Jan 01

The New Year is a good time to reflect on life, including the past, present and future. This New Year brings particular note, in that it is the first year I enter as a retired person soon to be on Medicare and social security, and making the transitions in life that are ultimately an end to a long journey. It remains a mystery as to how long the ending will be. I could die as I write this piece (okay, I’ve finished this piece, and remain alive), or I could live to be past 100. If I had my choice, I’d live for a full but short life, rather than a long life.

In the past month, Betsy (my wife) and I have purchased our funeral arrangements, caskets (the cheapest wood casket on the market!) and burial plot with stone—the only absence from the headstone is the dates of our death, and that’s something that only God knows. Funeral preparations remind one how fleeting life is. As I look back on life, I cannot help but think that it is but for the grace of God that Betsy and I are still here, more madly in love than ever, and yet so different from each other. We’ve had some very difficult times in life, though the blessings have been so much greater, and it overwhelms any of the trials we may have had to bear. I know of a certain that I could not have made it without her, and I don’t think any other person in the world could have filled her shoes.

This coming year offers some exciting times for us. 1. We have to figure out how to do Medicare. We’ve already applied for social security, which will start in March. 2. I am very busy making preparations, including planning, packaging resupply mailers and doing training hikes, for my 2650 mile walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs in the mountains, through desert, and follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Mexico to Canada. I face it realistically, and realize that it may end up being nothing but a section hike, but it is a dream that I will pursue until circumstances possibly prove otherwise. 3. Betsy begins a year of babysitting our youngest grandchild Rachel, daughter of Sarah. This little Fleischklopps is cuter than cute, and a precious little kiddo. 4. Our youngest daughter Diane graduates from Nurse Practitioner school with a doctorate in nursing. We are so proud of her. I call her a “noctor” (not a doctor), but I feel comfortable that Diane is brighter than many of the doctors that I know. She will do well. 5. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT. I’m not sure what we will do. Betsy and I love to go to Jamaica to vacation, but this year is something special that I will leave undecided for now. 6. Reading… I have a veritable stack of books that need to be read by me. I love reading history, and have large volumes awaiting on the founding fathers and civil war era. I really want to get back into Herman Bavinck’s magisterial four volume work in systematic theology, titled Reformed Dogmatics. Ever since I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer, I have had a love for reading through systematic theology texts. Bavinck’s is the most challenging one I’ve encountered. 7. Getting back into long-distance cycling. I’ve taken a short pause from cycling in order to be prepared for the PCT, but have an endearing love for cycle touring. 8. Refreshing my language studies. I have taken German, Russian, French, and Chinese in my life. I no longer have an interest in Russian, and Chinese is interesting but maybe a little too challenging to pick up. I’m reasonably good at German but would like to become semi-fluent. I’m passable in French, but would like to be better. Some day, I’d like to hike the Camino de Santiago with Betsy, and so would maybe want to learn passable Spanish. 9. Trying to spend a little time a day practicing my trumpet. 10. Possibly start writing a Memoirs. My father wrote a short book on the history of his life, at the behest of us children of his. It was awesome. It may be perhaps time to do the same, before my memory fails me too badly. 11. Last, but definitely the most important, I would like to have this year as more consecrated to my Lord Jesus Christ, more devoted to His word, more diligent to walk in His ways, and more eager to have entire being, thought, word, and deed centered around Scripture and obedience to Him. Soli Deo Gloria

The things that we love tend to be our motivation for doing things in life, and there are three things that I identify that seem to be my loves, and motivation for still living. They are listed in order of my priorities.

1. Scriptures —I’d offer a lengthy quote or perhaps wax eloquent here, but perhaps the best statement is to encourage the dear reader to just go over Psalm 119. May I also regard God’s word as more important than silver and gold and everything else most precious to me.

