Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Timucuan Preserve at Fort Caroline

Willie Browne Trail to Timucuan Trail to Spanish Pond Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 30 ft.
Distance: 2.73 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 67 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 11:05am
End Time: 12:18pm

Trip Report:
The State of Florida is certainly not known for its hiking trails. Before our recent family trip, I'm not sure I would have known of anything in the Jacksonville area. Nonetheless, I did my usual research looking for a great option for a family hike and found a gem here in Jacksonville. The Theodore Roosevelt Area of the Timucuan Preserve appears to be well known to locals as an area of beautiful trails and easy access for a morning's workout. We encounter 20-30 people out for their day's walk enjoying the beautiful landscapes and weather.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Inconvenient Thing

If you are among those lucky folks whose family lives close by, consider yourself very blessed.  Our family isn’t so fortunate. My parents live 1300 miles away. My brother lives 800 miles away.  My wife’s folks are 450 miles away. When we want to celebrate the Christmas holiday with family it is a most inconvenient activity.  In fact, all my life this has pretty much been the story. As a child my grandparents were all four hours away from us and we always spent our Christmas breaks on the road.  Now-a-days I’m at least home for Christmas, being a pastor and all. But we’ve had many a Christmas afternoon where we’re hitting the road travelling to see our loved ones. Inconvenient, yes?  But worth it? You bet.

So much of our lives today are rich with activities helping us to fight inconvenience.  Modern plumbing is probably one of the first amenities that comes to mind. The automobile, trains and planes have also come along to help.  We even now have growing amounts of businesses trying to ship you everything known to man, even food, straight to your homes at your quick convenience, soon you won’t have to lift a finger.

Newfound Gap

Trailhead Elevation: 5,045 ft.
Distance: 1.11 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 305 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 8:42am
End Time: 9:09am

Trip Report:
A simple hike today. We're in the midst of a long drive from Michigan down to Florida to visit family over the Christmas holiday. When I was planning out the driving route I saw the option to drive through the Great Smoky mountains was only slightly further. This seemed like a good choice for the way down. I then began to look for hiking options that we could make a quick strike with. Newfound Gap was the obvious choice. We could start up from the road and not leave our primary route for very long. The fact that the Appalachian Trail passed through here also helped.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Fun and Hard Work?

How often would you say that fun and hard work go well together? We typically picture hard work as something laborious and sweat inducing and probably to be avoided. Visions of shoveling a foot of snow off driveways are soon upon us and for most of us create a sense of dread. That kind of hard work just makes us want to stay in bed.

But is it possible that there is a kind of hard work in this life that might couple nicely with having some fun along the way? I believe so.  I experienced it this past July as I was in Minneapolis with the youth from my congregation.  We were up there for a national youth gathering. One of the elements the gathering offers as part of its program is to participate in a servant event.  They send groups out all over the community to clean up yards, help in nursing centers, and other great service activities.  Our group was sent to an organization called Feed My Starving Children. This is an organization which creates packaged meals and sends them all over the world to help feed starving children. Our servant event was to join them for one of their packing days and spend two hours helping to pack meals. Hard work? Yes. We gathered around stations and were each given a job to do as part of packing the meals. Some of us were measuring out ingredients, others were weighing the packages as made, others were stacking the finished products and putting them in the boxes. We worked and worked and worked and didn’t stop for those two hours. It went by like it was 20 minutes. Amazingly we enjoyed every minute of it.  This was the kind of work that often most people would get paid for and do as their regular job, and yet here we were volunteering and absolutely loving it. Fun and hard work together.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

North Country Trail - Jordan Valley to Warner Creek

Jordan Valley Pathway, North Country Trailer, Warner Creek Pathway
Trailhead Elevation: 1,283 ft.
Distance: 10.35 mi.
Elevation Gain: 781 ft.
Start Time: 12:59pm
End Time: 3:13pm

Trip Report:
This was another return trip to the Jordan Valley Pathway for myself. I've yet to make it all the way to the west end to the Pinney Bridge Camp, but I've looped around most of the trail from the Deadman's Hill Overlook. Today I set out to get 10 miles one way or another. I set out down the large hill from the main parking and as I neared the bottom I decided I would give the North Country Trail heading north another try. I had done this a few years back but probably didn't go more than a quarter mile seeing how grass and unkept it was. I'm glad I gave it another go.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Pinckney Blind Lake Backpacking Oct '19

Potawatomi Trail
Pinckney State Recreation Area
Trailhead Elevation: 888 ft.

