Jan 26

Private Reflections on a Past Event that occurred 40 years ago

I am in the process of writing my memoirs, and most of the chronicle has been quite easy to accomplish. Only one area has been very difficult for me to complete, and much of the issue relates to private thoughts that I had back then and now have, reflecting on a certain event and the analysis thereof. It relates to the issue of my friendship and contact with two girls from Roanoke, Illinois, as described in the Memoirs 23JAN19 edition, as follows…

It was at this time, in the second and third years of college (I was able to get my chemistry degree in 3 years), that the issue of girls first arose. I really was not interested in girls. True, while working at Schlegel Typesetting, there was a young girl working there, Faith, who was most attractive and charming. I was so shy around girls that I would do nothing but sweat and gasp in a tortuous fashion whenever she would walk by, and my co-workers would make nasty fun of that. I couldn’t help it. I just didn’t know how to conduct myself around girls. I went to an all-boys high school, and church kept the boys and girls separated and so there were never serious encounters with me and the opposite sex. Occasionally, a girl at church would look google-eyed at me, and I’d return the google-eye, but nothing would come of that either for her or me. All of that changed. Two girls from Roanoke, Illinois, Amy Leman and Deb Hodel, came out to live in Portland. I’m not sure as to the motive for their move. They were both ER nurses who got jobs at Providence Hospital in Portland, and attended the ACCA Holgate church. Going to the sister denomination, I didn’t meet them at first, but became acquainted with them because they loved  the outdoors and were very active girls. The relation started slowly at first.  One of our very first encounters was when they invited me to an event at Washington Park where the Portland opera was putting on an abridged version of the Magic Flute.  We did multiple rafting trips down the Clackamas River with Jeff Groom from the ACCA Holgate church. They were a joy to be around. Soon, we were backpacking together, hiking into the Bull of the Woods wilderness for several nights, and then they had me try to lead them up the Cooper Spur route on Mt. Hood. We went camping together in Mount Rainier National Park. Dad celebrated my graduation with the family at a nice Chinese restaurant downtown, and Amy also attended this more intimate get-together. From Amy’s behavior, she seemed to be very interested in me, as I was in her. Other people made comments to me on Amy’s apparent interest in me. In the ACC tradition (and I mistakenly assumed that Amy was a “good AC” girl) one did not date, but got to know each other through social events, so I did not ask her out. Actually, that’s still a great idea, even outside of the AC church. Late in the summer of 1978, soon before I was to start medical school, Amy and Deb invited me to go with them on a week-long road trip up to Banff in Canada,  and would make it back just before medical school began. I agreed. Everything went well for a few days, with much laughing and fun. We went swimming in one of the hot springs on the way to Banff. We stayed at the Lodge in Banff, and hiked around Lake Louise. Things were as good as could be. But then, about the third night in, I ended up in the tent with Amy, with Deb sleeping outside cowboy style. I chatted a bit with Amy, and then wished to discuss our relationship more seriously, whether she thought that perhaps marriage would eventually be a possibility, emphasizing that it was not a proposal but a clarification of what seemed to me to be an increasingly friendly relationship. Dead silence. The next morning, it was like a funeral had occurred.  I was confused and distraught because I could not understand Amy’s reaction. It wasn’t a yes, no, or maybe response. It was silence, which made it impossible for me to resolve matters in my mind. On this day, we had plans for an overnight backpack trip around the back side of Mt. Robson, but the two girls backed out at the last moment. I went ahead on the backpack trip, and the girls picked me up on return a day later, still with stony silence and no explanation. Deb drove and would occasionally chat, while Amy remained transfixed in a romance novel about priestly infidelity (The Thornbirds).  Amy was very attentive to her appearance at first, but after the tent episode, she had a noticeably more unkempt appearance. I clearly must have said something that made Amy’s brain snap, but what? We stayed at several hotels, went to Vancouver Island to see the  Butchart Gardens and had crumpets and tea, and soon arrived home. I never saw or spoke with the girls again (until recently). 
It remains to this day a mystery as to the behavior change with the two girls, though resolving this mystery is now a moot point. The girls invited me as a single guy to this and many other trips alone with them.  Around me, Amy was quite coquettish and flirty,  so I assumed that she had a strong interest in me.  Sadly, so often a girl will casually “play” a with guy and use them for their own purposes, without consideration as to how it might affect the guy. Because of the timing and soon-to-come events that happened in her life, Amy must have already had a very deep, strong relation(if not actually being formally engaged) with a doctor from work, the doctor that she soon married. Thus, Amy’s behavior toward me was nothing short of perfidious, disingenuous, cruel and thoughtless, but also totally inappropriate with regard to her husband-to-be. 
I now look back on this entire episode in my life as one of God’s greatest blessings to me. The girl that I thought might be suitable for me would have been a really horrible choice. Though she was fun to be around and a very sweet, nice, attractive girl, she was profoundly lacking in integrity, personal and spiritual depth. I thank God for His providential guidance in my life, as painful as it may have been. It did not take long for me to learn that God had something far greater and more wonderful prepared for me, a lady beyond my wildest dreams, another story soon to come.

