Nov 28

Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, by Saul D. Alinsky (★)

Saul Alinsky became well known as a “community organizer” in Chicago, Illinois. He was responsible for helping form the political ideology of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This book is still being quoted heavily, and instrumental in directing a new generation of “progressives” in government. To best understand the movement, it is of value to have read the book. It is difficult to offer it any sort of rating since it is written in a world to which I am alien, but to which many of our youth are living in without a sense of angst or discomfort.

Alinsky begins the book by delighting in the fact that he follows in a long line of rebels, the first of which was Satan himself. Yes, he actually proudly says that! A lengthy prologue sets the stage for his thinking. He is not promoting violent radicalism and disowns the Weathermen and like groups. Rather, he considers the best option for Radicals is to infiltrate the system. In discussing his purpose, he wishes to make clear that there are only three groups in society, the Haves, the Have-nots, and the Have-a-little;-want-mores. The Have-nots are obviously the poor, and the Have-a-littles are the middle few, which Alinsky notes there are relatively few of, yet even fewer of the Haves. Alinsky disclaims any dogmatic approach to revolution. He is correct in noting that the Christian “revolutionaries” have been inconsistent in their ideology, though Alinsky seems to be a poor judge of ideology and morality. Alinsky does not label himself a Marxist, yet his argument and desire to level the playing field between the Haves and Have-nots seems to be written straight out of the Marxist playbook. Perhaps Alinsky is slightly disoriented? Later, Alinsky shows how he plays semantic games, and when a word triggers bad connotations, a different word is used. The most used example is the label of “community organizer”, which actually means “communist revolutionary”. Read that into any time Alinsky (or Obama or Hillary Clinton) speaks and you will understand what they truly mean.

Alinsky spends a chapter on clarifying the purpose of his mission. Actually, he’s not sure as to his purpose, except to generate unrest and anger with the Have-nots. He then spends a chapter telling us the means of achieving his purpose, but spends most of the time justifying the ethics of his means. Most his justification comes from historical examples when prevailing ethical standards were violated for the so-called common good. For Alinsky, that justifies the ability to act without the sense of defined morality, as the ends always justify the means. His eleven rules of ethics summates in the tenth rule, which is to do whatever you want, and then engulf your actions in a moral cloak. (…really! That’s essentially what he said!). To help, the eleventh rule is to label your ethics with a general but appealing term such as “For the Common Good” or “for Liberty”. Yup. Sure.

Alinsky pauses for a chapter to define certain words such as power, self-interest, compromise, ego, and conflict. What he means to say is that you play the system to best accomplish your momentum of the moment—there is no accomplishing of an “end” since the revolutionary leader (community organizer) isn’t usually sure as to the end for the revolution. One needs to educate budding young educators, and Alinsky will spend a chapter discussing how to train a young rebel (without a clue). The virtues necessary for a revolutionary include curiosity, irreverence, imagination, humor, a very blurred vision of the perfect world, an organized mind, a strong ego, political schizophrenia that is not set on a single political ideology. Communication is the prime virtue according to Saul. Saul even gives an example from the Bible how Moses told God to “cool it”, and get control of himself, shaming God for always wanting to be #1. So Moses (according to Alinsky) won an argument with God through effective communication. Saul gives abundant examples of how he used communication to get his way with people. Among his clientele were a host of religious types, especially Catholic priests, who didn’t seem to realize exactly who they were speaking to.

The “community organizer” needs to start a movement when the organizer sees a perceived need. Often, the so-called oppressed person doesn’t see that need, and so agitation and anger must be generated. Oftentimes the solution is simple by just asking an authority to correct a problem, but that is not the best way to manage the situation according to Alinsky. A group needs to show outright anger with persistence before accepting resolution of the problem. Sometimes, criminality needs to be rationalized away, such as when Alinsky led multiple efforts at voting fraud in Chicago, justified since it accomplished its end (I’m surprised Alinsky even discussed this issue!). Often, Alinsky’s tactic includes displaying “power”, another euphemism for bullying a subject to the point of exhaustion. Starting a crisis by creating a problem is Saul’s first issue of necessity. After that, tactics to maintain an air of crisis and tension must occur.

The longest chapter is on tactics, the techniques that the Have-nots can use to take power from the Haves. Many of these techniques are quite obvious and need not be listed, such as appearing bigger or stronger than you really are, shaming your opponent by their own rules (especially if they are religious), use lots of ridicule, persist, divide your opponent whenever possible, and, know your opponent so that you can make their life as miserable as possible. Forcing your opponent to live by their personal moral code while you conduct yourself without a moral code is a standard tactic. Time in jail, if short, helps create a martyr syndrome. Then, mutter epithets such as “The right to a job transcends the right of private property” to further shame your opponent. Alinsky gives multiple examples of how he exercised the above tactics to win cases, and most of the time, others with more sense would consider those tactics as quite immoral, though perhaps not illegal. Though not said by Alinsky, many of these tactics could kick back and actually lead to worse consequences to the revolutionary.

Alinsky offers a short summary. Actually, Alinsky really doesn’t know what his goals are. Often, he describes material envy with the Have-nots, such as gaining possession of cars, tvs, and other convenience items of life. Never does he suggest legitimate means of acquiring “stuff”. Alinsky proposes stirring additional unrest in lower middle class people in order to agitate for revolution. Class envy, class discontent, status anger, are all necessary for Alinsky to get his ends.

Alinsky is left with a dilemma. His entire thesis is based on pitting the Have-nots against the Haves. Social status (in Alinsky’s mind) necessarily must be fixed. The Have-nots cannot become the Haves. The lower middle-class cannot become the upper middle-class. If that were possible, it would leave Saul with a dilemma: as soon as his revolution sees success, the Have-nots become the Haves, and thus become the object for revolution. Alinsky doesn’t want that to happen. So many of Alinsky’s pupils are now filthy-rich, and yet must be defined as remaining Have-nots.

Alinsky is totally devoid of any social or personal ethic. Alinsky comments on this boldly and proudly. His is not the revolution of a Biblical sort, even though he frequently quotes (and always misquotes) Scripture. It is a revolution straight from the pit of hell. Which ultimately leads me to a most relevant and vital question to be asked. Many Christians are quite aware that Obama, H. Clinton, and others in politics are disciples of Alinsky. Alinsky offers them the rule book to play by. Hillary Clinton wrote a thesis on Alinsky, idolizing concepts that he expounds. Obama worked with Alinsky’s community, personally naming himself a community organizer. Their association and affection to Alinsky are NOT a secret. Yet, somehow many Christians (and many never-Trumpers like the Bush clan) are persuaded that these are people worth supporting or voting for. They argue the need to opt for the lesser of two evils, or that Alinsky (in some very strange way) really stands for “Biblical” social justice. The intentional naiveté of these “Christians” is most damning—I can only pray that God have mercy on them. If you don’t believe me, please read this book. With multiple examples more that I could have quoted, the book is far more damning than I made it out to be.

