July 29, 2010

Purple Majesty

This post is for Grandma G, who takes the best pictures of flowers. See them at:

Attribution: Photos 2 through 6 of this blog were taken by Tom Overstreet.

Note: You may click on the pictures to enlarge them, then use your back arrow to return.

Back in May I drove out to Colorado. Driving through the desert I stopped for 20 minutes to watch a sunset, and maybe catch a good photo op. Where I stopped was in the middle of nowhere, really. I headed up a rise, away from the road a bit, and encountered a number of these little ankle-high blooming cacti. Here were these beautiful cactus flowers out in the middle of nowhere, and it occurred to me that most of them were going to have a magnificent bloom that nobody would ever see.

On my recent backpacking adventure to the high country of the Sierra Nevada mountains I had a similar kind of ah-ha experience with the flowers of the high country. We went off the beaten trail. And while I am sure a number of others go off the beaten trail, we were in enough remote places that I am also sure that some of the flowers we saw will never be seen by anyone else, and wouldn't have been seen by anyone had we not gone there then.

There is a discernible pattern here in God's creation, and particularly in God's wilderness. The beauty is there. Creation is robed in God's Purple Majesty. And the beauty is there, and God's majesty is apparent, if you are lucky enough to see it, but it is also there irrespective of whether anyone at all sees it.

But the beauty, the Purple Majesty, calls to us -- to me. The flowers, in particular, call to me like lonesome children wanting attention. "Can you come over and see me?" "Can you come out and play today?" "Hey! Hey mister! Come over here and see what God did."

They are like bright, cheerful little witnesses standing on their little wilderness soap boxes and spreading a message of hope and good cheer.

But if ever there was truth to the expression "all dressed up with no place to go," these footless flowers are the embodiment of that truth. So I went and saw some of them. They're friendly, and I think they really appreciated being appreciated by someone.

July 24, 2010

This And That

Troubled bridge over waters.. Whenever the water wets the top of a log bridge, the log is slippery. Couple that with a lack of ballerina balance, and you have a recipe for a wet boot.

Golden sky. Priceless.

Golden trout, and Steve K's golden hand sleeved in a golden top.

Steve K makes trail pudding. Trust me, it was delicious.

Duct tape has many uses. I did the fine wood carving. This one-of-a-kind item is currently available for sale.

Wild onions at base of rock, and sprouting out of my pack. They grow along streams and some lakes. Pick a few when you see them and have them with soup, mashed potatoes, or fish. They're delish.
Also note the orange and red duct tape on my hiking pole. That's the way to carry a little duct tape into the wilderness without taking the whole big roll. Don't leave home without it.

Wild onions in the fridge. Wet a cloth and wrap them to keep them fresh. Nice to chew on when sitting around chewing the fat before and after dinner.

Mono Hot Springs all natural hot tub. I am talking about the water, folks. All naturally heated. Nice for a soak at the end of a long trail.

Attribution: All pictures in this post were taken by Tom Overstreet.

July 23, 2010

The Inconvenience of Purity

Anyone who wonders about how the world works has surely spent time on the banks of a river or stream or creek and wondered “where does all this water come from?” This question has occurred to me often when I am backpacking and either camped near, or hiking along, or crossing a full-flowing, year-round stream. How does it just keep flowing and flowing and flowing?

The answer, my friend, really is blowing in the wind. God, in his infinite wisdom, has invented a truly perfect system of water purification and transport and storage. Pure water is deposited in the form of rain or snow high up in the mountains, and it flows by gravity to its millions of users (plants, animals, men) who progressively use and dirty the water. The dirty water continues to flow until it reaches some filthy low point – like a sewage pond – whereupon it is evaporated by the sun, completely purified, gathered in clouds, transported back to the mountains by the wind, and again redeposited as rain or snow for our use and enjoyment. It’s pure. It’s free. It’s perpetual. It’s perfect. It’s beautiful.

And it is inconvenient. Let’s face it, all the good stuff notwithstanding, who says “Hurrah!” when it rains on their picnic? Who hopes it will rain on their wedding day (like it did on my daughter’s wedding day this past May)? And what sane backpacker do you know who hopes it rains while they are out? Or who hopes the snow hasn’t fully melted yet by mid-July so they can get their boots and socks cold and wet slushing through soggy snow?

We had soggy snow and ice and lots of rain to contend with on our recent backpack trip. Sure, we like the fresh, clean, pure water. But why, God, can't you deliver it when it's convenient for us? This dilemma popped up again in a different form in one of our evening devotions when Bud decided to invite Tom, Steve and me to attend the Walk To Emmaus conference in Fresno. Sure, Bud, we want to be clean and pure and to experience God's love to the full, but really, a four day conference which takes up a whole weekend in the summer is not convenient.

