Apr 23
Looking down on Tahquitz Peak left and Suicide Rock left with Idyllwild hidden in the valley between

I spent the first night in Idyllwild at the Creekrock Inn, and walked into town the next morning to find my friends and to pick up a few supplies that I needed. On getting back to my hotel, they frantically informed me that I was reserved for only one night and not three. Happily, they found me another place a little further up the road which was the same price but actually a lot nicer, with its own kitchenette. Then, Pasta and Sailor notes that they were going to sleep at the trailhead in the rain. Because my place had two large separate beds, I suggested they spend the night with me and get an early ride up in the morning. It was helpful to me in obtains a lot of information about the trail, since had done it twice before. I didn’t realize it, but Pasta was 71 years old and Sailor 51, and they were moving quite quickly on the trail. When they left in the morning (April17) I almost wished I was also back on the trail, though realizing that an extra day of snow melt could make a large difference since the next 15 miles were supposed to be 70-80% snow covered.

People ask what it is like as a usual day on the trail. Typically, I will be up just before dawn, get dressed, and pack my sleeping bag. I’ll then exit the tent and boil up some water for a cup of coffee. This will give me time to take down my tent, pack up, have coffee and a bite to eat, and be off on the trail. All in all, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get out of the sack and be on the trail. The day is spent walking, punctuated by two or three rest stops, or time to chat with fellow hikers on the trail. About 10 am, the sunglasses and sun cream goes on, and life continues until the end of the day. ‘I’ll frequently check my iPhone Guthook app for location and water information, or stop to take a photo. By about 5-6 o’clock I’m ready to fold up, and I’ll use my intuition and Guthook to locate a favorable campsite. The tent goes up first and sleeping bag unpacked. I’ll cook dinner, and do some reading on my iPhone, usually with Kindle and my bible app. By now, I’m in the sack and will spend some time writing this blog. I all so need to go over the maps, look at water sources, and determine roughly where I’d wish to set up camp the next night. Darkness hits about 8 am and I am soon asleep. Typically I dose off with aches and pains, but by morning seem to feel refreshed and ready to go again. The trail leaves you increasingly dirty and weary, and it is most wonderful that once a week, a zero is taken in town for rest, reflection, conversation with Betsy and friends on the phone, and laundry/shower to get clean again.

I walked into town today, about a mile from the cabin, and realized that the town was now dead. I suspect that the hundred or more PCT hikers all took off in one mass surge, which is probably why it was really good to wait another day before venturing off. Idyllwild is an interesting town, with a mix of conservatives and the artsy new age type shops around. There are a lot is counseling/psychology/spiritualist establishments. The town is a perfect example of the evolving rift that is splitting our society.

Downtown Idyllwild
Sailor and Pasta leaving my cabin

18April – Idyllwild to mile 191.3

This was a most challenging day. I checked out and had the motel owner shuttle me up rod the Devil’s Slide trail head. It was a two and a half mile steep climb with Suicide Rock on the left and Tahquitz Rock on the right. Soon after hitting the top I hit snow, but not requiring micro spikes. I walked through snow for several miles and it became normal dirt trail. Then I reached the infamous Fuller Ridge. The micro spikes went on, and it was very slow trudging through snow, less than a mile an hour. Eventually the rail turned to dirt again and I thought that it was all over. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. The snow was then far more challenging to handle, and the path rarely perfectly clear. It went on for several miles. Finally I reached the end of Fuller Ridge, the end in sight, and as soon as I realized that the snow was done, I set up camp exhausted. Tomorrow seemed like it was going to be an easier day. Little did I know!

19April-mile 191-mile 211

Today was mostly a lonely day, even though it would seem like I’d cross path with others that I had seen before. It was a 20 mile descent from the snow line to the furnace. It was hard to move quickly because the trail had a lot of loose rock. The most memorable event was my first encounter with a rattlesnake. It at first startled me curled up on the side of the trail about waist high, but when I backed up, it slithered and lay directly across the trail. Yelling at it didn’t help, and throwing rocks to scare it didn’t help. Finally I had to get serious and wrapped it win the head with a large rock to get it to disappear off the trail. At mile 205 there was a water fountain where I refilled my water. There were several miles of paved trail, and then the horrid deep sand, almost impossible to walk in, struck me. And it was horribly hot. I reached I-10 underpass exhausted, dehydrated, and starved. Thankfully, trail angels left a large basket of fruit. I ate 2 oranges, and three grapefruit. I had no clue grapefruit tasted so good. I cooked up a freeze-dried dinner and it tasted horrid so I threw it away. Finally, I walked another mile up the trail to get away from the noise of the interstate, and set up camp. This was close to a wind farm, and the wind blew relentlessly all night, so I didn’t get a wink of sleep.

Relentless and very exhausting snow hiking. Yes, this is the desert
Yours truly
A little hard to see my friend the rattlesnake

20April-mile 211 to 226 (Mission Creek Camp)

Up and early today, I took off on a roller coaster trail with long ascents and descents down nearly to where we started, deep cliffs with strong near-gale wind gusts, and a first river crossing where you just had to get your feet wet. It was a long tiresome day; I walked a large portion of it with Ingrid and Steve, but I was interested in finding a campsite, so by the end of the day took off. Camp was again extremely windy with only loose sand to anchor the tent, so had to put large rocks on all corners on the tent. The wind died down by morning and I got a good nights sleep.

