Hello Spring!

So far this spring we have taken a depressingly low number of family hikes. Matt and Roland don’t share any of the same days off anymore and we had a lot of lousy weather in March. During Roland’s spring break from school we weren’t able to get away for a trip, but we did go for one day hike and, thankfully, it turned out to be a pretty great one.

We drove two hours south to Echo Canyon State Park (near Cathedral Gorge) and hiked the Ash Canyon trail. It was a beautiful sunny spring day in the upper 50s- a perfect day for a hike. The trail was less than three miles round- trip, but it sure felt longer. The trail started with a somewhat steep ascent away from Echo Reservoir up to the rim of Ash Canyon. As we headed up the dusty switchbacks, we looked back and had nice views of the lake, valley, and surrounding mountains.

April 3 Echo Canyon (5)

Throughout the hike we of course saw several jackrabbits (Nevada is filthy with jackrabbits), but more interestingly, we also saw three different types of lizards. I have never seen any lizards up around where we live in Ely so these were fun to see.

April 3 Echo Canyon (2)

After we hiked up to the rim, we started our descent down into the canyon. Ash Canyon is narrow, with many interesting nooks and crannies in the rocks. In many places the route was less of a trail and more of a rock scramble. The pictures may not depict that because in those areas I was too busy just trying to make my way through. Our five- year- old son, Roland, thought it was the coolest place ever. He would have ran the whole way if I let him. He’s already leaving his poor mom in the dust. At this rate, he’ll be summiting Everest at 12.

April 3 Echo Canyon (13)

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After we shimmied and scrambled our way through the narrow canyon, we finally reached the great open expanse on the other side. It was a fun challenge, but my legs were happy for a more straight- forward trail. As we worked our way downhill, we oohed and aahed over all the cool rock formations. I think I started to annoy my family because, now that the hike was a bit easier, my hands were freed up to take pictures every few steps.

April 3 Echo Canyon (48)

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We meandered our way down through the intriguing rocky landscape and we eventually reached the pretty little creek that we followed back to Echo Reservoir. We relaxed for a little bit by the lake, but it was getting late so we needed to start heading back to town.

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The animals were definitely out and about during our evening two- hour drive back home. We saw several herds of pronghorn and we even whizzed by an animal that we are pretty sure was a badger (the first one we have ever seen in the wild- too bad we were going 70 mph).

And….we finally saw our elk! We supposedly live near the largest elk herd in the state, but after a year of living here without ever spotting one, we were beginning to think that elk in Nevada was a myth. When we drove out to the park we passed them, but we couldn’t decide if they were cows or horses. On the drive home we pulled over, and sure enough- they were elk! They were pretty far out in the distance, but still exciting to see.

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With the tricky, but fun trail, impressive rocky scenery and numerous wildlife sightings, we had a great first family hike of the Spring. With all of our conflicting schedules, we needed the time together and I definitely needed the time in nature. There was surely no shortage of things to praise God for on this day.

 

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” 

~Anne Bradstreet

Ending the Year in a Valley of Fire

We spent the weekend between Christmas and New Years visiting Valley of Fire State Park, located near Las Vegas. While the East Coast was bombarded with snow and freezing temperatures, we explored a red rock wonderland beneath pleasant blue skies. The purpose of this  little getaway was to celebrate our 12th anniversary. I have always sort of regretted getting married on Dec. 30 because it is hard to fit in an extra thing to celebrate during the holidays and the weather usually is lousy. Now that we live in Nevada, we have a perfect winter destination only 4 hours away.

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We stayed in Henderson to save money so the drive to the park was a little over an hour from our hotel. It was a scenic drive through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to get to Valley of Fire. We got little glimpses of the lake and I really wanted to check it out, but we were already short on time and visiting the state park was our priority. As it was, we ended up hiking fewer miles than I had planned, due to a late start and the shorter daylight hours of winter.

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Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park (and I would venture to say the most visited.) We loved walking among the red sandstone formations, but we definitely did not have the place to ourselves. I expected the crowds as it was a holiday weekend, the weather was in the 60’s and it was near a large city, but it still took away from the experience. The parking lots and trails were crowded and I yearned to experience this awesome landscape with a bit more solitude, but that is probably rarely an option here.

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The Mouse’s Tank trail took us through a little canyon surrounded by red sandstone walls. It was short and mostly flat so we decided to leave our backpack full of water in the car and just head out. However, it took us longer than we expected since the trail surface was composed of soft sand, requiring a bit more effort. I sure was glad we weren’t walking it during the heat of summer.

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The canyon was pretty full of people, which was not much fun, but seeing where groups of people congregated made it easy to spot the many petroglyphs along the way.

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It was late afternoon by the time we hiked the Fire Wave trail. The winter sun, low in the sky, reflected off the red rocks, making them ablaze with color. In every direction we were surrounded by glowing, rich red sandstone in an array of shapes and designs. The sight was pretty awe- inspiring. It was evident how the park got its name.