Surely God can find a way to deliver pure water and purity in our lives in a way that's convenient and easy for us? Ah, well, the rain and the snow and the so-called "hardships" and the "wading in the water" we endured on this trip weren't so bad after all. Believe it or not, we kind of enjoyed them. Maybe I will attend that conference after all.
Attribution: All pictures in this post were taken by Tom Overstreet.

July 22, 2010

An In-Tents, and Fishy, Video Experience

Four Guys on the Unmarked Trail
Timed photo by Tom Overstreet - Monday, July 12, 2010

[Click on the photo for full effect, then use your back button to return.]


The following videos document our six wilderness campsites from our backpacking adventure of July 9, 2010 to July 17, 2010. Two videos show Steve Kuehter and some of the beautiful, and tasty, Golden Trout he caught. Each video was taken and narrated by Tom Overstreet.

Our video campsite numbering starts with Camp Two because Camp One was our first night of car camping at the North Lake trailhead campground.

Camp Two - Muriel Lake
Sat. July 10, 2010.

Camp Three - Tomahawk Lake

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Camp Four - Puppet Lake/Paris (Hilton) Lake
Monday, July 12, 2010.

Camp Five - Miriam Lake
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Steve Kuehter's Golden Trout

Steve K. Lands Another One

Camp Six - Lower Seven Gables Lake (Video corrupted, still photo by George!)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Camp Seven - Medley Lake
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Below, still photo taken by me of the inside of my tent while I wait out a thunder shower.

July 21, 2010

A Daring Adventure

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many path and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

The Old Walking Song sung by Bilbo Baggins, from The Lord of the Rings

"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination." - Don Williams, Jr.

Our recent hiking adventure was made possible, in part, by two fine gentlemen, Calvin, a co-worker of the Caltrans trio, and George T., a church friend and step-father to Bud. Calvin and George T. drove us to our trailhead over near Bishop, California, last Friday, and then drove home, and then drove up to the Bear Creek Diversion Dam trailhead near Edison Lake this past Saturday to pick us up. On the pick-up trip they brought us fresh clothes and fresh food. Nice! Thanks, guys.

I rode in the car with George T., who is a thoughtful, literary man. On the way over to Bishop, the occupants of our car were discussing what it means to "have an adventure." George recalled the beginning of the adventure of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins in the JRR Tolkien book, The Lord of the Rings. Gandolph, the wizard, is sending the Baggins boys off, and Bilbo (or Frodo) said something to the effect of "Well, I guess we're off on an adventure, then." Gandolph replied to the effect of "Yes, but remember: real adventures always have an element of danger involved." [These are loose interpretations, loosely remembered, and I couldn't find the actual passage through a Google search.]

And even by Gandolph's rather ominous description of what a real adventure is, our recent hike really was an adventure, though significantly more benign than that of the Baggins boys.

To get a feel for the scale of our adventure, you may scrutinize the picture above. Pictured are, from left, Tom, George and Steve. Bud took the picture with my camera. The jagged mountain in the far background above and to the right of Steve (center top of the picture), is Mount Humphreys. Bishop, and our North Lake trailhead, are on the other side of Mount Humphreys. We hiked over Piute Pass (elevation 11,400 feet), on that ridge, then camped at Muriel Lake; then, the next morning we got up and hiked across the relatively flat Humphrey's Basin and camped at Tomahawk Lake; then, the next morning we got up and hiked to the second mountain you see just to the right of Steve's head in the photo (the pointed one that looks like a pyramid, which is called Pilot Knob). We hiked over that ridge, over Carol Col or "Puppet Pass," to the left of Pilot Knob, and then down into a basin and camped between Puppet Lake and Paris Lake (we called it Paris Hilton Lake); then, on the day this picture was taken we got up and hiked down into the canyon immediately behind us, which is French Canyon, then up out of French Canyon to where we are standing, on our way to Miriam Lake; we camped at Miriam Lake (elevation 10,930 feet), then, the day after this picture was taken we got up and had our hike over Ruskie Pass, which I described in my July 18 blog; the day of the Ruskie Pass climb we camped at lower Seven Gables Lake; the next day we got up and hiked to Medley Lake and camped; then, Friday morning we got up and hiked 15 miles to the end of our hike at Bear Creek Diversion Dam.

