dawned on me how important it was to be able to look up the time for the next ferry to Seattle from the car.

And so disinterest slowly turned into raging lust.  I just had to have a Droid.  I restrained myself as long as I could, but just a few short weeks after its release I found myself in my local Verizon store with a shiny new Droid clutched in my hot sweaty hand.  And after what seemed like endless counseling, I was turned loose with my new love.

It was hard to believe how I had ever really lived, not having instant access to email and the web.  Aw, life was good again.  As time went on I became more and more dependent on my phone.  When a note worthy scene is found, out comes the phone for a picture.  When lounging in my hammock up in the mountains, out comes the phone to read a book or watch a movie.  When I am lost, either in the woods or in town, out comes the phone with its built-in GPS and maps to tell me right where I am, as well as how to get to where I want to go (at least when in town).  It was hard to believe I had survived in this world before Droid came along.

I'm sure by now you know where this is going.  After two years of bliss, Verizon told me I was eligible for an upgrade and dangled a Droid Bionic in front of me.  It has a bigger screen.  It does 4G.  It's faster, sleeker and sexier.  And it doesn't have the now unused physical keyboard.  And so Droid is supplanted in my affections by Bionic.

Bionic is outfitted with a belt holster, blue tooth ear thingy, and extended batteries.  Emailing, texting, surfing, videos, music, Facebook, and on and on.  New mapping software for the backcountry is added to allow me to wander at will without getting lost.  A subscription to Amazon Prime allows me to watch free shows and movies.  Kindle software allows me to read all my books.  The phone plan is extended so I can spend hours talking on the phone for my job.  The home land line is cut.  I am one hot and well equipped geek.

Today I took the latest step and upgraded my phone plan, yet again, to allow my phone to become a mobile hot spot.  Now I can connect my laptop to the internet over my phone.  I can sit at the beach and still be fully connected to the rest of the world.  How cool is that?

Yes, I am addicted.  But I am loving it; at least for the next year or so.  Just don't try and get between me and Bionic.  It might get kind of messy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two Weeks and Counting

Two weeks from this morning we pack the car and head for Oregon, looking to spend the bulk of August hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  I have been looking forward to this hike for quite some time, but suddenly it's nearly upon me.  Lots to do yet, but its nearly time to turn the preparation into an actual hike.

Darker red lines are this years route.
This years hike will actually be two distinct experiences.  The first will cover the southern 2/3's of Oregon, from McKenzie Pass to Seiad Valley in California. This part of the trip will be about 320 miles and entail 17 days of hiking with a day off in the middle at Crater Lake.  I will be hiking solo through this section with my lovely and gracious wife meeting me every 3-4 days for resupply.  She will also hike out to meet me from the resupply locations, allowing her to experience parts of the PCT without having to carry more than a day pack or spend the night with the bears.  We have all the resupply points and dates identified, but she may also join me wherever a paved road intersects the trail.

The second part of the hike will shift back to Washington, heading south from Rainy Pass to Stevens Pass, about 120 miles.  I will have a friend along on this 6 day segment with no support along the way.  The wives will drop us off and then party until its time to pick us up at the other end.  This will be the most challenging segment of the trail for me this year, being both longer and considerably more rugged than the Oregon segment.  But by the time I am done with Oregon I should be in tiptop share, if not broken down.

The gear for this year is pretty much dialed in and ready to go.  Just need to stuff it all into the bag and head out.  I have been assured that there are opportunities to hang the hammock over the whole distance, assuming I am willing to look a few miles along the trail for an adequate pair of trees.

The stove is being left behind this year but I am still working on the menu.  I thought I was about ready with cold dinners until someone suggested I might not really have any weight savings with what I was using.  I am still refining my dinners, but have discovered the joys of dehydrating food in the oven, as well as finding a source for some other dried foods, particularly beans and corn.  I should be able to put together a number of different types of 'burrito' type dinners using dried chicken and deli meats as well as shredded beef or turkey jerky.  Add in some dried refried beans (pinto or black), freeze dried corn, minute rice (white or brown) and a variety of spice combinations, wrap in a large flour tortilla, and I have a tasty dinner, even when cold.  And the weight is no greater than the freeze dried meals I was taking.