When Patton was asked early in WWII how he was able, as an immature tank commander, to overcome the superior tactics of Rommel, Patton’s reply was simply that he had read Rommel’s book on tank warfare. Alinsky provides us a look at the playbook of the left, including the progressives in congress (and possible president/vice-president), the deep state, the BLM and Antifa movement, and many other revolutionary groups. Know that they intentionally deceive, they intentionally seek to create unrest and strife. More importantly, know for certain that they secretly have no clue as to where they are going, and exactly how they wish to end up. Alinsky had no clue as to his ultimate destination and states that fact repeatedly. If they accomplish their “goals”, they have no idea what to do with their accomplishments. Ultimately their greatest desire would be to see the fall of the whole of society. Whereas now there is a small group of Have-nots, they will not be happy until everybody is a Have-not. Please realize that Have-nots actually have a lot, certainly vastly more than those that you would call poor in third-world countries. Alinsky’s vision would eventually lower the Have-not’s status to a third-world condition. To those with more sense than Alinsky, be aware, and don’t be afraid to challenge the revolutionaries. Truth will win in the end.

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
Nov 25

Pilgrimage, with Simon Reeve ★

I had discussed doing the Camino de Santiago with Betsy in the next few years and identified a doctor that I knew well who had done the Camino several times with and without his wife, who has strongly encouraged me to watch this video to help in deciding and planning our pilgrimage. Reeve does not discuss just the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain, but also discusses various pilgrimages in England, especially to Canterbury, as well as the pilgrimage across St. Bernard Pass in Switzerland to Rome, and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Reeve emphasizes most emphatically that though he grew up a Methodist, he was no longer a person of faith. Yet, while on these pilgrim trails and meeting up with various real pilgrims on the trail, he seemed to have some sort of transcendental experience, whatever that might have been. Pilgrims on the trail were quite split between those doing the walk as a true “religious” experience, and those who were doing it simply to be doing it, or, for the love of getting away and alone with one’s self. All seemed to attest to a transcendental experience. Though Reeve did a modest amount of walking on these pilgrim routes, at no point in time did he seem to seriously attempt a full pilgrim walk of any of these routes, and actually walked only small fractions of the pilgrim treks.

In all, Simon Reeve seemed disingenuous. He was terribly unpersuasive about actually performing a pilgrimage. In pilgrim outposts along the way, the “pilgrims” seemed to be more in tune with a social type pilgrim experience. The final destinations were treated as idols. I have spoken previously about idols of place, and those being locations such as where so-called saints died or labored, the Vatican where St. Peter died, Santiago de Compostela where some of the bones (allegedly) of St. James were housed, and Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified and buried. All of these sites are treated like idols to many worshipers, which is why I presume God made the actual locations of many Christian events, as well as the remains of those events, remain forever lost. It is shameful to treat any location or object as a thing worthy of veneration; pilgrimage to this end would contribute to that idolatry.

Reeve has persuaded me inadvertently to NOT do the Camino de Santiago. I am sure he tried otherwise to glorify the experience of walking where so many others have walked in the past, seeking a blessing or divine religious experience. I would find such an undertaking as being counter to the plain gospel, and nowhere in Scripture is the act of Pilgrimage given as a deed warranting special merit. True, my trail name is Pilgrim. Yet, any and all true Christians are pilgrims. Our journey through life will be as varied as any other. There is no single path in life though there is a single rule to guide us all in that walk. I will do more long walks in life, but will definitely abstain from the pretense of a Pilgrimage to gain merit with the Almighty.

No Comments »
Nov 12

The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, by Donald Hickey ★★★★★

If anybody has been following the recent books that I’ve been reading and reviewing, many of them are centered around history, and recently, of early United States history. The war of 1812 has not been well taught in school, and so I decided to fill in a few of the gaps in my education. Hickey’s text has been well reviewed on Amazon, and, not wishing to read all the books available on this war, settled with this book. It is quite condensed, without wasted words, but very complete and detailed. Hickey especially points out the conflict of Americans regarding this war, which was not strongly supported by the nation as a whole.

Hickey outlines the events that led up to the war. It was mostly complaints about British control of the seas, and their interference with American merchant vessels. Britain was fighting a war with France and needed as many sailors as possible, yet many of their sailors were “jumping ship” and working on American merchant vessels since life was safer and the pay was much higher. Britain would confront American ships, and make off with any sailor that was British, leaving some merchant vessels devoid of sufficient sailors. Britain also imposed highly restrictive areas to which American vessels could sail and thus limit American trade to Britain’s enemies, while America wished to maintain neutrality with both Britain and France. This was not a new problem but had been an issue since the end of the Revolutionary War.

The nation was quite split on whether or not war should be declared. The northern Federalists were very opposed to war, while the southern Republicans were more than eager to engage in battle. (Please note, the Republican Party of 1812 was NOT the Republican Party that we know of today). Madison, being a Republican, was eager for war. There were just three problems. 1) Half the nation was dead set against war, 2) The USA at that time had essentially no army or navy, nor constitutional means of building an army or navy, and 3) nobody, Federalist or Republican, showed interest in financing the war. Such issues needed to be addressed before declaring war, but not to either Madison or the Southern Republicans. War it will be and war it was.

The war was really broken down into three years of battle, 1812, 1813, and 1814, though the last year extended into 1815, the peace treaty was signed by the Brits on Christmas eve of 1814. The year 1812 began with high hopes, with plans for the invasion of Canada on three fronts, as well as assertion of control of the high seas. The invasion of Canada went poorly, and in the end, more land was lost than gained. Fort Dearborn (Chicago), Detroit, Mackinac Island, Niagara, Queenston Heights all fell, owing mostly to inept generalship, but also to the extensive British use of Indians throughout the war. It is no wonder that further Indian problems persisted in America; the Indians were definitely not the peace-loving innocent natives that popular imagery paints them to be. On the seas, the tide went the other way for the US, with victories from the US Constitution, as well as other smaller ship battles. This was unexpected, being that the British were considered an impregnable force on the seas. Additionally used were privateers (pirates), small quick ships with a few guns which acted independent of the US government, and which raided British merchant ships. This was a significant cause of grief for the British. In all though, 1812 was a bad year for the USA. New taxes were needed since outgoing trade was no longer taxed, and embargos (especially to Canada and Britain) only led to massive smuggling operations, free of taxation. The British were quite humored to note that American loyalty to their country quickly disappeared when a good financial deal could be offered.