I left out many details that I felt discretion demanded omission from the text. During the time that I was getting to know Deb and Amy, there were many young boys in their early twenties coming out to visit the girls. One in particular that I remember, Ben, was as immature as imaginable. We would be driving around in the car with the girls in front, me and Ben behind, and Ben would roll down the window and hoot and holler at people to get a laugh, and Deb and Amy would both laugh and laugh, rather than insisting that Ben act his age, shut up, and shut the window. We did numerous trips with Jeff Groom on rafts, which the girls thoroughly enjoyed. They would have me over to their house, which was a small house on Mill Street immediately next to the home where the Millers lived. I remember dad throwing a celebration for my graduation from college in early June; we went out to a Chinese restaurant and Amy (and Deb?) were invited and came. I would occasionally go to the Holgate church while they were in town, and they fit the ACCA stereotype to the “t” with their long head coverings and manner of behavior while at church. It was easy to assume that most of their behavior outside of church would also be conducted in an ACCA manner. The girls would occasional hint at their discontentment with the strict AC manner of behavior and dress, that would be mostly a limited topic. They would also frequently suggest their disgruntlement with medicine, and seemed to view me as idealistic in my vision for health care as a caring profession. It is what you make of it. On our final trip together up to Canada, I had wanted to get Amy alone to talk to her about the nature of our relationship, which was hard to do since she and Deb were so close all the time. The tent episode seemed the opportunity. I noted that I wished that nothing that I said would break down our friendship, but then asked if our relationship was leading to a possible consideration toward marriage. I made it very clear that it was not a marriage proposal, but just trying to define the nature of our engagement together. An answer of “yes”, “no”, or “quite perhaps” would have been meaningful and quickly have settled the question. Instead, she mumbled something under her breath and then silence ensued. I have no clue what she said. The coldness of attitude of both Amy and Deb the next morning was profound. When I woke up, Amy was already out of the tent and speaking with Deb. I got a strange look. Did Amy tell Deb that I tried to rape her? It almost seemed like that, but the absence of any sort of explanation or response to me was most disheartening. The trip made a cataclysmic change in direction at this time. The backpacking trip that we had been planning together suddenly was out, though I was strongly encouraged to do it myself. Clearly, the girls seemed like they wished for time alone. They got it. If I had known better, I would have confronted them at the time as to what was the matter, and it is my greatest regret now that I did not. I did the hike, and as previously noted in a draft of my memoirs, I had climbed the trail leading up to the side of a waterfall, when I seriously considered suicide. Only for a few moments, and the only time in my life it has ever happened to me, but my emotions raging so confusedly that I didn’t know what to do. What did I do wrong with the girls? What was there that I didn’t know about them? I liked both of the girls and if either one of them would have suggested to me that I propose for marriage, I probably would have considered it strongly. But this? The coldness? Nothing made sense, which led to the serious turmoil in my soul. For the remainder of the trip, Deb would occasionally address me, but Amy would not. In the earlier part of the trip, Amy was very attentive to her appearance. After the tent episode, she had a distinct unkempt mode with uncombed hair, and less well dressed. She was glued to a romantic novel of priestly infidelity. I guess that was her escape from me. Just as strange, they never spoke to me again after the trip. Before the trip, we were in contact all the time. After the trip, not even a whisper.