It looks like at least the Oregon stretch will be hot and dry so I can shed a bit of weight by not taking the cold weather clothes.  But for some stretches I will have to carry additional water.  The Washington section will likely be cooler, but I have no forecast for that far out.  I'll pack some warmer clothes to have in the car should the weather surprise me, but hopefully I won't have to carry any of that.

The Oregon section of this trip will be very much like 5 back-to-back multi-day trips.  One of the challenges in preparation for this is to be sure I have all of the resupply stuff I need packed into the car before taking off.  If all goes well, I should be able to just swap food bags, replenish consumables, and charge batteries every few nights, and then hit the trail early the next morning.  How well this will work for me still remains to be seen.

I am somewhat concerned about my left calf.  It feels good now, but was hurting by the time I finished my last hike from the Dosewallips river over to the Quinault river, and for several days after; the results of a strained muscle.  But I cancelled my last prep hikes and quit running in order to give it as much time to rest as possible.

Fires are another concern for me.  Last year there ended up being 3 fires on the section I hiked, including one that I was nearly caught in.  It seems hotter and dryer this year, with twice the distance, so fires are a real possibility.  Will just have to handle that as it comes.

Another interesting part of the preparations for this hike is getting the wife ready to car camp and day hike out of the Prius.  She is eager to be a part of this, but has little camping experience, especially solo.  So we are working on getting her equipped to be able to spend at least a few nights in camp grounds along the way, in addition to the nights with me.  Other nights she will find a hotel for the evening as well as explore whatever is in the general area that I am hiking through.  I am very fortunate that she loves to explore and is comfortable with doing it by herself.

My son is taking care of the house; the wife's sister is taking their mother; and the shopping is just about done.  All that's left is to get organized; fix a few meals; pack up; and wait for the calendar to get to the right day.  Only 324 more hours!  But who's counting!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Olympic Game Farm

This past weekend my wife and I, along with the daughter and her boy friend, made a trip out to the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim.  This is a trip that we used to make quite frequently when the kids were younger, but it has been a dozen years or so since the last visit.  Hopefully it won't be so long before making it out there again.

The Olympic Game Farm is an 84 acre 'farm' on the north side of the town of Sequim Washington.  The facility grew out of work with Disney, collaborating with many of their nature films, although it is not currently involved with any filming efforts.  The farm has been open to the public for the past 40 years, offering mostly driving tours through, and past, various enclosures.

The driving tour is self paced and allows you to drive through the farm, stopping to watch and feed many of the animals.  The tour includes a small prairie dog town, lots of peacocks, yaks, zebras, llamas, elk, bison, fallow deer, lions, tigers, bears and wolves.  Apart from the big cats and the wolves, you are able to feed most of the animals, although only wheat bread.  The white bread that we brought with us was not allowed.

The prairie dog town was enclosed, and the zebras and big carnivores were caged.  But the rest of the animals freely moved around through their sections of the park and were free to get closer to you than you might like.  It is quite exciting to have a yak stick his head into your window and slobber on you as he begs for bread.

The trip through the park was quite entertaining, both watching and interacting with the 'residents', and watching the kids in the back seat; they were both quite taken by the up close and personal experience with some pretty amazing creatures.  This is a highly recommended, and somewhat unique, experience.  If you have never been I would encourage you to get it onto your schedule sometime in the future.

This yak had his pitiful 'feed me I'm starving' face down pat.

Better give the llama the bread before he spits on you.

"Aren't I just the cutest thing?"

Wonder if I sat on the side of the road with my mouth open, if anyone would throw food into it?

Showing off for the ladies.  While I was impressed with the show, she appeared not to be and wandered off.

Any TV networks auditioning for a spokes bird?

Notice the wolves in the cages?  I think the rabbits were taunting them.

Every single cat we saw was in the same position.  They got the playing dead thing down pat.

Toll collector.

"Just think what these antlers will do to your paint job if you even think about not feeding me."

"Wanna smooch?"

"Are you looking at me?"

A little action going on with the bison in the back seat.

Too stuffed to eat another bite.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why God?

