Sunday, April 26, 2009

Exploring Hidden Corners

After 21 years in Western Washington, our family is still discovering hidden corners of beauty just a few miles from home. With a few days to enjoy Whitney at home, we looked for a short hike where we have never been. We wanted a place within an hour's drive and settled on Wallace Falls State Park just outside Gold Bar on Highway 2 east of Monroe. The drive in mid-morning was uneventful and easy - no gravel roads, no traffic. Only a few cars in the parking lot.
The trail follows the Wallace River into the Cascade foothills. Even through I have only been through God Bar a couple times before, I had never noticed the falls, which are easily seen from the valley floor a couple miles away. The trail was marked by the typical legal warnings which keep the government from being sued by ignorant people who have no judgments. In this case, McKenzie brought along a marker and changed the sign to make it more appropriate for the college boys she knows. The lower falls were interesting but not spectacular. It would be fun to see them when a raging torrent is boiling through the canyon.

At the middle falls, the scene opens up to a gorgeous view of the valley below. You can't buy this picture in Texas. You don't know how hard it was for McKenzie to sit for this shot. The smile disappeared as fast as it flashed.

This is the middle falls - a spectacular series of pools and cliffs. Hiking to this point is a small challenge but well worth the effort. In winter, this would be even more beautiful with the mist frozen on the rocks and trees. It is definitely on the list for a short winter jaunt.
At the upper falls is the end of the trial. One has to hike to the end, even though the view isn't nearly as rewarding as the middle falls. For a 2.7 mile hike to the top, it was satisfying. Knowing that we didn't quit was joy in itself. Being with my wife and kids brings me a lot of pleasure, more now that they are adults than before. I thought the teenage years were good - these are better.
Exploring the beauties around us should have been a bigger priority these past 21 years. There must still be hundreds of places near our home which we have yet to discover. Like this gem, it was hiding just a few miles from home, giving enjoymnet and recreation to anyone willing to seek it out.

Spring Has Delivered Hope

After all the cold weather and snow from this past winter, we had a week of optimism and hope. It seemed we were bogged down since the first of the year in endless discomfort, longing for brighter days. The snow kept falling right up to the first week of April, the days were dark and cold. When the month of March was colder than the month of February, it seemed we would never emerge into the light.
When the sun finally broke through, it brought a sense of relief and anticipation. Blossoms bring the expectation of future fruit, flowers bring the bright colors of joy.

It is a reminder to me that even when things are despairing, when our battles seem lost and when light cannot shine through, that there is something to which we can still aspire. In Seminary we are nearing the book of Revelation. The great message of that book is that in the end, the winner will be clear, that this contest is not going to end in a tie score. At the moment it might even feel like we are losing, that the momentum is all with our opponent and his team of miscreants who go about tearing down everything wholesome and clean. The pressure on us is bearing down more each day making it feel irreversible. But, in the end, Good overcomes in a big victory. When ten thousand times ten thousand ascend to the highest station, that is a large contingent of winners.
As these flowers open their pedals to the summer sun, I am filled with anticipation of warmer, joyful days ahead. I don't despair nor waiver but look with hope to ever-brighter days ahead.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Arnold Has a Friend

With a few days of sun, Arnold started to explore our yard. He finally became bored with the front porch and roamed around in the warmth. Finding Mole, Arnold decided to make friends. They wanted their photo taken so I took this candid shot. Mole is a little shy being a nocturnal mammal, hiding underground, looking for worms and generally playing hard to get. He is fuzzy and clean despite tunneling everywhere he goes. You can see how strong his front paws are with long nails and a pointed snout for pushing through the dirt.
Here is another shot of his paw. Hind legs only push forward and help him scurry about. No hair is wasted on his pointed tail, much like a gopher which is more common in Idaho. You can also see the hole just behind where Mole came out. Just after this photo was taken, Mole went right back into the hole for the last time, never again to see the light of day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Whitney Graduates - Again

