Friday, December 17, 2021

The Women of Advent

[Originally published in the Monroe News on December 17, 2021]

Most Christians around the world are in the midst of the beloved season of Advent.  This season takes its peculiar name from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival or coming.  Christians take a focus upon two particular themes during this season of Advent.  The first being regular worship in preparation for the arrival/coming of our Savior Jesus.  The second being preparation for this arrival through a focus upon repenting of our sins that our hearts be made ready for the Savior.

Throughout this season we sing wonderful Advent-themed hymns that are long cherished by the Church.  We gather for extra midweek worship services to assist our focus during this season.  We hear of the great works of John the Baptist, the long foretold prophet who “prepared the way of the Lord” when Jesus’ public ministry was about to begin in the 1st century AD.  We light the candles of Advent wreaths to remind us of themes like hope, peace, joy and love in our progression through this season.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Waterloo-Pinckney Trail + Ride

Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, Portage Lake to Blind Lake.  Bike ride on roads returning to Portage Lake.

Waterloo-Pinckney Hike - 11/26/2021
Start Elevation: 919 ft.
High Elevation: 1,143 ft.
Finish Elevation: 890 ft.
Distance: 29.50 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,099 ft.
Start Time: 8:32am
End Time: 6:40pm

Bike Return to Car - 11/27/2021
Distance: 18.12 mi.
Elevation Gain: 298 ft.
Start Time: 8:50am
End Time: 10:47am

Trip Report:
This trip was the answer to the question: How do you hike a 30-mile point-to-point trail with one person and one car?" I've been wanting to make the Waterloo-Pinckney hike for a few years now to try out one of the longer trails in the great trail-state of Michigan. But short of having to make my wife drive a second vehicle to help me shuttle vehicles I hadn't yet found a good logistical way to make this happen. Then it dawned on me: use your bike.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Thank God for the Journey

 [Originally published in the Monroe News on November 5, 2021]

My life feels as though it is approaching a rather eye-opening crossroads.  My oldest boy is just a year and a half away from moving out and heading to college and beyond.  My middle boys will both be in high school.  I also have a soon to be 3-year old and the Lord has blessed my wife and I with one more child who is expected in January.  I’ve spent the last 16 years looking forward to days when my boys would be old enough to be in sports and other fun Dad-loving activities.  I so yearned for those days when I could take them camping and introduce them to other wonderful adventures.  Now I look at it and it seems as though these precious days have come all too quickly.  I look at my young daughter and I can hardly remember the days when my boys were at such a tender (and cute!) age.

I believe this is a rite of passage that every parent goes through.  You simultaneously look forward to the future days when your kids graduate or get married or give you grandkids.  Yet at the same time you long for the days when you could still hold them in your arms.  What are we to make of this?  Is it part of our human nature to always long for both? To long for what we don’t have?  I frequently find myself looking forward to big events.  I’m always anxious for the next vacation that might be around the corner.  I can’t wait to see the next big event in the lives of my children.  But I also don’t want to so quickly bid farewell to the present.  I don’t want life to go by too fast.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Manistee River Trail Loop

Seaton Creek Camp Connector Trail to the North Country Trail to the Connector Trail to the Manistee River Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 871 ft.
Distance: 21.16 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2159 ft.
Start Time: 7:51am
End Time: 12:59am

Trip Report:
I first heard of the Manistee River Trail when I saw a list of the Michigan Triple Crown of FKT Trails. They included the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Trail and the MRT. I was quite frankly surprised I hadn't come across it sooner. It was clearly a classic Michigan Trail and so I wanted a chance to enjoy it. A conference up in Bellaire put me in the perfect range to give this a go.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Glacial Hills Pathway

West Valley Route plus extra loop from 12 to 25, Pine Tree Route
Trailhead Elevation: 652 ft.
Distance: 5.27 mi.
Elevation Gain: 354 ft.
Start Time: 3:02pm
End Time: 4:45pm

