Off the Beaten Path in Montana…

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After 12 days of Montana wilderness in Glacier National Park, we (being my friend Joe and I) emerged from the backcountry. From hiking up through mountain passes to what seemed like an endless supply of lakes nestled between the mountain ridges we enjoyed a number of miles off the main roads for an experience unlike any other. Might I also mention that it is through these same mountains that Lewis and Clark also made part of their majestic journey westward!

We divided our expedition into 3 backcountry trails in the park: Kintla Lake Trail (NW section), Gunsight Pass Trail (Center section) and Dawson Pass Loop Trail (SE Section). We also went on two day-hikes: Grinnell Glacier Trail and Avalanche Lake Trail. Altogether, we hiked around 76 miles! Here is a picturesque display of our travels…

These pictures are from the first leg of the trek. We spent our first night camping next to the North Fork Flathead River and IT WAS COLD! After waking up from probably the coldest night of our entire trip, we began the 11.6 Kintla Lake Trail. Before setting off on this trail we visited next to the lake to watch the fog slowly rise to the heavens. A great start to the day. The next shot to me actually looks more like a painting. October was perfect timing for the foliage change in Montana and we witnessed a lovely display of God’s handiwork. The fourth picture is of our fantastic water filter brought with us as a side-thought and proved to be one of the most useful items of our trip. Thanks sis and bro-in-law!

The next part of our journey took us around the bottom of the park to the far North-West side called the Many Glacier area on a day-hike to Grinnell Glacier. A 6 mile hike past three lakes and along several ridges teeming with wildlife (shown above) turned into an incredible hike. It started out at 7:30am in the morning when we were visiting the local lake to filter some water. As we approached the boat ramp we happened upon two large bull moose. WOW! Minutes later, someone pointed out to us a mother grizzly and her two cubs on the hillside. Along the hike to Grinnell Glacier, we encountered a few more moose, several close encounter with a few mountain goats and even another grizzly mother and cub just ahead of us on the trail. Then we arrived at the glacier and were amazed at the fact that we were having our lunch next to a GLACIER! It was a great hike with much more wildlife than we expected.

After an incredible adventure at the Many Glacier area we hopped down to the middle of the park and hiked into our next backcountry area: Gunsight Pass Trail! Here we hiked in about 6 miles to a lake set between two mountains. We had to cross two creeks and pass a few moose to get there but hiking up to the pass was worth it! As you can see we hiked through a little bit of snow but we had beautiful views atop the pass. While up there, randomly I found an iron golf club up there so before the hike down I thought I’d practice my swing! On the hike out of Gunsight Pass Trail, we located bear and mountain lion tracks on the trail but fortunately they were nowhere in sight.

After hiking through the Gunsight Pass Trail we traveled South to the Two Medicine area and began the Dawson Pass Loop Trail. The 5-mile hike was beautiful but when we reached our destination we discovered something quite odd. No Name Lake was located just next a high castle-looking ridge and because off this vast ridge, sunlight never reaches No Name Lake or the nearby area. This led to cold days AND nights and since we had an entire afternoon free there, we had to keep ourselves occupied. No Name Lake, never seeing sunlight as Winter quickly approaches, was frozen over several inches thick! Of course I tested it out and stood on it. Then we took large rocks and hurled them onto the lake trying to break the ice. After finally making a few holes, we started playing “Ice Bocce Ball” trying to sink smaller rocks in the holes we created. Finally, we passed the time before dinner and bed (it’s amazing how quickly “bedtime” arrives when it’s dark and cold outside…) The next day we hiked up to Dawson Pass (over 8000 feet elevation) and enjoyed spectacular views there such as this:



Afterwards we began the hike down to our cold, sunless campsite before ultimately hiking out of our final backcountry trail. We were incredibly blessed with unbelievably great weather while in the backcountry and survived without any early snowstorms hindering our travels. Upon finishing in the Two Medicine Area we returned to the West side of the part of hike the Avalanche Lake Trail and rest for a day or so after some rigorous hiking. The beginning part of Avalanche Lake Trail takes us past Avalanche Creek which appeared to be a mini Grand Canyon with a  beautiful blue water shooting through it. It was gorgeous and fun to crawl around.

And of course, you can’t see water that beautiful and cold… and not take a dip! After lounging around there for a while, we returned to a campground for our final night in the park. Then we went to Whitefish, MT to spend our final night in a hotel to get a shower, some freshly cooked food and enjoy a nice comfy bed to celebrate the past week and a half sleeping on the floor of the forest. All in all, it was a great trip with memories and adventures I’ll hang on to for the rest of my life. I feel close to God when I’m in nature and spending over a week in the Montana mountains was certainly a spiritual experience for me.