2. Family and friends. First and foremost is my wife Betsy. We have been together nearly forty years now. We’ve had our hard times and good times. We’ve had fights, but most overwhelmingly, we’ve had cherished moments of loving each other, ravishing each other, enjoying each other, and pleasing each other. I could not think of another person who could better fit me as a lover, friend, helpmate, advisor, companion, support, wife, mother, grandmother or human being. She truly has been a gift from God to me. My children, all four of them, have been the joy of my life. The grief and trials they have brought us pales in the light of all the joy they have given us. I am grateful that they all are Christian, and have been very successful in life. Plus, they have given us the most adorable grandchildren. It is now Opa’s (grandpa’s) duty to teach them to walk rightly and to help them enjoy life. I wish to have special time taking each one separately backpacking and on outings. My siblings also have been a delight. Now with retirement, I am able to make better contact with them, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy their fellowship once again. I think long about many of my current and past friends and the change of year causes one to focus particularly on past friends. One would love to be in perpetual contact with them, yet it is humanly impossible. Sadly, I have many past friends, all of which are cherished by me, and often thought of. The words from a wonderful song “Blest be the ties that binds” come to mind “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” My pastor has been a source of strength and encouragement, a soul coach, but also a good friend. On a slightly darker note, I also think of what I would call false-friends—those friends who were friends in appearance only, but then revealed their true self, who used you, who gained your trust, only to mislead and betray your trust. They are the Judas’s in one’s life. Even King David had such experiences, and reflects on it in Psalms 55,

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Memory of these false-friends sometimes bring deep grief and sleepless nights, wondering why a person would act and behave the way they did. I’m thankful that there have been few of these in my life. I truly pray that I have not been a false friend to anybody else.

3. Nature. This is my Father’s world! The heaven’s declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. God has given me the strength and capability to delight in his world, and I will do that to the fullest possible. From the seashore to the desert to the mountains, all are wonderful. My favorite spot is in the mountains. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Whether on a bicycle, on foot, or in a car, I love adventuring into wilderness. It is my best chance to reflect, meditate, and wonder over the goodness of our God. soli deo gloria! 

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Dec 15

He
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life! ESV

OK, I’ve spent the last month, reading and re-reading multiple times over Psalm 119. It seems to be one of the most neglected Psalms in Scripture, except for a few choice verses. There are hidden gems in this Psalm that misses inattentive readers.  Here is an example of progression in faith in God in the segment titled He. Note particularly…

33 “Teach me”  Faith demands knowledge, knowledge that requires active interaction of the Almighty. You can’t have faith in God without knowledge, gained by spending time in Scripture and prayer. 
34 “Give me understanding” You know the facts, you know the Bible, you know the teachings, statutes and ways of the Lord. Head knowledge must then lead to a deeper understanding. What do the statutes of the Lord really mean? Jesus Christ in the sermon on the Mount provided a wonderful example by taking various of the 10 commandments, and showing their full implications, eg, you shall not kill implies not hating your brother, neighbor, or enemy. 
35 “Lead me” So you now understand the ways of the Lord, but do you DO them? Walking in the way is much different that just knowing it. 
36 “Incline my heart” You are now doing the commands of God out of duty, but do you really delight in His commands? Do you cherish them above all things, above riches and silver and gold? 
37 “Turn my eyes from… worthless things” Maturity demands focus, and focus on the Lord and His ways need to be a total preoccupation of our hearts and lives. This takes time!
38 “Confirm …your promise”. Everybody wishes for instant confirmation, proof that the Lord is good and worth serving. The Lord confirms in His own time. It is not evil to ask the Lord to confirm Himself, but it is evil to demand a time schedule of Him
39 “Turn away the reproach” Anybody truly walking with God will come under reproach. It should be an assumption rather than an exception. But, David shows that it is not evil to ask for relief from this reproach.
40 “Behold I long for your precepts” This is the statement of a mature man of God. Do we constantly long for God in every moment in our lives? Do we see that walking in God’s ways is the most wonderful thing in the world. Sadly, we reach that phase, and then we die.

Or, we go on to reading the next section of Psalm 119, waw. Psalm 119:he is a wonderful illustration of maturity in our Lord. May be all grasp His teachings in this wonderful Psalm. 

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Dec 13

Old Lady on the Trail: Triple Crown at 76, by Mary E. Davison ★★★

This book is the story of Mary, who, starting at age 65 and retirement, began hiking the triple crown, which consists of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The story is that of a fairly remarkable person. As Mary frequently reminds the reader, there are geriatric hikers, although long-distance geriatric backpackers are just slightly more common than that of the Dodo bird. 

