I took a trip down to Longview and Rainier today, and it seemed the Lake Sacajawea area was somewhat insulated from the heavy rains and high winds that went wild for a bit in other parts of the region.
The flora around the region is starting to awaken and show signs that spring is definitely either right around the corner or basically here already. We’ve had a very mild winter, and it seems the plant life around here can’t wait to start showing its colors again.
Here are some shots from around Lake Sacajawea and Vandercook Park that I took in the span of about an hour.
It rained a bit yesterday and then IT RAINED, while I was on the road, no less.
I was driving down to Portland after church when I came upon an intense cloudburst that dumped mass amounts of water and hail upon Woodland, Washington at about 1:30 p.m. I don’t think I’ve seen a rainstorm that intense in the Northwest in years — I’ve seen many in the Midwest like this, and the storms were usually severe in nature, but we just don’t get this type of stuff often in the Northwest.
Conditions were awful for driving, so naturally, I took out my iPhone 6 Plus and shot video of the phenomenon.
It was LOUD in real life, especially when the hail began knocking all over the windshield. The hail wasn’t large, but the National Weather Service ended up receiving a storm report that showed .75″ of hail hitting Battle Ground, a town just to the south and east.
Note that the speed limit in the area is 70, and going 35 while this storm hit was the prudent and reasonable thing to do.
All told, I’m really glad no major traffic incidents came out of this, from what I heard.
Autumn reflects the process of deciduous trees losing their greenery and hunkering down for an upcoming cold season, and my life is going through an autumn of sorts itself.
Autumn is a season of beauty for a short time, as we get to enjoy the colors of leaves turning and the radiance they bring about our neighborhoods. It is a truly gorgeous portion of nature that I enjoy, yet at the same time realize those leaves will be gone as they are dying. Not to mention, the unenviable task remains of cleaning them up so our street doesn’t flood.
The autumn seasons of life — and I believe we have many of them — are similar in function, bringing forth a desire to brace for a season of life that one can feel will be incredibly difficult.
I don’t know how I know that it will be difficult, but I just do. My soul feels it, my body feels it and my mind is making preparations for it.
As such, many changes are taking place.
I’ve been coming to terms with the continued contraction of my social circle. I know a lot of people, but I don’t truly know a lot of people, and that is by choice. That’s not a bad thing, but rather a reflection of what happens in life as some friends who were once close just gravitate further apart simply because of where life is taking them.
It happens to everyone. Friends get married, have children, get involved in things that require intense time commitments (work, anyone?) — and due to all that, end up with a slightly different perspective on life that you once shared before. That slight perspective change brings forth a giant dynamic shift.
As I get older, I seek friendships and relationships that have a meaningful and redeeming value for all parties involved. I am not content to simply have acquaintances that I spend small amounts of time with, but instead I want to be able to benefit them in some way, with a home I receive a blessing in return.
As such, the people I meet and connect with instantly and consistently are much more treasured to me than they would have been in years past. I hold my smaller group of friends in a higher regard than I would have held a large group of friends in my early 20’s, if that makes any remote amount of sense.
Part of this stems from a new facet of life, and that has happened since I learned to live with myself over the past year. I’ve been able to increasingly be okay with not being noticed. Gone are the days of seeking adulation from many, and in their place has swept in an era of being just fine with
This autumn season of my life has me finding myself more content in silence. I’m becoming increasingly okay with grabbing a book, sitting down to read in front of an open window while rain falls down. There’s something cathartic about it.
Speaking of catharsis, I’ve needed a sort of emotional release. I have lately been extending myself too much in activities, work and more — and I’m finding it is perfectly fine to say no to some people who ask me to partake in commitments that would ultimately cause me unneeded amounts of stress, although the tasks I would do could be beneficial to many people.
Being in my 30’s has placed me in an interesting spot. The 30’s are considered by many to be the “prime time” of one’s life, but at the same time you’re expected to make more adult decisions than you ever have. It’s a time that so far has forced me to take a quiet personal inventory and be okay with where life is taking me.
