Friday, May 30, 2014

Passing the Hat

When we awoke, the view of the mountains was even more beautiful. The morning sun lit them in a warming light. We decided to stay for the morning services. It was something that we all enjoyed. The music and the sermon allowed us to stretch the hospitality of this church even more. There was a surprise though. When it came time to take up the collection, the ushers walked to the front of the church and picked up two white Stetsons from the altar table and literally began to pass the hat. It was time for us to head out. Over each door, there hung a huge mounted head of an elk. Elk is the English word the word wapiti in the Shawnee or Cree language.
We were on the road to the Devil’s Tower National Monument. The towns of Cody, Grey Bull, Ten Sleep, and Buffalo quickly rolled by. It worked on the imagination how they were named.
Because of the late start, we set up camp in the dark. The drivers became the cooks and the campers set up tents and spread out the sleeping bags. As we sat at the picnic tables, we could see the silhouette of the monolith, even in the darkness. We had our showers after the clean-up and then bedtime. The exploration of the massive tower would have to wait until the morning.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


As the rose, we were still on the road and almost to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. There was no time to rest for the drivers. We needed to tour the park and start heading east to stay on schedule. The beauty of the park was immediately noticeable. We made several stops to see the sights. Yellowstone Lake was huge. The winds across it made breakers almost like those on the ocean. The falls at Yellowstone were beautiful. Two falls graced the river close together and an impressive amount of water flowed and roared past.
We visited several hot springs where the basins were of different colors from the algae that grew in the hot water. Many bubbling paint pots surrounded areas of solid land. Paint pots are areas that are made of mud and a vent of hot water and steam comes from underneath and makes the mud bubble and pop. Like the hot springs, the paint pots were able to cook a person’s foot should they slip into one.
But the biggest attraction was the geyser, Old Faithful. It can shoot boiling water 106 to 185 feet into the air with its volume 3700 to 8500 gallons nearly every hour. While we waited for it to erupt, we walked through the old hotel. There was a massive fireplace whose chimney rose at least four stories in height and its face was covered by a large pendulum clock. Rustic stairs and antlered sconce lights festooned the lobby. We ate lunch in a nearby cafeteria and then drove through more of the park before heading to our overnight campsite.
The campsite was at a church just outside the eastern entrance to the park. It was the Wapiti Valley church. We were greeted by the pastor and were told that we could cook, shower, and sleep in the basement of their sanctuary.
The building was built from the material that was found on the lot. The timbers, wood, and stones were incorporated into the design and the construction. The views were remarkable. Behind, the church snuggled against a hill and across the highway in front were mountains. The meal was quickly prepared, dishes washed, and showers were finished. The drivers were tired and everyone turned in early.
We were wakened in the middle of the night when a mouse invaded the sleeping quarters of the women and it had to be chased out of the building before tiredness overcame the fear and slumber claimed us all.

Monday, May 26, 2014

All Night Long

We had the vans before the closing ceremony for the camp week. As soon as the closing prayer was finished, we piled into the vehicles and began the overnight trek. We left camp and drove West to the town of Craig then headed north on route 13 toward Wyoming. It was soon dark and we dodged animals through the night. Deer, prong horn antelopes, and even coyotes wandered across the highway. The young campers slept even through the swerves and sudden stops to avoid collisions with the natural fauna.
It was dark and there were very few lights. It was even worse when we crossed into Wyoming. We saw exits that were miles between belonging to the same ranch. The larger van that was pulling the trailer was getting low on fuel and everyone was watching for an exit with fuel. Finally, we spotted signage for fuel and we turned off the main highway. The exit ended in a Tee with gravel roads to both sides. It was dark and we couldn’t see any lights that we expected to see at a service station.
The road to the right seemed to lead to a field and the one to the left seemed to open into a parking lot. Turning to the left, we figured that we would have the room to at least turn around to get back to the highway. As we entered the parking lot, we could see the outline of gasoline pumps. When we got closer, we could see the dim light showing the price of the fuel in each pump. Coming to the front of the concrete block building, we could see light coming through a dusty plate glass window. The station was open. While the pastor filled the tank, we woke the campers to offer a restroom run.
As the flock of campers entered the building, the youthful attendant got a surprised look on his face. It was as though he had been invaded by aliens. The restrooms were little more than plywood cubicles and the commodes needed cleaned before they could be used. Joy went outside and brought the window-wash squeegee inside to do a quick clean of the commode.
Let me describe the inside of the building. There was a heavy coating of dust on everything, packaged food, drinks, and supplies. There were three single light bulbs in a row hanging down about three feet along the center of the room on wires. They gave off a little light, but the majority of the light came from the two soda machines.
When we left, the kid had a stunned look on his face and acted as though he had been invaded by creatures from outer space. I wonder what he told his friends in the morning. Soon we were back on the road and on our way to Yellowstone National Park.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wild About The Wilds