Long Climbs, with Mt San Jacinto and Fuller Ridge in the distance .
A gormet meal cooked in my tent. It was a challenge to keep the sand out of my delicacy.

21April- mile 226-mile 240

Today was another exceedingly challenging day, starting out from camp at 6 am. Half of the day followed up Mission Creek. During the beginning, I encountered Broken Arrow, who I first met in Idyllwild. We were walking at about the same speed so decided to walk together. Broken Arrow had walked this segment a year ago and it was a breeze. Now, with the bad winter, much of the trail was washed out. It was extremely arduous to find the trail, to climb loose gravel broken riverbanks,and at least 20 river crossings, none with bridges or rocks to hop across, and the river was quite fast flowing. We simply had to walk about 10 miles in wet shoes. The trail then took a steep incline, taking us up from hot desert to snow in the San Giorginio wilderness. On top was a nice campground with water and one exhausted little Pilgrim. During the ascent, Broken Arrow and I got talking about our faith, and realized that he was a Christian man of Baptist belief. We agreed to hang together until at least Big Bear, and even hopefully after that. It was a blessed gift for Easter Day.

22April- mile 240-256

Today was not too challenging. Hiking started at 6 am, with a lot of chatting between Broken Arrow and me. Yesterday Broken Arrow, who a 68 yo man, definitely out walked me, but today I stayed about 5-10 minutes ahead of him. It was first more climbing followed by a long gradual descent. At mile 250 the trail passed an animal zoo, which didn’t seem to operational any longer. In the last half hour of the walk, we noted some dark clouds so quickly set up our tents. Broken Arrow noted that he always ate dinner inside his tent, so decided to try the same. It worked well, having instant rice with chicken and vegetables. Inside the tent, it started to hail, then rain and sleet, and thunder. Hopefully it will pass by morning.

Broken Arrow
Heavy clouds forming
Mile 250!!!!

23April- mile 256-266 (Big Bear Lake)

It was an early morning start, and yet too dark to assess the weather. The tent had frozen sheets of ice on it. I am now rethinking my strategy for carrying the tent. After a quick cup of coffee in bed, I had everything packed, and Broken Arrow and I headed out. Though awe were the first two tents in camp, there were now about 30 tents of sleeping hikers.

Nearly cloudless landscape

This was not a difficult day, and at highway 18 which runs into BigBear, we were greeted by Diamond Dave, a trail angel with his trunk packed with fruit and lots of free goodies for us. Soon, another rail angel offered me a ride to our hotel, a wonderful inn in the main part of downtown Big Bear Lake. A shower, the clothes laundered, and a wonderful Mexican dinner at a hole in the wall, and I felt nearly ready to resume the hike, except that I needed to purchase Resupply Ed, dry out and repair everything Thant needs it, and re-think how I’m going to pack my backpack. Tomorrow I will need to decide on Trail meals for the next 6 days and 103 miles.

Diamond Dave
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Apr 15

Warner Springs Ranch Resort- a nice respite

11April2019

I was a little embarrassed to think that I’d be spending two nights resting, until I learned many of the hikers in my group, like Pasta and Alicia were doing the same. It appears to be the norm, and how experienced hikers break in. I was able to purchase a light weight Thermarest egg crate mattress and another small, much lighter inflatable pillow. After my air mattress deflation issue, I’m staying away from air mattresses for a while. Most of the hikers are staying at the Community Resource Center, but the Warner Springs Resort as seen above is inexpensive and nice. I’ve gone through my pack a zillion times trying to lighten things up, but now that I’m on the trail, a lot of other things are becoming useless and getting mailed back home. My appetite is also changing dramatically, and I crave for things like potato chips and salty foods. Spicy foods no longer taste good. It’s weird. Meanwhile, it’s been a strange phenomenon that I must daily tighten up my belt and pack straps. I doubt that it’s weight loss since I still feel heavy; it was be body redistribution.

So, I am sorting things out, as my next leg is 80+ miles to Idyllwild, where I’ll also spend two nights. I’ll have a lot of climbing, going from 3000 up to nearly 8000 feet, and rumor has it that we might hit some snow. There will be a few long stretches without water. I’ll be aiming to stay at “Mike’s Place” tomorrow night. I’m ready! God is my strength and my keeper.

12April – mile 110 -mile 127

I started out by having to walk a mile back from town to the trail. It started out fairly easy, going through beautiful meadows and old oak stands, but surely enough, there was a lot more climbing. Eventually, I saw a sign diverting me off the trail to Mike’s Place. It was about a quarter of a mile, and there were already 10-15 tents set up, and eventually about 40 tents were present. Mike had cold sodas and beer, and an outdoor pizza oven, which he fired up and served everybody their fill of pizza.