There was a portion of the text that I decided to delete, only in that I seemed to be running the “Amy” story just a little to long. It is as follows…

Brief Discussion Interlude

I’ve mentioned before that the raison d’être for me writing this book is for my posterity, with the hopes that they don’t make the same mistakes that I made or were made by people that came into my life, and which heavily influenced my subsequent thinking and behavior. This brief section is now mostly advice and not history. I’m adding it because it’s my book, and I can do whatever I darn well please! Also, it’s being added because so often my story above happens in various degrees to many men in life. I’ll begin with a true story of something that happened recently at the Krankenhaus with two people, (we’ll give them fictitious names of Dick and Jane), male and female, both about the same age, both being very good nurses, both working very closely together, both single and looking for a partner, and both very good friends of mine. Sally was a vixen. She was overly friendly, and usually just a little bit too friendly to male counterparts that came into her life, myself not excluded. She had a sweet outgoing “Amy” type personality. I could foresee problems brewing. Dick began to fall head over heels over Jane, and rightly so, as she tended to provoke those feelings with her coy, sexy demeanor towards him. Eventually, Dick started to determine that she , for a deeper relationship, and so asked her out. The rebuff was sharp, as she had no interest in him. Yet, Jane’s luring, provocative, flirty relationship at the hospital with Dick persisted. When Dick then responded with more advances, he was reported to the nursing staff and a severe reprimand was issued. It was deemed to be his fault. Nothing much was ever said to Jane. Very soon afterward, Dick committed suicide. This is not an uncommon tale. The male is usually blamed as “aggressive”, or as a “horny creep”, perhaps even lecherous or salacious, and yet the guy is manifesting a very appropriate response to the “mating” behavior of the gal. I was deeply saddened in that I really liked Dick a lot, and also felt like I had a somewhat shared experience with him. 

You would think that such behavior would not happen in the Christian community, yet it is probably as common as in the secular world, as we are all human. You would wish that Christian mommies would sit down with their young daughters and instruct them properly in the appropriate behavior around men and the manner of attracting a mate. That talk would frequently be a vain process, since many kids will do whatever they wish, wanting to “rebel” and break free from their parents, their church, and their upbringing. The vixen behavior offers many great rewards for many young ladies who are troubled by self-acceptance and need to create their own personal identity. Can you think of even one eligible young maiden who would not want a gaggle of male counterparts swooning over them, competing for the possible prize of claiming the lady as their own? Scripture gives ample advice for young people in their behavior, though it is certain that most of it will be ignored or deemed anachronistic, out of date, not in touch with the times. For the Christian lady, provocative behavior is an affront to God because it assumes that such behavior will give you a broader choice for a correct mate, even though God doesn’t need your help. And, it’s a brutish, vicious lie to those with which you have no marital interest. Trust in God and honesty, rather than tactics, girls and boys!

So, why am I bringing this up 40 years later? Honestly, thereof some parts of my psyche that not even I understand. I truly hadn’t thought deeply about what had happened for forty years. I have spoken about it to Betsy, and she understood that there was a “girl” issue that I had with Amy, but we left it at that. Then, I retired and started to write my Memoirs. When I came to the Amy and Deb pericope, a lightning bolt hit me. What was I to write? What happened? What happened? What happened? What happened? I had several sleepless nights where the question gnawed at me again and again and again. What happened? I discussed the issue with Betsy, and she was a little taken back because she thought it might be an issue of an “old flame” resurrecting in my consciousness. Yet, it was everything but that. I had absolutely no romantic interests any longer in either Amy or Deb. But, I also had absolutely NO clue as to what had happened to either of them. Did they get married? Where were they living? Kids? Were they still nurses? What was going on with them? I had relatives in the Illinois area who were Facebook friends who were quickly able to connect me to where I might locate Amy and Deb. Because I thought that Deb seemed to be the older and more mature of the two girls, I tried contacting her first. I learned that she was married, had children, and her husband Mike Leman (so Deb Hodel became Deb Leman) was running a landscape business in the Denver, Colorado area. She is shown on the internet to have significantly aged, now with grey hair put up in a bun in the typical AC fashion. I e-mailed her husband who noted that Deb had remarked about good times in Portland and gave me her e-mail address. I e-mailed her, and after many weeks, I have never received a response. So, I’m not sure if Deb is still mad at me, thinks that I’m a rapist maniac, or another sort of lunatic to be shunned at all cost. I have no clue.

