Where to park your body

One of the best things about staying in the Park at a National Park is that you get to hear late night Ranger talks without having a late night drive back to the hotel. We’ve done that before, so we don’t want to do it again. Of course, if it’s a smallish NP, it doesn’t matter. But a Mt. Rainier or Yellowstone or Olympic – you need to stay onsite to make the best of your time.

Susan writing postcards by the fireplace.

We heard some great Ranger talks, hosted in the very large lodge lobby.One talk was on area wildflowers. The Ranger said she was from rural Illinois and said the only flower she ever saw while growing up was (next slide, please) a corn stalk. “That’s why I moved.” If you get to the lobby at the right time, there’s also free tea and cookies. We saw the tray and cups, so we know.

The lobby, taken from the fireplace.

We had a shared hall bath at the Paradise Inn.  During the night, I’d see people come and go from the bath or the shower in brilliant white bathrobes. I realized that if we had asked at the desk, we probably could have gotten a robe, if the desk clerk had told us of that option. Or maybe they were for rent. Either way, when I needed to go down the hall, I’d get fully dressed.

A robe would have been much more convenient. As we were packing to leave, we opened the closets and drawers to make sure we were leaving nothing behind. Actually, we never unpacked our clothes – just lived out of the suitcase for a couple of days, but it is a habit we’ve developed over the years. Always check the closet, the back of the bathroom door, check under the bed, etc. There, in the top drawer of the dresser, was a robe and bath shoes. You have not, because you open not.

We stayed at Paradise Inn. It has hosted guests for 93 years. That made me wonder how many people had slept in my room over that many years. With a May-September season, about 270 days times 93 – that’s about 25,000 people. The stories these walls could tell.

Paradise Inn

The walls of the PI are paper thin, by the way. It’s like sleeping in a room with a sheet between you and the adjoining guests. You can hear every word of every conversation, which is very entertaining. A couple of men were staying in the room next door our first night. They were planning to scale the mountain and were discussing strategy, including whether their leader’s strategy was the right one.

Paradise is not as large as you might think.

The second night was an older couple with Northern accents. In the morning, they were packed up to leave when their alarm clock went off. “Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep…” “Uh oh,” she said. “What is that?” he said. “My alarm clock. It’s packed away. What should we do?” “What if we just let it ring for a while?” “Oh, I don’t know.” “How long will it ring if you don’t turn it off? Five minutes? We can wait five minutes if we need to.” (In the background, the alarm is ringing faster and more insistent.) “But I’m afraid that will drain the battery.” (Long pause as the alarm rings. Then, the alarm stops.) “There,” he says, “let’s go now.” I was laughing so hard it was difficult to remain snoopily quiet.

Today, we hiked and hiked and hiked. According to my pedometer, we walked 27,280 steps. That is, 12.01 miles. According to Susan’s pedometer, we walked 25,108 steps or 10.7 miles. We didn’t have that much difference in our walking today. One of our pedometers is obviously off. I hope it’s hers.An emotional sight for a geologist park ranger.

 Our first hike was with a Park Ranger who loved, loved, loved rocks. This was a glacier hike. As we were hiking on top of eight feet of snow, she told us how the glaciers carved into these mountains to make U-shaped valleys. You can observe large cuts and smooth patches on many rocks here, evidence of glacial erosion. We stopped by one very large rock with a large hole in it. It had been tossed from a volcano. The hole was evidence of a gas bubble. She siad this was the largest specimen of this she’d ever seen. She cried when she first saw it. Like I said, she loves rocks.

The weather was terrible for a hike if you hoped to see more than a few yards ahead of you. It was cold, misty, foggy, stereo-typical PNW weather. It was July 5, but it didn’t feel like it. When we got to the glacier viewpoint, we had a great view of fog – a close-up view. So, we headed back down the trail. If nothing else, we got some really good exercise and we got to see a hole in a rock that brings tears to certain geologists.

After hiking several trails on the western side of Mt. Rainier, we drove to the eastern side to walk a few trails. As we were driving, the sky cleared and as we rounded a hairpin curve, there was Mt. Rainier. Massive! It really is breathtaking. We pulled off to join a group of fellow admirers with their cameras and binoculars out. I took several pictures.