At Mike’s

The pizza oven

Mike’s caretaker showing himself a master pizza chef

13April Mike’s Place (mile 127)to Mary’s Place (mile 145.4) The hot dry desert continued, with incessant up and down in the trail. We all wanted to get to Mary’s, since she provided a large tank of water, and, as I said before, you are incessantly thinking about water in the desert. Also, we wanted to be close enough to be able to make the Paradise Valley Cafe in the morning, a super-popular spot for thru-hikers. There were about 10-12 tents at Mary’s, and everybody hit the trail very early the next am.

14April-mile 145.4 to 163.9 It was 6 miles to Hwy 74, and a mile to PVC. I didn’t get any photos, but the omelette was awesome. A group of us hitched a ride back to the trail, and started heading up. Speaking with Pasta and Sailor, we decided to play it safe, since 5 people yesterday needed to be rescued off of the trail, and today one could hear the helicopters working hard. Since we did not have micro spikes, we decided to divert just before the perilous section. The diversion was actually more challenging, taking the Spitler Peak trail with a hitch back to Idyllwild. That evening, my tent was sheltered on a knife edge, and I was a vertical mile above Palm Springs. A photo couldn’t do it justice.

Palm Springs

15April – mile 163 to Idyllwild The hike from mile 163 to the Spitler Peak junction was exhausting and treacherous. They did a very poor job cleaning out the trail from the fire, and it was exhausting and challenging to follow the trail. I also hit some snow. Finally, the Spitler Peak junction showed up completely unmarked, and the Guthook app saved my day. The Spitler Peak trail was poorly maintained, causing me to go much slower than I had hoped. Eventually, it came out to a little used road. While walking the road, a group of hunters came by and kindly offered me a hitch back to Idyllwild. In Idyllwild the typical hotel rooms were plum full, but I managed to get a wonderful room at Creekside Inn just a half mile from the city center. A shower never felt so good, and they allowed me to use their laundry to get clean clothes. So, I’m going to stay here three nights and start preparing for the walk to Big Bear City.

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Apr 10

The starting monument

04APRIL-Tom needed to drop me off early, since he needed to be home at 7 am. That means that I started the hike at 5:15am in total darkness. I’ve never hiked with a headlamp before, but it worked out well, going a full hour before it was bright enough to see the trail. What is usually brown desert at this time was lush green. It was cloudy and cool, making for wonderful hiking. The first 4 hours were totally alone. I passed several campsites at five miles, And then finally started running into people. Lots of people. A younger lady, Elena, seemed to have the same (slow) hiking pace, and we proceeded together all the way to Lake Morena. It was 20 miles for me today, and I intend to slow down after this until I get my hiking legs. Thankfully I acquired no blisters. But, with only four hours of sleep, I went out for a hamburger and malt, wrote this, talked with Betsy, and crashed.

05APRIL Lake Morena to mile 37.2

Today was a cold drizzly day, with light rain occurring throughout the day. When hiking, we were warm, but as soon as you stopped, it got chilly again. I thought that the desert was supposed to be a heat bath, but I am seeing otherwise. The scenery was most spectacular, and we were definitely in mountains. The trail went persistently upwards, so we didn’t get as much distance as we would have wished. They tell us that it takes several weeks to start getting your hiking legs. I am walking with one person who goes about my speed, but a pack of about twenty hikers seem to be hanging together. After 17 miles, the rains eased up and a campsite opened up, allowing for an evening of rest.

06 APR Mile 37.2 to mile 55.9. Today started a little rough. At 4am I realized that my air mattress developed a leak. It was an unrepairable tear. And, it was raining out. Everything was soaked. In the AM I took off at 7:39 am and arrived the first milestone, Mount Laguna. There I had breakfast, purchased some Resupplies, and bought a new ground pad inferior to the air mattress but adequate for now. I was walking with Elena who became slower and slower and complained of knee pain. By the time we reached mile fifty, the pain was unbearable. We walked out to a lunch stop at mile 51.6, where she was able to find a young man take her back to San Diego. It was beginning to get dark so I had to really push it to get to camp site at Oroflame Canyon, a quite beautiful place nestled among rocks.

07APR Mile 55.9- 77.1 (Scissors Junction)

Today was hot, and the trail was persistently exposed. I always thought that the desert was flat, but this was just the opposite, with the trail going through a very mountainous terrain, up and down and up and down without end. The desert was most beautiful, but in a different way than I’m used to. The path was quite rocky, which meant that one always had to constantly watch their step. The entire stretch was without water. Toward the very end, I ran out of water, but thankfully, there was a water cache under a bridge where I decided to sleep. There was a PCT hiker under the bridge that was very drunk and incoherent. After a while, the group of us thru-hikers decided that he was not safe, and called 911 on him. They hauled him away, and I finally had peace to sleep under the bridge with 6 other hikers.

h

08APR- mile 77.1-91.2

Today was my shortest day, but also my hardest yet. The problem was that I pushed things yesterday, and felt already a little wasted in the morning. I also knew that the entire stretch was going to be without water, so left with 5.5 liters, a weight of over 11 pounds. There was a long climb to start with, and the entirety of the hike was without shade. Psalm 121 was repeated in my head many times. Mile 91.2 held a water cache which I arrived totally wasted at. A pot of Top Ramen soup revived my spirits, and helped with the energy of setting up the tent and fetching water which was a ¼ mile off the trail down a steep grade. The beauty of today was the profusion of wild flowers on the trail. I will be planning shorter days until I get my walking legs. Thankfully, there are no blisters on my feet, and only temporary soreness so far. God be thanked. I feel His presence with me on the way.