Melanie and I took a trip to Idaho this weekend to watch Whitney graduate from college. She just wrapped up her senior year at BYU-I in Rexburg with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications. This is another happy moment for us as our oldest daughter reaches a milestone which we planned since her youngest days. It is rewarding to watch our kids set high expectations for themselves - and reach for them. We are proud of her accomplishment and to see her place a high value on learning and education. Now that she is out of school and married, we lost another tax deduction. I'll try to counter the adverse tax affect by earning less this next year.
It was a pleasure to share the occasion with Whitney's husband, Curt. It could have been uncomfortable last December when Curt graduated because he could have taken his new bride to some distant corner of the country before she graduated as well. Since he decided to stay in Rexburg to support Whitney while she finished her last semester, it saved us the confrontation. He was generous in his magnanimity and didn't force us to pull rank after all the time and money we had invested in Whitney's college education.
At least Whitney waited until after the graduation formalities before she celebrated. BYUI's president would surely have put her on graduation probation had she whooped and danced during the march. She was glad to be done, and we are happy for her. On to the next stage, wherever that leads her.

"R" We There Yet?

After Whitney Graduated, we took a drive over the border to Jackson. The Sheriff frowned at us when we tried to photograph his orange jumpsuit friends who were raking the park. He held his hand on his pistol the whole time he was supervising the county prisoners. One looked like a bar-fighter type, the the other like a shoplifter who stole something for his high school girlfriend from one of the souvenir shops. We had to settle for this shot of the arch.

Melanie has a very delicate disposition. Some things make her scared easily. When I asked her to stand by the dead bear, she wasn't sure she could keep her emotions in check.

On Saturday, Whitney and Curt didn't want to pack their apartment so we took a walk up the North Menan Butte. Whenever we visited gramdma and grandpa Goff in Lorenzo, grandpa always talked about the little town of Menan, but we never went there. The buttes are probably the most prominent geologic feature in the Upper Snake River Valley. The north butte is also known as "R" mountain. We hiked to the top of the butte and saw the valley below starting to wake up for the Springtime.

All the trips we made to Eastern Idaho when we were young, my and Melanie's years at school here and having two kids graduate from BYUI, we never climbed R-Mountain. It was a simple hike up the south rim and the view was rewarding. From this angle its hard to tell where I'm standing but it is at the top left-hand corner of the "R". Whitewash on the rocks shows the top of the R with the Snake River in the background.

With Whitney and Curt moving away, we will miss Idaho.
Finally, after Whitney and Curt showed us a good time, we left for Salt Lake City to spend the day with our parents and Dana's family. This is a picture of us and Arnold as we left Rexburg. Arnold kind of blocked us from the picture.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Conference Comfort

Wasn't Conference terrific? Seems there is always a theme that stands out, and what stands out to one may not be so remarkable to another. It seemed to me that there was a consistent looking toward the temple. It hadn't occurred to me that the garners would be the temple where the saints would gather - I always just thought of the gathering place as the stakes of Zion.

It made me think of the many times I have been to the temple with our family. Over the years I'm sure I have treated the temple with less care than I should have. Just after Melanie and I were married, I worked construction with a fellow in Provo - the brother of one of Gary's college friends. This fellow told me his life went about as well as his temple attendance. That has always stuck with me, not that I followed his advice. How lucky we have always been to be near a temple and how little I have used them. Maybe now I will think less of making money, coaching teams, playing ball and being outdoors and more on strengthening my core beliefs.

Also, my mind was turned to the temlpes I have visited over the years. 1. Idaho Falls, which will always be my temple, 2. Provo, 3. SLC, 4. Bern, 5. London, 6. Ogden, 7. Logan, 8. Manti, 9. Oakland, 10. Jordan River, 11. St. George, 12. Boise, 13. Seattle, 14. Laie, 15. Kona, 16. Bountiful, 17. Draper, 18. Rexburg, 19. San Diego, 20. Houston, 21. Portland, 22. Lehi. I was at the Copenhagen temple long before it was a temple, but I guess that doesn't count. It was the original chapel in Copenhagen, next to the mission home before they changed its use to a temple, remodeled and dedicated it.