The year 1813 showed a bit more promise to the USA, though it was quite mixed. Canada invaded US soil, taking Detroit. In return, the US sought to control Lake Erie, and had successful sea battles to that end. William Harrison was successful in re-taking Detroit, followed by the victorious battle of the Thames, where the Indian chief Tecumseh was killed. Lake Ontario battles were a mixed success, with the greatest defeats being from the weather. The battle of York was a success for the US, though the Canadian town was thoroughly looted and then burned. In return, Fort Niagara was captured by the British, and Buffalo burned to the ground. Attempts to take Montreal were failures owing to the greater defenses in that town. Southern battles also took place, which were mostly against the Indians. The Indians in conjunction with the British led to the massacre of Fort Mims. Andrew Jackson took command of the southern US army and multiple battle successes then ensued. The seas were quieter. The British now traveled in convoys, avoiding battle. They formed a blockade of the Atlantic coast, blocking most heavily the south since the Brits knew that it was the South and not the New England states that produced the war. The Brits commenced raids in the Chesapeake bay area. The only real US navy accomplishments were from the continued harassment on the high seas from privateers. Meanwhile, an unacceptable peace treaty was offered by Britain. The US enforced a more strenuous trade embargo, which was impossible to enforce, and violated by both the Federalists and Republicans. The US approached bankruptcy, and a national bank was unsuccessfully proposed.

The year 1814 was also a mix of losses and successes in battle. In Europe, the French were defeated at the battle of Leipzig, and though Britain still needed troops in Europe, was able to free up more ships and troops for the American campaign. Successes for the Brits in overrunning Prairie du Chien (in Wisconsin), as well as gaining control of lake Erie and Mackinac Island were countered by the Americans re-occupying Detroit. Multiple battles around Niagara were indecisive, some being quite bloody. Attacks from the British on and along Lake Champlain eventually resulted in American victories, with battles both on the lake and at Plattsburgh pushing the Canadians back into Canada. In return, the British extended their sea blockade into the New England waters. Eastern Maine was occupied by British forces. Chesapeake raids led to the burning of Washington DC, though the battle for Baltimore was a small victory for the US. It was at this time that the bombing of Fort McHenry was unsuccessful for the Brits, leading Francis Scott Keys to pen the Star Spangled Anthem. This battle was not necessarily a victory for the US. Meanwhile down south, Andrew Jackson was successful in his campaigns, including battles for Mobile and Pensacola (then officially owned by Spain), as well as the major battle of New Orleans. US sea losses included the US President and US Constitution.

Though the year 1814 had a mix of losses and successes, it was going horribly on the home front. Recruitment for the military was largely unsuccessful, and desertions frequent. Though illegal, there was massive trade occurring with the enemy. Congress was recalled to emergency session, but splits between the Federalists and Republicans made any compromise impossible. Tax increases to pay for the war with a failing economy was futile at best. The New England Federalists held a convention titled the Hartford Convention to solidify Federalist opposition to the war. Recommendations were presented to Congress. Though well-meant, the Hartford Convention was quickly spun as a traitorous movement.

A peace treaty was becoming increasingly important, since this war was hard on both the economies of Britain and the US. In addition, other nations were affected such as Russia, who depended on US shipping and thus eager to see an end to the war. Initial British propositions were found completely unacceptable to the US. The book’s author Donald Hickey notes that of all US successes, that of diplomacy to end the war was the U.S.’s greatest success. The ultimate decision was to return to status quo ante bellum, i.e., simple return to all conditions before the war started, including lands occupied by one or the other nation, and by return to all of the high seas policies which triggered the war in the first place. Interestingly enough, those high sea policies quickly became irrelevant following the war, since war also ceased in Europe, and so impressment (the British forcing return of sailors) and trade restrictions were no longer relevant. In my estimation, if the US would have waited, those problems would have solved themselves earlier.

Quickly after the war, the US spin doctors were able to frame the war as a victory to the US. The Republicans sold the war as a second and affirmative Revolutionary War against Britain. In reality, the war accomplished nothing but greater division in the US. Both political parties (the Federalists and Republicans) were on their last gasps. The US was plunged into deep debt. The Indian problem was probably made worse (for the Indians) through it all. Good did come from the war. The US realized the futility of trying to bring Canada into the fold of these United States. The US realized the necessity of having a standing army and strong defense system. Several US presidents were victorious generals of the war— William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson. Thankfully, the death toll was more from disease than from combat fatalities.

We were taught in grade school that before the Viet Nam war, the USA had never lost a war. Yet, the war of 1812 was a war that was essentially lost, since it accomplished nothing but lost lives and lost property. The issues at stake before the war were not resolved. It was a futile effort of the young USA attempting to assert themselves in a crazy world. Yet, it leaves one wondering about all the wars that the US has engaged in. The war of 1812 was a war that never should have been fought. What about the other wars? The civil war essentially started at the birth of our Republic in 1789, and continues to this day. Massive lives were lost both on the side of the North and the South, yet we are rapidly retreating into another form of slavery at this time, and race relationships have never been worse than now. The Spanish-American war was a strange animal that didn’t serve many purposes except to change the hands of several islands. The first world war should never have been fought, yet WWII was the expected child of WWI. We created more misery than good in those two wars. The USA did achieve world hegemony, though it is uncertain (in my mind) whether that was really a good thing. The Korean and Viet Nam wars were either the result of the outcome of WWII or a consequence of European colonization of the world. Others view American history as showing a particular proclivity of Americans to go to war, yet that simply isn’t true, as every nation has a tendency to war, especially when they gain (or desire) military hegemony. It is intrinsic to fallen human nature to fight. Even the most outspoken anti-war Pacifists ultimately find excuses to defend themselves or their honor when challenged. There is only one Prince of Peace to whom we should all be bowing, and, outside of Him, we will know no peace.

This book is a wonderfully written book, hard to put down, chronicling of a very stupid and unnecessary war. It is no wonder that it is a forgotten war, or, when remembered, remembered in such a fashion as to distort history into saying something contrary to the truth. Reality does sometimes hurt, but it is a better alternative than living in a fantasy world.

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
Nov 04

Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition, by Glenn S. Sunshine ★★★★

This recently published book provides a survey of political philosophy throughout the modern era in reference to the Christian church. This book is a very brief survey of what could have been volumes of material, succinctly stated in a manner to allow for reading the entirety of the book within 1-2 evenings. It was a delightful read, and I gained some new insights and perspectives from the thinking of Glenn.

Each chapter encompasses a time period. The early patristic period entails Christians as the enemy of the state until the time of Constantine becoming a Christian and allowing tolerance to Christians within the Roman Empire. The Augustinian era was influenced heavily by the writings of St. Augustine, who allowed the state to impose discipline on the church, notably during the episode of the Donatist controversy. Subsequent chapters delineate how the thinking of Augustine, amalgamated with the writings of Aristotle, provided a basis for interaction of church and state. The Magna Carta in England drafted limits to the power of the King within his kingdom, and defined him as a not-so-powerful ruler, subject to the will of the princes. I find this period in history to be the most fascinating and one of my favorites, in that the interaction of Kings with the church (pope) details some fascinating tales, with the Holy Roman Empire and France attempting to define the limits of the church, which in turn pushed for maximal authority over the state. Sadly, this episode in history was skimmed through but is most instructive when examined in detail.