09APR -day 6- mile 91.2 to mile 105.1

I stopped only 5 miles from Warner Springs at a beautiful spot beside a running creek. Most other hikers were pushing it to make it into town. When I awoke this morning, I realized how dirty I was and also that I had a horrible smell. In the desert, you don’t have the luxury of showers and cleaning up since water is a sparse commodity. I was feeling stronger today but learning not to push myself too hard at first. I plan on taking a nero and zero in Warner Springs. A nero is when you only walk a small part of the day, and zero is a total day off from hiking. The weather today was cool but windy, and still very dry, making one loose water with any activity. Thus, I was still carrying five to six liters of water at a time, which is a lot of added weight.

The other mishap was my trail pillow stopped staying inflated, but I found that I could do just fine without a pillow, and a little less weight in my pack.

My tent at mile 105

A standard trail meal, Top Ramen with added freeze dried beef and vegetables

Everything becomes filthy on the trail no matter how hard you try; looking forward to a shower.

10 April-day 7, mile 105 to mile 110 (Warner Springs)

Today was a Nero, as I hiked only 5 miles, only 2+ hours to Warner Springs. I had called earlier to see if a I could a room for a night or two, but the internet claimed that they were full. I stopped at the Warner Springs community center and they called for me and were able to secure a room for a very reasonable rate so I bit. At the Warner Springs CC I was seeing hikers that I thought were way ahead of me just arriving after I arrived. The experienced PCTers suggested that even though I was going slower than them, that I was making super time, and highly advised a zero. I certainly felt like I needed a short break. There were 50 or more thru-hikers at the WSCC, and the volunteers helped me get a ride into town to the post office for my first Resupply package, also located right across from the resort. I couldn’t get in until 3 pm, but Tom Braithwaite drove up from San Diego and we went out to lunch and to have a few cold drinks…. warm water on the trail assuages the thirst, but is NOT terribly refreshing. Tom was a true trail angel.

On my Resupply package were a bunch of stickers for easy identification. One of them hit home hard with me, a quote by Francis Schaeffer, “thank God for the reality for which we were created, a moment by moment communication with God himself”. People often wonder what one thinks about while alone on the trail, and for me it is nearly 100% either praying or praising him, or singing through a multitude of precious hymns. The desert has been far more beautiful than I ever imagined, and it is a delight to praise him for his wonderful world.

Just a thought about those wishing to contact me. I appreciate that, but there are two most precious commodities in the desert. Water is foremost, but second is my cell phone charge which I am using as my ONLY form of maps and trail information. If I don’t respond back to you, I am either conserving my cell phone charge or more likely out of cell phone range or keeping my phone on airplane mode to save electrons. Please fee free to contact either Betsy or Daniel Foucachon for info about me. I certainly do covet your prayers and your support of Huguenot Heritage Ministry.

Eagle Rock at mile 105.

Tom Braithwaite, my trail angel

A secret for avoiding blisters… leukotape! No blisters so far!

God bless… next update at Idyllwild in a week.

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Apr 03

Train station in Tacoma

01APR2019-Betsy dropped me off at the Tacoma Amtrak station at 9:30. The train came on time. This trip is via a business class seat, which is quite comfortable. I used a sleeper car on previous train rides, but wished to spare the expense for this trip. The first night, I was able to sleep well compliments of a short-acting Schlafmittel. Portland and beyond manifested rainy weather. I was quite shocked at the massive number of homeless camps along the side of the train route. Consistently, they were enormous piles of trash with a four man sized tent in the middle. It was truly disgusting, making me think that perhaps the problem is not just in the major urban areas. So far, I’ve heard everything but a good solution from the political wanks on fixing this problem. A serious solution would NOT be politically correct.

02APRIL I’m still on the train. I decided to do breakfast, but notes that the prices were outrageous, so I ordered pancakes. Not good. I’m very disinclined to eat train food again. The strategy will be to pack all the you expect To need. While going through the Salinas Valley, the train hit a migrant farm worker standing to close to the tracks. I guess his mommy didn’t tell him that trains can possibly hurt you. Apparently, he was ok but the train was delayed an hour. I disembarked at San Luis Obispo, a nice town, and am staying at the Hostel a block from the train station.

Hostel in San Luis Obispo

Train station in San Luis Obispo

The train station and Hostel are pictured above. The hostel was quite nice, and I was able to get a private room for a very reasonable price.

03APRIL

I was able to get an early start without a problem, and the train ran without difficulty. Tom (Braithwaite) kept me entertained with texting on the way down. I rode coach for this leg of the trip, and it was not nearly so comfortable.

