Nov 05

Marike and Marianne visit to Washington State

22-26SEPT2017

Betsy and I had heard that our friend Marike from Germany was coming over to the USA, so wished to introduce her to the Pacific NorthWest. She was accompanied by her friend Marianne, both were environmental studies students in Berlin. Jon and I had encountered Marike in Berlin while we were passing through, and left her my touring bicycle, with agreement that she would pay for it at her earliest convenience. I guess that no time will ever be “convenient” for her. Knowing that she would be in America for a wedding, she and her travel friend decided to see the PNW. We picked her up at the airport, and after settling in, went out to dinner at the Lobster Shop in downtown Tacoma. The next day, it was a planned trip to Mt. Rainier. We did the loop around the mountain going clockwise, starting north through Enumclaw. Our adventure went up to Sunrise, and a 4-5 mile hike ensued. The weather was cloudy, but periods of being able to see the entire mountain would happen, leaving it a spectacular beauty. I didn’t anticipate snow, but Sunrise received a dusting, as you can see from the above photo. We didn’t have enough time to do too much else, but did stop at Reflection Lakes, though it had clouded over by then and no reflections were to be seen.

At Sunrise point

A view of the mountain

That evening, we went out to dinner at Chili Thai, joined by Dr. Peters. The next day ended up to be unexpectedly a bit more clear in weather, but we had other plans, starting with the museum of glass. We decided against doing too much more in downtown Tacoma, and drove home, followed by a long walk on the Foothills trail to the Carbon River crossing from Orting.

On the Carbon River bridge

Monday took us to Seattle proper. We drove to Angle Lake and rode the light rail into the city. Our first adventure was downtown, seeing the sites and hitting Pike Place market. Running a bit short on time, we rode the monorail up to Seattle Center, where we viewed the Space Needle and saw the general sites of the old world fair. At this point, Marike wanted to see the museum of pop culture, but Marianne and I were not so interested, so we split up. Marianne and I went back downtown, and ran down to the waterfront, where we toured various shops. After that, we quickly ran up to the Flagship REI store in Seattle, which Marike and Marianne were both interested in. After purchasing several memorable REI t-shirts, we stopped by the Feathered Friends store (which makes down parka/sleeping bags for fun and expeditions) and then ran back to WestLake Center to reconnoitre with Marike.

In old town Seattle, next to a commemoration of Chief Seattle

Pike Place Market

On the Monorail

The Space Needle

Museum of Pop Culture

The REI headquarters in downtown Seattle

The grounds around the Seattle REI

Tuesday was the day to say goodbyes. I took Marike to the airport, and Marianne went to spend several more days in Seattle, followed by several days in Portland, meeting up with my sister Gloria, who took Marianne around town. It was an enjoyable time with the two girls, though their interest was mostly environmental, and they had arrived right at the dead end of the PNW season for getting outdoors, making it difficult to plan for outings. The two girls were quite enjoyable to be with, but Betsy and I (and Gloria) were left a little bit perplexed about matters, as though we might have offended their sensibilities. Strangely, they have not made any effort to reconnect with us. Perhaps their preconceptions from the German media have left them with an American stereotype offensive to their taste. Perhaps we were just old fogies unable to satisfy the whims of the youthful heart. Whatever it was, I do hope they do well in their studies and that they single-handedly save the world from an environmental catastrophe. So I wish them the best.

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Oct 08

Downton Abbey: PBS Television series ★★★

Downton Abbey was a TV series that ran for 6 seasons, and was most popular during its time. It is the story about the life from about 1910-1925 of one of the remaining great houses in Yorkshire area of England. The movie presents life of both the aristocratic family in contrast to the servants in the manor, or to say it differently, of the working class as compared to the leisured class. Each season presented the tensions and problems of the two classes or people in the Abbey estate. It was intended to paint a sense of sympathy for life on both sides of the class divide. The story line left suspense and tension with each episode, until the very last episode of season 6, where everything is resolved, friendships and feuds resolved, the appropriate people married to the appropriate spouses, and the Abbey is at peace while celebrating a new year.

A most appropriate change to the name of this series would be Pride and Prejudice on steroids. The entire story line ultimately evolves around only two issues, 1) will Downton Abbey survive in the new world?, and 2) who will marry who, and when? To the first question, the answer is, “yes”, Downton Abbey survives, but with a loss of the Pracht and Herrlichkeit (splendor and elegance/majesty) of the past. The movie attempts to evoke sympathies for the aristocratic classes in their “loss” of their leisured world, and disappointed that they can no longer have people dressing/undressing them, having their regular elegant garden parties and life on the fox hunt, and massive banquets of white tie affairs, surrounded by maids and butlers, and a host of staff jumping to their every whim. They failed to claim my sympathies. To the second question, if one of the actors survived, they were all able to eventually get married, and usually within the desired class and to the “right” person.