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We walked a couple yards off the busy trail to take the family picture below. Matt was busy preparing the camera while I was acting as a place holder for the picture. After a couple minutes I turned my head and saw a bighorn sheep, not that far away, staring right at me, probably wondering what these weird people are up to. (The camera was already occupied so we didn’t get a picture.) It was pretty cool to be able to have a private, memorable experience in the otherwise crowded park. I wonder how many dozens of people walked right by without ever noticing the creature was there.

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Even though we didn’t end up spending a ton of time there and we had to share it with too many people, Valley of Fire was still a pretty special spot to celebrate our anniversary and to say farewell to 2017.

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I hope in this new year, you are able to set aside some time to spend out in nature and fully experience the pure joy and wonder of God’s handiwork. Happy New Year!

 

“Then here’s a hail to each flaming dawn,

And here’s a cheer to the night that’s gone,

And may I go a roaming on, 

Until the day I die.”

~Anonymous (carved into a rock on Mount Katahdin, Maine)

Zion Day 2: Sunshine & Solitude

As you can probably tell from my title, I enjoyed our second day in Zion National Park more than our first. After heavy wind and rain the evening before, the skies cleared for an absolutely gorgeous autumn day. This day was a Saturday and the park was even more crowded than the previous day, but somehow we were able to find little pockets of solitude.

We started off the day with the Watchman Trail, which begins right at the visitor center. I thought this trail was going to be packed, but it was surprisingly not bad. We saw other people on the trail, but we were staggered enough that we were able to hike mostly by ourselves. The beginning of the trail briefly meandered by the Virgin River and we saw this handsome heron (who, like the deer, was not scared of us at all).

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We soon began gaining elevation up the mountain. When I was planning our trip, I read that the Watchman Trail had only mediocre views and was only good for filling up a couple extra hours. I have to disagree with that review. This ended up being my favorite trail we did at Zion. It was not crowded, even though the park was, and I thought the views were fantastic the entire way.

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We zig- zagged up switch backs until we eventually made it to a sort of plateau, offering grand views of the red rock mountains and the valley.

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We saw people below us making their way up the switch backs, but we were fortunate enough to have at least 30 minutes alone at the top before anybody else came. The three of us were able to sit quietly, have a snack, rest, and just take it all in. It was the first time I felt like I could actually enjoy the park. I wasn’t rushed, and it was just my little family surrounded by a red rock wonderland.

After a while, we headed back down and spotted a herd of bighorn sheep on the opposite side of the ravine. It is always a special experience to watch wildlife while you are sharing the same space with them, instead of whizzing by in a car.

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After finishing the Watchman Trail, we fetched our car and headed out on the Mt. Carmel Highway, which takes you through a couple of tunnels and accesses the eastern part of the park. We saw another bighorn sheep from the car and we were able to get a better picture of him.

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There was absolutely no parking available for the one short trail in this part of the park, so we skipped it and did our own exploring. This area ended up being my favorite scenery of the whole park. I’ve seen mountains and valleys before, but this was something new. The earth was composed of giant waves of red rock, solidified into all sorts of shapes and varieties. It was almost other- worldly. There were numerous patterns on the rocks, anywhere from swirls to checkerboards.

We didn’t hike any actual trails, but we parked at a couple of pull- outs and explored a little. There were people and cars all around, but nobody was precisely where we were. It wasn’t exactly solitude, but it was close enough. We were able to breathe in and experience this special place on our own terms. The sun’s evening glow on the rocks made the area even more magical.

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Having the opportunity to get away from our everyday lives and see someplace new is a wonderful blessing. It allows for more intimate family time as we were distanced from distractions and chores. Also, seeing a new wonder of creation fills my soul with fresh awe. Knowing that God personally hand- crafted areas such as this for our enjoyment and benefit is truly humbling and gives me ever more to be thankful for.

 

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

A Perfect Day

It is not often that a perfect day comes around. A day when nobody is sick and everybody is in a good mood, the weather is pleasant and the views are beautiful, and there are no little stressful hiccups along the way. A couple weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have one such day.

When we had our September snowfall, we assumed we missed our chance of going to Great Basin National Park for one last autumn hike. However, a stretch of warm weather melted the snow and opened the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive back up again. We were a little hesitant to go because the snow on the Bristlecone trail on our visit back in June made our hike pretty difficult. This time we tried out the Alpine Lakes trail and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the snow was almost entirely melted (even at 10, 400 feet!).

At the lower elevations of the park road, the aspens were dazzling in their yellow autumn leaves, but as we drove up higher the trees were past their peak and had already begun to lose their leaves. It was interesting to see the seasons change as we gained thousands of feet in elevation.