After meeting Tom, we were able to catch up on the last few years, and then go out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant before settling in. A quick call to Betsy and Daniel Foucachon, and I am hitting the sack for a 3 am start on the trail

sTom and Chris, ready to send me off!

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Apr 02

Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, modern revision ****

I have read this book several times before on the original language, but decide to read this highly recommended edition in contemporary Sprache. This new edition reads very similar to Bunyan’s original text, and was a delight. Modern color illustrations were also added.

The story is that of the journey of pilgrims from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. During the journey the main character, Christian, encounters multiple obstacles on the way, makes wrong turns to get him into trouble, but also encounters friendships, joys, and soft paths to help him on the way. Bunyan offers encouragement, advice, warnings, and admonition to the pilgrim, as relevant today as is was 400 years or so ago.

For many years, this book was the most read book Ever, outside of the Bible. Written while he was in prison for his faith, Bunyan bares his soul about the nature of the Christian faith from an allegorical perspective. It is a wonderful tale to be read while preparing to start a long journey. This was read on my iPhone on the train from between Eugene, Oregon and San Jose, California.

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Apr 01

Nature’s Case for God: A Brief Biblical Argument, by John Frame ***

This is a very short book which I was able to start and finish on the train from Tacoma to Kelli (on the way to San Diego). The book is divided into three parts, the first being the witness of the physical world, the second the conscience and the third part a discussion of natural law by the use of several letters that Frame wrote. The case of the physical world argues for the vastness, the perceived unity, the goodness, the wisdom, and God’s presence in the world. Arguing from a presuppositional basis, his arguments are that the world gives strong support for a creator God of the description found in Scripture. Regarding the argument for conscience, Frame demonstrates how conscience in its various modes truly attests to God.
A book of this sort suffers from the problem of its briefness. None of the arguments were as well developed as they should of been. I didn’t find the book in toto to be a compelling case for God save for the person who believes and needs no case for God.


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Mar 31

I just ordered this book on Kindle, a revised updated (but NOT abridged) and illustrated version of Pilgrim’s Progress. This will be my reading on the trail. It was inspired by a book that I am about half done with, Praying, by JI Packer. Dr. Packer mentions that he reads through Pilgrim’s Progress every year, and has done so for many years. Well, it will be good reading for the trail. The book I intend to read on the train down to San Diego is by John Frame…

This is a small soft cover book, which I hope to have completed before I arrive in San Diego to meet Tom Braithwaite. On my iPad I will also be reading another much larger book by John Frame, recommended by Bob Case…

So, I have my reading cut out. I find that after a hard day of hiking, my reading brain doesn’t work so well, but I’m hoping that I can get a few more books completed while on the trail.
On the Pilgrim’s Progress theme, a song that we sing in church will be one of my themes, Who would true valor see…

Who would true valor see, let him come hither;
One here will constant be, come wind, come weather;
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round with dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound his strength the more is.
No lion can him fight, he’ll with a giant fight,
but he will have a right to be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit;
He knows he at the end shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away; he’ll fear not what men say;
he’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

So, as I get ready to head out, many thoughts whirl through my head. I love hiking, but I love my wife even more, and I will be constantly concerned about her welfare and safety with me gone. Thankfully, we have supportive friends, and I won’t be totally ex communicato, so that matters should work out well. Naturally, Betsy is worried about my safety, which I can grasp. I will try to minimize the risks of this venture, and play it as safe as possible. Assuredly, I am confident of the Lord watching over my every step as I proceed. I welcome your prayers and support.

I have mentioned previously that my venture is also a hike-a-thon, raising funds for Huguenot Heritage. Please consider supporting that ministry. The website hike-a-thon donation function is not quite functional as of yet, but you will be able to help support a very important and needy cause through my hike. In a week or two, get online to HuguenotHeritage.com and commit to a penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter or a dollar per mile. Since it is 2650 miles on the trail, for a penny, you will be out at most $26.50. Because the donation is through Huguenot Heritage and not me, I will not know who or what amount was pledged, so I will thank you in advance for your consideration of this.

But there remain typical and expected anxieties in my mind this evening as I prepare to leave. I have done what I could to prepare for this with many practice hikes. I’ve sustained foot blisters, joint pain, and exhaustion pushing myself. There were the countless hours spent researching the trail online, discovering who were the reliable sources for information, and processing that information. What do you wear? What goes in the pack? Where do you resupply? What do you eat? What’s the best equipment? How do you find your way on the trail? How do you best stay out of trouble? What is it going to cost? How will I stay in contact with Betsy? I’ve spent countless hours drawing up, drafting, guess-timating time that I will need to get from point to point, and estimating the amount of food needed. There was a week or two packing resupply boxes for Betsy to ship out. I’ve researched appropriate apps for my iPhone and will be using the latest, greatest technologies. I’ve done many compromises and expenditures for lighter or more convenient equipment that I would be using. Last night, I even unpacked my pack and slept out on my back porch, just to get a feel as to what it is like to be backpacking again since my last trip was last August/September. It also gave me a better feel as to how I should go about packing my pack, supposing I get hit with setting up my camp during a downpour. It may seem strange to many but my biggest preparation has been mental, preparing for this venture. I wished to have various Psalms and song memorized or loaded on my iPhone for use on the trail.