It felt good to gather around a table and eat meals and to sleep in a bed again. Waking up early was nothing unusual, but here at The Wilds camp, high in the Rockies, it was special. The lake in front of the lodge was covered with lacy patterns of mist, the patterns shifting in the breeze. The sun was just blushing the edge of the sky. From the dark evergreens on the far shore, the bugle of an elk hurtled across the water. The sun’s myriad of colors danced with the wisps of mist, kaleidoscope-like. Each day at the camp, the strokes of color became portraits of beauty that changed constantly throughout the week.
Meals, games, hikes, and devotions flowed by in ever changing activities. The well-trained counselors served the campers. The adults were more free and able to hike on their own and attend Bible sessions. They could watch or join the games.
One hike with another chaperone, led us up to the high meadows where we saw deer, ponds with lilies, and hushed, and needled carpets under the pines. Walking was slow. The altitude was over eight thousand feet and oxygen was thin, causing us to breathe more heavily with mild headaches.
My wife Cindy and I decided to go on a breakfast ride. We would ride horses or mules to a campfire/ chuck wagon breakfast. My wife was given a mule named Festus. The ranch hands tried to shorten the stirrups to accommodate her short legs, but her toes barely fit inside. Festus shifted his weight, nervous Cindy pulled back on the reins and Festus reared up. Since Cindy didn’t have a firm seat without her feet in the stirrups, she slid from Festus’ back onto the ground and onto her tailbone.
She rode to the breakfast in a jeep, but had a sore tailbone for the rest of the trip. Breakfast around the campfire was uneventful, but pleasant.
The rest of the week flew by and we planned to drive to Yellowstone National Park after the closing ceremony on Friday evening. The adults tried to catch naps so they would be able to drive through the night.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Those Are the Brakes

We were on the road early. We were all anxious to get to the camp, unpack, and not be inside of the vans for several days. The weather was changeable, as it often is in the mountains of Colorado. The interplay of sun and clouds with the rain and lightening made the travelling and scenery more interesting. The vans were climbing while storms rolled around us. My wife was driving and noticed that the brakes didn’t seem quite right.
She pumped the brakes and put the van in second gear just as we topped the mountain. Saying that the van seemed better, we started down the far side. It was a short descent and we radioed ahead saying that we needed to pull over and see what was happening. Just entering a town named Craig, Colorado we pulled the van into a McDonald’s parking lot.
My wife almost had to stand on the brake pedal to get the vehicle to stop. As soon as it stopped, I told her to pull the transmission into park. When she did, we could hear the motor racing like a jet plane readying for takeoff. She turned off the engine. Everything was still but the ticking of the engine as it cooled. The Pastor came back and we explained what was happening. He popped open the engine cover and looked. We couldn’t see anything amiss. We sent the campers ahead in the two functioning vans, while five of the adults stayed behind to wait until the problem could be solved.
He called AAA and they sent a mechanic with a tow truck. The mechanic looked with his flashlight and soon said, “A spring that connected the foot pedal to the accelerator had broken and had flown off.  Our garage is about a block away, if one can steer and brake and the other regulate the choke by hand, you won’t need to have the van towed.”
We did and it made for a great, humorous photo, and believe me, one of the other drivers got one for posterity. We followed the tow truck and into the garage where he directed. The mechanic didn’t have the specific spring, but with some ingenuity and repurposing another spring, we were soon on our way.
It was the first time that so many adults were in the same van on the trip and we had a great time talking and laughing. We drove through the sulphurous smells of Steamboat Springs and soon arrived at the Wilds. It felt so good to know that there would be only hiking, eating, resting, and devotions without having to drive and set up camp each day.
One of the drivers said that the biggest van that was pulling the trailer had slowed to five miles an hour as it crawled over the top of the mountain pass. The altitude was 10,600 feet above sea level and the oxygen had decreased for the combustion of fuel.
The lodge at the camp overlooked a small lake with the campers’ cabins spreading out on both sides like wings of a bird. Boys to one side and girls to the other, and never the twain shall meet, except for games, eating, and devotions.