I am encountering more and more folks who have rejected, not only God, but even the possibility that there might be something that is beyond what their senses can experience.  I have talked with a number of these atheists, mostly online, over the past 8 years or so, have listened to their explanations, have tried to understand their reasoning, and evaluated my own beliefs.  But to no avail.

Atheism remains to me a hollow and deceptive philosophy that glorifies mankind and our achievements;  that has no purpose for life other than what the individual chooses to give themselves; and has no hope beyond this life.  This is not to say that all atheists are raving madmen seeking to overthrow all that is good.  In reality, most of the atheists I have encountered are every bit as 'moral' as most 'Christians'.  You would not generally be able to tell them apart if they did not tell you that they had rejected the idea of God.

But this is not really a condemnation of atheism as it is an explanation of why I find it lacking and continue to believe in God, in spite of the best efforts of many atheists, some very reasonable and patient, and a few quite belligerent and hateful.

While there are many reasons I might give for my position, the two that are most significant to me are reasonableness and experience.  The universe just makes more sense to me with there being a creator, and my life makes more sense with it having a purpose and hope beyond what I choose to assign to it.  I realize that just because it makes sense to me does not make it right.  And I realize that others appear to be just as comfortable on the other side of the debate.  But that doesn't change the fact that no matter how hard I look at it, God just makes more sense to me than the no God option.

More important to me is my own experience with God; at least I am convinced that that is what it is.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I have not been 'in church'.  My parents lugged me off to Sunday school, Training Union, worship services, VBS and everything else that the church offered for whatever age I happened to be.  As a nine year old I was even baptized and joined the church, becoming a 'Christian'.

But it was not until I was a young man that all of that became more to me than simply a ritual that was performed in a certain way at a certain time.  It was then, as an 18 year old high school graduate, that I actually encountered God and came away from the encounter changed, with a commitment to God, and a desire to know him better.

While I cannot prove to you that God exists, any more than my atheist acquaintances can prove his non-existence, I am convinced that he does.  For me to reject the existence, and presence, of God would be intellectually dishonest; I would have to lie to myself, and I don't think I could live with that.  No matter how I tackle the subject I always come back to the conclusion that there is a creator, who has a purpose for his creation, and that purpose includes me.

I will readily acknowledge that there is much evil in the world we live in.  And that much of that evil is perpetuated in the name of religion; although one need not look to far to find examples of atheists doing the same thing.  But I am not trying to defend religion here, which is all to often a substitute for a personal relationship with our creator.  Religion can be useful if it leads you into a personal understanding and walk with God.  But all to often the structure, dogma and practice of a religion, is the end of the journey rather than a guide to a life with God.

My religious experience has indeed shaped how I view my experience with God.  But I try very hard to keep the former from becoming a substitute for the latter.  I am totally convinced of God's reality and presence.  And my hearts desire is to know him and to be what he created me to be.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going Stoveless

One of the constants in my Backpacking experience, up until recently, has been the use of a stove, whether it be a white gas or canister stove.  Hot meals and drinks were just something I did.  The funny thing about this is that I do not drink hot drinks at home, nor did I often have hot breakfasts.  But for some reason it just seemed like the thing to do when out on the trail.  Over the last 2-3 years I have slowly quit taking the hot chocolate and oatmeal along, opting instead for just water, sometimes with noon added and a bar for breakfast.  This simplified meal preparation somewhat, and reduced the use of the stove to a single boil each evening to heat water for dinner.

Late last season (I generally only backpack in the warmer half of the year) I started thinking about dropping the stove altogether.  It seemed like if I could shift over to cold dinners that I would be able to drop the 17 ounces of a JetBoil Sol and fuel canister.  I had read about a number of people who had done just that, going stoveless for extended periods.  The biggest problem for me though is that I am somewhat of a picky eater.  I would read about what these folks ate instead of a hot dinner, but I could not imagine myself doing the same.  I might carry it, and eat it if I got hungry enough, but I know that I would not eat enough to stay energized for a long trip.  The food really needed to be appealing to my taste, or at least not too objectionable.