Trip Report:
In researching trails in northwest Michigan I happened to stumble across the Glacial Hills Pathway as an enticing option. Then good fortune would bring me to Bellaire for a pastor's conference putting the GHP on the menu for afternoon free time.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Grass River Natural Area

Grass River Natural Area

Chippewa Loop, Nipissing Loop, Algonquin Loop, Sedge Meadow Boardwalk Loop, Fern Boardwalk Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 594 ft.
Distance: 3.18 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 33 ft.
Start Time: 3:30pm
End Time: 4:21pm

Trip Report:
The Grass River Natural Area is a fantastic set of trails easily accessible from Bellaire and Traverse City Michigan. I found it while in Bellaire for a conference. It is open to the public and offers a number of easy to follow trails. The signage is plentiful and every junction is numbered. I set out looping south along the Chippewa and Nipissing loops. This crosses the Rail Trail and then heads south into the Algonquin Loop. I followed the east side of the loops back north to the original parking. For the most part each of these three loops was in the forest with no views. Being October the colors were starting to turn and the trail itself was a bed of leaves already.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Marl Lake Trails (South Higgins Lake State Park)

Marl Lake Trail Loop B (Red)
Trailhead Elevation: 1,155 ft.
Distance: 2.76 mi.
Elevation Gain: 27 ft.
Start Time: 5:52pm
End Time: 6:35pm

Trip Report:
The Marl Lake Trails are three loops that hug the west and south sides of Marl Lake which is just south of Higgins Lake. They are easily accessible from I-75 and not too far south of Grayling. I was travelling up north for a conference in Bellaire and hoping to find a new hiking location along the way. This hit the spot perfectly. I figure it was a less than 15 minute detour off the interstate to hit the easy trailhead.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Handling Failure

[Originally published in the Monroe News on September 24, 2021]

It has been a few weeks now since I spent an amazing weekend up in the U.P. in Marquette with my brother.  I was up in that gorgeous portion of our state to run a 50-mile ultramarathon.  I’m in love with these endurance adventures especially because they are the perfect excuse to visit and explore some of the most wonderful parts of God’s creation.  While I had a great time in Marquette my ultra race didn’t go as planned.  I did not finish the race. It is what runners call a “DNF”.  I failed.  A tough mixture of above average heat and problems in my legs made for a shortened day.

In the weeks since I’ve wrestled with what happened that day and have been thinking over and over again about this word failure.  Was my “DNF” a failure?  I had set out that day to run a full race and hit that finish line and I didn’t achieve that goal.  By that basic definition my race that day was a failure.  I had come up short on my goal.  As you well know this happens in many of life’s events, not just in running a race.  We could look at these many goals and objectives we set and conclude that if we don’t reach them it too is a failure.  But not everyone would agree.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Isle Royale Greenstone Ridge

For our third great trail adventure together my brother and I chose Isle Royale National Park. Our previous two adventures took us to Grand Canyon and Grand Teton National Park. This year personal schedules kept us a little closer to the midwest and so Isle Royale became the choice option. My brother had been wanting to finally make it up there and I had been there previously in 2016. I also happened to have a 50-mile trail race in Marquette, Michigan in mid-August and a window opened for us to hit Isle Royale the day after my race.

One thing anyone who attempts to plan a trip to Isle Royale will quickly discover is that one of the most difficult parts of this adventure is actually planning it. Just getting to the island is an adventure on its own and numerous logistics around one's calendar need be navigated. To get to the island one has to use one of the three boat ferries or use a seaplane. The ferries have very specific daily schedules of when they'll get you to the island and when they'll take you off. This is only the first step.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Marquette Trail 50 DNF

Every ultra is a learning experience. Without a doubt. It is part of the allure of running ultras. You never really know what is going to happen. Every single run is a new adventure. Running 5K's can become predictable as a 20-30 minute run is just short enough it doesn't leave much time for the unexpected. When you're on trail for 6-12 or more hours there is plenty that can happen. Plenty that can go wrong. Plenty that might just go right.