Monday, May 19, 2014

On Course

The drive was to King’s Creek where we camped. I mentioned it in my first post and will only say, this site was the one part of the trip that all of us remembered fondly. Our drive for the day was to Arches National Park, Utah. It would be another hot day and water bottles were filled, passed and the kids were reminded to drink frequently.
Our campsite was at Green River and we went there first to drop the trailer before heading to Arches. The sun was beating down hot and bright as we pulled into the first parking lot. We were at the site of a graceful double arch. The wind and water had worn the stone to create arches that rose from a combined base to two arches that rose high overhead to attach to the far wall. The shadows gave relief from the heat.
We were Able to visit windows arch which was a short walk away. We visited several of the other arches. The last was in a deep, narrow canyon. The sand was actually cool to bare feet and shoes came off quickly. The canyon remained in the shade most of the day and remained cool. It was a great place to relax and cool off before the drive in the hot vans on the way back to the campsite.
It had been a long day and darkness descended long before we got to the campground. The campers set up tents while the adults prepared the meal. The weather was so nice, the boys and some of the men decided to sleep under the stars, not using their tents. The boys chose to unroll their sleeping bags to the back of the long skinny site, next to a chain link fence.
When we awoke in the morning, there were sleeping bags hanging on the picnic tables, on the tents, and on the vans. The boys were huddled on and under a couple of blankets. The boys told us that around two a.m. the golf course on the other side of the fence, turned on the sprinklers and everyone got wet.
Breakfast was over, the vans were packed, and we were off for our next destination. It was the church camp, the Wilds of the Rockies.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It’s Grand

In the morning, camp was torn down and repacked. It would be another hot day and the water coolers were quickly filled just before we left Mesa Verde. It had been a day to relax without rushing. As we left the mesa, a huge bus was climbing up the twisting roadway, belching huge clouds of black smoke. It was narrow and we felt glad we weren’t out by the berm, because there wasn’t much room to spare as we drove by each other.
About ten a.m., we pulled into a dusty parking lot at Four Corners. It is the only place in the United States where four states’ borders meet; Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. There was a large concrete pad with a round metal disc at the center, listing each state’s border. It was a spot where a person could stand on one foot and be in four states at the same time.
Lining the borders of the parking lots were booths filled with Native Americans and souvenirs. It was a relief to step under the tents and into the shade.
Heat devils danced in the parking lot and shimmered off the vehicles. We knew we’d start to cook when we climbed inside of the vans. Winding down the windows to allow the worst of the heat to escape was a torture. The handles were scorching. Everyone found places to sit and squirmed to alleviate the burning heat from the seats.
Our destination was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the Kaiabab Plateau. We stopped at the Navajo Bridge and ate lunch in the parking lot. Some of the guys dropped a few flat stones into the water below with resounding “CRACKS.”
The road to the canyon ran south was heavily wooded except for one area that had recently burned. The camping area was thick with pine and the ground soft, covered with a thick carpet of needles. Our sleeping bag beds were comfortable that night.
The canyon was massive, deep, and colorful. The hues changed as clouds and sunlight moved across the sky. The North Rim was over eight thousand feet above sea level. The view was magnificent and impressive.
We returned to the campsite, set up tents, and made the evening meal. While we made the site ready, we watched the Kaiabab squirrels with their white tails running as they searched for pine cones. The silence and a hot meal were most welcome after a long day of travel.
Dusk fell, the air cooled, and the tents and sleeping bags on the bed of pine needles were a blessed relief.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hanging Out