Mike and Deb (Hodel) Leman

I then undertook a very brief internet search, and with little effort was able to learn much. I found Amy on Facebook. She maintains a closed account, so has no entries can be seen to the public after 2015. It may be that she doesn’t use Facebook, but with her large volume of friends, it is possible that she only uses Facebook in a manner totally restricted to her friends. It took under an hour of internet searching to sort out what was up with her. She is married to an internist that she met in Portland at Providence Hospital. She left Portland after he finished residency in June 1979, and they settled in central Illinois close to family for five years, her husband got fed up with Illinois winters, they moved for 3 years to a small town in North Carolina close to Fayatteville, and then returned to Georgia where her husband was from, to settle in Athens, Georgia for the last 30 years. They have two children, the oldest is 29 years old, so they waited at least 10 years before having a child, started only once they got to Georgia. The oldest did four years of “mission” work in Africa, and is now living at home again, and running a small private counseling service in the area. The younger child went to medical school, got washed out of surgery residency after one year in San Francisco, CA, and is now back in Tennessee, completing a radiology residency. She married some dude that is non-professional in 2011 whom she has been with since 2008.

The two online photos of Amy recently are below…

Amy and Paul Peteet, 2015?
Amy with youngest daughter, 2011?

I remember Amy as a brunette with longer hair. She has put on a moderate amount of weight. If I were to ever run into her, I would have no clue as to who she was.

I was able to call and speak with Amy, and then eventually e-mail her a few times. Our phone conversation came first, where I received much of the information about how she was doing. She had a very distinct southern accent. It began with her noting that she did not even remember me at first, but contacted Deb in order to refresh her memory as to who I was. She remembered very little of our activities together, save for climbing Hood, and the first part of our last trip together. When I asked her about our tent conversation, she noted that she had absolutely no recollection. I specially asked her about our “marriage” discussion, which she claimed she does not recall EVER having the word “marriage” brought up. In fact, she truly claimed that she had no recall of much of that episode in her life. She noted that she was married on 06OCT1979, but when asked as to when she met Paul (her husband) and whether or not she was actually dating him before our last adventure together, she said she didn’t know and I could tell that she really didn’t wish to address that topic. She became very skittish at this point, as though I had hit a raw nerve. I had hoped that during the phone call, Amy would have at least admitted that she did have conflicting interests, and admitted to some of her antics. Instead, I got nothing. On hanging up, I began to think that perhaps I was totally crazy, and that nothing ever happened between us. Yet, other people involved in my life at that time confirm that it was not me that was the looney tune, that the story I give above really did happen. How could a conversation give such confusing results?

During the phone call, Amy mentioned that she continued to work as a nurse through their marriage, with one lengthy interval (I presume when she was having children) only to return to nursing with great difficulty, finding even after a short interval, nursing had changed so much, it was like practicing in another profession. I had sympathies for her, as Betsy had gone through the same experience. What I found most surprising was that she was still in nursing. When we were together in Portland, I would often talk about my ideals about medicine, especially after I was accepted into medical school. Deb and Amy would often make fun of me, informing me that I would get over that ideology quite quickly, something that didn’t quite happen the way they suggested. They would both speak of the desire to get out of nursing, perhaps Debbie being the most vocal; I don’t recall exactly. Thus, though Deb is no longer in nursing or healthcare and I can presume that she’s been out of nursing for a lengthy period of time, Amy persisted up to recently in nursing.

Since the phone call, she was able to read my comments in the Memoirs which I sent her, since I wished to make sure that nothing offended her about my comments. Her response back was that she apologized that she might have hurt me, and asked my forgiveness. She felt immense relief when I suggested that I was going to delete much of the analysis of what I wrote about the entire affair. I also noted that she and her husband are now Presbyterian (PCA), and actually attend a PCA church close to their home, named Faith Presbyterian Church, just like our church, though it appears to be considerably more liberal. It’s a very odd coincidence. So, I am now providing an even more in-depth analysis here, something that I would have NEVER said on a public forum.

First, I realize that Amy (and Deb) are now totally different persons than the people that I knew forty years ago. Secondly, interest in meeting them formally, and reconnecting is minimal. I tend to care about anybody that comes across my life, especially as closely as those two girls were, so I don’t view this as a totally trashed relationship. As I said in my Memoirs, many people (like I feel Amy and Deb did to me) throw away their friends like a person would discard a used tampon. For Amy, she also seemed to throw away much of her family and definitely discarded her church. I don’t reciprocate the feeling that I would discard family or friends. With Amy, I have so many friends I can’t keep up with them, so Amy becomes a very low priority for truly getting to know her a second time around.