Mary hiked the three long-distance trails never as a thru-hiker, but always as a section hiker. Her choice of sections seem to be somewhat random to me, a portion of the Appalachian Trail, then a portion of the PCT, then back to the AT, then to a completely disjointed segment of the PCT, so on and so forth. She did the CDT as a single entity, but even then, somewhat disjointed, though tending from south to north. 

The delights of reading this book were that it is fairly incredible (and delightful) that someone her age would do more than past the days in a rocking chair. Even more incredible is that she has had multiple orthopedic procedures—her bones were just not holding up—and yet she still persisted in hiking. Mary and I both hail from Puyallup, WA, and her spirit reminds me of an old pediatrician in town, P.G., of whom the town even has a statue to him(!), who would spend weeks backpacking in the snow or forest, well into his 80’s, long after having had multiple joints replaced. 

I don’t think I would ever consider doing what Mary has done. True, I plan on thru-hiking the PCT next year as a geriatric wanderer. I have no interest in the random break-up of the trail that she has done. In the course of doing that, she required the support of multiple friends, family and others in order for her to maintain short segments, frequent re-supplies, massive segments slack hiked, and very frequent retreats from the trail to stay in hotels or other places of comfort. I’m sure the automobile, train and plane use were for at least 2-3x the actual length of the trail—not the best way to go when people are going ape about “global warming”. I’d rather leave my more elderly years hiking the Pacific NW, doing as I can without the necessity of going to the other side on the country. But, that’s me, and Mary has her own wonderful story.

I have just a few complaints about the book. Mary claims to have used people to help her edit the book. I’m not sure they were too careful or critical, as they should have been. There were many, many typos. It was often very difficult to follow exactly where Mary started and stopped the trail, if one really wished to see what she had done. While Mary left out much needed detail about the hike itself, but other details were exceedingly annoying. I really didn’t care to know 20 or more times over that Mary washed her underclothes, and which underclothes she washed; or, her precise meals at her multiple city stops; or, the many times she decided to sing the Holden Evening prayer—she could have just told us once, and then mentioned that she often tended to sing the prayer or wash her clothes, at various times. With editing, the book could have been half the length and far more delightful to read without missing out on critical details of her adventures.

I laud Mary for her adventuresome, and willingness to journey outside of her “comfort zone” on hobbit-like adventures, chasing the rainbow and following her dreams. Mary is an encouragement to many geriatric hikers like myself, and I wish her, as Roy Rogers would say, many happy trails.

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Dec 05

Esther & Trump, by Robert Case ★★★★★

This book is the result of a series of Sunday School lessons of which I most fortunate to be a participant. I know Robert well, and would consider him a dear friend. (He might not consider me the same after reading my review!) Perhaps the reader may consider my review as heavily biased, but I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, and thus will also include criticisms of the book. Robert is a compelling speaker and writer, leaving one spell-bound when hearing or reading him. This book was a delight to read, and offered fresh perspectives on Esther. True, it is now trendy to offer fresh perspectives on biblical themes, such as the new perspectives on Paul, Genesis, Jesus, or Isaiah, just to name a few. Where I find most of these new perspectives to be dull and unoriginal if not patently heretical, the same is not true of Robert’s “new perspective” on Esther. He offers a perspective of the book of Esther which is not offensive to a mindset that holds Scripture to be the directly inspired word of God. 

The first several chapters of the book outline the historical context of Esther, mostly by detailing the lineage of Kings of Persia from the fall of Babylon through to Alexander the Great. The character and historical details of Xerxes is elaborated, which is most important in understanding the book of Esther. 

Subsequent chapters offer a textual commentary of the book of Esther. In this section, Robert manages to illuminate aspects of the text which are very clear but completely missed, as we traditionally read the book of Esther with our eyes wide shut. The character of Esther  is shown for what it really is—a person without sexual moral principles, and willing to break the laws of the Torah to achieve her own end. She is NOT a role model of virtue. But then, neither is the Jewish community living in Persia, where their sins are also laid bare. With the absence of narrative evaluative judgements as seen in all other Scripture, we miss those details that Robert Case is able to illuminate. Particularly evil was Mordecai in administrating the slaughter of all of the known enemies of the Jews, which is a story that would best be found in the book of Judges, everybody doing what was right in their own eyes. There is good reason why Esther is not portrayed as a model of faith in Hebrews, even though other quite sinful people like Samson and Gideon are mentioned. 