When we woke, everything was wet and dripping. Mist hung around in wisps and swirls. Moving about like specters were several deer. Breakfast was coked, served, and eaten. There was no time to allow the tents to dry before they were packed away.
The drive would be up and over the Continental Divide, crossing the Rocky Mountains. It would be through Wolfe Creek Pass, 10,850 feet high. On the decent, we came across an accident site. On a sharp U turn, several yards of guide rail was missing. We stopped to see what had happened. A semi-trailer truck had gone over the mountainside unable to make the sharp turn. A man and his daughter were in the vehicle. The daughter was thrown out and at a hospital, but the father had ridden the truck to the valley below and had not survived. Unable to assist with anything, we climbed back into the vans.
The drive was to be another short one, only 150 miles to Mesa Verde, Colorado. It was a tall mesa that houses the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi clinging to the sides like mud wasp nests. The road to the dwellings and to the camp site, wound its way up the side of the cliff. The twisting drive was on a narrow mccadam surface with a small berm before a vehicle would drive off the road and fall over the mesa onto the prairie below. On the other side was the perpendicular rocky cliff that rose high above the vehicles.
We drove to a series of level spots near the bath houses and set up the tents. They had been packed when they were still wet and needed to dry before they molded. Trees and grass covered the top of the mesa. Camp was set up quickly and the tents dried in the warm breeze. We drove to tour the cliff dwellings. Protected by a large cliff overhang, the buildings were still preserved and well cared for. The buildings of the park site were homes and beehive shaped kivas.
We spent the afternoon climbing through the buildings, trying to imagine what living here would have been like. Tired, we were all glad to eat our evening meal and settle into our warm sleeping bags. The night air of the warm prairie chilled at night.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Doing the Dunes
Since the drive today would be less, the Pastor decided to be more generous with the drive-break ratio. He chose a shaded, picnic area outside of Bent’s Old Fort for a lunch break. As we ate, he made the decision for us to tour the old adobe walled structure. Inside, there were multiple buildings that replicated the carpentry, blacksmithing, cooking, and sleeping areas that once provided services to the travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. It also held a store and a post office. The people were in traditional garb and gave a thorough tour. It was time to move on to our destination of the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado.
As we left Kansas, the speed limit went from 65 mph to 35 mph in a very short distance at the town of Holly, Colorado. I was bringing up the rear, trying to slow to the speed limit and yet keep up with the other two vans when red lights began to flash behind me. I was doing about forty mph and immediately pulled over. I explained to the officer that I had slowed and was trying to keep up with the others, also sharing that we were on our way to church camp at the Wilds. I handed him the registration and insurance papers. When he saw that the vehicles were registered to a church, he gave me a lecture and allowed us to go with a warning.
As we started into the Great Sands Dunes Park, a light shower started and the sky filled with rainbows. There were two rainbows at first that split into three, then four. They appeared, disappeared, and blended. One rainbow had huge thick bands when two merged before the rain stopped and the bows disappeared.
We drove to the parking area by the dunes. They were remarkable. Wave after wave the dunes lifted five stories above their bases. It was tremendous. The dunes were formed when the wind blew sand and small pebbles into the apex of a triangle formed by the tail end of the Rocky Mountains and the Sangre, de Christo Mountains. The winds weren’t strong enough to lift the debris up and over.
Clouds pushed up and over the mountains. We hurried to get out tents up and the meal cooked. It began to storm just after the food was cooked and we ate in our tents. It was dark, except for the brilliant streaks of lightning and the ground shook with the thunder. We actually thought we would feel the bottoms of our tents tingle with the bolts of lightning.
The adults tried dodging raindrops to be sure that all the food supplies were cleaned up and locked it all away. There were bears and we were warned by a ranger to be sure everything was locked where the bears couldn’t get at it.
The storm finally abated. Only the dripping of water from the surrounding trees broke the silence. The fire had been quenched in the rain and it was so very dark. No lights interfered with the view of the heavenly bodies and the stars were bright and seemingly close enough to touch. We fell asleep, breathing air that was cool, pure, and freshly washed.