I feel badly about missing the Anchorage, Fargo, Denver, San Antonio, Medford and a couple others where I didn't have time to visit while in those towns. I hope to see more.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Will Al Gore Ever Get It?

March 29th! Snow again this morning. It will melt off before noon, but what the heck? Our daffodils didn't appreciate it much. They stayed in bed, huddled together to keep warm.
Arnold was even more upset. He walked around the yard marking his territory again. I hate it when he does that. You know how much spoor an elephant leaves behind, don't you? At least we can use it in the garden.
He did get a chance to take a bath though. He loves the water.
Even though it has been colder this past week than normal, the Flowering Plum is waking up to Spring. We haven't seen any honey bees yet, but the blossoms aren't quite in full bloom. Give it a week and the yard will be covered with the petals of the flower. Now, that is a snow I can enjoy this time of year.This guy only looks delicate for a few days, then has to be cut back to the ground. It's nice to see flowers this early since it helps dispell the gloom after a long winter. It's a nice way to begin a Sunday morning before going to church.
Arnold, step away from the bunny!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Into the Pit of the Vampires

It's been a few weeks since my last blog. That's because not much goes on here anymore. Seems our lives have settled into very simple routines with no spectacular highs nor lows. As a result, Melanie and I have to push ourselves out of the house every now and then in order to create a new conversation

Last Saturday after my jog, I was trying to come back to life when Melanie rolled out of bed. She had no plans for the day nor did I. The sun was going to burn off the fog in a few hours and we didn't want to waste the day doing yard work. We decided to drive to the coast for a little adventure. At first we thought just a drive to Kalalock Lodge would be perfect, but as we drove, we kept getting deeper and deeper into Olympic National Park.
One of these days we will have to spend a weekend here at Lake Quinalt Lodge. Teddy can be proud of what he started. Although I am not much of an Obama fan and his trillion dollar debt machine which my children will be fortunate enough to pay for since they voted him into office. His boondoggle will fund some badly needed improvements at the country's National Park system.
At the Hoh River Rain forest we walked among the giants. These trees are as tall as a football field, if you stood a football field on its end, that is. Other wise that wouldn't make much sense 'cuz a football field isn't very tall otherwise. Not only are these trees massive, but they host some very funky moss.
Late in the day we made it to Rialto Beach near La Push. It was high tide and a little rough, but pretty in its own way. We sure live in a beautiful country. Now that we are mature adults, we need to get out and see more of it. This Summer will give us a good chance to see some of the southwest desert. We are looking forward to that.
Here I'm standing next to one of those large trees, washed off the mountain by a previous storm where is has been battered by the surf and ocean debris.
Melanie had ulterior motives for wanting to visit the coast. She pretended not to know anything about the vampires we would run into. Having never seen the movie nor read the 3,258 pages of fine literature about the topic, I was not expecting to be caught up in the Twilight hysteria. This bus was transporting an entire gaggle of hopeless vampire groupies around this small timber town. Forks was single-handedly saved from economic ruin by pale-skinned blood suckers. It seems a whole industry has sprung up around these sub-human vermin.
We went down this road anyway.
Yes, Melanie made me stop at the vegetable market where Bella shops. We bought blood turnips, deer neck and wolf spiders. Melanie ate the spiders, crunchy. I had the deer neck burger, seared with garlic to keep the vampiresses away until we got off the reservation. Lucky for us the sun was out that day, as you can tell from the previous photos. Melanie was disappointed she didn't get her photo taken with Edward, but when we got home, she let me nibble on her neck a little anyway. I think she went out and bought the movie on DVD this week. I'll try not to watch it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's a New Day

February is usually a dreary month in Western Washington. When I woke up the last day of the month and saw a red glow in the eastern sky, I knew it would be worth getting out of bed and racing to find a view of the sunrise. First, I ran out to Lake Tapps hoping to get a picture across the water, but found nothing. Turning east I rounded a corner in the road with a barn on a hill to the left.