People wonder what I hope to get out of this venture. Why am I doing it? I can think of several things…
1. To fulfill a long-standing dream to hike the PCT
2. To raise funds and increase awareness for Huguenot Heritage
3. To allow me to see multiple unfolding landscapes that reveal God’s handiwork and worship Him in that setting.
4. To have a significant time to meditate, pray and praise the Lord while on the trail.
5. To be a witness to our Lord Jesus Christ and His goodness while encountering others on the trail.
6. To prepare for much easier adventures with Betsy.
Perhaps that is sufficient reason, though I’m sure the list could go on much longer.

I welcome your prayer. I welcome your interactions. E-mail me. Post a note on FaceBook. I may not respond but I will read and appreciate all of your input. Make a donation to Huguenot Heritage. Deus Vobiscum!



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Mar 25

Der Ring des Nibelungen DVD set, composed by Richard Wagner, and performed by Bayreuther Festspiele, conducted by Pierre Boulez ★★★★★

What can I say? I love the music of Wagner. Wagner the man is despicable, but like so many people, their person and their art are not congruous. Many folk hate Wagner. Some dislike his music. It’s not strophic. They expect a Mozart performance with ensembles, duets, solos, and delightful musical interludes. Wagner has no intention of offering that. I was first encouraged to listen to Wagner by Dr. Sunderland with whom I was doing a summer research project. She was Jewish but loved Wagner, and loaned me a recording of Tristan und Isolde. I listened to about 15 minutes and found it intolerable—it is the very music that years later hear with riveting fascination and tears in my eyes, wondering how music could be so beautiful. Wagner’s music is definitely complex and thus needs to be listened to several times before true appreciation can occur. It is not easy music, but a little sweat and patience will definitely pay off. Isn’t that also true of the music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, Shostakovich, and so many other truly great composers?

The other reason people hate Wagner is because of his personality. It is true that Richard was a horrible excuse for a human being, proud, atheistic, rebellious, racist, anti-semitic to the core, self-serving, and envious of all others outside of himself. The music of the Ring, when rightly understood, is highly anti-semitic (the dwarves representing the typical Jew), and it is to that which must be looked through to admire his works. Wagner is a vehement atheist and was at times an intimate friend of Neitsche. The “God is dead” theme reverberates through this opera. When examined critically, the god that Wagner portrays is the god of Arminian theology, a not-so-powerful god that is dependent on the choices and will of others, and dependent on an external standard of morality. Wagner’s god is not all powerful or transcendent, not omniscient, immoral, and needs to rely on others to know things or to accomplish things. He is subservient to the oaths carved out on his spear and lapses into terminal despair when that spear is shattered by his “grandson” Siegfried, the Übermensch, the hero that knows no fear.

I will not detail the story of the Ring. If you haven’t seen it at least once before, you will not be terribly interested in my rehashing of the storyline, and it is not a terribly gripping story, missing the music that drives it. Too many listen only to the Walkürienfluct or Siegfried’s Rheinfahrt only to miss 17 hours of steady great music. It is no wonder that many conductors today that are known for outstanding Ring performances also happen to be Jewish, like James Levine. Listen to the music, and forget the man. I try to listen to or watch a Ring performance every year. I certainly love most of the other operas of Wagner, personal favorites which include Parsifal and Tannhäuser. Wagner was first introduced to me by a childhood friend in Portland, Ron Bonneau, who would listen to the Ring in his living room off of vinyl: it took about 35 or more records and he would diligently change and flip each record from start to finish, pausing only to feed his wolf dog. I’ve seen both the Ring live (in Seattle with Dr. Cull) and Tannhäuser (in Chicago with Alan Segall). Betsy and I both marvel at how the singers can not only remember their lines, come in at the right time but also act so well. Truly it takes the best of the best opera singers to do Wagner. Give the Ring a chance or two and you also might become addicted.

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Mar 25

I had written previously about how much I appreciate my old music tradition in the Apostolic Christian Church, where fairly complex music was sung in church and people were expected to sing in 4-part harmony. I also spoke about how I still love the Zion’s Harp hymnal that we used. I was then a touch critical about how my current Presbyterian church sometimes did not present the best quality of music possible in a church setting. In this piece, I would now like to take an opposing view. During our time at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, we have been blessed with much wonderful music, to which I will address.