Friday, May 9, 2014

At the Arches

We gathered early for the first leg of our trip. Seventeen teenagers, seven adults, three vans, and one storage trailer filled with various and sundry tents, equipment, and food. Supplies were crammed into every empty space beneath and between the seats of each vehicle. The first part of the camping trip began in Acme, Pennsylvania with the target of St. Louis, as the destination, 650 miles away.
It was a long way. They continuous driving was broken up only by a midday meal, restroom breaks, and fuel fill-ups. We arrived in St. Louis at the worst time. It was rush hour. We had plans to ride up to the top of the Gateway Arch. Traffic was at a standstill. While we were stopped in traffic, we could see the Arch across a small, raised grassy area. We wanted to eat before our ride to the top of the Arch. Everyone piled out and headed across the lawn, except the drivers. The drivers kept going, ever so slowly, while the passengers made their way to the restaurant.
The restaurant floated on the Mississippi River. It was a barge that had been reconstructed to resemble a paddlewheel steamboat. Arches rose over the restaurant as well. It was a McDonald’s. Finally, the drivers found a place to park after escaping the vehicular nightmare and. Hurried to eat before meeting everyone at the base of the Gateway Arch. We toured the several museums, shops, and exhibits at the building at the bottom.
When it was time for our tour, a guide led us through some doors and down a series of stairs. In groups of five, we stood outside of several narrow doors that reminded me of the door for hens in a chicken coop. It wasn’t long before we heard a series of clicks and then light that escaped through the cracks around the doors. The light grew stronger and the clicking louder, finally coming to a stop. The doors opened and passengers escaped.
Peering inside, it looked like an egg shape from the inside. Once inside, it did nothing to dissuade that thought. There were five seats, cheek to cheek, one seat opposite from the door and two on each side of the door.
The ride up was a bit disconcerting. The egg would slowly tilt to one side until there was a fifteen degree list. Then it would ratchet to vertical, edging its way to the top. Getting out of the egg, we were met with a curved floor arching to the top, lined with windows. The view of the capital building for ST. Louis was on one side and on the other, a panoramic view of the Mississippi River and the river traffic 670 feet below.
After spending time there, we descended to drive to a nearby church where we expected to sleep on the church floor, however, when we got there, many of the church members were there with snacks. They took campers by twos and threes to their homes for the night, providing showers, beds to sleep, and a breakfast before returning us to the church for our next leg of our journey West.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tenting Tonight

On our camping trip out West, we arrived at a dry camp, Kings Creek Campground, Utah, near the town of Tropic. A dry camp means the campsite had no water for showers. The site did have potable water, water for hand washing, and for flushing of the commodes in the restrooms. The campsite was unusual because it had an amphitheater area with bleachers that stepped up from a concrete surrounded fire pit. The site we had been assigned was at the amphitheater section of the camp.
We were old pros at setting up camp. We had put up our tents and cooked our food in the dark of night and this one was easy. The girls set up their tent, the guys set up theirs, and the boys, set up the tent for the women chaperones while the women started the meal. The men built the campfire
It was Saturday night and we had our church service that evening. There would be no time in the morning. We sat on the bleachers and the walls of the sanctuary were pines and the ceiling was a dark star studded night sky.
The boys weren’t satisfied with the fire in the fire pit; they built one close to the spot where they had already erected their tent. Along our drive, they had bought hot dogs and marshmallows. It was their plan to stay up late and snack on them later that night. The boys could sleep during the drive on the morrow and weren’t concerned that their laughter and noise would bother others, especially those who would have to drive the vans.
Despite several warnings, they kept the fire and laughter going until late or should I say early morning. When I woke, I was talking to another driver, Joy. She was sleepy and tired because of the boys late night antics.
In the morning, the boys were still sleeping and we decided to lower the center frame of their tent, dropping its roof to the point they couldn’t stand when they finally awoke. Unwittingly, we had set into motion a civil war between the boys and girls. The boys blamed the girls and locked tent zippers, powdered sleeping bags, and shaving cream bombs ensued.
But back to the sights of the campsite that morning, Pastor Johnston had moved his sleeping bag closer to the fire pit. Apparently he had gotten cold during the night. His bag was covered in gray flakes of wood ash. It looked as though it had snowed dingy snow during the night.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Bottoms Up