We talked with another couple who were setting up their tripod and camera and then a scope. We watched hikers and skiers on the mountain – even with multiple magnification, they were dots in the brilliant white snowscape. Someone else in the group pointed out a mountain goat sitting in a snowfield on another ridge of the mountain. With my binoculars, it looked like a little hump of snow. With my new friend’s you could make out the outline of a goat, but with the scope you could see that it was a bearded goat, sitting contentedly unaware that he was the subject of a dozen eyes, a cloud of witnesses.

At the overlook, we were a community, mutually in awe of the mountain’s beauty and sharing with one another our stories of seeing (or not) the mountain and then pointing out features others may have missed. We all left at separate times to go on with our personal journeys, but our journeys were made the richer having shared it with a community of strangers.

Holy Hiking

I love to hike. You wouldn’t know that to look at an inventory of my hiking gear. I have hiking shoes I bought at Kohl’s, a book bag once used by the boys in school, and really ordinary clothes. I know there are specialized products in each of these categories – and if I were going on a multi-week or even a multi-day hike I may want to look into those products. But the fact is, you need very little to hike. Yet, you get so much out of it – fresh air, exercise, inspiration. Hiking is a cheap date with God.

Susan, with her walking sticks, has an obviously more extravagant lifestyle than I.

The rumored mountain

Mt. Rainier is known for two things: its size and its invisibility. As we were driving toward Seattle from the north (after touring the world’s largest building – which houses the Boering airplane manufacturing plant), we rounded a turn to see the cityscape and were amazed by this huge white mountain hovering over the city. We’d been in town for two days and had not seen it at all. It was stunning. I was driving in the midst of traffic with no way to turn off and take a picture. By the time we got to our exit, the mountain was gone, covered again by its clouds.

Susan and I were in Seattle for a couple of days. We were blessed with a beautiful day to visit the zoo. It is regarded as one of the best in the country. We go to a lot of zoos and we totally agree with that assessment. It has great use of space, both for the animals and the people. It has a good balance in another way, too.

Some zoos I go to feel like a political rally. You are bombarded at every site with information on how humans are ruining the earth. I know we humans create problems for plants and animals (and other people), and I understand that a zoo has some responsibility to point this out in some ways. I’ve seen this done effectively. I remember a bird show at one zoo  in which a toucan had been trained to pick up a tin can and put it into a recycling bin. The point made by the trainer – “If you save a tin can, you save a toucan.” It was an entertaining, clear and memorable demonstration.

But sometimes I leave a zoo depressed, which I don’t think is a zoo’s purpose. A zoo should make me celebrate the variety of life in the Creation, inform me of how people are trying to make life better for the Creation and inspire me to join them in bettering our world. I do want to know about ways I can make life better. I don’t want to be hammered with methods designed to make me feel guilt or hounded with an agenda at every exhibit. I go to a zoo to see animals.

We were surprised at Seattle's Space Needlethe Seattle weather. We came prepared to expect the worst – long, dreary, drizzling days. The sky is often overcast and in the morning it was frequently misty, but most of the time we had fair to great weather. We spent all day out at the Seattle zoo, a morning on a walking tour of part of the city and other miscellaneous times walking around town, but never got the rain we were expecting. Granted, this is the beginning of summer, so it is more like a dry season here.

On the elevator down from the Space Needle, the elevator operator asked the group of us if we had any questions about the Space Needle or Seattle she could answer. One person commented, “I thought it always rained in Seattle?” ‘That’s just what we tell everyone, so no one else will move here,” she said.

Seattle from the Space Needle


I have always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest (PNW). The cities of Seattle and Portland intrigue me. Huge mountains move me. Rain, lots and lots of rain, depresses me – but I want to experience it all, anyway. As a non-coffee drinker, I do not have the fix-ation that a caffeine addict might have for the region and as an non-Mac user, I do not crave Apples, but these are also things this area has that are unique to our country. And a huge Boeing airplane manufacturing plant. And dozens of amazing state and national parks. Why would anyone not want to go to the PNW? I’ve also wanted to attend Regent College in Vancouver for some time, as they seem to have a great lineup of professors, including one of my all-time favorite authors, Eugene Peterson. Peterson is no longer at Regent, but I figure, if he likes it there, I probably will, too. So, I looked over the summer courses and found one on a subject that interests me, Introduction to Contemplative Listening. Once that course was confirmed, we made plans to build several weeks’ worth of enrichment in the PNW. The posts that follow are taken from my journal.