Sunshine then begins a discussion of the intrinsic philosophy of politics, grappling with definitions of justice and liberty. Inside the church, the Franciscans brought new concepts as to property rights, while the scholastics countermanded with a further definition of how property rights fit into the schema of natural law. Interestingly, in the settlement of America, taking away (?) land from the Indians would have been a delightful discussion at this point. The Reformation forced further definition of how a Christian should interact with government. The Reformers continued the concept of the Augustinian two cities, that of God and that of man, but redefined the church itself within the city of man, and the invisible church of true believers within the city of God. Calvin pictured the relationship between the church and the state as a covenantal relationship, both being separate, but both interacting for each other’s good. The Anabaptists were somewhat disparagingly mentioned without a good development of Anabaptist thinking regarding interaction with the state. Further development of Luther’s reaction to the Knight’s revolt and Peasant’s revolt resulting in clarity on Luther’s part as to keeping the church and the state separate and independent. It took the French Huguenots to clarify the occasional need to stand up to the state. I felt that Glenn was a bit unkind, or perhaps engaged too extreme of brevity to build the Huguenot case for resistance to the state. A separate chapter details church resistance to the state in Great Britain. The attacks on the Protestant church by the two Marys, and then the two Charles, were responded to by various Puritans, as well as Samuel Rutherford in his book, Lex Rex. Rather than viewing the Kings as there by divine right, Rutherford suggested that when kings act contrary to the law of God, the subjects have the right (and responsibility?) to remove them. In this general period is found the writings of Thomas Hobbes, who suggested the relationship of the rulers and the subjects was a social contract, entirely secular, which did not need or use a god. Hobbes was not well accepted for his political propositions.

It is in the aftermath of this setting that gave rise to the thinking of John Locke. The religious wars in France had come to an end through the Edict of Nantes, with its erosion leading to Huguenots fleeing France during the reign of the Sun King. In England, the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary led to peace among Protestants. Reason is used to develop the “natural” rights of man, and religion only provides a gloss to the enlightenment thinking of the Lockean propositions. Utilizing Rutherford’s ideas from a secular frame of thinking, Locke defines rights, property rights, and the right to rebel when those rights are infringed upon. Locke is given much attention because it is to Locke that the framers of our US constitution relied heavily upon. The founding fathers in the USA were divided, the northern states having a Puritan heritage, while the southern states having a greater affinity to the enlightenment principles. Sunshine suggests that the constitution was written as a “Christian” document, though that simply is not true. The main writer of the constitution was James Madison, a thoroughly enlightened thinker with deep admiration (along with Thomas Jefferson) for the soon to be French revolution. I agree that the US constitution does not exclude God as strongly as the ensuing French constitution but still was drawn from mostly entirely secular sources, such as John Locke and Classical thinkers like Aristotle and various Romans. True, writers such as Os Guinness suggest the difference between the French revolution and the American revolution is best stated in terms of how they regard the church and the state, yet that difference is simply a matter of degree.

Sunshine’s final chapter offers a summary as well as reflections on current events in the USA today, with its degeneration of morals, and loss of meaning to the constitution through the courts reading the constitution as a “living” document. Though he speaks highly of the US constitution when applied within the context of a “moral” public, he does not develop a Scriptural approach to government. In fact, no Scripture is even quoted by him. In VanTil’s thinking, the enlightenment influence on the US constitution, even with its Christian gloss, should be greeted with horror. I have read Christian attempts to honestly define what a Christian government should look like. They range from the reconstructionist/theonomist Mark Ludwig’s True Christian Government to the Anabaptist John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus. Both books are excellent (essential) reads for the curious Christian engaging in politics. What I have been persuaded of is that nobody has yet gotten it totally right, including Augustine, the Scholastics, Luther or Calvin, Hobbes, Locke, the founding fathers of the US constitution, or current thinkers. I include myself, though I tend to favor Augustine as the best thought out writer on church and state. Sunshine should have mentioned the likes of Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa, Lech Wałęsa, and many others who have stood true to the faith in resistance to the state. Earlier history of the world includes so many others, from Gottschalk to Savaranola, Huss, Tyndale, and others that will be greatly remembered in eternity but forgotten in the current moment, brave men that stood tall in resistance against the faith. Psalm 2 remains persistently true, even in the face of a “Christian” nation…

Psalms 2:1-6 (ESV) Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

3 Comments »
Oct 21

Hollywood Propaganda; How TV, Movies, and Music Shape Our Culture, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

Mark Dice has been making a series of books about modern culture, the most recent being The True Story of Fake News, Liberalism: Find a Cure and the Liberal Media Industrial Complex. The format of these books are all the same. I’ve written reviews on each of them already. In this book, Mark attacks the entertainment industry, showing how they have intentionally written script into their shows to persuade the public toward a particular end. Mark covers various things, such as making the public accepting of abortion, LGBTQ issues, Feminist issues, immigration issues, and political issues, such as painting a negative spin on Donald Trump. Hollywood is deeply influenced and affected by the state, including the military, FBI and CIA, and other government agencies. Hollywood has been very strong at promoting an anti-USA agenda, and stirring up race issues, creating a war against white people. There is no corner left unturned, and even sports have become political via Hollywood. Mark laments how late-night comedies have gone from equal opportunity attacks against both Republicans and Democrats with Johnny Carson to a full all-out attack on conservativism by recent talk show hosts. The book contains hundreds of examples of how Hollywood has intentionally scripted its shows with the intent to influence the beliefs and thinking of the general public. He doesn’t offer solutions, save for turning off your tv. That is what our family has done, beginning about 1995. We couldn’t have been better off.

This is a great book. It doesn’t have a plot. It doesn’t have progression in a storyline. But, it is a concerted attack against what the radio preacher Oliver Greene would call “the sewer pipe from Hollywood”. What was amazing to me was Mark Dice pointing out how deep this Cesspool of filth was in the Hollywood circuit, and how seriously it may be affecting how we think and what we believe. This is a good book to read, which I highly recommend. I’m sure my brother Dennis would stand with me on this one.

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
Oct 18

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham ★★

I published this book review on 10/18/2020, but after some forethought and starting yet another period history book on the War of 1812, am realizing that this book does not deserve the faint praise that I gave to it. I also added additional reasons why I truly disliked this text.

This book unsurprisingly details the life and thoughts of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. I had already read the biographies of Washington, John Adams and Hamilton before attacking this book. I had awaiting me yet a history of the war of 1812, Andrew Jackson, as well as that of Madison and Monroe. After that, I will return to studies on the Civil War. This book was not as well liked by me, and does not stand up to the standard set by the other biographies mentioned above. I realize that this book might have been a NYT best seller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, yet truth be told, such accolades are essentially meaningless. This text is much shorter than other period biographies in several ways. There are multiple short chapters, each chapter named in standard fashion by some brief snippet of text found within that chapter. This book has a lengthy reference section, yet the text itself is only 505 pages, and the type face is 12 point on 15 point leading (larger than the typical 10/13 or 11/14 point type found in most texts), in narrower than typical columns, thus deceptively making the reader believe they are getting as much content as a typical biography text.