One thing is for sure: I’m not going to enjoy winter, but then again, winter passes and then spring will come afterward. I just hope this winter will be shorter than most.
Despite the crowds cheering on the sidelines as I rode in a cadre of fellow cyclists into Holladay Park in Portland, the end of a 202-mile, 15-hour cycling journey in the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic was rather anticlimactic as I set my bike down, picked up my finisher badge and moved on.
Instead, it was every single second, every pump of the pedals, every inch forward that made the pilgrimage worthwhile.
It is no secret that I am endlessly fascinated by Mount St. Helens.
That fascination has led me to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, about an hour and fifteen minutes away from my home, three times so far this year. Saturday, I took the opportunity to drive there again, but this time wanted to hike to Harry’s Ridge to get what I thought would be an unrivaled view of the volcano.
I loaded up the car and headed south on Interstate 5, then south again on state Route 505 through Toledo and out past Toutle, eventually connecting with state Route 504 and leading me to Johnston Ridge Observatory. From there, my hike began and would take me the majority of Saturday to complete.
There were not too many people on the trail on Saturday, even though it was Memorial Day weekend. Most stayed behind at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which was the starting point for my hike that I initially planned to only entail the 8.3-mile loop to Harry’s Ridge and back.
Of course, with narrow passageways and a bit of elevation gain throughout the area, a good portion of the trail was not for the young or the not-so-sure-footed to hike.
The trail to Harry’s Ridge opens up, and although it temporarily takes you out of view of Mount St. Helens, you get to see some snow-capped peaks such as Coldwater Peak in the distance.
Keep climbing upward and you’ll eventually come to the Harry’s Ridge trail that takes you to the viewpoint on top the giant ridge. You’ll know you’re getting close when Spirit Lake comes into full view — it looks vastly different than it did May 17, 1980.
Keep walking up the Harry’s Ridge trail and soon you’ll come to an overlook that gives you a grand view of Mount St. Helens directly facing the north side of the mountain, where the lateral blast came from. It’s a great view of the volcano, even when obscured by clouds. It still gives one a great perspective of just how much of the mountain was blown away in the eruption, and it’s mind-boggling to see it from this angle.
I ended up making decent time, motoring up the ridge from the starting point at Johnston Ridge Observatory in just under 1 hour, 30 minutes.
The views to the east are spectacular. On a clear day you can see Mount Adams, but even on a cloudy day you can get a view of the picturesque Spirit Lake area and the regeneration still taking place.
Once I came down from the ridge, I wasn’t satisfied with my hike for the day. The mountain had been enshrouded in clouds, and even though there is MUCH more than just the mountain to see at the monument, I needed more. So off I went to the Truman Trail, on a journey that would take me through the heart of the blast zone.
About a mile into the Truman Trail, the sun began to burn off the clouds. Could it be that I could see the whole crater from the north for the first time in my life?
Looking good so far…and just a few minutes after I took that last picture, lo and behold, there stood Mount St. Helens in all her devastated glory.
The Truman Trail winds its way around several hummocks, small hills and trees — even traversing small streams a few times — before leading hikers into a pumice plain. Welcome to the core of the blast zone.
Stop and take a look to the west, and you can see signs of life. A stream feeds Spirit Lake, surrounded on both sides by vegetation that is beginning to take root and sprout up in the years following the eruption.
The further you hike down the Truman Trail, the closer you get to the mountain and the more impressive the view becomes. Before too long, Loowit Falls is visible — a waterfall on the edge of the crater created by snowmelt inside the mountain.
As mentioned before, plant life is coming back along the trail. Red paintbrush is abundant along several areas of the path, and the color reminds one to stay on the path and not veer off it — these plants are, once again, very fragile.
The Truman Trail alternates passing through landscapes of rock and vegetation, also leading people through small creeks. The closer you get, the more rockfields you navigate through. The trail becomes much more narrow and begins to be delineated only by large posts that show you the general direction in which to travel.
