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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trekking With My Son -- The White Clouds Wilderness Adventure (Part 2)

Here's a shot that sort of captures the epic wilderness beauty we enjoyed during our little adventure, though none of the photos actually really do it justice. That's Hudson coming up over the hill in the foreground, with 11,815' Castle Peak in the background. We considered many options for our trek, but thanks to great advice from our friend, Patti Kilgore, who has hiked many of the most amazing trails in the American West, we finally decided to do the White Cloud Peaks Loop in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. That was a great choice!

I was really proud of Hudson. He carried his own pack all the way, and it was not light. I do enjoy doing more of the 'ultra-light' approach when it's just me, or me and a few guys, but this was definitely not that. With just the two of us, I opted to bring some extra emergency gear in case something went wrong. We also brought fishing poles and tackle to take advantage of the legendary trout lakes in that area, and I brought my mirror-less camera and three lenses, as well as extra batteries, and an iPhone for video, along with a large charging battery for that. We also had to carry all of our food and cooking fuel for six days, a water filter, bear spray, tent, sleeping bags, bear bags, warm weather gear, etc. etc.  When it was all said and done, Hudson's pack weighed about 35 lbs at the start, and mine was close to 75 lbs. They got a bit lighter as we ate food and burned fuel. :-)

Here we are enjoying the epic view from the top of the 10,220' pass above Born Lakes.

Below, Hudson makes his way up the pass above Ants Basin. This was a fun, long, tough day. We left Ants Basin early in the morning heading up and over the pass on our way towards the Four Lakes Basin, then past Quiet Lake, up past Scree and Shallow Lake, and eventually Boulder Chain Lakes area. Most of the day we were off-trail, as the old trail over Devils Staircase was partially destroyed some years ago, and it is extremely steep and a bit technical. I figured that with our heavy packs the 'old route' would have been a bit dangerous, so we opted for the much longer, off-trail route, which offered plenty of incredible scenery, as well as it's own challenges.

Here is a shot of Hudson walking along one of the Four Lakes, after descending down from the pass I mentioned earlier. There were so many trout in these lakes, and the water was so incredibly clear, you could see them swimming everywhere. We would have loved to enjoy some fishing here, but we had a LOT of ground to cover this day, and the terrain ahead was quite rugged, and promised to be challenging, so we kept going.

At these high elevations, even on the exposed East/South faces there were still large patches of snow, even in early August. This is a shot of me (just below the snow drift/cornice) that Hudson took with my phone. He was quite proud of this shot. :-)

And here's another of Hudson crossing a small boulder field above the tree line.

Hudson was especially excited about the snow. It helped that he knew that all of his siblings would be very jealous to see the photos and videos of him in the snow--something that we don't see often (ok never!) in Africa or formerly Indonesia.

We enjoyed a wide variety of terrain and scenery during our five-day trek, from snow fields to boulder and scree fields, from high alpine meadows to deep woods and lush creek beds. The scenery was always changing and always beautiful.

The weather was perfect during the days--blue skies and sunny, with cool temperatures. At night, we froze! Our tropically-acclimated bodies were most definitely not ready for the night time temperatures that usually fell below freezing in the early hours just before sunrise. We definitely should have brought warmer sleeping bags, but we only had our tropical weight ones, which proved to be woefully insufficient. In truth, I didn't mind, as I like there to be some significant challenges on these trips, and this was a great opportunity for Hudson and I to be creative and 'push through' these cold times each night.  Challenges like these help mold and shape character--at least they should. Those of you who know Hudson know that he has a great attitude and character. Even when pushed to the point of utter exhaustion on day two, after 10 hours of hiking off trail, with his heavy pack, and after we had run out of water a few hours before (always pump water when you have the chance--the next chance might be further away than you think) Hudson was still smiling, through chapped and bleeding lips, and between deep breaths that seemed to never get quite enough oxygen at the high altitude.  The cold temperatures were just another challenge to face head-on, and he did very well! I was very proud of him!

Our rewards for conquering the many challenges along the way, were the endless opportunities to enjoy epic scenery like this!... and the wonderful times sitting and talking around the campfire, drinking hot chocolate (for me coffee) in the freezing cold of early morning, and of course the unbelievable fishing along the way. Can you see Hudson on the far right side of the photo in the shadow of the tree, fishing in the crystal clear waters of Upper Chamberlain lake?