To close, I’ll add a few humorous photos because what’s a trip without some humor…

L

Mpaka wakati halafu…

MS, ASP, NYC, ABCDEFG!

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As October appeared out of nowhere, I found myself bouncing around the East Coast visiting family, serving in Virginia on a mission trip and prepared for my Volunteer in Mission service in Tanzania with an UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) training session in NYC! It’s hard to believe that in less than 48 hours, I’ll be backpacking through Glacier Nat’l Park in Montana (more on that later) but I figured I’d explain what else I’ve been up to lately while I have time!

2010 MS Tour To Tanglewood: GO TEAM CANTERBURY!

Three weekends ago, I had the honor of riding in a 100-mile Bike Ride called the Tour To Tanglewood which raises awareness and money for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) research. I rode in honor of my Aunt (which the team was called TEAM CANTERBURY) and it was quite the challenging ride. Challenging partly because it was 100 miles on a bicycle and partly because I hadn’t trained for the event at all (last time I had been on a bike was about a year ago). But I finished the 100 miles and spent a great weekend with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more! My parents also rode in this event which was great sharing an experience that they had already been a part of for 5 or 6 years. Also, after riding 50 miles on a bike, things like water and oranges never tasted so good!

ASP: Appalachian Service Project, Year 2!

The following weekend I had another privilege to serve (for the 2nd year in a row) with the Myers Park Young Adults in Jonesville, Virginia repairing and winterizing homes for local residents. It was basically the same crew minus one plus seven! We split into two teams and our team demolished and constructed a wheelchair ramp as well as installed the gutters on the front of the house. See!

We dug out the holes and laid them in cement. Those posts of course will be cut down for a railing by the next group. I know it doesn’t look vastly different but in 2 days we got a lot done. AND we had fun while doing it! Plus, our evening activities were again a hit! Corn Maze on one night and bowling on the last night. The interesting part about this bowling alley was that you keep your own score. Who knows how to add up a bowling score? Well, go to Pennington Gap, Virginia and learn firsthand! I loved returning to the hills of Virginia and above all the crew from MPUMC made the trip well worth it!

Volunteers in Mission: a NYC experience!

Finally, this past weekend, I flew up to NYC for a training session on being a long term volunteer with the United Methodist Church. I flew up early to adventure through the city and here are some of the sites I saw:

I walked to Chinatown and Little Italy then I took the Metro to Central Park and Times Square and walked around some more. I really enjoyed the walking as the weather was perfect and the city was a great place to meander. I even made it down to the World Trade Center site to lift up in prayer the many lives lost almost 10 years ago. Here’s what it looked like:

I stayed in Greenwich Village with 12 other Volunteers in Training at the Alma Matthews House (a Methodist Retreat Center) and had a wonderful weekend reflecting on God, our perceptions of serving in and with another culture and other practical matters about living in another culture. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know other soon-to-be volunteers as we have all heard similar callings from God.  My thoughts on servanthood, labeling of others as “poor” or not and even misconceptions of serving within another culture have been changed for the better and I’m one step closer to fulfilling the calling that God has placed in my life. And just as quickly as I got there I found myself in LaGuardia Airport at the tail end of my journey.

I want to close this blog with a story from a book I’ve been reading by Duane Elmer called, Cross-Cultural Servanthood:

“Walking with Mark one night, I noticed a lady at the corner ahead. She was scantily clad. I turned to him and said in a voice the lady would not hear, “Is she a prostitute?” He paused; I remember thinking, Why the pause? It’s obvious. Then he said firmly, “No! That’s not a prostitute. That’s a person…in prostitution.” His profound statement affects me to this day. When I saw this woman, I saw a prostitute. When Mark saw her, he saw a human being.” (p. 64)

So, what do you see? The prostitute or the human being?

The “poor person in need of my help” or a human being loved by God just like me?

I think the difference between those two perceptions can dramatically change the way you interact with everyone you meet in life…

Mpaka wakati halafu…

6,426!

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Mission Accomplished!

After 13 states, 17 interstates, 8 State/National Parks and 6, 426 miles our adventure to California and back was completed! Woo!

Upon exiting the diverse community of Berkeley we also experienced the diversity of California. We passed through impressive mountain ranges (some with glacier ice still visible… in September!), HOT deserts (Death Valley National Park…below Sea Level) and along impressive green valleys (along the side of the Sierras I believe).

I’ll try and hit the highlights of the return trip:

Yosemite Nat’l Park (part 2!)