Toward the end of the book of Esther & Trump, Robert attempts to make a plea for the political nature of this book. He is correct that it is a book laden with politics, in that the story centers around the King (Xerxes) and his appointed officials (Mordecai and Haman, as well as other unnamed personnel). Referring to the Jews in Persia as “the church”, it is made to seem that Mordecai and Esther serve as representative agents of the church. This unfortunately is an extrapolation of the text rather than an overt claim, as we don’t really have a clue how involved Esther and Mordecai were with the Jewish community. If they were highly involved, then they show the Jewish “church” to be quite wayward. There is too much not mentioned in the book to allow strong conclusions to be made. 

Perhaps Esther really is included as a part of the canon of Scripture as a lesson in politics, as Robert claims. Yet, it is troubling that the absence of evaluative judgements leave the reader puzzled as to what amounts to proper interactions of the church and state, rather than to simply have the church infiltrating the state government. Perhaps brought to mind by me is another book I have read in the distant past, the Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder. In the Politics of Jesus, Yoder effectually demonstrates the strong political nature of Jesus and his teachings. With the aspect of pacifism aside (which Yoder does a very poor job defending), there is a strong reason why even the teachings of Jesus offer the Christian or Jew a reason to interact if not participate in a political fashion with the state. Certainly, Case makes a good case from Esther for Christian involvement with state functions. 

The book has problems. There are many typographical errors, way too many sidebar distractions, and arguments on the political nature of the book of Esther which I think could have been better developed. Most distracting though was the title of the book. The book title is misfit, in that Trump is barely spoken of, except in passing toward the very end of the book. Are we to think of Trump as a form of Xerxes? If so, why was Obama not chosen as a far better choice, or Bush, or Clinton, all of which in many ways share more of Xerxes’ characteristics than Trump? If God was obscure in the Esther text, well, so is Trump, and I fail to see a connection between Trump and the politics of Persia. For such a seminal and needed text on Esther, this commentary truly deserves a more fitting title. 

In spite of problems, Esther & Trump still deserves a five star rating. There is great scholarship, brilliance in thinking, and illumination of the text in a way that is perfectly clear once one opens their eyes to what is plainly in the text. Case provides some hints as to why Esther was included in the canon of Scripture. To that end, I highly recommend Biblical scholars to give this book a fair reading.

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Dec 04

Liberalism: Find a Cure, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

This book was just published, and I read it while on vacation in Jamaica. I have found Mark to be most enjoyable to read, and so was delighted when this text came out. The book is perhaps slightly mis-named. He does not focus on many of the problems of the 21st century liberal mindset like economics, political social thinking, the environment, etc. Instead, he hones in only on those delusional aspects of their thinking, thinking that leaves conservatives most bewildered as why certain people are not being confined to an insane asylum rather than being the poster children and darlings of the now liberal press. I am specifically referring to the new liberal trends toward mentally re-designing their personal life, and expecting others to find the new design acceptable. Such things as voluntarily re-defining one’s race, sex, and even species are dealt with at length in Mark’s book. Mark also speaks at length about the new political incorrectness that is sweeping the land, how the names of things like sports teams are found to be offensive, how just about anything and everything from the American past is now considered either racist or sexist, because they reflect a time when values and behavior were differ from today. Mark has a lengthy chapter on the sickness of feminism, and ends by sadly accounting how the most important structures of society, like family, are now relegated to the dustbin of history. 

Mark spends little time in the book describing a cure, but suggests the importance of getting political and getting Jesus. Sadly, I think Mark’s cure is too little and too late. His suggestion of hope through the Republican Party deflects from the truth that both parties have betrayed the American public. Most certainly, we are seeing the death of the Republic, not because we did not stand up for Republican values, but because we have lost our moral base. Mark  hints at this truth at the end of the book.