Here's a 360 degree panorama of Hudson atop the Castle Divide pass at 10,000 feet. Although the weather was absolutely gorgeous, the winds were howling at probably close to 60mph as they came through the pass here, at times making it hard to even stand up straight.

Check back soon for some more shots from our trek into the White Clouds Wilderness. Next time I'll show you some of the flowers and animals we saw along the way.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Trekking With My Son -- The White Clouds Wilderness Adventure (Part 1)

I've been sort of MIA from the blog the past few weeks... if being super busy is a good excuse, then I have a great one! :-)  

This week I was up in South Sudan with Every Village from Monday to Saturday. You may remember that in March of last year I did another week-long flying trip for Every Village, and I did a few posts about it here on my blog. If you missed those posts, you can check them out here and here. Like last time, I really enjoyed spending time with these folks, getting to know them better and seeing what they do and the impact their ministry his having. I'm sure I'll share some photos and stories about that in a few weeks, once I've had a chance to catch up on stuff.

In the meantime, I thought I'd do some other 'catching up' and share about an adventurous trek I did with my second son, Hudson, this past summer when we were in the U.S. (I've had these pictures sitting here for many months, just waiting to be posted...)

Raising boys to become real men in todays world is no small task. But it's an honor and privilege that I've been given four times over. I'd be lying if I said that it's not overwhelming at times... ok much of the time. And it's at least as humbling as it is daunting. But what a joy it is to see my boys growing into fine young men. So how do you teach a boy to lead, serve, sacrifice, love, give of himself, develop courage, and use all of these appropriately? Most of all how do you develop a passion in him for a personal relationship with Christ, and a desire to serve and give and share that with others? In short, I don't know. I don't have a secret recipe, and I certainly don't know if I'm even on the right track.

Each of my boys are very different from their brothers, with unique personalities, gifts, skills, and interests. So I don't think that one simple approach would work for all of them. That said, there are certainly things that I think are important for me to do with each one as they grow up... and perhaps the most significant of these is for me to be here for them--for each one of them. I need to be a friend, a mentor, an example--though far from a perfect example. I need to be approachable, and vulnerable and honest--in other words, I need to be real with them, so they can see that I am just a broken vessel saved by grace, and that my example as a man and a father is but a poor reflection of that which is given by our heavenly Father.

This is a very humbling process!! I think that possibly one of the worst things a father could do to his son (aside from being absent) is to portray the image that he is perfect, or has it all together. Most sons will naturally look up to their father--possibly even idolize them a bit. But every father will at some point (or in my case many times) let his son(s) down. The flip side of this is that in some cases a boy can look to his father and think that his dad is perfect and that he'll never match up--especially if his skills or interests or personality is different than his dad's.

I think the best thing is to be vulnerable. Be real. Don't be a 'perfect example' for your son, but rather an honest one. By that, I mean, show your son what it means to take responsibility for your actions, to say you are 'sorry'--sometimes even when you are clearly not wrong. Show him that's it's ok to make mistakes. As he realizes that you're far from perfect, he'll realize that it's ok for him to also be far from perfect. You might think that this will lead him to respect you less--but I think it often has the opposite result. In the process you can point your son to Christ as the the perfect example, not yourself, and show him how you are both in this thing together.

Ok, enough of the deep stuff already. The point is, I don't have a magic recipe, but I think its important to be open and honest, and vulnerable, and humble with my boys as we talk and work through the 'things of life' and of becoming a man.

When my oldest son, Britt, was 12 years old, we did an epic father-son adventure together in the jungles of Borneo, Indonesia. If you were following my blog way back then, you may remember I did some posts about it. If you missed those, you can check them out here: Trekking With My Son --The Pujungan Hulu Adventure Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Also here are some of the  critters we saw on that trek: The Critters we Saw 1, The Critters We Saw 2.

That trek was an amazing time for Britt and me... aside from the sheer fun and challenge of the adventure, it was a great opportunity for us to bond in a much deeper way, to make life-long memories, and to talk through some meaningful and deeper subjects in a non-threatening context. Aside from that, the trek itself served as an analogy (of sorts) to the adventure and process of becoming a real man. It didn't just happen on it's own. We both had to put in a lot of time and effort both before and during the trek. We had to get into physical shape starting months in advance. We had to have the right equipment (which took a lot of planning in advance b/c of where we lived) and we had to pack it properly so we could carry it without injury. Britton carried his own pack (which was not light) and the trekking was NOT easy! Frankly, I couldn't believe how well he did--it was very challenging! But in the toughest times he learned that he was never alone. At times it was so muddy and steep that we had to work together to push and pull each other to the top of the ridges. Each guy had to be ready to put in a significant personal effort, to do his part and pull his weight, but also many times to rely on the other members of the team to get through challenging situations. Although we had a good plan on how the trek was supposed to go down, we encountered many obstacles along the way--for example the torrential rains that led to flooding that prevented us from crossing the river on time. The leaches, bugs, injuries, mis-fired shotgun, and many more things were all unplanned. Just like life, and the process of becoming a man, these obstacles and challenges were often unexpected and potentially frustrating, and left us with the option of getting angry, and/or throwing in the towel, OR adjusting our plans accordingly and pushing on with a good attitude.