Oct. 4 Hike In:
  Distance: 4.18 mi.
  Elevation Gain: 246 ft.
  Start Time: 4:53pm
  End Time: 6:51pm

Oct. 5 Hike Out:
  Distance: 4.18 mi.
  Elevation Gain: 221 ft.
  Start Time: 9:04am
  End Time: 11:01am

Trip Report:
This trip was all about another opportunity to get my boys out hiking and backpacking. My two younger boys Jonah and Seth were able to join me this time. Luke had a previous engagement attending a homecoming football game with his girlfriend. Yes, I've reached that stage in life. The younger two though were excited to be able to get out camping. I had given them the choice of backpacking or car camping and much to my delight they chose to backpack.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Run Rabbit Run 50 Ultra

What an adventure. Eleven months of planning, preparation, and training led to an elating and exhausting experience at the Run Rabbit Run 50 of 2019. In many ways this feels like the culmination of several years worth of training and pushing myself into increasingly harder and harder challenges. I set out to see how far I could go, and at least for the moment, I've found a satisfying answer to the question.

I'm going to break this report down into several sections. Some of you may wish to read just about the race itself and learn a little about the course without being bogged down in too much of my own personal story. If you're this person go to the "Race Notes". Those of you that know me may enjoy reading the personal story and thoughts in the other sections. It is my goal in this to recap my experience for my own recollections down the road. I also wish to share this experience with others who may be looking to either understand it or perhaps attempt something similar themselves someday.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Running the Race of Life

Photo Credit: Denny Witte
One of my wife’s favorite proverbs to quote to me sounds a little bit like this: “Only the wicked run when no one is chasing them.”  It comes from the book of Proverbs, chapter 28.  She likes to share it with me (out of love of course) because I happen to go out running.  I run a lot.  Thus far no one has been chasing me when I go for my daily miles so you know what the proverb says about me.  I haven’t been chased by any large animals either, thank the Lord.

Running does however have some wonderful applications for our lives.  We could consider the endurance element and what that can teach us about perseverance during difficult days.  We could think on the fitness element and the benefits and even good feelings that can bring.  One of my personal favorites is the outdoors aspect.  I’m an avid trail runner and particularly enjoy partaking of our Michigan State Parks. Pinckney State Rec Area is one of my favorites.  There is something refreshing and graceful about our trails and our woods and seeing small lakes along the way.  Just so long as the mosquitos and black flies stay away!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Twin Lakes Reservoir Kayaking

Mt. Hope in the middle from Twin Lakes
Elevation: 9,195 ft.
Distance: 6.90 mi. 
Start Time: 3:57pm
End Time: 6:49pm

Trip Report:
My father and I have been making the rounds in the Buena Vista area of trying out kayaking on the local reservoirs. We had begun our adventures on Cottonwood Lake, but its size can be limiting after awhile. Especially so for a crazy mover like myself who just likes to go-go and rack up miles. My father is more of a fisherman and would likely be content on almost any water. We had enjoyed Antero Reservoir back in June and this time around things looked good to try Twin Lakes.