The book is a great read, Mr. Dice is a delight to read, and I strongly recommend all, liberal and conservative, to read this book. 

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Dec 04

John Adams, by David McCullough ★★★★★

John Adams is a biography of the man who would serve as the second president of the United States, and who played a seminal role in instigating the Revolutionary War, writing the constitution, and forming the character of our new nation. It never seemed as though John Adams would be a particularly interesting person, but McCullough successfully paints him as a most fascinating character. The book starts with him in childhood, through growing up, starting a law career in Boston, only to be sidetracked by the cry for independence from Britain. Adams led the charge, helped get Washington appointed as commander in chief of the army, and then became the American ambassador to France during the war, and later, to Britain after the war. Serving two terms under Washington as vice-president, he eventually was voted in to the presidency for one term, losing then to vice-president Thomas Jefferson in his bid for a second term. His life afterwards was spent in mostly retirement, working his farm south of Boston, and writing lots of letters. He was eventually able to see his son John Quincy Adams win the presidency. Adams and Jefferson both died on the same day, the 4th of July, both being several of the last living singers of the Declaration of Independence. 

McCullough spends much time exploring many personal details of Adams’ life, including his Christian faith, and how that faith affected the writing of the constitution. You learn that in spite of common goals, the rancorous differences between personalities leaves one wondering how we ever survived as a young nation, though it seems that enough commonalities acted as the glue that held a fragmented society together. Particularly noxious was the fighting between the two parties, the Federalists and the Republicans. The salvation through it all was that even the two  parties had grave divisions, with many party members not strict to their own party. The extensive scholarship of those in governmental service, like Adams and Jefferson, is also noted, at a time when CP Snow’s “two cultures” did not exist, and the arts and sciences were often found mixed in all men of letters. The love of books and reading was assumed among the educated class, and many large personal libraries were noted.

Most notable was the reading style of the book. McCullough has a wonderful way with words, and holds the reader’s interest, leaving the book void of dry spells. I appreciated the extensive research that was performed in forming this book, with virtually every page packed with subtle details and information that would have never been brought out without the remarkable scholarship of McCullough. The author cannot be faulted for not having done his homework. John Adams is an important and valuable read for anybody that loves the USA and it’s history.

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Dec 04

Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom has Become its Greatest Threat, by Os Guiness ★★★★★

I first read one of Os Guiness’s books in the 1970’s, the Dust of Death. I later purchased one of his books at a book signing (I don’t remember which one!), and when I mentioned how I appreciated The Dust of Death, he snidely asked why I hadn’t read any of his other books. Well, without giving him an answer then, I noted that I generally dislike reading books on contemporary politics or social commentary. (Os excels in the department of politics and Christian interaction in the public square.) With politics now appearing like we have completely lost our country, our true freedoms, and any sense of public civility, this book seemed to be worth reading. Indeed, it was most enjoyable, even though there were a few parts that I tended to disagree with. This book was read electronically via the Kindle app.

Guiness begins by comparing the American and French revolutions, which he labels 1776 vs 1789. The distinctions between the two revolutions were quite notable, with the French revolution having a distinctly secular basis, and based on a contract between the government and the people, and the American revolution with its Judeo-Christian orientation, and based on a covenant between the government and the people. The covenant is fundamental to understanding the nature of liberty, since it requires a Judeo-Christian morality and assumes that the citizens are fallen creatures bound to do wrong. Without integrity and a sense of Judeo-Christian moral right and wrong, the constitution becomes an unstable document that simply will not work in the long term. Much of the book elaborates on the differences found between a secular society and a Judeo-Christian society, and, since the book is about freedom, the book goes into length as to how freedom would be defined differently and enacted differently between the two competing systems. 

Typically, books seem to run out after the first few chapters, the author having stated the fundamental ideas of the book, and then tying up space in order to create a book-length document. Os does anything but that, and the next to last chapter (Question 10) is the crowning chapter of the entire book. This is the only chapter that I will VERY briefly summarize. In this chapter, Guiness essentially demolishes much of the new liberal mindset, developing sound arguments against identity politics, the super-primitives vs. the super progressives, victim politics, multiculturalism, and the like. Quoting Guiness,

With the notion of the melting pot scorned, with civic education abandoned, and with a de facto open border policy in place, there was no unity and no clear national identity to balance the diversity. Indeed, notions such as sovereignty, unity, and identity were themselves viewed as coercive or white colonialism, and therefore to be rejected. Newcomers no longer needed to adapt to their new country or even to gain a legal standing if it was difficult. The country needed to adapt to them, and sanctuary cities were opened. 