In my racing and running experiences up to this point things have mostly gone well. I've had races that didn't quite go as well as expected but I still finished them and held things together. I hadn't experienced what some would consider the dreaded "DNF", did not finish. I hadn't really come up face to face with a full-on failure. Then again, there are many in the sport who would argue a DNF shouldn't even be considered a failure. For some the only real failure is to not try in the first place. So there is a good discussion to be had about what a DNF means and how one can react to it. At the end of my race report I attempt to dig into this further.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Stop and Smell the Roses

[Originally published in the Monroe News on August 13, 2021]

My oldest son Luke and I just returned home a week ago from a lovely trip out to Colorado to spend time with my parents and partake of much quality time outdoors.  We spent three days out in the wilderness backpacking, fishing, and mountain climbing.  My folks took us to their county fair and we spent a night at the rodeo.  Good fun!  We closed out the trip climbing a couple more mountains one of which was enshrouded in fog and cloud the whole time.  No views, sadly.

I am aware that these are not, in fact, roses.
They are from our recent trip, however.

As my son and I went through these days of adventure doing the things we love to do outside I was struck with an odd realization throughout.  It is a realization I’ve had many times in the past.  Here’s what it looks like.  At numerous moments during our hikes we would be taking in these amazing views and would be doing what we love to do, except, my mind was also set upon “when will we get to our destination?” and “how much further” and “I can’t wait for some good food at the finish.”  It’s so very odd.  I’m in the middle of something wonderful and yet I can’t help but continue to think ahead and look for a destination or the moment it will be completed.  I love it and at the same time I can’t wait for it to be over.  It's a conundrum.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Mount Columbia - West Slopes

West Slopes Route (Standard)
Trailhead Elevation: 9,910 ft.
Summit Elevation; 14,073 ft.
Distance: 12.45 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 4,121 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 5:00am
End Time: 12:22pm

Trip Report:
I've been eyeing the west slopes route of Columbia for a couple of years now as the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative poured in a ton of resources to build a new trail for this route. I had previously descended the original "trail" in 2010 after completing the Harvard-Columbia traverse with my friend Matt. I can remember the steep and loose nature of the previous trail. It was almost universally disliked by all. So I had great excitement to see the miracle trail work of CFI to update this route.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Yale Silver Creek Loop

Colorado Trail to Yale East Ridge to Yale Standard Route to Brown's Pass Trail to Kroenke Lake Trail to North Cottonwood Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 9,419 ft.
Yale Summit Elevation: 14,196 ft.
Denny-Browns Jct Elevation: 10,747 ft.
Upper Brown's Pass Elevation: 12,530 ft.
Distance: 19.93 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 6,710 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 4:42am
End Time: 1:03pm

Trip Report:
For several years now I've been eyeing long and longer routes and link-ups of trails to see how I can handle bigger and bigger days in the mountains. There is a certain joy in looking at a map and being able to cover large amounts of grand especially when you can keep hitting new trail the whole day. This effort was to make a wonderful loop around and including Mount Yale. I've seen others do a similar route only instead of going up and over Yale they do a complete circumnavigation of the peak using the Cottonwood Pass Road and the Avalanche Gulch portion of the CT which I skipped. While I love the aesthetic idea of a complete loop around the peak the thought of going up and over it seemed more enticing for my style.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Emerald-Iowa-Missouri Loop

Just amazing beauty up here
Mostly bushwhack routes with some usage of the Elkhead Pass Trail
Camp Start Elevation: 11,634 ft.
Emerald Peak Elevation: 13,904 ft.
Iowa Peak Elevation: 13,831 ft.
Missouri Mountain Elevation: 14,067 ft.
Distance: 7.10 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 3,190 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 6:57am
End Time: 12:04pm