Brown's Creek Falls

Brown's Creek Trail + Colorado Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 8,913 ft.
Falls Elevation: 9,869 ft.
Distance: 6.34 mi.
Elevation Gain: 966 ft.
Start Time: 10:46am
End Time: 2:15pm

Trip Report:
We were looking for a light hike that my mother could do in the Buena Vista area. We originally looked at something like the Kroenke Lake Trail and then also hitting parts of the CDT from Cottonwood Pass. Then the possibility of Brown's Creek Falls hit us and that seemed like the instant winning choice. It was rated at less than 6 miles roundtrip and less than 1000 feet gain. A very reasonable hike with rewarding views.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

La Plata Peak - Southwest Ridge

Southwest Ridge Route
Trailhead Elevation: 3,923 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,336 ft.
Distance: 8.49 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,611 ft.
Start Time: 7:20am
End Time: 2:39pm

Trip Report:
La Plata has been my go-to warmup peak for big mountain races in Colorado. You might figure I look at it as my lucky charm for running success, but that isn't quite the case. I used La Plata in 2016 as an acclimatizing peak before I ran the Pikes Peak Marathon. It helped with the altitude training, but I nearly wrecked my quads while running down the mountain. Nonetheless, I wanted to use it again here in 2019 to help me acclimatize before the Run Rabbit Run 50. I intentionally went slow on the ascent and descent. My quads survived nicely. However, I somehow came away with a small bit of soreness in my calves from the steep climbing on the southwest ridge. Despite our battles together, I do love this mountain and regard it as one of my Colorado favorites.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

North Country Trail Run - Marathon 2019

Once again I find myself unable to say enough about the great experience I had with the North Country Trail Run. This year was a trio of wonderful things that came together for my family and I. Of course the race itself was so well put on once more with an even enhanced experience from my first go-round in 2015. Then came the personal side of camping with the family and my 5-month old daughter's first chance to camp. Last but not least was the run itself which surprisingly turned out to be a PR for me. I'm still a bit in awe at how it all turned out.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Handling Time in a Busy, Busy World

[Originally published in the Monroe News on Friday, August 2, 2019]

How many of you readers out there would say you are feeling the effects of the time crunch?  Doesn’t it seem as though there are less hours and minutes in the day with each new day that passes?  There is rarely enough time to accomplish all the things we set out to do.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a slave to my watch and to the clock.  I’d be like a lost puppy dog if someday I forgot my watch at home and had to navigate a day without knowing the time.  This is consistent with the rest of my personality which is an “always on the move” type.  Just ask my wife.  In recent days I’ve felt the time crunch as much as ever before.  Since March, my wife and I have been enjoying the blessing of our new baby daughter, as well as raising our three older boys.  Having gone almost ten years between babies we had nearly forgotten just how much time these little ones demand.  I’m also deeply committed to my ministry and work at Grace Lutheran which amounts to a bit more than a full-time job on a weekly basis.  As many of you know, Pastors do actually put in a few more hours every week than just showing up for Sunday service to preach.  I also work to balance responsibilities around the house and taking care of our cars.  I try to find time to be outside and play with my boys. I also made the somewhat crazy decision to train for another ultramarathon which is coming in September.  Some evenings as I find a split second to try and relax on the couch I wonder “what was I thinking?”

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Alyeska Resort - North Face Trail

Alyeska Resort - North Face Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 3,923 ft.
Distance: 2.4 mi.
Elevation Loss: 2050 ft.
Start Time: 12:48pm
End Time: 1:36pm

Trip Report:
My brother David, my oldest son Luke and I set out from the slopeside building atop the Alyeska Tram to hike the north face trail back down to the main lodge. We had an hour to accomplish it before the rest of the group would meet us at the bottom riding the tram. The trail lists at roughly 2.4 miles so we figure we would have plenty of time if we moved well.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Chilkoot Trail Start

Chilkoot Trail Start
Historic Chilkoot Trail, Dyea Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 38 ft.
Distance: 2.46 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 414 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 3:47pm
End Time: 5:15pm

Trip Report:
The Chilkoot trail trailhead has signage and primitive bathrooms and starts at the bridge over the Tarya River. We carried very little with us expecting a short hike and, being on a cruise, we simply didn't have any special gear along. I had a light backpack with a few basic snacks and a nalgene. The kids didn't carry anything. We set out along the trail figuring we'd do 1-2 miles round trip just to get a taste of the Chilkoot. I had honestly been expecting a little more open scenery with views of the river and the landscape ahead but we had almost none of this. We were in the thick of the coastal rainforest for the entire trek.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Mendenhall Glacier - Photo Point Trail + Nugget Falls Trail