Even though I miss the sunsets in the Mountain States, these moments before sun-up are equally as thrilling. There will be time enough for yard work, for selling Brandon's old truck and recaulking the showers and tubs. This morning was spent watching the rainbow rise over the hills.
When the sun had come up and the horizon was fully bled out, I walked around the barnyard. Knowing the farmer would probably be upset if he caught me hanging around on his place, I tried to shoot a couple interesting pictures before scampering.

Seeing this electric fence insulator hanging on the wire made me think how much our world has changes in my lifetime. My children wouldn't even know what this was for or that it wasn't doing much good that way it is suspended, unattached from a wooden post. In former days these were an important part of getting meat on the table and milk in the fridge. Reading my sister Melissa's blog about her daughter being confused how ground beef was going to become part of their hamburger dinner - made me laugh. It really is a new day. Our kids don't hardley know from where they've come.
It was a treasure chest of images at the barn. With three out-buildings, implements from the 1940's, wood rotting into the ground, there has to be a magazine photo in that place somewhere. This boot, part of a pair slung over a horse stall a number of decades ago. Look how it quietly lost its soul. It must have filled with rain a thousand times before the welt gave way and the sole fell off. You'll have to go to my Flickr page to see it in color. It shows better in color. The link is to the right, at the bottom. Visit McKenzie's Flickr page as well, it shows better than mine.
It occurred to me that change is probably good. These old buildings haven't changed much and look what's happening to them. Nobody cared for them these many years and now they have lost their usefulness. Changing the roof, siding, doors and windows would have made them hold up better to the forces around them. One can learn a lot from an old barnyard. It's a new day, and that's not so bad. Maybe I'll run home and get out the caulk after all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Winter Comes for an Unwanted Visit

Last week we enjoyed some terrific weather and started to get outdoors after a tedious winter. Today we woke to an unwanted return of snow and cold. With any luck this will move off to Rexburg where it is wanted.

At least the dafodils have poked their sleepy heads out of the ground to see what the fuss is. You can see that they haven't awaken all the way and are still stretching to find the sun. It's there, be patient a little longer.

In a few weeks these branches will be budding with brilliant green leaves, rain will be misting down, making this winter scene much more colorful, rich and promising. Even though it rains here, the colors are beautiful. Don't any of you Utahans tell me you couldn't tolerate the rain. Look out your window, see the brown grass, the gray trees, the dust kicked up from the sanded streets? Yeah, it's bleak there too, but our air is clean.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Our Nest Is Empty - Again

Now that's a flex I can get used to. Brandon drove out of the driveway a week ago to take a job in Las Vegas. Melanie cried as soon as his taillights could no longer be seen. He drove to Salt Lake City for a few days then on to Vegas. I'm sure he was glad to get away from mom and dad's constant directing. I look at us like coaches - and who can't use a good coach? I have to admit the house was a little less lively at dinner that night. Having Brans around was nice while it lasted.

Brandon had spent a few weeks with us after graduating while he nursed this job along. He left our place without any living arrangements. Melanie and I are more careful to have loose ends tied before embarking on such an adventure, but Brands doesn't worry much. He did have a lead on a place with an appointment to meet with a property manager to look at a condo where two other fellows were living - members of the church going to UNLV. While in SLC the weekend before, he got an email from an LDS fellow who had advertised a room for rent in his house. Brandon called him back and looked at his place the next day. He took the house. It seems Brandon always seems to work things out before he gets stranded. We are happy and looking forward to seeing him get started on his own.
With no kids left in the house, again, Melanie and I decided we need to explore the State again, from an adult perspective instead of with little kids or teenagers being dragged along. We drove to Mount Rainier this morning and enjoyed a beautiful winter day. Here is Melanie in front of Narada Falls. The trail was covered with 6 feet of snow so we scrambled down to an overlook without sliding headlong into the abyss. We weren't really dressed for walking in the snow but Melanie was a trooper about it.
At Paradise (5,400 feet elevation) the weather was clear enough to see the top of the mountain. Even the tall, jagged peaks in the neighborhood are dwarfed by Rainier. For those who have not been up here, it's a must on your next trip.
Here we are after I cropped out all the other people from the shot. I hate it when a bozo takes a picture for me and makes a mess of it. I asked him to make sure he got the mountain in the shot - he got the back side of his fat brother instead. It looked like two rolling hills with a cravasse in between. I crapped it out - I mean, cropped it out.
I forgot my tripod so my waterfall shots fell short, sorry. Here is Christine Falls with the bridge going right over the top of it.
This is Christine Falls from top to bottom.