To add to that, I have yet to find a 'bar', or combination of bars, that I was willing to eat for very long.  Seems like I was always bringing a significant number of them back home with me.  So as I prepared for getting back onto the PCT this year I had three goals food wise.  Eliminate the stove.  Eliminate at least the lion's share of Clif Bars, Power Bars, Meal Replacement Bars, Luna bars, etc.  And find food that is lightweight, tasty, and nutritious.

Breakfast was fairly easy.  I like instant breakfast OK; just needed to find some milk to go along with it.  Most of the powered milk I could find was low fat, but I really wanted whole milk.  And I finally stumbled onto Nido at Walmart and it is pretty good and easy to make.  I can prepare a sandwich Ziploc with 1/2 cup of Nido and 2 packages of instant breakfast.  Then at breakfast I pour that mix into one of my half full, quart sized, Gatorade bottles, sake a few seconds and start drinking as I go about packing up for the day.  My one bar of the day gets eaten here as well.  Nature Valley makes some crunchy granola bars that go down really well with Instant Breakfast, and give me some crunch with the meal.  Cleanup is as simple as adding a bit of water to the bottle, slosh, and drink.

I am not very good about stopping for breaks, so I am scheduling 2 lunches a day where I will drop the pack, kick of the shoes and eat for a few minutes.  Lunch #1 is late morning and will either be PB&J on a small tortilla, or Spam, mayo and relish on a small tortilla.  Individual Spam packets and tortillias are available from most grocery stores.  I have found individual servings for the PB&J, mayo and relish at Minimus.  This is quick and easy with only a few wrappers for cleanup, all of which will go into the breakfast  Ziploc.  The whole stop only takes about 15 minutes and my feet and belly are both happy for a while.

Lunch #2 will be in the early to mid afternoon and will consist of some dried meat sticks (Bavarian Landjaeger), Babybel cheese and Wheat Thins.  The cheese seems to last well out of the fridge and comes in several flavors.  There is a wax liner that is discarded afterwards, but it is sure good eating out on the trail.  Again, the break is short, but well worth it.  These two lunches can easily be reversed, but both are planned for and needed.

Dinner has been the most challenging meal so far.  My initial foray has been to make tortilla sandwiches using the foil packages of tuna, salmon and chicken.  They work well, although require a lot of mayo, especially the chicken, to moisten them up.  But those packets of meat, especially the chicken are heavy.

I am exploring some alternatives now, having found a source for dried pinto bean flakes.  They reconstitute quickly and are ready to eat in just a few minutes.  Rice also hydrates fairly quickly in cold water, about 20 minutes.  One part rice, 2 parts beans, 1 part diced jerky, some burrito or taco seasoning and dried onions go into a Ziploc bag.  20 minutes before serving add 2 parts of water.  pour out onto a tortilla and viola!  Good eating.  And while it takes some additional preparation, it is as light as a freeze dried meal but without cooking.

I generally wear a belly bag when hiking with the main pocket full of food: nuts, dried fruit, homemade granola, and candy.  All of those things I can eat while walking the trail without hardly breaking stride.  Each of these are in their own little bag and I try to alternate through the bags all during the day.  Because they are tasty and easy to get to, they usually get eaten well and help keep the energy level up during the day.  They also have a tendency to make me thirsty, which forces me to drink more, which is a good thing.

And what's the end of a day without some kind of dessert?  Adding 3 or 4 cookies to the mix allows me to satisfy the sweet tooth as well as adding some additional calories at the end of the day.

I am a bit compulsive about the packaging for all my food.  Each day goes into a gallon Ziploc bag.  Each days snacks go into snack sized Ziploc bags as well.  It makes it easy for me to keep an eye on how much I am eating.  At the end of the day everything in the gallon bag for the day should be gone, or at least nearly so.  And I don't have to worry about eating up the cookies or cheese to early and having none for the end of the trip.

So there you have it.  No stove, and only a single bar a day, and that washed down with my Instant Breakfast.  I do not know how many calories I get each day with this, but so far it has been plenty.  And I am carrying just over 2 pounds of food per day, and maybe a bit less with the burrito instead of packaged meat sandwiches for dinner.