The next week we spent at home doing most of the things we’d planned to do the week before, including work on a house we plan to move into soon. We have been renovating this house for a couple of years, doing much of the work ourselves. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. People are always asking if we have a date in mind and I reply, “Oh, we’ve had many dates in mind, but they’ve all passed us by.” We still don’t have  a date, but we really would like to be in the house this fall.

This was the week of the national CBF General Assembly meeting in Charlotte. As I was doing my sabbatical plan, I really thought I’d like to go to it. It is always inspiring to me, and I get to see friends from other states that I never get to see otherwise. And, Alan Roxburgh, an expert on the missional church, is teaching the leadership summit. Leading the “missional church team” is my newest responsibility for CBFNC. But the staff and personnel committee really pushed me not to attend this year, since it would inevitably lead to “work”, thus defeat the purpose of a sabbatical. I’ve trusted their wisdom and decided to stay home. As it turns out, that was good for me in another way. (WARNING: skip the rest of this post if you are suseptable to sympathetic illness and/or you don’t want to use your imagination about a repulsive bodily function.)

On the first day of the General Assembly, I got instantly ill. As Susan and I were sitting on our back porch, I suddenly felt light-headed and got very pale (according to Susan. I did not have a mirror convenient to me). As she went to get me some water, I laid my head on the table beside me. As she walked through the doorway, I whispered, “trashcan…” She said, “What?” and then she saw why I needed a trashcan. I went to bed and slept the rest of that day and most of the next day. The few times I woke and got up, I would head back to bed. I had a new mantra. “Sleep is your friend.” After all that rest, I woke up feeling pretty good. Susan said later that I was still pale for a while, but all in  all, it was over and done with pretty quickly.

I’ve had enough counseling courses to wonder is this was mostly psychological – that I had to justify my not going to the national CBF meeting to myself and this is the one way I could do it. Or maybe it was purely physical. Either way, I’m glad I did not go to Charlotte to spend two days passed out in a motel room while all the fun was going on in a ballroom below me.  I very seldom get sick, even with a common cold, but if I’m going to be ill, there’s no place like home.

The week after our trip to PA was to be a week at home, doing bills, chores and maintanence. We began on Monday with a day of painting. As I was cleaning up, around 8 PM, Susan got a phone call. It was a friend, Cecil. His wife, Resa, had been in an accident in the Myrtle Beach area. It was a single car accident, she was in the hospital and Cecil was leaving to see her. He wanted Susan to email their Sunday School class to ask for prayers. As the call was finishing, I whispered to Susan, “ask if he wants me to go with him.” I knew that would be a long 4-5 hour drive alone, just thinking about what he would be facing. He said yes.

Cecil swung by the house that we are renovating to pick me up. I jumped in the car and we took off. I had not had a chance to talk much with Cecil about my sabbatical thus far, so that took up a lot of our time. There was also discussion about the accident, about his job and there were periods of silence.

When we got to the hospital, Resa was awake and alert. She’d passed out while driving. The major concern not not her few bumps and bruses, but the reason for passing out, so many tests were scheduled to be run the next day. Cecil and I found a hotel near the hospital and stayed the night. The next morning, he and I went to the car lot where Resa’s car had been taken. As he was collecting items from the car, I called Susan to give her an update. “You’re going to have to come get me,” I told her, “because Cecil is going to need to be here for several days.” I had no extra clothes or toiletries, etc. So, Susan made plans to bring me a change of clothes and to pick me up.

When I told Cecil of that plan, he said, “Why don’t you plan to stay the week? The condo we rented has two bedrooms.” I called Susan and we worked it out! Resa was released after a couple days. We got to eat meals together, relax on the beach together and just enjoy being together.

Cecil said at the end of the week, “Thanks, I couldn’t have done this without you,” which surprised me, but made me feel good. But actually, I was appreciative, too. I was glad to have a week away from the renovation. I was glad to have an unexpected week at the beach. Most of all, I was glad to practice being a friend.