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The weather was wonderful as we headed out on the Alpine Lakes trail: sunny and hovering right around 60 degrees. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but I could definitely feel the high altitude as we hiked uphill to Stella Lake and Teresa Lake. They were both petite in size (one barely more than a pond), but they were surrounded by grand, snow- covered peaks, creating the most picturesque of settings. It was pure bliss to set myself down on a rock, bask in the sunshine, breathe in the cool air and take in all the beauty surrounding me.

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Roland’s moods are usually the limiting factor on the enjoyment level of our hikes. His whininess and grumpiness can spoil even the most grand of hikes. However, on this day, not one whine came out of him. He kept up with us without a fuss and he was in a happy mood the whole day. Even when he fell down, he cried for just a minute or two and then he was able to move on and get back to enjoying himself, which is no small feat for him.

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If you have met our son, you know he is not a quiet child. There is always some sort of sound coming out of his mouth, whether it is words, songs, or just senseless noises. On our hike back down from the lakes in the darkening woods, I noticed it was perfectly quiet. I turned around and saw Roland was just walking along, playing with a couple sticks AND WASN’T MAKING ANY NOISE! It may not sound like much, but being able to enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods is not something that happens often when you have a kid like mine.

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I soaked it all in and marveled at how everything came together to create a perfect day. Days like that feel like a little sneak peak of what heaven might be like. In the midst of a string of ordinary days, sometimes God will give you a day that feels like a slice of heaven on earth and you can almost hear him whisper, “Don’t worry, there is an eternity of more days like that. Just wait.”

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“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

~George Washington Carver

Serendipity

On September 21 (the last official day of summer), we received our first snowfall. Talk about skipping a season. The several inches we received in the valley derailed our plans of going into the mountains to view some fall foliage the following weekend. The forecast was rain, snow and gloom in all directions from town, except for one. So we headed two hours west on “The Loneliest Highway in America” to the Hickison Petroglyphs Recreation Area.

On our 120 mile drive, we drove through numerous valleys and mountain passes. In the valleys we had pleasant, partly cloudy skies, but as we drove over every pass, the clouds became darker and heavier and looked like it could rain or snow at any moment. In fact, on the return trip, the road was wet over one pass and the temperature was right at freezing so we were a bit concerned about ice and, just outside of town, we did drive through a bit of snow. We were cutting it a bit close, weather- wise.

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When we arrived in Hickison, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds so it alternated between chilly and pleasant and our layers went on and off throughout the afternoon. We must have chosen the wrong trail because we never saw any petroglyphs, but we did see some pretty awesome scenery.

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The landscape we hiked through was adorned with boulders, caves, alcoves and rock cliffs. We walked through this interesting rockscape for a couple miles until the land opened up into a rolling valley. The towering, snow- capped mountains on the other side of the valley seemed to float atop the Earth with the clouds. They were breathtaking.  The place reminded us of pictures we have seen of Mongolia. All that open space, fresh air and beautiful scenery filled my mind and body with the perfect mix of peace and energy.

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On our hike back we lost track of the trail we had been on. As the late afternoon autumn sun hung lower in the sky, we had to backtrack to the last trail marker we had seen (and we wondered why we did not pack a flashlight). By the time we found the main trail again, we were getting tired, but enjoyed the sun’s farewell glow on the surrounding rocks.

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The most notable part of the day was our wildlife sightings. Even with four hours spent in the car, I”d say we were pretty lucky with what we saw. On the drive out, we spotted a coyote scurrying near the roadside and also a couple of pronghorn farther afield. As we were driving back home through a vast valley in the evening, we spotted a mountain lion. Matt slammed on the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. I hopped out of the car to get a better look and to try to take a picture. The mountain lion and I stared at each other for a second before she turned around and bolted, showing off her long, muscular body as she leaped through the sagebrush. It was an unusual sight to see her in a wide, open valley, but she was very near a herd of wild horses so I think the thought of having a foal for dinner is what lured her out of the mountains. This was my very first mountain lion sighting (even with all the years we lived in Idaho, I never saw one and Matt only saw one once). The experience was very exciting, but entirely too brief.

This was not the day I had planned, but I am so happy that the weather directed our route to Hickison. If the weather conditions had been different, I would have missed my first mountain lion sighting and all the beauty of this area. God’s serendipity planned a better day for us than I ever could have.

 

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Kalamazoo

A series of unfortunate events has kept me away from my blog, but I am finally back from my unintentional hiatus. About a month ago I sprained my ankle pretty bad (not by doing anything fun, either- just carrying in the groceries). A week or so later our computer unexpectedly died on us. The following week we went on a quick weekend trip to Utah and I lost my camera. The three things I need for my blog (healthy legs, a computer, and a camera) all disappeared in a matter of weeks. My ankle is finally almost back to normal and we replaced the equipment so now I can get back to sharing about our little explorations.