Trip Report:
In researching adventures to get into while backpacking up into Pine Creek/Missouri basin it quickly became evident that several peaks would be within reach in one big push. Two large 13ers, Emerald, and Iowa as well as 14er Missouri all sit next to each other on a long ridge. An early question we dealt with was what this ridge would look like and whether it would get technical. Some research on old trip reports revealed that the ridge was fairly tame and very do-able with our skill set. I was even able to find another individual's GPX track of a route they took to hit these peaks and I had that with me on my phone app as a guide.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Magdalene Mountain & Silver King Lake

Pine Creek Basin Trail + Magdalene Mountain Trail
Start Elevation: 11,633 ft.
Lake Elevation: 12,650 ft.
Summit Elevation: 13,752 ft.
Distance: 5.06 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 2,118 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 12:24pm
End Time: 4:38pm

Trip Report:
As part of our backpacking trip into the high portion of the Pine Creek/Missouri Basin we were looking for further objectives to hike to once we setup a high camp. This morning we hiked up near the junction of the Pine Creek Trail and Elkhead Pass trail and found a good campsite a quarter mile up from the junction. We set things up, had a nice lunch, and then set out to hike up to the lake. The plan was for my father Denny and son Luke to have fun fishing at the lake while I set out for the 13er Mount Magdalene.

Pine Creek Backpacking

Pine Creek Trail plus other adventures.

Trailhead Elevation: 8,806 ft.
First Camp Elevation: 10,970 ft.
High Camp Elevation: 11,640 ft.
Total Trip Distance: 33.33 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Total Trip Elevation Gain: 8,223 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: Tues, July 27, 2:30pm
End Time: Thurs, July 29, 5:48pm

Trip Report:
If you're looking for some truly classic Colorado backpacking, and are willing to put in the miles and the work to get it, backpacking up the Pine Creek trail is a worthy choice. It is a lengthy 10+ miles to get deep into the basin but the trail is good and well worth it. My father and I have been eyeing this hike for many years now but have never found the opportunity to pull the trigger. We've even caught glimpses of the this beautiful area from the summits of the surrounding 14ers like Harvard and Missouri. When my son Luke and I stumbled into a few days of free travel time to head out to Colorado and join my father the perfect opportunity presented itself.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Oak Openings Training Marathon

Trip Info:
Ferns and Lakes Trail > Sand Dunes Trail > Foxfire Trail > Oak Openings Hiking Trail Loop > Evergreen Trail > Partial of Sand Dunes Trail

Trailhead Elevation: 659 ft.
Distance: 26.22 mi. 
Time: 5:06:47
Elevation Gain: 500 ft. (estimate)
Start Time: 7:00am
End Time: 12:34pm

Trip Report:
I spent the summer of 2021 training for my 2nd 50-miler Ultra attempt. This would be on the beautiful Marquette 50 course in the upper peninsula of Michigan. During this summer I did a couple of training marathons on my own. I use my car as an aid station and I enjoy loops in state parks or metroparks in my region. While I do most of my running in Michigan I happened upon Oak Openings on the map and it appeared to have great trail potential.

I made an early Saturday morning drive down and I found the gate to the Buehner Center TH closed. I really wanted to park there because of my aid station plans and so I waited things out until the gate opened around 7am. I didn't really have a plan for what trails I would do hoping to keep the mind fresh and go with the flow. I knew at some point i would tackle the big hiking loop which was 16+ miles.

I started off hitting the Ferns and Lakes loop from the main TH and then also tacked on the Sand Dunes Trail loop. This I found to be my favorite and some of the best scenery in the whole metropark. I then hit the rather short loop of the Foxfire trail and this put me back at my car for an aid stop. I filled up food and drink and made my way out for the big hiking loop. I wanted to get a handful of miles before the big loop hoping that there wouldn't be too much left after.
I did the loop clockwise and found the first quarter of it to be fairly easy to navigate. When I made my way up the west side I found some of the junctions and signage confusing when I hit an area that merged with mountain bike trails. The trail then shoots to the very north end of the metropark even running alongside a road for a short bit. There were sections in here that became overgrown and in spots hard to navigate.