Political correctness is attacked…

But political correctness is far deadlier than [a form of amusement]. The term can be traced back to 1930s communism, but its roots go back to the French Revolution and the notion that controlling language is the way to control people.

and

categories such as racism, sexism, and ageism were used to replace sin as the egregious evils of the day that still needed confronting.

Tolerance, political correctness, social justice, social constructionism (i.e., the “right” to re-define the nature of your own existence) all are addressed, and multiple worthy quotes would be spared. As Guiness summaries, 

Man can now be God…[] … for everything is socially constructed, and humanity can therefore deconstruct and reconstruct itself at will.

and

what we call reality is only “reality” as socially accepted, and if it was socially constructed in the first place, then it can be socially deconstructed now–and reconstructed as we wish, whenever we wish, and as many times as we wish. We are free, totally free…

Guiness summarizes with “Freedom is not the permission to do what you want, but the power to do what you ought”. Nobody could have said it better. Guiness speaks at length then of “liberty” as expressed in the sexual revolution and its destructive consequences, which is written so well, I’ll spare a summary but only encourage the dear reader to purchase a copy and read it themselves. Indeed, the sexual revolution has decreased rather than increased our freedom! Quoting Guiness, “Ideas have consequences, but bad ideas have victims.”. Too true. 

My only complaint with the book is that Guiness might have shown how the liberal politics of 1789 France is imbedded in our constitution, and resulted in the seeds of destruction for our country. Indeed, many of the country’s founders, like Jefferson, were endeared to the style and philosophy of the French revolution, much to our detriment. I think that Os could have explored or brought that out better. Remembering that the US constitution was formalized in 1786-7, much thinking in the USA had changed since the start of the revolution in 1776. Secular liberalism already had a creep into our society. Thus, I think that to compare the USA to France in 1776/1789 is a touch unfair. 

Complaints aside, this book was outstanding. Most of his thoughts were already on my mind before reading this book, but Os Guiness has a way of categorizing and clarifying one’s thinking, marking him as truly a genius to be commended. This book is thus not only recommended by me, but suggested as something that should be on each and everybody’s MUST READ list. 

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Oct 04
View from Pinnacle Saddle Trail showing lower tongue of the Nisqually Glacier, as well as the buildings at Paradise.

Today I completed a major milestone. I’ve lived in the vicinity of Mount Rainier National Park for the last 27 years, but finally completed a major goal of hiking (essentially) all 50 hikes in the book 50 hikes in Mount Rainier National Park. By essentially, I mean that I haven’t hiked every last bit of every trail in the park, but have completed most if not all of each of the trails, with some trails like the Wonderland Trail (93 miles around the mountain) I’ve done twice now. 

The hike that I completed today was a short hike with a lot of elevation gain, going up to Pinnacle saddle. It was a chilly fall day and overcast with frost and ice over much of the upper aspect of the trail. The huckleberries were yellow to red, adding a beautiful spread of color throughout the hillside. The hike was 1.5 miles with 1150 ft of elevation gain, taking me 45 minutes to get in, and 30 minutes to descend out, not rushing it. 

Pinnacle Peak hike starts at Reflection Lake
Huckleberries provide an array of color in the fall setting.
Approaching the upper end of the trail.
A view from the saddle
Other views from the trail
Across the saddle, a view of the Tatoosh Wilderness, and Packwood way off in the distance. Mt. Adams could typically be seen but was engulfed in clouds
Snow patches along the trail. The trails had frequent ice.

I then decided to hike back up the Carter Falls trail to inspect a turnpike that I helped to create earlier this spring. We did not finish the task, leaving the lower end of the turnpike about 18 inches above a drainage gulley. I mentioned that the best solution was to add a culvert (drain) and bridge over matters, but was shot down. It was interesting to note that the final result followed by advice precisely. 