The story line held one’s attention. Oftentimes, the story was a bit too contrived, such as people dying simply to create and maintain the appropriate flow of the movie. The story and scenery tries to maintain historical accuracy, and to that end I presume they did superbly. The setting was in one of the now retired great houses. Do I feel sorry for the aristocrats of the past, or possess some secret desire to wish I could have filled their shoes? Hardly not! I mentioned that this was Jane Austen on steroids, and that indeed is exactly what it was, without the hidden comedy of Jane Austen. The storyline is a seemingly endless repetition of the Jane Austen novels, yet is a little more crass at demonstrating the arrogance, as well as the hypocrisy of the British elite, especially in terms of their moral/sexual behavior. The issue not that they were more sexually loose than one would like to think, but that they maintained a stringent desire to cover up their dalliances with a gloss of moral righteousness. In this regard, they excelled over Jane Austen.

I don’t regret watching Downton Abbey. It was long. Betsy (wife) definitely enjoyed watching it again, and found it better to watch the entire six seasons in one long setting, rather than having to wait for each episode week after week. So, I’ll cease my criticisms and await your thoughts on this series.

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Sep 07

In preparation for the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I decided to read up on Martin Luther. I’ve read three books so far, the fourth is in the mail and will be reported later. One book, Here I Stand, I’ve read many moons ago, so it was like reading the book fresh.

A life-Martin Luther, by Martin Marty ★★★★

This is a short, easy to read biography of Martin Luther. Marty focused primarily upon Luther as a person, with no effort to show how ML changed and affected the world that he lived in. It is easy to read in 1-2 evenings, and leaves you a feel for knowing ML personally. He works through Luther’s life in a historical fashion, providing vignettes of his life that are often illuminating as to the nature of the person, often chummy, often quite irascible. The book definitely does not labor hard on Luther’s theology, but more on his personality, and leaves nothing to describe the Lutheran church that he formed. It is a fun book to read, though not an encyclopedia of his life.

The Legacy of Luther, edited by RC Sproul and Stephen Nichols ★★

This book is a hodgepodge. As an edited book, the style and quality is quite variable. Several chapters are informative. Many are misleading or mistaken in their information. The two editors provide very little input, with RC Sproul writing almost nothing save for a few brief meaningless summary pages of text. Written by a bunch of Presbyterians, they do Luther a serious disservice by trying to fit ML into a Presbyterian mold. Though Presbyterians pride themselves in vigorous and accurate scholarship, this book is anything but that, save for a few chapters. Many of the chapters try to paint ML as a near-Presbyterian with Presbyterian theology, something they are quite mistaken about. There is minimal discussion as exactly how Lutheran thinking affected the minds of Reformed thinkers, such as Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Cranmer and others. Such discussion might have made the book an informative read. There is so much left out that the entire book, that it is a travesty. They fail to grasp how the liturgical reforms of ML in Wittemberg during the years 1522-1528 so heavily influenced Reformed practice. They fail to describe exactly how the formulations of the doctrines of grace in Lutheran thought affected Reformed thought. They failed in their attempts to compare and contrast Lutheran from Reformed thinking. All of these issues were responsible for affecting the world after Luther and forming his legacy.

The book is in three parts, the first being the history of Luther, portrayed in a very abbreviated fashion. It does have some historical inaccuracies, and was a little too brief to be meaningful. The second part was an attempt to describe Luther’s thought and theology from a Reformed perspective. This section was weak, and often completely misreads Luther by trying to make his words that of a Reformed thinker. This section would be best skipped altogether. The last section was on Luther’s legacy, which contained some good chapters. Particular were Luther’s work at translating the Scripture, Luther as a musician, and Luther as a preacher. One chapter, “Luther in the middle: Luther among the Reformers” was just plain odd, in that Luther, in the space of just a few years, had to completely re-invent the liturgy, while refusing to totally trash the Roman Catholic liturgy. For the most part, though there was Huss and Savonarola and few others before Luther, their legacy was not strong. Contemporaries such as Zwingli did not survive long enough to leave a lasting imprint on the church. Only Luther remained as, not the man in the middle, but the man at the head, serving as the model and example for all of Christendom, including the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anabaptist faith, as model of the church, worship, and christian behavior. Indeed, Luther affected German culture in toto, down to the very language now spoken in Germany. To call him a “man in the middle” is not only insulting but inaccurate.

The few good chapters in this book do not justify its purchase or time to read. I generally pride Sproul as a great scholar, yet this book is a shame to his name. I certainly hope that he either quits writing, or that he return to his older standards of excellence in scholarship.

 

Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton ★★★★★

There is very little that I could possibly say critical of this text. It is no wonder that Bainton’s biography of Luther remains the top English text on this giant. Bainton’s writing style holds one fixed to the text, even when laboring over minute (but important) aspects of Luther’s life and teaching. Bainton provide a wonderful mix of the history of Luther, but also of the thinking and mind of Luther, providing many quotes, some even lengthy quotes, to help one understand the man ML. This text was a delight from the first to last page. It is detailed but not excessively so, giving one a feel as to Luther as a person, as a genius, as a scholar, as a husband and father, and mostly as a leader of the Reformation. Luther’s faults are all too well known, but Bainton does not labor on those, and shows the beauty of this man, making him proper to be labeled first among many to lead the charge against an evil and corrupt Catholic church. This book should be a must-read among Christians who wish to know their heritage.