But, I am still bedeviled by the question as to what happened on our last trip together, that for very irrational reasons, as it still seems to be very unsettling to me. Ultimately, I realize that it is a totally moot point, since I almost certainly will NEVER figure out what happened. Amy would have to come to me and honestly tell me what happened, and I doubt that will ever happen. So, how do I analyze this entire affair?

Secondly, Amy (and Deb), while being sharp girls, had a strong sense of immaturity about themselves, and how they viewed life. I am hopeful that both of them grew out of this, but how, I will never know. This immaturity, or naiveté, led them to behave in a somewhat thoughtless manner toward the opposite sex. They should have really known better at their age.

Then, I have very strong thoughts about possibly something that I said or did that might have deeply offended the girls. I would love to know because, to me, amends are completely in order if I had done something wrong. Perhaps my emotions were just over-reading the situation, but such an explanation doesn’t settle matters for me since they were so aggressive about maintaining a relationship, and suddenly so cataclysmic about cutting it off. After the trip, Deb lived in Portland another year or so, and Amy another 9 months, and yet zero contact was made. That forces me to be overwhelmingly puzzled. Did they expect me to maintain contact, and were disappointed that I did not? Was there any note at all from them wondering how things were going in medical school? It seemed like when they dropped me off at the end of our trip, they expected no further relation or contact to be maintained.

Specifically looking at Amy, she would have left Portland in June 1979, or nine months after our trip. Since Paul finished his residency and immediately left from Portland to central Illinois, clearly they would have already been engaged to be married. Considering that you apply for jobs 6-12 months in advance after residency, that leaves Paul applying for work in Bloomington/Normal starting roughly in September to December of 1978. So, it is highly unlikely that she just happened to stumble across Paul after early September 1978 and immediately fell in love and get engaged to be married soon after that. I can only conclude that she was already in a deep relationship, if not already engaged, by the time we went on our trip. This makes Amy pathetically dishonest about taking a young eligible male on multiple activities over the course of several years, and then a trip alone with her and her best friend, act very coquettish toward me, and not telling me what was going on with her. Even worse, when I brought up the issue of marriage while conversing in the tent, why didn’t she just tell me what was going on? To that, I conclude that perhaps her church issue comes into play. In the ACC, you are not allowed to marry outside of the church, and such an action leads to expulsion and notification that you’ve lost your salvation. It leads to true problems with family that are church members. Thus, there is good reason for her to have kept it secret, perhaps even from Deb. I don’t know. I can only guess and hypothesize. Certainly, talk from both Deb and Amy suggested a sense of rebellion against the church of their upbringing. I can’t help but imagine how much grief they might have brought to their parents. But, there is no other reasonable explanation for everything that might have taken place. It certainly explains the reason that Amy went into disheveled appearance mode after the tent experience. Was it that Amy was trying to set me up with Deb? I don’t know. Deb certainly wasn’t making any strong moves toward me, or was she? Was this something that I missed?

The sad part is that Amy seems to have no comprehension as to what she did wrong, or if she does know, how she has somehow justified it in her mind. Her apologies are for hurting me, and not for misleading me, lying to me, acting completely inappropriate toward me, and for treating me like used toilet paper after the tent incident. There is an enormous difference between being sorry for the consequences of one’s actions, and being sorry for the actual actions themselves. In truth, Amy was leading a double life with two guys, and I presume that Paul knew nothing about me or my activities with Amy, or were told the events above with the most minimal details. Amy’s behavior I can now regard as having been nothing but vicious, cruel, thoughtless, and intentional, knowing what was going on. I could not be more happy that the relationship terminated, not wishing to have had a longer commitment to somebody as Amy was at that time in her life.

If you have read my Memoirs, you know how I feel about Southern Christians. Integrity is not their strong point. They are more concerned about looking good rather than being good. Christianity is more a social event, and church a social club, than a true representation of the body of Christ. It is perhaps fitting that Amy moved south to bible belt like-minded and like-behaving friends.

