Bristlecone Wilderness

On Memorial Day we set out to explore a bit of the Bristlecone Wilderness. These 14, 000 acres of designated wilderness are a part of the Egan Range, just north of Ely. Since it is a wilderness area, there are no roads entering it.

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (14)

We drove as far as we felt comfortable on a dirt road that leads to the wilderness area boundary. It was not long before the “road” began to deteriorate and became more narrow and rocky. We parked the car, grabbed our backpack, slathered ourselves in sunscreen and headed out on foot. We started out in a sagebrush valley and hiked steadily uphill toward the base of the mountains.

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (19)

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (32)

As we quickly gained elevation, the pine trees grew taller. We were eager for the shade, but the higher elevation was also home to unwelcomed residents- mosquitoes. This was our first encounter with mosquitoes in Nevada so we didn’t pack any bug spray. The uphill hike became pretty uncomfortable since the mosquitoes wouldn’t let us stand still long enough to catch our breath. We kept moving until we finally reached the sign marking the border of the Bristlecone Wilderness. By that time we were getting pretty close to the mountains and we would have liked to go farther, but we were already covered in itchy bites so we retreated (and the persistent mosquitoes followed us all the way down until we were out in the open sagebrush again).

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (28)

On the drive home through Steptoe Valley we enjoyed lovely views of both the Egan and Duck Creek Mountain Ranges. The snow is gone from all but the highest peaks now, but I believe these mountains will continue to amaze me in any season.

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (36)

We also came across another pronghorn herd. They are so fun to watch. Even though they are herd animals, you can tell each one has it’s own personality. When we stopped to watch, one pronghorn immediately started running away. Then he realized his herd wasn’t following him so he turned around and dashed right back to join them. All the while the others just kept a steady, watchful eye on us.

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (3)

It may sound trite, but I want to finish by saying I feel immensely grateful to live in a country where we have the freedom, security and luxury to spend an afternoon out exploring the countryside. We were able to freely roam our great land without threat of persecution or attack. I am thankful to everyone who has served and scarified for our nation to ensure our opportunity for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

May 29 Bristlecone Wilderness (34)

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt

Mother’s Day

It was a chilly and gloomy day for a Mother’s Day hike at Cave Lake State Park. We put on all the layers of clothes we brought (and wished we had brought more) and headed out into the cool misty air, intermittent drizzly rain, and gusty winds. The scenery was still beautiful even though the highest peaks were shrouded by the clouds.

May 15 Cave Lake (14)

We have had bad luck the two times we visited this park. Our first visit, two months ago, was sunny and warm, but the trail was hidden under snow so we had to turn around. The trail was clear this visit, but the weather was much less enjoyable.

May 15 Cave Lake (19)

We were lucky enough to spot this pretty mule deer standing up on a hill. She just stood there and watched us instead of running away so we got to enjoy looking at her, too.

May 15 Cave Lake (25)

The skies began to clear by the time we reached Cave Lake. We took one layer of clothing off and enjoyed the gorgeous view.

May 15 Cave Lake (36)

It didn’t matter if it was cold and dreary or warm and mild. Our family was together, unplugged from all screens and distractions, making memories out in nature. What better way is there to spend Mother’s Day?

It should be apparent by looking at our pictures that our family was not created in the usual way. Our family was forged together through pain, loss, trials, and miracles. The endless waiting and financial hardships tested our faith and perverseness almost to the breaking point. The three of us endured so much before we were united together and I think we are now the stronger for it. I know my faith is stronger and deeper than it ever could have been if I had not pursued this adoption. The adoption started out as a leap of faith because we couldn’t really afford it, and then the situation became even worse as Roland was stuck in Congo for years longer than he should have been. However, God was with us every step of the way and brought us out of a seemingly impossible situation. It was a hard fight just to become a family and every day we are together is precious.