Photo Point Trail + Nugget Falls Trail at Mendenhall Glacier
Tongass National Forest
Trailhead Elevation: 83 ft.
Distance: 2.10 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Start Time: 9:31am
End Time: 10:18am

Trip Report:
We set out from the parking lot and followed the signs for the Photo Point Trail. Its no more than quarter mile walk down a paved path to a looped end of the trail. There was a nice viewing area of Mendenhall Glacier. It was evident how much the glacier had receded since we visited 20+ years ago. While we were there a ranger showed up and was showing off pictures from the 60s when the glacier was even bigger.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Colorado Trail - Browns Creek to Chalk Creek

Brown's Creek Trailhead Elevation: 8,914 ft.
High Point: 9,702 ft.
Chalk Creek Trailhead Elevation: 8,390 ft.
Distance: 7.84 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,241 ft.
Elevation Loss: 1,773 ft.
Start Time: 8:20am
End Time: 12:21pm

Trip Report:
This hike came on day 5 of my all-too-short trip to visit family in Colorado. Up to this point I had logged 47 miles and 17,100 feet of elevation. I was finally hitting that point where my body had had enough and needed some rest. But I also didn't want to waste a good day to get in some miles with the small amount of time I had out west. So my father and I looked for a good hike that would get us trail time, good scenery, but yet not work the legs too hard. We picked out this route on the Colorado trail as the perfect fit. We had already been at Brown's Creek trailhead a few days prior to hike Mt. Antero via Little Brown's Creek and we had loved that first mile and a half on the Brown's Creek Trail. It was also evident that after the initial climb up to the Colorado Trail most of the rest would be downhill.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Mt. Hope

From Sheep Gulch Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 9,893 ft.
Hope Pass Elevation: 12,508 ft.
Mt. Hope Elevation: 13,933 ft.
Distance: 7.21 mi.
Elevation Gain: 4,013 ft.
Start Time: 6:11am
End Time: 11:35am

Trip Report:
We left the Sheep Gulch trailhead at 6:11am. My brother and I were the only vehicle there and at first the only hikers on trail. Having done all the Sawatch 14ers and looking at all hiking options for this June 2019, especially with the large amounts of lingering snow, we found Mount Hope to fit almost everything we were looking for. It was close and an easy drive from our base in Buena Vista. It had good distance and elevation gain. It had a mild amount of scrambling to get into some fun terrain. And quite frankly, its only an immaterial 70 too short to be a 14er, otherwise it would have all the attention the other 58 in the state are getting. In a way, I'm pleased it fell short, as it meant we had a delightfully quiet hike for just the two of us for most of the morning.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

West + East Buffalo Peaks

From the Fourmile Creek Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 9,465 ft.
Fourmile Pass Elevation: 11,430 ft.
West Buffalo Peak Elevation: 13,326 ft. 
East Buffalo Peak Elevation: 13,300 ft.
Distance: 14.95 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 4,962 ft.
Start Time: 6:22am
End Time: 3:40pm

Trip Report:
With so many visits in hand to Buena Vista, it seems it was only a matter of time until we finally decided to have an adventure with the Buffalo Peaks. They sit prominently in view for everyone passing through BV as well as those driving around South Park. I think one of the big hangups that had kept us away up to this point was simply picking a route we would like to work for the summits. There really is no established trail to either summit but there are some basic routes that get you close.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Mt. Antero + Mt. White via Little Brown's Creek

Mt. Antero + Mt. White
Brown's Creek Trail to Colorado Trail to Little Brown's Creek Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 8,914 ft.
Mt. Antero Elevation: 14,269 ft.
Mt. White Elevation: 13,667 ft.
Distance: 17.34 mi.
Elevation Gain: 6,165 ft.
Start Time: 5:35am
End Time: 2:11pm