Was Amy being honest about stating up-front that she had a hard time remembering who I was? There are two possibilities here. First is that Amy is wantonly socially demented, treating others as though they were temporary, to be used at one’s convenience, and discarded as quickly as they were gotten. Who else forgets friends that you did activities with on a weekly basis for well over a year or two? The other possibility is that she simply was lying to me. I’d like to prefer the later because she seemed to be a sweet kid. Amy was disingenuous, a light weight, a person willing to hurt others to achieve some personal benefit. I wonder if her life continued on like that? I would like to think that Amy matured, grew up, and came to her senses, yet my most recent interactions with her suggest otherwise. I pity her.

When I contacted Amy, what did I really wish would have happened? I would have liked her to identify our past relationship together. I would have liked her to acknowledge her past actions (assuming that I am correct with Amy’s relationship with Paul above), and confess that she was in error about that. If all of my assumptions are incorrect, that she would have at least told me why she behaved the way she did. Instead, she left me feeling that I was some immature, horny, creepy little kid lusting after her in the past, still unable to resolve the lost love that I had hoped for, and she having to behave as she did to try to settle my fawning after her. She was very reluctant to provide me contact information, strongly suggesting a desire to never to allow the ability for mutual exchange of information. It’s like she knew that she had something to hide in her life. It actually made me angrier, rather than relieved that I had now solved a forty year mystery. Amy was a rebel; Amy was for Amy alone, and parents, family, church, and friends be damned. But it was worth it to her—she had no more obligation to wear head coverings!

I have no animosity toward Amy or Deb though I am overwhelmingly grateful that our relationship ended. The blindness of the sex drive toward the opposite sex sometimes needs nothing less than divine intervention to remedy. The marvelous grace of God in bringing me Betsy and at the perfect timing for that to have happened, in that it gave me time to mentally resolve the issue of being discarded by another girl. It brought me a girl of the perfect temperament and personality for me, and I could not be more grateful. On reflecting on this entire episode, I very often find myself in tears, grateful that God brought me such a wonderful girl. I liken it to me feeding on slops in a pig’s trough (with Amy), only for God to bring me into a royal banquet hall to feast on the delicacies fit only for a king (with Betsy). If that isn’t a reason for me to be grateful to our Lord almighty, then nothing would be. Christ died not only for our sins, but also to make us good. And this is a wonderful example of the manifest blessings of Christ to those who love Him, even though He may have had to take us through a very dark valley. Thank you Lord for Betsy!!!!!!

It is also time for me to now consider the re-thinking of this episode of my past life as closed. If you are reading this, please do not discuss it with me. I wish to move on. Entertain higher thoughts with me. Amen.

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Jan 25
Resupply boxes

T -70 and counting.

The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is a 2650 mile trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada. Over the distance, multiple deserts and dry spots are crossed, mountains are climbed, and even a pass of 13,100 feet altitude must be negotiated. Specifically, the route runs as follows…

Some of the trail in Oregon and Washington I’ve already hiked, or I am quite familiar with the trail. Other parts, like in California will be totally new to me. Although the trail starts in Southern California, and I will be starting my hike on 04APR, I will almost certainly be hitting snow within the first 100 miles, and challenging snow outside of Idyllwild/Palm Springs. So, I await eagerly the snow reports that will be forthcoming in March.

Training: I am trying to prepare my body for this feat. Already I’ve been hiking up trails and stiff peaks, holding about a 3 mph pace on average. This includes carrying a 30 lb pack, which I’ll be increasing to 40 lb soon. I don’t anticipate typically needing a 40 lb pack, but it still helps to improve the conditioning. The first day on the trail, I’ll try to get a 20 miler in, going from the border to Lake Morena. Why? There is a campground with water at Lake Morena and no guarantee of water before then. Also, there is a restaurant that serves hamburgers! I don’t want to be late for the restaurant. I also don’t want a situation where I burn myself out the first day. Most hikers will typically take most of their zeros (days where they do no hiking at all, like when in town to buy groceries and wash clothes) in the first 700 miles, which is just before the High Sierra.

Resupply: There are a lot of ways to resupply. Many will send most of their resupply packages, and depend minimally on needing stores and other resupply sources. Many will hit a town, and their purchase their resupply for the next two stops. Some will hitchhike into town at every road. I am doing a moderate higher resupply schedule than average, preparing between 20-22 boxes for the trail. I just need to go over them all one more time.