Before I specifically address the music found at FPC, I would like to discuss the conduct of the service itself, since it offers the appropriate setting for the type of music heard in church. FPC offers what might in England be called a high church service. It is a formal service, and the conduct of the service is aimed for worship and away from being a form of entertainment. Thus, the choir is unseen and behind, as they are not performing for you but for God. The only person in front is the pastor, who represents God speaking to us. The pastor will lead the entirety of the worship. All children are expected to be in the worship service and be behaved. There is no children’s service, as adult worship is supposed to be a model for your children. There might be lite beer, but there is no Worship Lite. The congregation does not select the hymns to be sung because they are selected by the pastor to fit the theme of the sermon. There is either a piano or organ which leads the singing, and nobody serves as the conductor/song leader in front of the congregation. There is no projector for the tunes, there is no worship team (the pastor is the worship director), and no dancing girls and guys leading the song worship, as there is no drama. When church becomes entertainment, it ceases to be church. The pastor wears a robe, the order of the service is printed, prayers (outside of congregational petitions) are said on kneelers. We do raise our hands (as in the photo above) whenever the offering hymn is sung or when the tune describes the trinity or the majesty of God, such as in the last verse of Lo He Comes in Clouds Descending. There is nothing informal about the service from start to finish. In many settings, such conduct of service would be dry and boring. For FPC, worship is anything but boring, and the church has remained a packed, growing community of the faithful. It has been particularly effective in our community which is ultra-liberal, and where people are craving for authenticity. FPC provides that authenticity. At this point, I would never return to a contemporary style service. I get more worship in a formal Catholic church service than in most of the pop contemporary services, even when they are PCA churches. I don’t think many contemporary church-goers view a worship service as a worship service. Church worship should promote a deeply reverent view of God. Enough! I will return now specifically to music.

FPC does have a choir which has been conducted under the excellent direction of Florence Rayburn, wife of the pastor. When we first started attending FPC, we became particularly aware that Florence held the choir to a very high standard. Practices were rigorous, and nothing shoddy was allowed to come across during a worship service. Often pieces were sung in Latin, German or French, and a translation would be provided in the order of service. Many pieces by classical composers were presented to the congregation, all with good effect. More recently, a number of the children of the congregation have become expert in the violin, flute, trumpet and other instruments, and have been able to accompany the choir or congregational singing.

At times, music at church would go beyond this, and a full classical piece of work would be presented. There were friends of the congregation from other PCA churches around who sung professionally in the opera and at major public performances in Seattle. There were a number of members of our congregation that are semi-professional singers, and they would provide the solo parts of the Messiah, various Bach works, etcetera. As an example, this Easter, a Saturday performance of Faure’s Requiem will be offered. Unfortunately, I will be on the PCT at that time. One time recently, we even had a Tacoma area choral group accompanied by FPC instrumental musicians perform Bach’s St. John Passion. Music at FPC definitely has its outstanding features, which was only rarely found in my past ACC denomination.

When we first started attending FPC, many of the hymns were completely unfamiliar to us. They did not sing many of the gospel songs that are so familiar in Baptist/Anabaptist church circles, or which we sang in the ACC. Pastor Rayburn was very sensitive to the words of a hymn, which had to not only be doctrinally correct but also to have poetic excellence. We sing every printed verse of the tune, to catch the full impact of the hymn writer for the hymn. Many times, Dr. Rayburn would discuss the hymn writer and tell stories about them. As an example, I can no longer think of the hymn “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” without including “by Ray Palmer”. Some tunes were ancient. To those, I identify the Doxology and Gloria Patri. Also included and loved is “Oh Light that Knew No Dawn”, a wonderful hymn written by the Cappadocian father Gregory Nazianzus, and one of the oldest existing hymns of the Christian tradition. There is also “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah” taken from a Gregorian Chant by Lowel Mason, and “Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid” translated from St. Stephen. I dare not forget “Hail Gladdening Light”, usually sung in the evening service, and probably the oldest existent hymn. It is sung as a chant. The music is included below.
In the early Reformed tradition, we have
1) The Old 100th (All People who on Earth do Dwell) by Louis Bourgeois
2) I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art by John Calvin
3) God Shall Arise and By His Might, a Huguenot versification of Psalm 68
4) All Praise to God Who Reigns Above (Johann Schütz)
5) The Sands of Time are Sinking (Rutherford/Anna Cousins)
Many of the hymns of Watts/Cowper (pronounced like Cooper!), Newton and Wesley which were not sung in our ACC tradition, include
1) Give to Our God Immortal Praise (Watts)
2) God Moves in a Mysterious Way (Cowper)
3) Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending (Wesley, best with the tune Helmsley, music below)
4) Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (John Newton)
5) Sometimes a Light Surprises (Cowper).
6) Who Would True Valor See (John Bunyan, music below)
I am not sure why these absolutely wonderful hymns did not make it into ACC hymns, as they would not be doctrinally offensive.
Then there are the early American composers, before the gospel song movement took over…
1) Lord With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee, a wonderful hymn written by the author of the National Anthem, Francis Scott Key
2) Great God of Wonders (Samuel Davies, pronounced Day-vis, like Davis!)
The 19th-century British hymn writers also stand out, especially Andrew Bonar…
1) For All the Saints (WW How)
2) Hear, O My Lord (Bonar)
3) Not What My Hands Have Done (Bonar)
4) I Lay My Sins on Jesus (Bonar)
5) When the Weary Seeking Rest (Bonar/Mendelssohn)
6) A Few More Years Shall Roll (Bonar)
7) Jesus I My Cross Have Taken (Henry Lyte)
8) Weary of Earth (Samuel Stone, music below)
9) O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus (Trevor Francis)
10) Father I Know that All My Life (Anna Waring)
A smattering of others include versifications of the Psalms, some already mentioned above, and include “Unto the Hills Around (Ps 121) and “God Be Merciful to Me” (Ps 51). Just a few other new (to me) hymns that I particularly like include
1) God My King Thy Might Confessing
2) Whate’er My God Ordains is Right
3) Come Ye Disconsolate
I’ve omitted many hymns that Betsy and I have learned since coming to FPC. These are hymns that are on our minds all the time. We cherish them as wonderful statements of our faith in Christ. It is a treasure that we are most grateful of Rev. Rayburn to have provided to us.