Last weekend it was forecasted to be near 90 degrees in town so we decided to escape the heat in the mountains. We headed out to Kalamazoo Summit, which is in the same vicinity as Success Summit in the Humboldt- Toiyabe National Forest. After the pavement ended we continued on the pretty steep gravel road up to the summit, at an elevation of 8,950 feet. The sky was partly cloudy, there was a light breeze and the temperature was perfect for taking a hike.

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I know I say this about almost everywhere I go in Nevada, but the views were just amazing. At various points in the hike we had to stop and admire this granite monolith at different angles and as the sunshine reflected off of the different ridges.

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My favorite thing about the Kalamazoo Summit area (besides the fun- sounding name) was the abundance of red rocks scattered across the landscape. Much of the afternoon was overcast, but when the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, the crimson hue of the rocks brilliantly sprung to life.

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The hike became a bit rugged and I was taking my time to prevent re-injuring my ankle so we got a nice long look at this interesting hillside. (My eyes were fixed on the trail as we walked to make sure I wouldn’t trip on anything. Every few steps I glanced up and I saw the exact same view. That’s how slow I was going.) Along the slope of the mountain you can see strips of soil that are reddish and light green and we wondered what caused the different colorations. That is just one example of what makes this state so exciting. There is very little that is monotonous here- every mountain, rock, and even bit of soil has its own character to it.

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As we drove back down the mountain in the late afternoon we were lucky enough to spot some wildlife. We saw numerous mule deer throughout the day, but watching this pretty doe and her fawns quietly grazing was a special experience.

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We also enjoyed seeing this jackrabbit. The ears and hind legs on this animal are incredible. When he was moving and his legs were outstretched, he looked taller than I thought any rabbit could look. And those ears, just- wow!

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We thoroughly enjoyed our day out as a family, taking in all the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. I know you can find beauty anywhere, but there is something special about Nevada. The sparse, rugged landscape truly showcases God’s majesty and creativity. I feel fortunate to be able to call this little forgotten corner of the country my home.

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The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:19

Abandoned Dreams in the Sagebrush

On our latest outing we visited our first ghost town in Nevada. From Ely we traveled roughly 30 miles west on US 50, known as the “loneliest road in America”. We then left the pavement behind and traveled the rest of the way on dirt forest roads. Less than two miles from the highway we made our first stop and had a warm, but pleasant picnic at the picturesque Illipah Reservoir. We were surprised to not have the place to ourselves;  there was a fair amount of campers and fishermen also enjoying this small desert lake.

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After our picnic we continued on the dirt road another 10 miles as it wound its way up and around the mountainside until we reached the ghost town of Hamilton, sitting at an elevation of 8,000 feet. Along the way we passed many patches of these pretty white flowers, which, based on my best identification efforts, are desert poppies.

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There is not much left of Hamilton. It first became a town in 1868 when silver was found in the area. It was originally called Cave City because of the numerous natural caves in the area, some of which were used as shelters by early settlers.

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By 1869, the population swelled to 12,000 people. In it’s heyday, Hamilton boasted 200 different mining companies, 60 general stores, and almost 100 saloons. This remote town in the mountains was even the first county seat of White Pine County.

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Just one year later, it was discovered that the silver ore deposits were shallow. People abandoned their ambitions and fled their newly- created town. The population quickly dropped to less than 4,000. In 1873, a large fire swept through Hamilton and most of the businesses chose not to rebuild as the town was already dying.

Looking at the place now, it is hard to imagine that thousands of people once lived here. It was not an especially smooth drive getting to the town site today. I wonder what the access road was like in the 1800’s. Now all that is left to see are the crumbling remains of a very short- lived boom town nestled in the timeless sand and sagebrush.

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After driving by some of the ruins, we parked the car and set out for a little hike. The first several minutes were spent unintentionally chasing a sage grouse family down the trail. The mom and her babies didn’t like to fly and lacked the good sense to just move off the trail. I felt bad about wasting their energy, but we kept walking forward. They were moving pretty slow so we quickly gained on them and at the last moment they finally did some sort of awkward run/ fly combination and scattered into the sagebrush. Their moving abilities weren’t that impressive, so it is a good thing that their camouflage was spot on; you could hardly tell them apart from the sandy dirt.

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We followed the path for a while and then headed off- trail up to a rocky ridge. The view on the other side was, of course, more mountains.

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Did you know that Nevada is home to the largest number of wild horses in the country? We were fortunate enough to spot a herd of them grazing on the side of this mountain. The scene was perfection- the wild horses truly highlighting the wild beauty of the area.

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I just can’t get enough of the Nevada landscape. Over every mountain is another mountain or valley that is different from the last. There may be a cave or rock formation or interesting plant to discover. Then add in a bit of history and wildlife to the mix. This land is so rich and varied, there is no limit of what there is to explore.

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Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
~John Muir

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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