There are things that one cannot anticipate. That is how often one will need a change of clothes, or when certain equipment will break. For this, I am preparing contingency items for Betsy so that I could ask for some gizmo and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Other things, like shoes, I just plan on replacing every 500 or so miles. And yes, I already have 5 more pair of shoes boxed and ready to go.

The resupply boxes are all left open, so that if Betsy needs to slip in something or another before mailing the package, she may do that. They are all labeled. Since my trail name is Pilgrim, I printed many circular labels that include images of Pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress, that will help identify my packages. All she’ll need to do is to tape the box shut, put on an ETA (for me) at the post office, and send it off.

Sponsorship: I don’t need sponsorship. In fact, by doing this hike, my personal cost of living drops. You live simple when on the trail. Rather, I am trying to raise money for a mission project deeply of interest to me, which is the Huguenot Heritage. It is run by a good friend Francis Foucachon, who was a distinguished French chef who found Christ. As an ordained pastor, he now translates Reformed literature into the French language. It is a vital ministry, and God is working strong in French-speaking peoples of this world. I beg of you to support this ministry. I will be working with Francis to determine how you could support them on my backpack-a-thon. If you donate just 1¢/mile, you will only be out $26.50, or 10¢/mile, only $265.00, at most. That assumes that I am successful for the entire hike. I give myself about a 10% chance of making it all the way through. Please pray about this, and consider it seriously. Besides, not only does it further motivate me, it’s a great tax write-off.

Final Packing: I have my base weight down to 19 lb. In the old days, that would have been considered impossible. Now, it is still considered a touch on the heavy side. I will be vigorously scratching my head, packing, repacking and weighing everything that goes into my pack. Even fractions of an oz. matter. There are people that cut off their tooth brush handles to reduce weight. Many will not carry a stove. I’m not that valiant. Still, there are subtle ways to reduce weight, like omitting stuff sacs, re-thinking how much food you really need to carry, and picking here and there to lose weight. There are some interesting simple things. I will not be carrying paper maps. Guthooks Guides has the trail totally mapped out, with virtually every point of interest to the hiker, like campsites, water sources, obstacles on the trail, etc. This Guthook Guide goes on your cell phone. And, the map on your cell phone ties into your gps unit, so that you always know exactly where you are… so long as your cell phone doesn’t get damaged, or you accidentally burn out all of your battery supply.

Transportation to California: I’ll be taking the train down to California. A friend, Tom Braithwaite, who lives in the San Diego area will pick me up, let me stay at his house the night, and then dump me off at the trailhead. I’ll have to be purchasing train tickets soon for that.

Permits: Permits are now needed to do the trail, especially when going through the High Sierra. I have my PCT permit and California Fire Permit. All I need and am waiting for is the Canada Entry Permit. I don’t anticipate that they’ll turn me down, and if they do, I’ll reach Canada and then exit in the USA at Hart’s Pass.

Betsy and Home Arrangements: Betsy will be babysitting our 12th grandchild, starting the end of January. This will tie her up 5 days a week, up to summer, when Sarah gets off as a teacher for the school year. She will be going back in early September. This means most of my hike will be with her stuck at home. I’ll stay in touch day by day whenever I have cell phone coverage. Betsy needs to know which resupply package gets sent when, where all my camping stuff is, so that if I need something, she’ll have a clue where to find it.

Technology: I used to be on top of technology, until Technopoly took over (See Neil Postman’s book of that title). Determining how to do simple things, like posting a blog page from an iPhone will be challenging to me. Ultimately, I will figure some things out while on the trail. But, I’m making sure my camera can communicate with the iPhone, and that WordPress on the iPhone works well, as well as having FaceBook access.

Getting Psyched: I confess, I frequently look in the mirror, and wonder if I’m not blooming crazy. Yet, 10-20% of all thru-hikers (hikers that hike the whole tamale in one season) are over age 60. And, of all hikers, 30-40% are successful. Many of the unsuccessful are very unsuccessful for a reason, like not being prepared, or not thinking realistically about the endeavor ahead. So, I will do my best to be mentally prepared for this. After all, I’ve dreamed about hiking the PCT for many years, and I estimate that there are not many more years that I will be physically able to attempt such a feat. So, this will be my year, and I’ll give it my darnedest.

So, stay in touch. Pray for me, root me on, support my backpack-a-thon, and stay in touch. Pilgrim

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Jan 01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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