The hike to Carter Falls crosses the Nisqually River on a log
A culvert added below the turnpike, as I advised

With the weather turning, it is unlikely that I will be doing many more hikes in Rainier. I’ll have to do some sort of hiking to prepare for the PCT next spring. When I return to Mt. Rainier, I’d like to return as a volunteer, maybe walking the trails, and providing advice to the mass swarms of visitors that are loving my park to death.

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Sep 23
Holden Lake

Holden Washington Trails Association Volunteer Vacation 15-22SEPT2018

I try to include 7-10 days/year as a volunteer for the WTA working on trails. I love to backpack, and certainly have not done it as much as I’d like over my lifetime, yet I still feel that a few days “pay-back” for all the hard work that goes into building and maintaining a trail is worth it. Even on national lands, much of the trail maintenance is performed by volunteers, and it is hard work, so I feel that I can afford to do some trail work each year. I had already spent time with the PCTA on a Goat Rocks work project, and a long weekend on Mt. Rainier with the WTA. This trip was originally full, but when an opening came up, I quickly signed up, in that I had never been into this area, save for climbing Glacier Peak 40 years ago with Hannes Zuercher. 

Holden Village is not reachable by vehicle. Either one must backpack in, or take the boat ⅔ the way up Lake Chelan to Lucerne, and then be shuttled in 9 miles to the village. It was started as a mining camp in the 1930’s, the principle focus being copper from a mountain in the vicinity. The village was abandoned in the late 1950’s and then purchased by the Lutheran church as a retreat center. Later, it was discovered that iron leachings from the tailings were leading to a 2 mile section of Railroad creek not having any fish. $600 million later, and much further destruction of the area has led to a possible recovery of the Cutthroat trout in the short creek segment, but uncertainty remains about long-term viability of the entire project. We were not at the village to help with mine remediation, but to fix and clear the trails that run into and out of the village.  Our focus was to brush the MonkeyBear trail and the Holden Lake, Hart Lake trails, while building a culvert/turnpike on the Hart Lake trail. The work was a success, though much was still left to be done. Our leader was Jackson Lee, who was incredibly delightful to work with, probably one of the better leaders that I’ve had to work under, and very motivated at the task at hand. 

In mid-week, I did a 16+ mile hike to Holden Lake and then to Hart Lake, a stupendously beautiful venture of breath-taking quality. Holden Lake sits right under Bonanza Peak, the tallest non-volcanic peak in Washington. Hart Lake was on the trail up to Cloudy Pass and the PCT, and currently used as a bypass for PCT thru-hikers owing to an Agnes Creek fire just north of Suiattle Pass. The other Ken and Carol were close behind me. On my way back from Hart Lake, I got to walk out with 3 thru-hikers who have stayed together since departing Campo. 

Holden Village is run by the Lutheran church. They have Vespers every evening for 30 minutes, starting at 19:00. I usually attended. The services were quite different from traditional Lutheran liturgical worship that I was familiar with, having a focus on personal therapy as religion and worship of  the “happy feel-good eco-artsy-pacifist-inclusive-of-everything-god”. The staff were all very nice, and it was a joy to get to know them. Most of the workers were also volunteers. The closest thing I could think of to describe Holden Village was “The Village” portrayed in the tv series The Prisoner starting Patrick McGoohan, best known as the secret agent man. 

The first work day had heavy rain, and then we had sunny weather until Thursday, when it was cloudy but without rain. Departure on Saturday had more rain. The boat ride out was late in the afternoon, and I was able to make it home by 21:15 that evening.  Photos of the trip follow…