May 15 Cave Lake (33)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:2-4, 17

Ancient Paths

On a mild, overcast Spring day we headed two hours south to the White River Narrows Archaeological District. It is a part of the newly created Basin and Range National Monument, 700,000 acres of remote land in southeastern Nevada. A backdrop of mountains, canyons and rolling desert is home to many different petroglyph sites, some dating back as far as 4,000 years. This park was pretty undeveloped; there were no signs, markers or maps showing us the way. It made for a pretty cool experience because it almost felt like we were discovering the petroglyphs for the first time.

April 24 White River Narrows (12)

Admiring the ancient rock art led me to reflect on the lives of the people who made it. After we enjoyed our day out in the desert, we drove our car back to our house, which is outfitted with electricity and indoor plumbing and has a fridge full of food that I bought at the grocery store. There was no going back to a comfy home at the end of the day for those native people. They carved out an existence in this harsh desert day- to- day and season- to- season. It must have been a tough life, to say the least. It gave me the opportunity to be grateful for my “everyday luxuries”- things I hardly even notice, yet millions of people in the world today still lack them. Technological advances sure have come a long way from the time these rocks were carved. I am continually surrounded by these advances living my average (or even below- average) life here in America. It was a good reminder that my standard of living was definitely not the historical norm and sadly still is not the worldwide norm.

**********

It was not long into our hike that we encountered this big guy. Look at those crazy long yellow toes. He was interesting. He didn’t scurry away like the other smaller lizards we saw. I don’t know if he was poisonous, or sick, or just very confident.

April 24 White River Narrows (6)

Late April turned out to be the perfect time to visit this area. It wasn’t hot yet and all the spring wildflowers were blooming. I was surprised to see so many different types of flowers growing in this dry landscape. We saw flowers in an array of hues: purple, blue, yellow, white, orange and red. They added lively bursts of color to the otherwise gray, brown, and muted green desert.

April 24 White River Narrows (33)

We started out hiking through open country until we reached the entrance to this canyon, which looks ordinary enough from here.

April 24 White River Narrows (39)

However, as we continued walking, the canyon quickly narrowed and the red rock walls closed in on us on both sides. It was an incredible area, but we also got an eerie feeling that little monsters were spying on us through all the nooks and crannies in the rocks or a group of bandits would ride up and attack us from the top of the canyon walls. (Yes, maybe we have seen too many movies).

April 24 White River Narrows (54)

Even with the petroglyphs, lizards and flowers to enjoy, the most striking feature of this area was the endless variety of rock formations. The shallow caves, the mountains comprised of boulders and the sculpted towering rocks all provided boundless fascination.

April 24 White River Narrows (31)

April 24 White River Narrows (57)

April 24 White River Narrows (49)

As our boots became covered in dust along the same ancient paths that were used by people thousands of years ago, we marveled at the timeless beauty of the desert and we were humbled by the the sheer vastness of geologic time, or God- time. Our lives are but one speck of the whole story.

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

~Edward Abbey

Ovens & Pronghorn

We live in a small town in Middle of Nowhere Nevada. Maybe some people would get bored here, but this area fills me with excitement every time I step outside. Our town is completely surrounded by national forest, state parks and BLM land comprised of such diverse landscapes that I could never get bored. With millions of acres of unique and varied public land, Nevada really is one big playground.

April 4 Charcoal Ovens (32)

On our latest family outing we visited Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park. It is an area set aside to preserve six  30- foot- high beehive- shaped ovens. They were in operation for only three years in the 1870’s to create charcoal from the local pinyon pine and juniper trees. After the silver boom ended, these abandoned, but large and sturdy ovens became shelters for travelers and hideouts for bandits. (We also discovered they are fun to holler in to as their shape makes for a great echo.)

April 4 Charcoal Ovens (57)

Even though the main purpose of the park is to highlight the history of the area, the scenery was also stunning. We meandered through sagebrush lowlands before hiking up a ridge to the pinyon and juniper forest. Just a month ago we were living in northern Minnesota where we were completely enveloped by large trees, but after spending some time in the desert, walking amongst these almost full- sized trees was a pleasant treat. After making our way through the forest, we descended to a pretty and lively riparian area that was home to many birds and mule deer. The stream was flowing with fresh snow melt, the spring flowers were just blooming and everything was brimming with beauty and life.  Just another gorgeous day out in God’s Creation.