Another look back shows just how far one has come, along with giving a rather impressive view of Spirit Lake surrounded by smaller mountains.
The trail passes a neat geological feature in which a mud and water flow had carved a passageway from the mountain. Seeing Mount St. Helens in the background and this in the foreground made me wonder what kind of force the eruption blasted the valley floor with.
I checked my watch just after 6 p.m. and noticed I was still 2 miles from Loowit Falls. I wouldn’t quite make it out there, but I was satisfied with a hike that brought me the closest to the north side of the mountain that I had ever been. I turned around, but before I left I grabbed my Canon camera and got a shot of the mountain before clouds began to cover it again.
The way back is just as scenic as the way to the mountain.
It was fitting to see a sunset right before I returned to my car at the Johnston Ridge Observatory parking lot at 9 p.m. After 16.78 miles, I needed to rest my feet and I did so as I watched the sun go down. It was also fitting that I was one of the last people there that evening, just hours after the parking lot had been so full that I needed to park far from the observatory’s entrance.
If you want to hike to these points beyond the Johnston Ridge Observatory, note that you’ll need to bring a few supplies. There is no water source along the trails, so a hydration pack is the best option. Carry some food as well (I carry a massive supply of granola bars), and invest in some good hiking boots and trekking poles. The poles will prove invaluable throughout the hike.
The weather here in the Pacific Northwest was absolutely gorgeous yesterday, so I traveled to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and took full advantage of it.
I drove from my home in Lewis County to the Hummocks Trail parking area, a trip of roughly an hour and 15 minutes covering 60 or so miles. I set out on the Hummocks Trail before taking an eastward turn on the Boundary Trail to reach my end goal, the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Bear in mind the Observatory is closed until mid-May each year, but hikers are welcome to come on through and utilize the trail system.
I spoke with a friendly staffer from the U.S. Forest Service when I reached the observatory’s parking lot, who noted the extreme lack of snow at a place that normally has a few feet well into May. He and I chatted for a bit and he told me some good routes to take if I ever wanted to hike beyond the observatory. I will within a couple months and will post photos of it when I do.
All in all, the hike was a 12-mile round trip that climbed about 1,800 feet. I took the closed State Route 504 back, with the Forest Service staffer’s permission, which added 2 miles on the return trip. My feet were sore when it was over, but it was well worth it, as you’re about to see.
This afternoon, I read about the death of Jamie Coots, a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher made famous by a cable TV show and pastor of a rural Kentucky congregation.
For those who do not know, Jamie Coots was bitten by a snake and died Saturday evening after refusing medical care, according to CNN.
Reactions across the Internet have varied — some ridicule the man and say he had it coming if he was messing around with snakes that long, others just laugh at the absurdity and still others just shake their heads.
I find no humor in the fact a snake-handling preacher died of a snakebite. In fact, my personal reaction was one of great sadness.
First and foremost, death is a very sobering thing. That is a God-breathed human being that has lived on this earth for a time, and now his time has ended. Mr. Coots has left behind a family who will likely grieve for a long time. That is a terrible, terrible thing and my heart goes out to them.
Secondly, and the discussion turns practical here — Mr. Coots died after refusing medical care. Medical professionals were available and on hand to help if they had the okay. They did not. Mr. Coots held on to a belief that God would bring him through, and he held on to it until he died. His death was needless, for all practical purposes.
Thirdly, the Christian faith requires a good deal of common sense. Snake-handling is essentially Russian roulette with a religious fervor, and at some point the bullet is going to fire by random chance. Jesus did not call on us to take chances with our lives to prove His power or grace. In this situation, nothing has been proved and everyone loses.
Fourth, and speaking of everyone losing, the wide circulation of this story across the Internet feeds a negative perception of Christianity as a whole. I know Mr. Coots pastored a somewhat small congregation and it’s obvious to many in the Christian faith that the snake-handling brand of Christianity is not representative of the faith as a whole. But it still “feeds the beast” if you will among nonbelievers, and I can assure you many atheists and non-Christians alike are having a field day with this story.