We finished the day eating at the Copper Creek Inn. Grilled Chicken Sandwich for me and Momma's Meatloaf Sandwich for Melanie. We split a slice of their world famous Blackberry Pie, ala mode of course. As we were driving out of Ashford, the little town at the Park entrance, there were a couple people performing CPR on a large fellow in a convenience store parking lot. We flipped a U-ie to go back and help. Just as we arrived a volunteer EMT from the fire station arrived. As we were getting out, they got his heart working again and rolled him onto his side. Melanie was relieved she didn't have to help with the respiratory part. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived followed by two aid cars a few minutes after that. We hope the fellow made it and that he makes another New Year's resolution to stay alive.

When you come to visit next time, we will take you to the mountain. Be prepared to walk around the meadows and hills. It'll be fun.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Sometimes we feel we live in the most ordinary place, that nothing is new. Our path each day is the same, we follow it in our sleep, only watching out for cars. What could possibly capture our attention when we drive the same route every morning and evening? Then, something makes us rethink - like helping a child with a school project. We see it for the first time. Oh yeah, we've been here before, but this time it's different, we see the beauty, the colors - were they like this before and we didn't notice? How many times have we missed out on something so simple and lovely?

It was vacant on the pier except for the lone fisherman. I had never seen these colors before, so rich and deep, so close to home - without Photoshop. Who knew? A man walking his dog and carrying a cup of cof... hot chocolate strolled by and tipped his hat. He enjoyed the quiet. It was cold and my shutter finger couldn't feel the button, I had to look up to make sure I had it in the right spot but it still made me calm to be here on a Sunday morning before church. It didn't take the place of the chapel, but I still felt close to creation. I should take advantage of this more often.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thinking About Things

October in the rain allows one to be alone in their own thoughts. Driving to the mountains creates space for private contemplation. It's quiet, peaceful and lonely. Sometimes lonely is good. When all that can be heard is the rain falling on the underbrush and the falls drowning out everything else, one feels small, yet part of the hush. One can be at peace if everything is right. If it's not right, peace is ellusive. Being at peace makes it easy to be alone, especially if one is alone in their own thoughts. If one can find peace in their soul... quiet in their heart, being alone is a comfort.
On the other hand, it is nice to share peace with another. It just didn't happen that way on this trip.

Do you fell it? It's there - slow down a moment, listen. Look at the colors, see the lights coming up, the pulse of the city? When night falls the city awakens to a different rhythm. Daytime is driving, pushing, rushing, making money. It's more rock-and-roll with a beat that you feel in your chest... but don't hear. But at night, it's more reggae, swagger, improvised jazz, even a little acoustic with a snare, bobbing your head as you walk, tapping your finger on the table while sipping a stawberry lemonade - all you can eat, of course. Relaxing as the sun glitters on the highrises then disappears until the morning. People on the street smile at night, not like in the day when they are hurrying to meet with the accountant. At night they giggle and look in the windows. In your mind you are with somebody, right? Peace can come in the city, but it must be shared, you can't be alone in the city and feel peace. If you are alone amist thousands of people, you are lonely and lonely is not peace, it's only alone. That's how it was this night, alone, watching the sun go down, trying to get a good shot of the glitter before it disappeared. I was pleased with the shot, but not at peace... being alone... among so many people. Afterwards, I was happy to be home.