Trip Report:
In 1993, Mount Antero became the fifth 14er I climbed. I was a young teenager and hiking to the tops of mountains was still very new to me, but it was quickly becoming something I enjoyed. My main recollection of that hike from 26 years ago was riding in my uncle's jeep to around 13,000 feet and thinking how nice it was to shorten this otherwise long hike. A small part of me felt like it was cheating a bit, but then I was only 13 and the thought of hiking 16-17 miles was out of the question.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Antero Reservoir Kayaking

Elevation: 8,947 ft.
Distance: 1.80 mi. 
Start Time: 3:49pm
End Time: 5:09pm

Trip Report:
We weren't sure what to expect for our first time at Antero Reservoir. I had done a minimal amount of research to understand rules and regulations and that all seemed in order. We had also done a weather check this afternoon and found no storms, just wind. We were curious to see what views would be like and what else we might find. Overall, we were very impressed. Great boat ramps and a nice campground made for a beautiful place to spend time and have outdoor recreation.

Colorado Trail - Three Elk to Silver Creek

Colorado Trail - Three Elk to Silver Creek
Three Elk TH to Bunnys Trail to Colorado Trail to Silver Creek TH

Start Elevation: 8,829 ft.
High Point: 10,745 ft. (CT / Bunnys Trail Jct)
Harvard Lakes Elevation: 10,243 ft.
Silver Creek TH Elevation: 9,435 ft.
Distance: 6.76 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,031 ft.
Elevation Loss: 1,367 ft.
Start Time: 8:43am
End Time: 12:29pm

Trip Report:
June 2019 hiking in Colorado has been like nothing I've seen out there before. As I began my research and my brainstorming of fun options I started with the hope the "skies the limit". The massive, well above average, snow of winter 2019 in Colorado changed these plans and lofty ideas quickly. Aspirations of hiking Frenchman's Creek up and over Harvard or the Halo Ridge route on Holy Cross quickly went out the window with reports of those basins still being buried in spring snow.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Eucatastrophe and Handling Loss

[Originally published in the Monroe News on Friday, May 31, 2019]

In the last 2 months my dear families at Grace Lutheran have endured several sudden losses. These losses may well have affected many in the Monroe community. They came as surprises to all of us. We have been passing out a lot of hugs and prayers and well wishes to one another for many weeks now holding each other up in the arms of the Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Trail of Tears State Park - Pee-Wah Trail

Pee-Wah Trail (West and East Loops)
Trail of Tears State Park, Missouri
Trailhead Elevation: 610 ft.
Low Point: 348 ft.
High Point: 623 ft.
Distance: 6.76 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 941 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 7:00am
End Time: 8:20am

Trip Report:
I thank the Hiking Project site/app for clueing me in to this wonderful state park and set of trails. I was in Jackson, MO looking for a good morning run and hitting the streets didn't entice me. I spent a little time doing some searching and luckily stumbled upon the Pee-Wah trail loops at Trail of Tears State Park. With 7+ miles of trails available this was an instant hit.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Living Water in the Wilderness

[Originally published in the Monroe News on Friday, April 12, 2019]

In September 2017 I found myself on a 4-day backpacking journey with two friends of mine across Zion National Park. If you’ve ever been out to Utah to see the splendor and beauty that is Zion you’ll likely be thinking of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River running through it. The vast majority of tourists to Zion see these classic sights. And rightfully so, it is majestic and unforgettable.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Psalm 139 and the Welcoming of a Child

[Originally published in the Monroe News on Friday, March 8, 2019]

My wife Sarah and I are in the process of welcoming our fourth child into this world. This time around brings us our very first daughter. To finally have a girl has us abundantly excited. We have been blessed to welcome three healthy and rapidly growing boys thus far, the youngest of whom is already 10 years old. That gap between our children, as well as bringing a little girl into the family, has made this pregnancy full of excitement.

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