As would be expected, Meacham starts with the birth and early years of Jefferson’s life, being born on his father’s land at Shadwell, VA which lies in the shadow of Monticello. He attended college in Williamsburg, and there demonstrated some of his brilliance that led him to rise to echelons of power. His teachers and acquaintances at William and Mary college eventually put him into revolutionary circles. Meacham does not point out any illustrative traits that would suggest Jefferson’s greatness, and instead avoids laudatory praise at this stage in his life. Jefferson was eventually assigned the duty of writing the Declaration of Independence, though with the help and corrections of other founding fathers. During the Revolutionary War, there are large lacunae in Jefferson’s life, save for an episode in 1781, where Benedict Arnold and a troop of Redcoats moved on Monticello, with Jefferson running for his life, branding him a coward by many. Jefferson, having a love for all things French, became involved as an ambassador to France, and was assigned to be the secretary of state by Washington. Meacham omits much of the struggles between him and Hamilton while serving on Washington’s cabinet. Jefferson’s time in France and his interactions with John Adams in England are chronicled.

Jefferson was described repeatedly as a man that loved agriculture and loved the land. He designed and built, and then rebuilt the mansion at Monticello, and had his best moments while at Monticello, or at his vacation home at Poplar Forest. Jefferson was non-confrontational. He was not a Trump. Jefferson enjoyed the art of hospitality while at Monticello. Meacham speaks about Jefferson’s family. Jefferson lost his wife fairly early on and never was remarried. Jefferson’s sexual escapades included Sally Hemings, one of his “slaves” (though more white than black) who he took to France with him. He had a number of children from his real wife, though only two survived early childhood. With Sally, Jefferson also had children who were freed at Jefferson’s death and then went on to productive lives in the north as whites.

The presidency of Jefferson was notable for three events. First was the Louisiana purchase. Almost simultaneously was the commissioning of Lewis and Clark for their expedition. Thirdly was the trade embargo with England in hopes of avoiding a war with England. Sadly, many details were missing from each of these episodes. This is true of many other events in Jefferson’s life, making it very frustrating to read this book. Meacham did not master the art of story-telling.

Up until now, Jefferson’s life had not been portrayed by Meacham in glowing terms. Meacham was open about the many inconsistencies of Jefferson and tended to disparage him all along. Most notable was Jefferson’s inability to remain consistent with his ideology. Jefferson soundly condemned Hamilton’s banking system, yet realized he could not live without it and left it essentially unchanged. Jefferson condemned strong federal functions, yet purchased the Louisiana territory from France almost independent of the congress. Jefferson deployed the navy against the Barbary pirates, again in contrast to his arguments against Hamilton in forming a strong military. Jefferson remained a Francophile, blinding himself to the French revolution and its associated atrocities. Jefferson remained forever duplicitous regarding slavery, both wishing it gone, but finding that he couldn’t live without it. Jefferson was a brilliant, convivial man of great contradictions.

The last few years after his presidency was spent back at Monticello. Jefferson engaged in starting the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in valley below Monticello. This was intended to deter Virginians from needing to go up north to Harvard and Princeton for their education.

There are several reasons why I have problems with this book.

  1. Many of the events in Jefferson’s life are mentioned by starting the event story, but never completing it. This made the reading of this book to be very frustrating. A side story was started, and one expects that the story will perhaps be completed later in the book, yet it doesn’t happen. There are huge silent periods. What was Jefferson doing for most of the Revolutionary War? How was he aiding the war effort, and did he have any input into how congress or the war conducted itself? Meacham starts the story of the commissioning of the Lewis and Clark expedition, yet one is left with Lewis and Clark somewhere in the Rockies, presumably hunkered down for the winter after sending gifts back to Washington. Did they ever make it to the Pacific and back to the east coast? How did it affect Jefferson and further development of the country? The Louisiana purchase is briefly mentioned, but then one if left dangling. And then what happened? How did it go through congress? How was it received? How was it paid for? How did Jefferson justify the purchase as it seemed to go against his small-government Republican principles? At the end of Jefferson’s life, he started to build a university in Charlottesville and would watch its construction from Monticello. What became of that? How far did the university go in Jefferson’s lifetime? What was distinctive about it? How did it become the University of Virginia? How was it financed, since Jefferson was stone broke at the end of his life? I could mention many more examples of Meacham leaving the reader dangling.
  2. Details of importance related to many of the events of Jefferson’s life are glossed over. One misses the struggles of the Federalists vs. the Republicans, thus failing to show how Jefferson altered politics at the beginning of his term. One misses how Jefferson’s British policies were responsible for the eventual War of 1812. One loses the fanatical Fracophile leanings that Jefferson possessed that blinded him to tragedies such as the reign of terror in the French Revolution. One is not filled in how Jefferson’s enlightenment world view affected his religion and his decisions as President. The embargo enacted by Jefferson toward the end of his second term had colossal effects on America’s relationship to England and France, yet this is barely discussed.
  3. There is offered no serious analysis as to how Jefferson’s decisions and life affected the world to come. I don’t expect Meacham to offer his personal opinions, but I would love to know how the various controversies of Jefferson’s life, and how they were analyzed from and 18th and early 19th century perspective. Jefferson truly hated Hamilton for his system of banking, yet almost nothing was mentioned about it, even though it was a very big deal to Jefferson. Regarding Jefferson with his stance with the Indian populations; what were they? There was no serious analysis of Jefferson’s thinking regarding slavery, and how he justified his stance. Books of this sort should lead the reader in deep thought about the nature of our government and issues that existed in Jefferson’s time that persists today. Meacham does not compel the reader to think seriously about anything, and perhaps he is simply catering to the mentality of the readers of the New York Times?

One is left with an enormous question as they come to the close of reading this book. What was so great about Thomas Jefferson? Yet, the last two chapters of this book were an apotheosis of the man. The events surrounding his death, his worship by his friends, and his legacy were not well explained by this text. Is the book worth reading? Perhaps, in that, you do receive a brief history of the man, Thomas Jefferson. My advice would be to seek out other texts on Jefferson if you are indeed seriously interested. You will be disappointed with this text. What you will be missing is the development of the greatness of the man. Perhaps there is a better biography of Jefferson out there; this book is not the definitive text of Thomas Jefferson’s life.

Tagged with:
1 Comment »
Oct 01

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow ★★★★★

This is the third book that I’ve read by Ron Chernow, Washington and Grant being the other two. Chernow is a superb biographer and is capable of giving one the history and times of a given person, but also a strong flavor as to his character. Of his books so far, Grant has been by far the best and most enjoyable read. Hamilton has been a wonderful story but is a much darker tale than either of the other Chernow books, as well as biographies in general. Hamilton was a tragic hero, and Chernow paints a picture of Hamilton’s life that describes his greatness, but also his flaws which ultimately led to his untimely death. It has been said that Washington gave us a country, Madison gave us a constitution, but Hamilton gave us a government. There is great truth to that statement.