Fifth, I don’t really see snake-handling as an evangelistic tool. That sounds weird, but the Great Commission from Jesus is to go and make disciples of people in the world. I’m not sure that the death of a preacher who believed that a snake bite would not harm God’s anointed people will bring people to Christ — and I’d venture to guess there are some in his own church that have their own faith shaken from the incident.
And finally, the hits just keep on coming for Christians whose views are not represented by folks like Mr. Coots. It wasn’t long ago that young-earth creationist Ken Ham got absolutely blasted by thousands of people across the Internet, many of whom were Christians who are trying to find a way to reconcile their Creationist view with science. Ham did nobody any favors then, and this story isn’t doing Christianity at large any favors now. Nonbelievers — especially those who have made up their minds that there is no God — have been armed to the teeth recently with reasons to abhor the Christian faith, and it’s people within Christianity that have given them that ammunition. That is a hard pill for me to swallow.
Did Mr. Coots love Jesus? I think it’s pretty obvious from some footage taken of him that he did. Did he lead people to the Lord? It’s very plausible that he did. After all, his church wasn’t all about snake handling. It’s unfortunate, sad and needless that the practice caused the death of a preacher whose life could have continued on to essentially bring more people to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
On a personal note, I tend to keep things a bit simple with my faith. My faith is grounded in a belief that Jesus Christ simply has a will for each and every one that believes in Him to preach the Gospel, choose self-denial over selfishness, make it to heaven and show others the way to get there too before you breathe your last bit of air.
The less extracurricular stuff, the better. I never liked snakes anyway.
I arrived in Centralia, Washington on Saturday after three days of driving and 31 hours of total time behind the wheel. The journey brought me from Springfield, Mo., on Thursday to a city just over 2,000 miles away — and it puts me 50 miles from full circle once again.
It feels just a little bit surreal that I am actually here. Over my two years in Springfield, I began to foster an intense fondness for the Northwest that I never knew I had. I missed my home like never before, but at the same time I knew I would return someday.
While it feels surreal to be back, it’s been very calm. My return has been carefully planned out, and I’m working once again for the newspaper I once served for two years from early 2010 to early 2012. My first day of my “second term” as a print reporter at The Chronicle went well, with me writing a couple briefs and interviewing a few folks for stories.
It is necessary to take a moment and reflect on my time in Springfield. While I missed the Northwest more than ever, I developed many friendships in the Queen City of the Ozarks that I will carry with me for years. Over a two-year period, I matured greatly and much of that was thanks to friends who were not afraid to speak some sense to me at times (Aaron B., I’m looking at you in particular).
On Sunday, I went to church for the first time in awhile. It was good to be back at Life Center, the church I attended for the majority of my time here a couple years ago. It felt like home instantly, and many of my friends gathered for a dinner later that evening to welcome me back. It was an incredibly warm welcome from them, and it warmed my heart to once again be in the presence of beloved friends.
It feels like Lewis County is much the same way I left it, but with a few positive changes. There are a lot of people here that are working to make the community better, and you can tell their efforts are bearing fruit. There is a lot of work to do to make Centralia great once again, but again there are people here that can get it done.
Yes, I returned here because I missed it and I really missed working for the newspaper. There was nothing quite like being a go-to reporter for your specific beat, and it’s great to fill that role once again. But I also realize this time around that the second iteration of my life in Lewis County carries a higher calling, and that is to reach out to those in need.
I will soon be seeking out some volunteer opportunities to help disadvantaged people in as many capacities as I can. I spoke with my dear friend Holly from Tacoma on the phone yesterday and shared with her that I feel my time here will be different than last time, simply because I feel a tremendous burden on my heart to take my focus off of myself and put my energy into helping others.
My time here in Lewis County will be about putting the greatest lesson I ever learned into action. I look forward to doing so.
It’s great to be home, that’s for sure. I feel a peace about being here, and I know for a fact it is where I’m supposed to be.