But our adventure was not simply one of thrill seeking, or going off to the wilderness to admire creation without acknowledgment of the Creator. We also went in search of God, and of each other, and of ourselves. And each of these, in addition to raw adventure, or more accurately, as an integral part of our adventure, we found in some measure.

"People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering." - St. Augustine

"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." Cherokee Wisdom

July 20, 2010

The Rhythm of the Trail

Attribution: All but one of the pictures in today's blog, and most of the pictures in yesterday's blog which include me, were taken by Tom Overstreet. Tom has an artist's eye, and the heart and mind of a poet.

When you are hiking with a far destination in mind, and especially when the going is going to be tough, one of the best things you can do to preserve your energy and your sanity is to get into a good rhythm. A steady, rhythmic swinging of your legs, with arms in opposite swinging sequence, and not too much upper-body movement, will take you way farther for the same amount of energy than herky-jerky, stop-and-start, twist-and-turn hiking. It's like getting the best gas mileage from your car; Find a steady pace, not too fast and not too slow, and set the cruise control.

Hiking poles, if you have them, are a real bonus for rhythm and energy saving. A heavy backpack perched high on your upper body will make you tipsy, or is that tippy? If you get out of balance from the high center of gravity and start to lean, start to fall, it takes a lot of energy from your legs and core body muscles to re-right yourself. Hiking poles give you two extra legs for balance, and they can help power you uphill, and break the shock to your knees and body when you are going downhill. If you've never used them, I recommend them to you.

The problem with most of the hiking we did on our recent off-trail backpack trip was that, well, it was off trail. It is difficult to get into a rhythm when you are dodging rocks and trees, hopping over boulder fields, taking your boots off and crossing streams, hiking straight uphill or downhill. I have read about the guys and gals who hike long trails, like the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico up into Canada. They carry light packs (25 pounds would be heavy for some of these "through-hikers"), stay on the trail, get into a rhythm, hike from before sun-up to after sun-down, and cover 25 miles a day, plus or minus.

The "hike" we took from Miriam Lake over Ruskie Pass and down into Seven Gables Lakes , which I described in my previous post, covered less than four miles, and took almost six hours. Every step was an effort.

Boulder hopping is, perhaps, the most energy-consuming and dangerous of the non-rhythmic hiking methods. It takes planning and energy to hop from uneven boulder to uneven boulder. Usually there is no real pattern or discernible rhythm to the progress one makes hopping from boulder to boulder. And it is dangerous. Especially on steep talus slopes, where gravity and the smallest dislodged rock might bring tons of rock raining down on you, or on your hiking companions below you. Care needs to be taken to not hike too close above or below your companions in these situations.

I have read stories in backpacker magazine and elsewhere of hikers who were boulder hopping and dislodged massive boulders that either crushed and killed them, or pinned them to other boulders. One story was about a guy, still living, whose arm got pinned. He ended up severing his own arm with his pocket knife to save his life. Another story was of a guy who hopped onto the top of a boulder which rolled, throwing him down to his feet in front of another boulder, and pinning his whole body between the two boulders. He was able to reach some paper and a pen in his backpack, which was pinned to his body, and over several days journaled his experience; He knew he was in a dire situation, and he eventually died there from exposure and dehydration. It was an emotional and heart-rending story, which included many entries from his dying diary.

On the last day of our hike we did hike on trail the whole day. It had rained on us Thursday night, and when we got up it was still raining. Everything was wet, so we just packed it all up and hit the trail. We got into a good hiking rhythm -- though a little fast. Bud has long legs and a big stride, and runs half marathons for fun. He sets a pace on trail of slightly more than three miles an hour; In my opinion, two-and-a-half miles an hour is a better trail pace. Anyway, it rained on-and-off the whole day on Friday, and we did not stop at our scheduled Friday night stop (about a seven mile hike). Instead, we stayed in rhythm, and hiked the full 15 miles to the Bear Creek Diversion Dam trailhead. The end of our trail.

There is something about getting into the rhythm of the trail that is sedating and satisfying. It's like life, in some respects. And therein lies the danger of getting into the rhythm of the trail, and the rhythm of life. You have to be careful that you are not so sedated by the rhythm and the hiking, and so focused on the final destination, that you don't pay any mind to the beauty around you at the moment. The sun comes up, the day passes, the sun goes down, night comes, night passes, the sun comes up. Monday comes, the week passes, then Sunday comes, then Monday comes. Spring comes, then summer, then fall, then winter, then spring. And suddenly, before you know it, 50 years have come and gone, and you are at, or near, the end of your trail.

And today is another day in the rhythm of your life.