Hamilton started his life in the West Indies, being born of parents that did not play a lasting role in his life. His father disappeared from the scene when Hamilton was quite young, and in fact, it still remains uncertain exactly who his father was. Of his mother, there was more certainty, though she did not remain an integral person in her son’s life. Hamilton proved to be precocious as a child, with French as his native tongue, though he quickly mastered English. He was of sufficient brilliance that when he was ready for advanced schooling in America, he had an offer of support from a wealthy patroness. Hamilton ended up in New York City, which was to remain his primary residence for most of the rest of his life. Initially applying to Princeton, his traditional British temperament ended him studying at what is now known as Columbia University. Though an immigrant and a foreigner, he became fiercely patriotic and in support of the Revolutionary War. Hamilton excelled in writing and became the indispensable aide-de-camp to George Washington. Much of Washington’s war correspondence was handled by Hamilton. Frustrated by Washington not allowing him to lead battles, Hamilton resigned his post, returned to New York, and completed studies in law, and began his career as a lawyer. Toward the end of the war, Washington finally consented to give Hamilton leadership of a unit which played a major role in the final victory at Yorktown. Hamilton returned to NYC and developed a very thriving law practice, but could not keep his fingers out of politics. Hamilton’s political leanings were toward a very strong central government, for which his opponents accused him of seeking for a monarchy. A constitution finally written, Hamilton, with Madison and John Jay produced a large series of articles called the Federalist Papers in which Hamilton goes to great lengths to explain the meaning and rationale for each section of the constitution. The Federalist Papers are still referred to today and we have Hamilton to thank, who wrote the overwhelming percentage of the articles.

Washington was voted in as the first president and John Adams as the vice president. Washington formed a cabinet, of which Hamilton was selected to be the treasury secretary and Jefferson as the secretary of state. The animosity between Hamilton and Jefferson accelerated during this time, with Hamilton coming under fire for establishing the US financial system to the basic form that we have today, a strong central economic system. Jefferson preferred a simple to non-existent economic system. Hamilton fought hard to establish a standing army and navy and developed the coast guard to protect against tariff-avoiding smuggling. Once Adams became president, the cabinet, consisting of Hamilton-leaning federalists, essentially had Hamilton controlling the country. Hamilton stepped down as treasury secretary and became Inspector General, making him now in control of the military. Adams, as the last Federalist party president, poorly managed the presidency, and when Jefferson became president as a Republican (not the same as our current Republican party), the nation had essentially flipped sides and voted Republican with the ultimate death of the Federalist party, Hamilton being its last great defender.

With Jefferson now in control, Hamilton returned to NYC as developed his law practice. He had a home built called the Grange on a large plot of farmland, that still exists in Upper Manhattan. Earlier in life, Hamilton and Aaron Burr started as good friends, both Federalists, but time and chicanery by Burr, with Burr switching to the Republican Party to foster a political advantage, caused a progressive falling out. Never-the-less, Hamilton remained amicable with Burr who served as vice-president under Jefferson for four years. Burr and Jefferson became bitter enemies, and on Jefferson’s second term, Burr opted to run for governor of New York state. Hamilton was against and made statements at a party which eventually got back to Burr, who felt deeply offended. Burr failed to win the governorship and blamed Hamilton. Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, and in order to protect his honor, Hamilton accepted. Hamilton had no intention of killing Burr and fired his shot intentionally off into the trees. Burr, being of dispossessed mind, fired a fatal shot at Hamilton. Ultimately, this was political suicide for Burr, who lived as a pariah and scoundrel his remaining life.

Chernow is not remiss to discuss Hamilton’s many downfalls. His personality is possibly best described as similar to Donald Trump’s, aggressive, very goal-oriented, brilliant, impeccably honest (though endlessly accused of fraud), and not worried about political correctness. He was a non-politician politician. Hamilton had an affair for several years with a married woman, which ultimately was exposed to the public. Hamilton repented dearly of this affair, living out the remainder of his life committed and endeared to Eliza, his wife.

What I found most interesting in this book are the events that Chernow described in early America. Chernow (I assume) was faithful in describing the Revolution and the birth of our country as a very tumultuous event. There was serious disagreement about going to war for independence, about replacing the articles of confederation for the constitution, about the interpretation of the newly written constitution, about developing the character of our country (was it to become an industrial giant or preserve its agrarian roots?), about the nature and character of the military and the court system, about the nature of foreign policy (the choices were to be either pro-British or pro-French) and essentially about everything that we still dispute to this day. Hamilton was militant antislavery but surrounded by slave owners, including Washington, Madison, Monroe, and even Aaron Burr. Hamilton was an outspoken Christian man though he rarely attended church; Eliza his wife was a very devout church-goer. I’ve left out many details of this complex and fascinating man. It is sad that we are taught so little about him in school, as his influence on the development and character of our nation to the character can be attributed immensely to Hamilton’s writings and actions during his truncated lifetime. It is most surprising that in spite of the very different ideologies of our founding fathers and the contempt that they held for each other, that they managed to assemble a constitution that has lasted up until today. Graft and corruption were rampant in early America, though some of the people most accused of corruption (like Hamilton) were the most innocent. The press was very inflammatory and deceptive in those days. Fake news is NOT a recent event—it is amazing how little has changed since the inception of our country.

It took me longer than usual to read this biography. It has a dark character to it from the beginning to the end. Chernow is a master at developing Hamilton’s personality and character, of seeing through the smoke of history and discovering what Hamilton and events in America’s birth years were all about. We owe Hamilton a great deal for setting America on a course that it has taken. This is a book that I highly recommend. It will take the reader down from the fairy tale version of the founding of our country that we were taught in school, and give the reader a grasp of our deeply flawed but also noble founding fathers.

2 Comments »
Aug 29
Melakwa Lake

I generally don’t publish my day hikes, but this will be an exception. Yesterday 28AUG2020 I took a hike up to Melakwa Lake, a total walk of about 9 miles and 2700 ft of elevation gain. The trail started at the Denny Creek Campground, which is situated between the west and eastbound segments of I-90, deep in the valley and unseen in either direction on I-90. The campground is fairly noisy from the I-90 traffic, which leaves me uncertain as to why it is so popular.