April 4 Charcoal Ovens (54)

On the way to and from the park we passed a herd of pronghorn. They are the fastest land animals in the Western Hemisphere, but their impressive speed is now unnecessary as their historical predators are long extinct.  They are often (and incorrectly) called antelope, but the mistake is easy to understand. Even though they are native to America, their closest relatives are giraffes and okapi and they do look like they belong on the African Savanna. We frequently spot them as we whiz by in our car, but this time we had the opportunity to slow down and admire these sleek and elegant creatures.

April 4 Charcoal Ovens (2)

 

“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.”

~Marie Curie

Living Waters

When scientists are collecting data on other planets, one of the factors they are most interested in is the presence of water. Where water is present, the potential for life is also present. This truth is also especially evident in a desert landscape.

March 28 Kirch wma (11)

On a cool and breezy spring day we visited the W. E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area, which is comprised of small lakes and marshes. It is a pleasant oasis surrounded by  miles of dry sagebrush desert and it was teeming with life.

March 28 Kirch wma (35)

We saw hawks, cranes, geese, ducks, and many other smaller birds that are harder to identify. On the drive into the park we even witnessed a coyote darting through a maze of sagebrush. My favorite moments, though, were spent watching a hawk expertly gliding through the wind, swooping low and high looking for a meal.

March 28 Kirch wma (15)

Animals will travel vast distances to reach sources of water because they know it’s life- giving power. It is no wonder that water imagery and metaphors are used numerous times throughout the Bible.  Life can feel very akin to wandering through the desert, but it is not just our mouths that get dry- our souls also become parched. Disappointments and just the daily grind wear us down and there is nothing on this planet that will fully satisfy us. Water is essential for our earthly existence, but we need Jesus for eternal life. Being in nature and watching animals thrive near cool, clear water is a beautiful reminder of how our souls should be ever longing for Jesus and our heavenly home.

March 28 Kirch wma (40)

John 4: 13- 14

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Green Pastures and Still Waters

Schoolcraft State Park is a secluded, quiet place and it actually became the inspiration for this blog. The scenery was not particularly spectacular, but the peace I felt there is unmatched. We hiked an easy two miles through 300- year- old pine trees and along the Mississippi River, without ever meeting another person on the trail.

sep-7-schoolcraft-sp-3

On this outing, we were unusually lucky with wildlife sightings. We typically do not see much in the way of wildlife when we go out hiking. We don’t start our hikes until the afternoon, which is not when animals are most active and, with our three- year- old son, we are definitely not in sleuth- mode. However, on this day we managed a glimpse of a porcupine high up in a tree. Porcupines are adept tree- climbers and actually use their stiff quills to help them climb. Before moving to Minnesota, I had never seen a wild porcupine, but I have already seen three in the five months I have lived here. Now whenever I am walking around in the woods I am constantly scanning the tree branches for a moving ball of spikes. I think their natural defenses must make them less skittish than some other animals. Once you spot one, they don’t run away immediately, giving you a chance to enjoy watching them a bit.

Roland found this baby snapping turtle all by himself. I did not realize Minnesota even had snapping turtles and this one seemed especially out of place on the forest floor.

sep-7-schoolcraft-sp-5

Roland took this opportunity to practice his letters on the hiking sign.

sep-7-schoolcraft-sp-6

sep-7-schoolcraft-sp-8

On the banks of the Mississippi River we spotted numerous frogs hopping around. That is one of the great things about nature- you never know what you will find. Some days all you get are trees and fresh air and other days you come face to face with some of the critters God created to share this world with us. sep-7-schoolcraft-sp-12

sep-7-schoolcraft-sp-1

The serenity of this park was like a breath of fresh air for my soul and brought to mind Psalm 23:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.