I should note that this is really for a hike with moderate temperatures.  If I was expecting cold temps I think I would still be using a stove and would likely keep the hot chocolate and oatmeal.  And the weight savings is not really all that great if all you do is replace the stove and freeze dried dinners with packages of chicken and tuna, although the burrito mix helps some.  It does seems simpler so far though.

I would be very interested in any insights that you might have or alternatives to the menu.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Was Jesus a Backpacker?

I enjoy going up into the mountains to get away from all the distractions that swirl around me every day.  So you would have to expect that I am going to latch onto what I think may be my new favorite verse in the Bible.
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone ... Matthew 14:23 NIV
Jesus dismisses all the people (distractions), and heads up into the hills for some quiet time.  And he spends the night there alone.  Sounds to me very much like a solo backpacking trip / retreat.  So good knowing that I will be able to justify a month out on the trail by pointing to Jesus example. 

Just need to be sure that I do walk with God through the mountains and forests.  And that is so much easier to do when there is no internet, no books, no weeds to pull, no crying employees or demanding bosses, no nagging wife (although I wouldn't really know what that is).  Just a man and his thoughts moving down the trail.

Looking forward to August and the time to be away and get reconnected with my creator.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Crossing the Olympics: Dose to Enchanted Valley

With the weather forecast looking promising, and the need to keep out in the woods for a while, it seemed like it was finally time to head back out in the 'the park' (the Olympics that is).  I was wanting to be able to walk for several days, in preparation for my August PCT trip, so that generally means I am going to have to cross a pass or two.  I decided to go over Anderson Pass on this trip, mostly because it has been over 25 years since I have been up into it, or been in the Enchanted Valley.

Wednesday morning my wife and mother-in-law dropped me off at the road washout on the Dosewallips road and I headed out.  The 5.5 mile road walk is looking less and less like a road all the time as the forest is reclaiming all but a narrow strip through much of its length.  I used to really wish they would get the road fixed, but now I think of it more as just an extension of the trail.  The trip up to Diamond Meadows was fairly uneventful and only saw 2 parties of 2 each on the trail during the day.  Plus 6 more coming down past Diamond Meadows as I was setting up camp.  One of the earlier groups had come through Anderson Pass and I got some good info from them.  The 6 had come through LaCrosse Pass and were pretty heavily loaded.  I heard later that there were actually 12 of them but I missed the other half.

All ready to go from the Dosewallips trail head.

Rabbit stew anyone?

The mighty Banana slug.  Saw quite a few of these monarchs of the forest floor.

A colorful spot along the road walk.

This is a part of the area that burned about 3 years ago.  It is coming back nicely.

I wonder if the NPS would consider renting out this little summer cottage?  It seems not to be used for anything else since the road washed out.

The high bridge across the Dose.  As far as I know this is the highest bridge in the park.  You can feel it moving as you walk across it, although not as much as its predecessor.

The view looking down from the high bridge.  Looks like 100 feet or so.  Makes you really thankful for the handrails.

The Diamond Meadows campground.  This big open area can handle  several groups with  room for another at the edge of the meadow, several more on the hill to the right and a few more in a spot just up the trail.  Could probably easily accommodate 8-10 parties, complete with a privy and 2 bear wires.

Thursday morning I left camp about 7 and headed up stream.  The crossing of the Dosewallips required you to pick out a route across a jumble of logs, none of which appeared to go all the way across.  I believe it took me three logs to make it.  Patchy snow started just past the crossing, although only one large patch on a steep slope presented any real obstacle.

There are multiple braids in the Dose here and it takes several logs to get from one bank to the next.  

Just below Honeymoon Meadows there was a very large blow down, probably 100 yards long.  I had to take the pack off for part of this and pass it under logs and then either crawl after it or find a way around or over; quite a mess. 

The trail goes right through the middle of this mess, for the next 100 yards or so.  It is on a steep slope so it is hard to go around, leaving over or under.

I love Avalanche lilies.  Hit the first patch of them just above the big blow down.

I didn't like the looks of any of the logs across the Dose at Honeymoon Meadows so I ended up fording there, up to mid-thigh in one place, but not too bad.  The lower meadow was mostly snow free, but the snow started in the upper meadow and continued most of the way up and over.  The only real exception was a series of switchbacks in the woods; they were clear enough that I could mostly follow the trail.  