I had attempted to reach Melakwa Lake much earlier this year. The trail was then not well cleared out, and I had some challenging scrambles around windfall and a weak bridge across Denny Creek. This was all corrected on yesterday’s hike. Also, I then made it only half way, arriving at a necessary ford of Denny Creek. Knowing that I would be hitting snow soon after the ford, and that there was no bridge and thus no way to keep my feet dry, I deemed it most prudent to turn back. On this venture yesterday, I creek was low enough to hop rocks, and somebody actually had a log across the creek, though I opted to hop the rocks, and managed to stay dry. Several beautiful waterfalls were passed on the way up to Hemlock Pass.

crossing under westbound I-90
Looking down the Denny Creek Canyon
Looking up to Hemlock Pass
A very uninspiring Hemlock Pass, though a great relief after an arduous climb

The climb to the top of Hemlock Pass was persistent, with the crossing of several talus fields. Even outside of the talus fields, the trail surface was commonly either very rocky, or irregular with upraised tangled roots. After the pass summit, the trail had little elevation loss, traversing eastward to the lake. Before reaching the lake, there was a trail headed off to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, mentioned in a recent post describing a hike to Olallie and Pratt Lake. The lake was most beautiful, and my greatest regret was that I didn’t spend more time exploring the lake. It is a lake that I would love to return to in order to camp at. I had lunch at the lake and headed back down. It took me 3 hours total to reach the lake, and 2.3 hours to get down.

Another look at Melakwa Lake. The camp sites are located in the trees on the other side of the lake.
One of the two waterfalls passed on the trail up to Melakwa Lake

For a Friday hike, the trail was still very crowded. About 95% of the people hiking manifested VIS (virus insanity syndrome). There was a WTA work crew on the trail doing rock work, and Leanne J., a leader that I really enjoyed working with, was directing the project. If she does the Pratt River Trail again next year, it will be one that I will be quite interested in joining. So, I will make a plug for volunteering with the WTA. Many of my friends enjoy hiking the trails of Washington, yet have NO clue as to the amount of work that goes into building and maintaining the trails. Much of this work is volunteer work. If you hike the trails and enjoy it, then shame on you if you are not spending at least a little of your time volunteering with the WTA. It is not hard work, but VERY rewarding. You learn a lot about the nature of trails, about good and poor trail design, and about the various “structures” that make up a good trail. Please consider it!

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Aug 20
Nothing like a Bitburger beer and Montecristo Cigar at Rampart Lakes to celebrate your birthday!

I had wished to do one more backpack trip with the grandkids this year, and finally was able to negotiate getting Patrick and Sammy away on a trip up to the Ramparts above Rachel Lake. The weather was supposed to deteriorate during our visit but that wasn’t going to bother us. We had planned for two nights.

I had backpacked into the Rachel Lake area a number of times over the years. I had all of the children up to the lake or above (up to the Rampart Lakes) on a number of occasions. I’ve taken my friends up to Rachel Lake. The last time I was up to Rachel Lake was about 3-4 years ago, when I had a close doctor friend and his wife up to the lake. I didn’t realize that Patrick and Sam had never been to Rachel Lake, and realized that a return appointment was due.

We left the Flanagan residence at 6 am on Wednesday 19AUG, and arrived at the trailhead at 8 am. It took us 4 hours to get to our campsite at the Ramparts. This was the site where my first trip up to the Ramparts with Diane and (?) was picked to place the tent. The kids explored the area, went swimming, and I soaked up the beauty of the place.

Fresh appearance on the start of the trip
Mandatory photo on arrival to Rachel Lake
Climbing high above the lake. The canyon in the left background is Highbox canyon which we hiked up.
The kids swimming in the lake
My tent beside the lake
More of the lake

We all slept well that night, with just a gentle wind keeping things cool. There was a small amount of rain though it was forecast that heavier rains would be coming the next day. Today was actually my birthday, though Pat and Sam did not know that. I left the agenda entirely up to them, whether they wished to swim, explore, etc. The first choice was to go up the pass. This is quite a scramble. I had climbed the Rampart Ridge pass in the past, and it just seemed a bit different, though I’m not sure what it was. After returning to camp, we talked about what else to do, and the kids decided that since rain was coming our way, we could hike back tonight rather than tomorrow. I took a pause for a beer and cigar that I had brought up to celebrate my birthday, packed up, and headed back down the trail. It took a little more than 2.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stopping for lunch.

Morning hike up to the Rampart Ridge pass. Note the heavy cloud cover today, which broke slightly on the way out.
Highbox Peak is in the distance to the far right, followed by Alta Mountain. Rachel Lake cannot be seen but is down in the valley surrounded by the visible peaks.
On the climb up Rampart Ridge Pass, we even encountered some snow late in August!
More views on top of the Pass
Pat and Sam on the Pass
Back down at the Ramparts looking down on Rachel Lake
Lunch stop at the waterfall at the start of the climb out of Highbox canyon.
Photo op at the Hornet’s Nest Falls. We had first hiked to Rachel Lake to take Rachel to her lake. On coming down, we had stopped here for a snack and Rachel received a hornet sting, thus the name of the falls. Poor Rachel!
Not quite so fresh at the end of the hike.

So, the strongest lesson for me is how much I enjoy taking the grandkids out hiking, and seeing how much they enjoy it. Yet, I am now realizing that they have matured to the point that Pat and Sam could/should start heading out on their own. Perhaps they will find friends that they could start hiking with.

I also realized that Rachel Lake is not a terribly easy hike. I was thinking about taking up several granddaughters next year, and still may do that, though I would hate to have the difficulty of the hike control their judgement about how fun it is to go backpacking. That is one I’ll have to sort out next year.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Aug 12
The Northwest face of Mt. Hood. Illumination Rock sticks out on the right skyline, and McNeil Point dominates the left side. You are facing the Sandy Headwall. This photo was about 1 mile from my first campsite.

Timberline Trail around Mt Hood 10AUG2020-13AUG

The Timberline Trail encircles Mt. Hood, and is one of my favorite trails, especially since it is a loop, and you end up right back where you started. The trail has a number of variants as well as recent modifications, so it is a bit challenging to identify the exact length. I did not bring a Garmin unit (except for the inReach mini) and so could not chronicle my own progress. The trail is at least 40 miles long and entails at least 10,000 feet of climbing. People have run the trail in a single day. That was not my cup of tee. I first did this trail somewhere between 1974 and 1975 with Jack Frane, and then in the late 1990s with Kent Dawson. I attempted it recently with Jon (my son) which needed to be aborted, and with Russ Andersen two years ago, which also needed to be aborted early on. This time, I decided to do it entirely solo. I thought long and hard about bringing my real camera along but ultimately opted for simply using my iPhone as I had done on the PCT. I kept my base weight in the pack to about 16 lb., and anticipated 2 nights on the trail, similar to what I’ve done previously, but had enough food for 3 nights, knowing that I wasn’t a spring chicken any longer.

09 August- day 0 – Today I drove down to Vancouver to spend a little time with my brother Gaylon. We went out to eat some Mexican food along the Columbia River and then crashed at Gaylon’s apartment. 