I hit some more navigation issues after the trail crosses Monclova road. Somehow I ended up on the north end of the Ferns and Trails loop. I corrected this and regaining the hiking loop to cross Wilkins Road. I continued on the loop heading through the White Oak Campground where I had begun my day sitting in the parking lot waiting for the trailhead to open. I used the campground as a water and bathroom aid station.

As the morning progressed things warmed up and got a bit muggy. I tried to continue with my all-day ultra pace and kept the walks short. I had another navigation issue a third of a mile after leaving the Evergreen Lake trail. I hit a T-junction and looking to my left I saw the bit of trail seemingly end at a road. To my road was a nice soft dirt trail. I went right. Should have gone left. I continued to follow my wrong turn not realizing it was a horse trail. I knew I was going the wrong direction. I hit another junction and made a turn to bend in the westerly direction I knew I needed. I was now following things on the map on my phone and eventually used the horse trails to get back to the hiking loop.

I finally made it back to the car for another aid break. I had 22 miles in the bank and a tough four to go. I head east to the Evergreen Trail loop and it had sections out in the open sun which I felt.
I finish my marathon heading out for part of the beautiful Sand Dune trail looping back to hit the 26.21 near the car. I was definitely hurting in those last miles but happy to get my second training marathon of the summer under my belt. I was overly impressed with Oak Openings and will hope to find an opportunity to make it back.

I have a track and waypoints from the activity all contained in the embedded Google Map. Check it out and use at your own risk.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Grace is Sufficient

 [Originally published in the Monroe News on July 2, 2021]

Some of you avid readers of the Holy Bible might be familiar with the 2 Corinthians passage where St. Paul talks about a “thorn in the flesh.”  If you haven’t heard this one before go give it a read in chapter 12.  Its a profound passage.

St. Paul speaks of boasting and humility and how he has wrestled with the two.  He then makes this interesting statement: “To keep me from becoming conceited … a thorn was given me in the flesh.”  Theologians and scholars have long wondered what Paul meant by this.  Most at least agree it wasn’t a literal thorn. We all know that as painful as they can be, they are also easily removed.  Some believe it was a speech impediment that would have drastically affected a man like Paul who so frequently spoke in public.  Others believe it to be some kind of a chronic health issue.  Nobody really knows for sure.  What we do know is it greatly affected Paul.  So much so he tells us he pleaded with God three times that it be taken from him.  More on that in a minute.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Two Hearted 50K Race

Predominantly on the North Country Trail

Start Elevation: 686 ft.
Distance: 31.00 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 545 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 6:53am
End Time: 12:33pm

Trip Report:
This was a fun return to most of a course I ran into 2017 when I did the Two Hearted Trail Marathon. This year was time to step up to another ultra and do the 50K. Officially I would list this as a training race for me as my main goal this summer is getting ready for the Marquette Trail 50. I did give this race my full attention, however, and feel I ran it about as hard as I could.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Martin Luther and the Diet of Worms 500th

 [Originally published in the Monroe News on May 21, 2021]

It is not very often we get to celebrate the 500th anniversary of a momentous event in history, and yet just around a month ago that is exactly what happened.  It is an event you may or may not know well by name, but I assure you the lasting effects of this event are still known by every one of us to this day.  The event I speak of is called the Diet of Worms. It was an imperial meeting involving Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire as well as nobles and other leaders from the Roman church and the lands of Germany.  While they had many matters of business to discuss there was one day involving one individual that stands out above all the rest.  On April 18, 1521 a German monk named Martin Luther was called before the Diet to recant his writings and teaching. It became a day never to be forgotten.