Well, we discovered that the route through Death Valley and Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon took us back through Yosemite so we had the pleasure of driving all of the way out to Yosemite…again! Fortunately, once we entered the park we got to take a different road and saw an entirely new area of the park which was BEAUTIFUL

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There were gorgeous lakes and the peaks around them still had ice along the ridges. It made for a chilly, pleasant drive as we scooted along south towards a much warmer area of the States… In less than 6 hours we traveled from 10,000 feet elevation to -190 feet below Sea Level!

Death Valley Nat’l Park!

After a number of hours and a lot of declining roads, we approached Death Valley National Park! I wasn’t expecting as many mountains but  I guess you have to have mountains to have a valley… but still it was impressive and hot!

Plus, I think we were the only Americans visiting the area as every other couple or family we saw were speaking another language. Nothing like being a minority in your home country! Still, we enjoyed the drive through the valley seeing random sand dunes and driving below Sea Level. It was hot which I was perfectly content with. Here are two more shots from our time in the real Death Valley!

Okay…so I know that isn’t 2 pictures but I couldn’t decide so oh well…

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

So we did a quick drive through Las Vegas just so we could say, “We’ve been to Las Vegas” and since it was on the way to the Grand Canyon. We wanted to see it at night with all of the lights but didn’t want to arrive at the Grand Canyon at 2AM so late afternoon sounded good for us. It was still cool to see the sites that feature in many movies though. One of my favorite buildings was actually one in construction… apparently it has no plans on finishing anytime soon (check out the picture…)

Then we strolled through the rest finishing up by seeing the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Then after about 25 minutes we concluded the world’s quickest tour of Las Vegas. Too bad nothing happened in Vegas that stayed in Vegas while we drove through…

Hoover Dam (the unintentional visit!)

After passing through Las Vegas, we began to see signs for the Hoover Dam. I thought that it would be a side road and out of our way so we opted not to go see it but come to find out that the road we were on was taking us directly to the Hoover Dam so unintentionally, we saw the MASSIVE dam and the marvel of such a large structure built between mountains. WHOA! Plus, they also had weird, green alien statues near the dam which makes me wonder what’s really under the Hoover Dam…

Grand Canyon!

Then one of our major trip destinations had arrived (after 17 LONG hours of driving from California!) We had arrived at the Grand Canyon. Since we got there around 11PM we decided to make camp and then check out the canyon in the morning. We had originally planned to get up for the sunrise…but that didn’t happen. We did however see the sunset and sunrise (the next day) and they were gorgeous! I know this sounds obvious but the Grand Canyon really is quite large!

During our lunch break we overhead a ranger explain the formation of the canyon with the combination of moving tectonic plates, water erosion, mixture of hard and soft rock and something else I can’t remember. But the views were beautiful and with a little bit of hiking, sight-seeing and relaxing, it was a great time altogether! Below are sunset and sunrise shots taken at the GC. The sunrise picture on the right is interesting, as Allison pointed out, because it looks like a nuclear explosion!

Not a Big Fan of Time Zones Anymore…

So driving Westward was great because the Time Zones cut some hours out of our driving…but on the way back it was a different story. Leaving the Grand Canyon we passed through 2 time zones which added 2 hours to our destination arrival (meaning 2 hours less sleep!) We crossed almost the entire width of Arizona and the entire width of New Mexico, a much smaller section of Texas (thank goodness!) and about a third of Oklahoma. What a flat landscape!! I actually thought it was  quite interesting seeing the distinct change between New Mexico and Texas… watch out for that tumbleweed! We finally arrived at our campsite in Red Rock Canyon State Park about 11:15pm at night and we were about ready to sleep! But the drive wasn’t too bad and we even saw the famous “Cadillac Ranch” (although we didn’t know what it was at first!)

Back in the South!

Then with just one final day of 16 hour driving, we arrived back in the South! Nothing better to welcome us than rain and more rain. But we saw a few rainbows (including the end of one!)and I’ve come to realize that Arkansas is actually quite a beautiful state covered in green trees and twisty rivers! But alas, we returned to the South and with all of the traveling (as incredible as it was) I was ready for only 3-4 hour drives to get where I was going…

Clemson Football!

Before returning home, we HAD to make a pit-stop for some college football! (and free tailgate food!) It was great game and I loved that the drive to the game was not 15 hours!

Home Sweet Home!

Finally, after 18 days and over 6,000 miles, I was back home from an excellent adventure across the country and back! Sure, the trip had it’s ups and downs but so does life and the difficult times made the good times even better and to sum up the trip with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Into the Wild, “Happiness is real only when it’s shared.”

Mpaka wakati halafu…