Tam on the trip in
The boat docked in Lucerne, headed up to Stehekin
Our crew gets a shuttle bus ride up to the Village
My bed in the Village
Our cabin in the village
Mountains surround the village
More of the village
The mine remediation project
Mine remediation structures
Ditto
Iron rich crud from the runoff collected downstream and then dumped upstream in this giant basin.
Drain runoff Woman hole (gender inclusive)
Attempt to reforest tailings
Eager beaver workers waiting to play in the dirt.
The turnpike crew, with a thru-hiker included on the far right, and forest service person in yellow.
View from the village
Our day packs are dropped, tools properly placed by the trail, and work commences
MonkeyBear Falls, site of Tuesday’s lunch stop 
The beginning of the turnpike/culvert
Rod, playing in the mud, digging drainage for the culvert
The turnpike filled in with rock followed by dirt using burrito-roll technique
Day hike up to Holden Lake
Higher up to Holden Lake, Bonanza Peak in the center
Holden Lake beside Bonanza Peak
Holden Lake, glaciers hovering above the lake
The other Ken at Holden Lake
Carol and Donald arriving at Holden Lake
Wild Ken in Wild-erness 
Hart Lake from above
The completed turnpike

Culvert running under the turnpike
Drainage beside the turnpike
Completely exhausted trail workers, barely making it.
Departure at Lucerne Landing, the boat arriving in the distance
Very happy trail workers, including Jackson, Elaine, and Pat
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Sep 23

The Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis ★★★★

This book provides vignettes in several chapters of various events and characters from the founding period in USA history. It starts with a chapter on the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, works through a chapter on discussions regarding slavery, and then discusses various interactions, ending with the struggles and resolution of those struggles between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. I can only presume that the author’s intention was to illustrate the disharmony of the founding fathers. He is quite successful, yet in many ways fails in his intentions. As an example, I am left very curious about the true details in philosophy that led many, including Aaron Burr, to so despise Hamilton. 

In spite of its flaws, I appreciated the book for several reasons. First, Ellis brings out a side of the founding years of our nation that isn’t commonly discussed, in that the founders were real people behaving among each other like real people. The characterization of the Continental Congress that a strong sense of unity and concurrence existed is a total myth, which should not be taught. Ellis also is a very fluent writer, making him quite easy to read. There were a number of quotable quotes in the book, and each page compelled the reader on to the next.  It’s a book that I could easily recommend others to read.

The Quartet, by Joseph Ellis ★★★

This book is a sequel to The Founding Brothers, offering glimpses into the founding of the constitution. Ellis’ theme is that if it weren’t for 4-6 people, the quartet being George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, perhaps also including Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris, there never would have been an effective constitution to bind together the 13 states. The articles of confederation were a temporary measure to bind together the thirteen colonies in their struggle for independence, but were highly ineffective in that regard, in that each of the states failed to contribute adequately to the struggle for independence, leaving large unpaid war debts. The chronicles of how these four men led the charge of the federalists for a union that included a strong central government is a fascinating story to behold. Most demanded from many of the states was the expectation for a bill of rights, feeling that the constitution in and of itself was inadequate for the task at hand. It was a close call that many states, including New York and Virginia, had very strong opposition to a central government influencing their decisions. 

Ellis did not shine as well in this book as in the Founding Brothers, though it still is an interesting read. In this book, Ellis’ prejudices are revealed. First, he definitely has a strong feeling against the then contemporary notion of divine providence leading to the acceptance of the constitution by the thirteen states. In Ellis’ defense, even if the constitution did NOT go through, would it not have been divine providence? Secondly, Ellis always falls on the side of the federalists, and fail to give the arguments against a strong central government and the alternatives as provided by the “anti-federalists”.  Thirdly, Ellis uses the issue of much dissension to the constitution and a short statement by Jefferson (who stood strongly AGAINST the constitution), as representing the constitution as a “living” document. Jefferson suggested that the constitution should not be “too sacred to be touched” and that institutions (the constitution) must be kept in step with the times. So be it, yet Jefferson would absolutely have been appalled by the thought of 9 judges on the bench deciding that words mean something totally different from what was plainly written. It is shear balderdash to use the historical context and disagreements to the constitution to make the constitution an illegitimate document save for contemporary “feelings” about how the government should be regulated. Whether or not one was a federalist, there was a fear in 1789 of too strong of government, and why the “living document” advocates would essentially allow for a yet stronger central government who may interpret the principle law of the land and act without a common understanding of constitutional control, remains perplexing to me. The founders provided a means of amending the constitution, and it was NOT via the supreme courts. 

So, Ellis provides a very inadequate story of the history of the constitution as formed between 1783 and 1789. He writes well, but while succeeding as a literary agent, fails miserably as a historian.

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