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Sep 06

Timberline Trail, 17-18AUG2017

I had backpacked the Timberline Trail twice already, once about 40 years ago with Jack Frane, and the other about 20 years ago with Kent Dawson. The trail had been closed for a number of years because a wash-out on the northeast side of the mountain, but this year, the trail was reopened completely. I decided to do the trail in two nights with Russ Anderson. The trail is roughly 40 miles length, so we anticipated camping on the NW and SE sides of the mountain, leaving a long but not challenging second day.

We arrived at Timberline Lodge at about 11 am, and after signing in and making necessary preparations, we took off. I remembered most of the trail, though it had a changing face to it. What was most peculiar was that there was more difficulty crossing some of the streams than I remember in times past. The Sandy River was particularly challenging to get across, and only a small log over a very active rushing stream was noted. We started going clockwise, and the west side of the mountain is noted for a series of deep canyons, the first being Zigzag canyon and the second the Sandy River canyon. The trail did an excellent job of following elevation contours so that there was no extreme ups and downs.

Russ ready to go hiking

Mt. Jefferson off in the horizon

 

Mt Hood from Zigzag Canyon

 

More views of Mt. Hood from Zigzag Canyon

 

The intrepid Russ Anderson in excellent style

 

View from the Sandy River area

 

Ramona Falls

We arrived at Ramona Falls, making quite good time, as it was about 16:30 and we had already hiked 10.5 miles. I had some left knee pain from prior hikes, so was wearing a support brace for the hike. The knee started to hurt more, not when walking, but when stopped. Since the campsites for Ramona Falls were quite full, we went a little over a mile further to other campsites on the trail. At that time, my left knee started to become truly painful. After dinner, Russ and I both hit the sack, and slept soundly. The left knee was now quite swollen, and exceedingly painful. After much painful deliberation, we decided to bail out. Rather than retrace our tracks, we decided to take an access trail to Lolo Pass, and then hitch back to the car. It was about 5-7 miles out, which went smoothly. After arriving at the parking lot to the access trail, we were able to hitchhike back to Zigzag, where Russ further rode back to Timberline Lodge to get his truck.

I saw a sports orthopedist a week later, who identified a small stress avulsion fracture of the lateral knee, which requires me to take it easy for about 6 weeks. I find that bicycling gives me a small amount of pain, but can at least let me get some exercise in. Sadly, a combination of the knee injury and forest fires is keeping me off of the trail. It will probably have to wait for next year to formally complete the Timberline Trail.

 

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Aug 08

I am busy completing all of the hikes found in the Mountaineers “50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park” 1988 edition. After today, I have only 3 hikes left to have essentially done them all. It is a pity I waited so long to do this hike. The view above is the upper Palisades Lake, which is at the end of the maintained trail. The wildflowers were out in this bloom. It was sunny. For the photographer, the only real problem was the haze from forest fires in Canada. The temperature was perfect, and the trail was immaculately maintained. Except for the trail to the first lake (Sunrise Lake), I took all the side trails to trips around the lakes that I passed. The first was Sunrise Lake, seen from the Sunrise Lookout. I’ve seen this lake in the past, thinking that it was impossibly far down, but actually is a very pleasant hike to get to.

Lupine and Indian Paintbrush dominate the floor of the forests.

Flowers along the trail

There were a number of large and expansive meadows bordered by the rock cliffs of the Palisades

Clover Lake was the second lake on the trail.

I passed Clover Lake, and then Pete Lake, which had a campsite. There was also Tom and Harry Lake which I could not find. I hiked on to the Upper Palisades Lake, going a little beyond to see an overlook of the Lower Palisades Lake, reached by a primitive unsupported trail. On return, there was a short grunt up to Hidden Lake, which is a gem very worth the effort to get there.

Hidden Lake

View from the Hidden Lake trail. On the horizon is a flat spot, which is the Sunrise Lookout, the start of the trail.

More flowers, with Pete Lake sticking out

The Garmin data is slightly skewed in that I forgot to turn it off until I got several miles down the road. In reality, it was about 7.5 – 8.2 miles hiking, with 2250 feet elevation gain (approximately). This is just slightly different than the guidebook suggests.

All in all, it was a marvelous hike, and I felt great the entire time. About the last two miles, my left knee started to hurt quite seriously again. I thought that it was healed, but it wasn’t. This made each step dreadfully painful, and slowed me way down. I might have to postpone some hiking trips planned in the next few weeks, and do some cycle touring instead. Bicycling is VERY easy on my knees. We’ll see.

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