Mt. Hood in the distance with the Columbia River in the foreground
The I-5 Bridge across the Columbia, viewed from our restaurant
Brother Gaylon keeping me in line

10August –  I was up at 6am and after a little coffee, headed out to the mountain. I was able to start the trail at Timberline Lodge at 8:30am and had spectacular weather with not a cloud in the sky. I did the Paradise loop variant, which was totally awesome and stunningly beautiful as compared to the now current standard course of the trail, though it involves a bit more climbing. I’m not sure why this isn’t still the standard course of the trail (followed by both the PCT and Timberline Trail), as it used to be when I hiked the trail in the 1970s. The descent down to the Sandy River was tedious as usual. This time, I had no problems crossing the Sandy River dryly. I arrived at Ramona Falls at 1:30pm, had lunch, and then started up the trail to camp on the Northeast side of the mountain. This was a long tedious climb for the remainder of the day. The Muddy Fork needed to be forded (i.e., needed to get my feet wet) and was a touch precarious. I took the cutoff to the trail; by this, I mean that the trail loops back on itself as it wraps around Bald Mountain, and the trail coming and going are within several hundred feet of each other and a small easy hill climb and descent. Most people will use the cutoff. The reason this loop occurred is that the Muddy Fork variant used to be the standard course for the PCT until the PCT was rerouted. For a number of years, the Muddy Fork trail was closed because of dangers on the trail, so that, when I hiked the trail in the 1990s, it was advised to follow the new PCT route and rejoin the Timberline Trail on the other side of Bald Mountain. For a significant distance, the Timberline Trail past the cutoff was all uphill and no water sources. This is a little bit atypical for the Timberline Trail since water seems to be everywhere around the mountain. My great concern was being able to find a campsite since there were many people on the trail. I have never seen so many people on the trail, as the other times I hiked the trail, you were mostly alone. I found a small tent site about a half mile before the Cairn Basin shelter, next to a couple of guys doing the trail counterclockwise; the campsite was also close to a stream. So had dinner, talked a bit with the guys, and then crashed.

Looking down on Timberline Lodge at the start of the hike
The view of Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge
Huge fields of flowers on the Paradise loop
Looking south to Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood on the Paradise Loop
Beginning descent into the Sandy River canyon
Ramona Falls. Not the best lighting for this beautiful falls.
Yes, the Cutoff trail IS official!
Near sunset, looking north
My tent

11August- I slept well, woke up at 5:30, and was on the trail by 6:45. Unlike my time on the PCT, I heated up breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee, and a granola bar. The morning hike was greeted by multiple stream crossings, often demanding fording since rock hopping wasn’t possible. There were huge flower meadows around nearly every corner, and views of the mountain were nearly constant. I could see the Sandy headwall (a climb I wish I would have done) and the Sunshine route (a climb that I did), both up the north face of Mt. Hood. For a few years, the Timberline Trail was closed owing to a washout of the trail around Eliot Creek. The diversion that was created was miserable, and in my estimation, still rather dangerous. After a long slog up the Eliot, I finally arrived at Cloud Cap on the northeast side of the mountain. There was a campground here with a road, and I was able to have lunch on picnic tables. By 1 pm, I was off again. The trail now covered the east side of the mountain, ascending high up above the timberline, to form the highest point on the trail. The descent was along Gnarl Ridge and wrapped around Lamberson Butte. Newton Creek ended up being another challenging river crossing, but a side branch of non-silty water formed the site where I had camped twice before.

Mt Hood north side in the morning sun
Flowers everywhere!
In the distance one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Nearby, the effects of recent forest fire are seen.
One of many river fords that I needed to do.
It’s still Mt. Hood!
Log to assist in the Eliott River crossing. Descending the loose rock was most challenging. Chris and I loosely hiked much of the day together
Cloud Cap campground
Mt. Adams in the distance. The trail ascends well above the Timberline, and several places, I needed to walk through snow
Highest point on the Timberline Trail
Gnarly trees on Gnarl Ridge, looking down to Lamberson Butte (far left ridgeline)
More Gnarl Ridge. In the distance, I am again seeing Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters
The immense nature of this scene is best seen in person. It is a steep-walled canyon that was carved by the Newton and Clark creeks.

12August-Today was another 6:45 start. It was overcast today with a little bit of mist, making for perfect hiking conditions. I had only 6-7 miles more to go, but knew that there was substantial climbing, and the White River was often the most challenging river to cross. The route was less hilly for a distance when crossing the ski slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows. In summertime, these slopes are massive fields of flowers, punctuated by many small streams cascading down the mountain. There is a substantial drop down to the White River. The challenge was not so much the river crossing, as the need to descend and the reascend the steep cliffs of loose rock cut away by the river. I apparently chose a far less advantageous spot to cross than a couple that I was walking with, who seemed to cross effortlessly. From there, it was 1000 feet of climbing back to Timberline Lodge. The ride home went without problems, with a most happy Wanderer.

Today was cloudy, and less perfect views of the mountain
Lots of small streams lined with flowers. Water wasn’t an issue on this hike.
The beauty remained intense. This is within the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area, a scene that goes unnoticed by skiers
Fields of flowers on a ski slope
Flowers and Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters are seen in the distance
The challenge of crossing the White River. The loose gravel banks were the greatest problem
Mt. Hood as seen from where I stopped for a brunch – tuna fish sandwich and candy bar
A welcome view of finally seeing the Timberline Lodge, with a large canyon between. The trail went around the top of these canyons.
Last peak at Mt. Hood.

Final thoughts-Of the two round-the-mountain trails that I know of, the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, and the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, the most common characteristic is the nearly constant rise and fall of the trail. The Wonderland Trail has been more effective at avoiding most of the dangerous stream crossings by placing bridges across the major rivers. When I hiked the Timberline Trail in years past, I don’t recall the challenges of a number of difficult stream crossings, which consisted of very rapidly flowing streams and no means of hopping rocks or walking logs to get across. The Timberline Trail is much more challenging than the Wonderland Trail in that regard. Also, more challenging is the many areas of the Timberline Trail, where the bed of the trail was nothing but loose rock or sand. Between fording streams and then walking a sandy trail, my feet became quite frightfully dirty. A positive distinction of the Timberline Trail is its profusion of large fields and patches of flowers. The flower count on the Timberline Trail seems to excel that of nearly every other trail that I’ve hiked. I also noted that the variety of the type of flower was more extensive than other hikes in my memory. If you are into flowers, this is the “must-hike” hike for you. Between the flowers and the constant beauty of the mountain, one cannot fail to reflect on the loving care and the creation God offers for his children. Possibly the least positive aspect of this trail is the number of people doing the trail. There were people everywhere, and I didn’t go for more than ½ mile without seeing at least one group of people on the trail. Interestingly, nearly 100% of those I saw suffered from the Virus Insanity Syndrome. There were also masks littering the trail from poor wanderers who will now surely be stricken by the dreaded Wuhan virus. Is this unique for Oregon? I don’t know.

This will probably be the last time I hike this trail unless somebody eagerly requests that I hike it with them. I doubt that that will happen. I will be content with hiking trails closer to home. Maybe the Wonderland Trail needs to be hiked one last time by me. I’ll decide that in a year or two.

On last observation. You might have noticed that you never see me in any of the photos. That’s what you get when you solo hike. I also don’t like to take selfies.

Tagged with:
1 Comment »
preload preload preload