Honeymoon Meadows just after fording the Dose.  Looks good here, but just over the small rise in the middle of the picture, the snow starts.
I am not the most proficient navigator in snow country so I had Backcountry Navigator on my phone to help me out.  About every 10-15 minutes I would pull it out to check my position relative to the trail.  About half the time I was right on and the other half I was a bit above the trail.  I eventually made it up into the pass, a real sense of accomplishment.

The view from Camp Siberia

Anderson Pass; finally!

Heading down the other side was a real adventure as well.  I was probably half way down before I saw any evidence of a trail.  I ended up just cutting down the steep slope in the general direction of the trail until I came out into the clear and started finding periodic sections of trail.  

Toward the bottom of the pass was the debris field from a large avalanche, probably 1/4 mile across and 1/2 mile long.  The trees looked like pick up sticks just tossed all over.  Quite fun crossing that mess.  Once past that the snow diminished enough that the travel became easier, and by the time I hit the O'Neil Pass trail the snow has mostly disappeared.

I had not remembered all the waterfalls falling into the Enchanted Valley.  While there were not any I saw with massive amounts of water, they were falling many hundreds of feet, and pretty frequently.  I could see about 8 of them from my campsite alone.  I did manage to see a couple of bears just above the camping area and a couple of deer that wandered through the next morning.  Also experienced my first mosquitoes of the season, although not to terrible.

One of the waterfalls in the upper valley.

Caught this picture just as he put his head back down to graze.  Good sized bear just about 50 feet of the trail.  More interested in eating than in posing for a better picture.

Not sure just exactly what he was eating, but it must have been good.  He was slowly mowing his way across the meadow.

Some of the waterfalls across the river from my camp at Enchanted Valley.  None of them had a large flow, but there were lots of them.  This is 3 of the 8 I could see across the way.

The Chalet / Ranger Station 

I have grown fascinated with the world of mushrooms.  These were growing out of the cut end of an old log by my camp.  There were just about fingernail sized.

Are you looking at me?

There were 4-5 other camp sites occupied that night, and one of them beat me out in the morning although I never saw them.  The most amazing thing to me on the trip out was the number of people coming up the trail.  I do not believe I had ever encountered so many people in the back country before.  In the first 6.5 miles I encountered 3 day hikers and at least 3 dozen backpackers heading for the Valley.  One group of 10 and another of 8 were both planning on going over Anderson Pass the next day so I talked with them for a while.  I suspect I encountered nearly 100 people on the trail before I got to the trail head and pickup point.  It was really crazy, especially from the Pony Bridge out.

A very interesting bridge across the Quinault just below the Valley.  No passing allowed.

What looks like abstract art is just what is left of an old tree.  The rest of it has rotted away.

The base of a fallen Red Cedar.  The base is nearly 30 feet across.  The trail  zigs around  it here.

There were a few places along the East Fork of the Quinault that looked almost manicured.; like walking in  a county park.

One of a small stand of big old Red Cedar's.  This one appears to have a diameter of 8-10 feet.

If you look closely you will see an elk print with a deer print on top of it.

If you blow this picture up, you will be amazed at the number and types of bugs pollinating this Cow Parsnip.  They were just swarming over it.

Looking back up the gorge under the Pony Bridge.  The bridge is hard to see here, but it is at the center and toward the top of the picture.

The Dosewallips trail end is just over 34 miles away.  It appears like the road above the washout is now considered a part of the Dosewallips trail.

All in all a very good trip, although I did fight with a pulled calf muscle for the last day and a quarter.  Backcountry Navigator worked well until I changed the battery on the phone to start the third day; it was lost after that.  Fortunately I didn't need it for navigating the trail out of the Valley.  SPOT tracked along OK, although the heavier tree cover down low blocks it a lot.  Going stoveless is getting easier, finding a better variety for dinner.  All of the rest of the gear seems to be working pretty well so I think I am about ready for a much longer trip.

If you are looking to head out over Anderson Pass it should be easily doable now, so long as you can handle the navigation issues.  I made it with trail runners, micro-spikes and trekking poles.