Martin Luther had already been declared a heretic by the Roman church and Pope Leo X and the Diet of Worms was to be the Emperor’s moment to once and for all stop Luther and his works.  A representative of the pope presented before the assembly all the written works of Luther and asked him if he would recant them.  Ultimately, Luther refused.  His response is of particular interest to us still to this day because I believe, alongside many others, that his response helped to change the course of history and the very relationship between the human conscience and earthly authorities.  This was Luther’s response:

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

First Landing State Park Trail Mix (Virginia)

Cape Henry Trail to Bald Cypress Trail to Cape Henry Trail to Kingfisher Trail to Long Creek Trail to Cape Henry Trail to Long Creek Trail to Cape Henry Trail.
Trailhead Elevation: 10 ft.
Distance: 12.00 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 179 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 6:38am
End Time: 8:53am

Trip Report:
Norfolk has a trail-running and hiking gem in First Landing State Park. It is an easily accessible and beautiful place with more than enough trail options to make regular return visits. I know if I lived here that would be true for me. This was a vacation run for me while I was in town for my sister-in-law's wedding. As usual I looked for an early morning spot for some big miles and am most pleased I found this.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Quandary Peak Winter 2021

Quandary Peak East Ridge Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 10,850 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,265 ft.
Distance: 7.51 mi. (my Forerunner 235)
Elevation Gain: 3,435 ft. (my Forerunner 235)
Start Time: 7:30am
End Time: 3:35pm

Trip Report:
We picked a beautiful, ultimately blue-bird day to seek the summit of Quandary. During our drive through South Park and up to Hoosier Pass though we weren't so sure if would turn out like this. Clouds had the Mosquito Range and southern Tenmiles socked in as we drove on approach. Over Hoosier Pass there was a fresh half inch of snow on the roadway and we saw multiple cars losing traction. We were just glad to safely make the trailhead to start our day.

Faith over Fear

[Originally published in the Monroe News on April 9, 2021]

As you well know, this past Sunday was Easter.  For many Christians this year’s edition of this beloved holiday was even more joyful than usual.  Last year almost everyone was stuck at home due to the beginning of the pandemic and most all Easter services were being pre-recorded with empty churches to be broadcast over the internet.  To gather again in person this year, albeit with many precautions still in place, brought tears to many eyes and rightfully so.

One word I brought up and focused upon in my Easter message this year was the word fear.  Not exactly the first word that comes to mind when you think about the resurrection of the Savior of the world.  Yet fear was absolutely a part of the Easter story.  The women who first came to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body are described in the Gospels as being alarmed and fearful at what they encountered.  They expected the worst.  They feared the many unknowns before them.  They were alarmed at encountering many things, including an angel and an empty tomb, that were very much unexpected.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Seeing More Clearly

  [Originally published in the Monroe News on February 26, 2021]

Are you tired of these bitterly cold temperatures?  In this past week we have at least seen the mercury rise above freezing again. I’ve witnessed the icicles on gutters begin to fall and the snow piles turning into large puddles.  Even the early morning temperatures are up out of the single digits and closer to something a little more tolerable.

As most people rejoice at the diminishing snow I’m one of the outliers that has been living up our recent winter weather.  I love big snow storms.  I even enjoy the bitter cold (at least for awhile).  I’ve been keeping up my Saturday morning routine of getting out for a long run and the sometimes sub-zero wind chills haven’t chased me inside.  In fact, one particular Saturday a few weeks back provided me with a great illustration I shared with my congregation and I share with you today.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Watch and Warn

 [Originally published in the Monroe News on January 15, 2021]

In July of 2015 my father, my brother and I climbed Capitol Peak in Colorado. It is arguably the most difficult of the high peaks in the state.  This mountain is full of loose rock, knife edges, and steep drop-offs that line the route.  We spent a great deal of time preparing ourselves for such a climb.  We also built up quite a bit of anxiety during the process.

High on the mountain is a particularly dangerous area that has led to several lost lives in recent years.  It is an area where climbers frequently get off route and into terrain that cliffs out.  Climbers get lost here while looking for an easy shortcut off the mountain.  The shortcut they take looks deceptively easy at first, beckoning the unsuspecting climber in, and then quickly turns treacherous and deadly.  In mythical terms, one might compare this to the sirens found in Homer’s The Odyssey.  We were aware of this danger and had heeded previous warnings in our research to steer clear.

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