In the end, we succeeded, and the rewards were SO worth it. Many times since (and I imagine for the rest of his life) Britton has referred back to that trip, and to the memories we made, as a turning point in his young life--where life lessons were hammered home in a way that he will never forget. And that doesn't even include all the things we talked about along the way--that was just the adventure itself. The time and effort and expense was well worth it for me to invest in him in this way.

Ever since then, my other boys have all been looking forward to their twelfth birthday, when they too will get to do an epic adventure with dad. To be honest, I was a little nervous after Britt's adventure, b/c I didn't know if I could pull off another one of the same 'epic-ness.' After all, we no longer live in Borneo, and where else can you arrange an adventure of that magnitude?

When Hudson was 11, we began to talk about what he and I might do together, and where we might go for his 'coming-of-age' trek. We talked about doing something here in East Africa, but frankly, it's a bit difficult, and expensive, and sometimes dangerous, to try to get out into the middle of the wilderness in these parts of Africa. I had looked into some promising options, but then it occurred to me that we would be in the U.S. for a short home assignment, during the summer when Hudson turned 12. So I gave him the option of instead doing something in the U.S. and he immediately loved that idea.

Having spent his whole life thus far in either Indonesia or Africa, (aside from a few brief trips to visit family and supporters the U.S.) he had never had the chance to experience much of the beauty and ruggedness of the colder, alpine regions of the American Rockies. So we decided to do something 'epic' in the American Northwest, just before returning to Africa.

After looking at numerous options, we finally settled on the White Clouds Wilderness area of Idaho.

Just like in Britt's case, it took a lot of planning and preparation for us to pull this off, and it was not easy, but the rewards were SO worth it.

Throughout this post I've shared some random shots from our adventure. Next post I'll tell you a bit more about where we trekked, what it was like, and what we saw and did.

If you look closely in the shadow of the pine trees  at the end of the little peninsula on the right, you can see Hudson doing a bit of fishing in a high alpine lake, just after we set up our camp (which is just outside the picture on the right hand side) for the evening. Within five seconds of casting his line the first time, he had caught a trout. We caught a lot of trout, but more on that later...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Views From my Office Window

Happy New Year! Here's a few shots from my 'office window' taken during the last few weeks of 2016.

Below, the early morning sun lights up the Nile River near Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda.

When the conditions are just right, the sun streaks through the clouds in shimmering light and shadow. The next two shots were taken in South Sudan, before dry season set in. Now everything is dry and brown, and dusty.

Here's a shot of the Ugandan farming scene near Masindi.

This shot shows where the farm country abruptly ends at the southern boundary of Murchison Falls National Park. This section of the park is almost entirely wooded. If you want to see Chimps, apparently this is one of the places where you can do so, though I haven't yet had the opportunity.

And here's a shot of Northern Lake Albert region, from the Ugandan side. The mountains that are just barely peaking through the sunlit haze, on the other side of the lake, are in East DRC.

Here's a shot of the Nile Delta, where it dumps into Lake Albert. The brown piece of land at the top of the shot is part of the mainland savannah area of Murchison Falls National Park. I'm not sure what it was about he lighting and conditions this day, but the river appeared to be almost black, which is quite unusual.

Here's a wider shot of the same area, looking north where the Nile exits Lake Albert on it's track north towards South Sudan. on the right hand side is Murchison Falls National Park. Several weeks ago this was all still green. Now that dry season is bearing down on us, it's all turned brown.

And this is looking East, from the same place. Here the Nile is flowing towards us, form the distance. To the left (North) of the river, is the savannah area of Murchison Falls National Park. You can see that the grasses have quickly turned brown just in the past few weeks. To the right (South) of the Nile, the scrubby bushland and woods are still a bit greener. Most of the big animals spend their time on the North (left) side in the grasslands.