I still have a few persistent dislikes with the music at FPC, which reflects what might be happening at many PCA churches in our denomination. Keith Getty tunes have become popular. The words are solid, but often not as well written as many of the older hymns. Newton or Cowper or Gerhardt might even go so far as to identify the Getty songs as nothing but doggerel. What annoys me the most are the tunes themselves. They lack creativity. Once you’ve heard one Getty tune, you can predict all the others. If you were to identify any tune, it could be broken down into certain phrases. Amazing Grace would be A-B-C-A’, or the traditional Rock of Ages A-B-A’-A’-A-B’. With the Getty tunes, the phrases are simple and highly repetitive, almost like singing a mantra. One tune for instance, “By Faith” would be phrased as A-B-A’-A. (Giant Yawn!) They just don’t make for good music. Then, there is the New City tune (A-B-A-A-B’-A’) (Super Yawn!) to Rock of Ages, where the tune is catchy but highly repetitive and has absolutely no correlation with the words. JS Bach would turn over in his grave if he heard and understood the New City Rock of Ages tune. My criticisms are light, my praise is heavy for Presbyterian music.

I also have some complaints about what the PCA has done to the Trinity Hymnal. Why in the world would they drop “Weary of Earth”? Why are they adding popular tunes that truly are not fit for congregational singing? Why are they including newer songs, devoid of theological content, just because they are popular? The Trinity Hymnal from 1961 truly is a great hymnal, with well-translated hymns, versifications that excel, and a variety of hymns that cover every circumstance in life. Most of the newer “improvements” have only diminished the value of the hymnal. Hopefully, the PCA does not ultimately lose its tradition for quality church music.

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Mar 23

Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality, by William Edgar ★★★★

My dear friend Robert Case recommended that I read some William Edgar, and I’m most happy that I followed his advice, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book. I not only learned much about Francis Schaeffer, but also a bit about Bill Edgar. I had no idea that Bill became a Christian under the ministry of Schaeffer. Dr. Edgar documents his encounters with Francis Schaeffer through the years, including his work at L’Abri.

The book is divided up into three segments. The first segment is a very brief and truncated biography of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, noting only some of the most important events in Schaeffer’s life. Edgar interestingly provides insights on how Francis’s image is as much that of Edith as him. I’ve not met Francis but have met his wife and spent a moderate amount of time with her when she came to Tacoma as an invited speaker at a Pierce County Crisis Pregnancy center when I was chairman of the board. Her personality is unforgettable, and precisely what I previously considered to be that of Francis, save that I presume him to be a bit more brooding and her more vivacious. It was great to get Edgar’s view of their life and personalities.

The second section is on true spirituality. In this, Edgar mostly summarizes several books of Schaeffer, most notably True Spirituality, and showed how what Schaeffer said and how he acted were very consistent. He was genuine to the core in his speech and behavior.

The third second was about trusting God for all of life. This segment mostly closely reflected on how the Schaeffers thought and how they lived. Edgar details in a chapter how Francis and Edith spent much time in prayer. This chapter was most convicting to me, a lesson on prayer tends to be the first thing neglected in our lives. Those that truly believe that God exists and is a personal God who listens to our prayers surely would wish to spend much time speaking with Him, yet we tend to ignore this admonition. Through affliction, God forms us into the people that He wishes us to be, and Edgar shows how affliction and the Schaeffers were constant companions. Schaeffer’s view of the church in light of the problems occurring in the Presbyterian church is discussed. There is then a lengthy chapter on Schaeffer’s thoughts and behavior regarding the cultural mandate, to be citizens of the world, and to react lovingly and as a testimony with all whom we encounter.

Anyone who has read my Memoirs will realize that Schaeffer and his writings has had a major impact on my life, as few others have had (my parents, Dr. DasGupta, Pastor Rob Rayburn, and JI Packer being the others that most quickly come to mind, though many many others also had a HUGE impact on my life—in case I just happened to not mention your name!). I had read and reread all of Schaeffer’s works many times. He more definitely than anybody else is why I am here writing as a Christian person. So, I am delighted to see what an impact Dr. Schaeffer has had on so many other people in this world. In this book, you get a small taste of the remarkable character of this man and his wife. Edgar creates a highly readable picture of the man, the legend, and the giant, of whom many owe their very faith to him. This is a delightful book to read, and I can soundly recommend this book as a quick image of why Schaeffer stands so strongly in so many people’s hearts and minds.

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