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.