When our Pastor Norm Johnston planned a trip to summer camp for the teenagers of the church, it wasn’t the drive to camp and back, it was an adventure. It was a trip of a lifetime for many of them, seeing much of the country that would be hard to do ever again. The church camp was in the mountains of Colorado. There were seven adult chaperones/ drivers and seventeen teen aged adolescents. The entire trip lasted seventeen days, camping in tents, sightseeing, touring, and driving.
The incident I want to share happened while we were at the Wilds of the West. It was the church camp we visited for five days. It was beautiful, overlooking a small lake surrounded by evergreens.
My wife, Cindy, several others, and I decided to go for the horseback ride and breakfast one morning. Let me explain, my wife was a short woman and most of her height was from her torso. She had short legs. To ride, she had to be helped into the saddle and even though the wranglers tried, they couldn’t shorten the stirrups enough or her to get her feet firmly in place.
Her mount was a mule named Festus. Festus started to step back and when he did, Cindy pulled back on the reins. It wasn’t a good idea. Festus reared and Cindy slid off and landed on her rear. She assured us that she was okay, but the wranglers had her ride to the breakfast campfire in the jeep. The ride for the rest as well as the meal went well.
Cindy’s pride wasn’t the only thing hurt. Her bottom was sore and may have bruised her tailbone. She had a miserable time when we drove on our return trip. I drove most of the time and she sat kind of side saddle in the passenger seat. She did drive for about two hours around Chicago to Gary, then I climbed back into the driver’s seat.
I want to share this trip and the adventures before they get lost in my mind and to thank Pastor Johnston for his wisdom In planning this trip and the privilege of sharing the wonders of God’s creations and beauty with him.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Psalm 19:1

Friday, May 2, 2014

An elderly man was given a prep for a test in the morning. His bowels had to be empty for the colonoscopy. The prep was started on the evening shift with limited results, but things changed for the night shift. Oh boy, did they change. The old man rang out, but before we could respond, his bowels had already emptied. Everything looked normal until we pulled back the top sheet and blanket.
The smell was horrific and I have never, ever seen the sight that awaited us as we uncovered him. This man was lying in the middle of an expansive pool of butterscotch colored bowel movement. The pool wasn’t Olympic in size, but it was quite deep. It covered the bed surface from the middle of his back, pooling along both of his sides and thighs, and ended up forming a puddle between his legs. The depth reached half way up his sides of his abdomen and thighs. We looked at each other in utter disbelief. How could one thin man hold so much feces? How could we clean him without getting the mess all over ourselves and on the floor?
We finally rolled him to one side of the bed and allowing the pudding consistency feces to flow into the depression where he had been laying, then folding the bed pads and sheets over to temporarily cover and trap the bowel movement. We covered the bowel movement and sheet with clean bed pads and rolled him back onto the clean pads. There was no use trying to clean him until we got the entire mess off the bed. Only when it had been removed, could we think of beginning to clean the man.
Lining up garbage cans, we pulled the soiled sheets to the edge of the bed and allowed the bowel movement and the blue pads to slide into the waste baskets lined with several layers of plastic bags. After several changes of disposable bed pads, we could clean the mattress. The worst of the mess was now removed and we could tackle cleaning the man who was on more dry, disposable pads. It wasn’t long until he was clean, smelling fresh, and settled in for the night.
I can’t imagine what the housekeepers thought when they collected the heavy garbage bags in the morning. I do know that some of the nurses who helped to clean the man said that they would never eat butterscotch pudding again. Me, I never liked butterscotch.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Missed Post
     I missed posting last night. Sorry. I have a head cold and my sinuses were really causing problems for me. I had a runny nose all day yesterday, then just before bedtime, it dammed up and gave me one terrific headache. I haven't had a headache like that since my last migraine.
I tried to lay down in bed, but I couldn't find a position that allowed me to fall asleep. The pain in my head shifted as the mucous locked inside moved. I got up and down several times before I retreated into the arms of a living room chair and slept sitting up all night.
I had several of the familiar hot and cold flashes, so sleep was broken up, scattered, and not restful. When I woke this morning, I felt a bit better, but just finished with a bloody nose.
Yesterday wasn't a good day at all. Replaced the mower belt on my riding mower and I must have done something wrong, because it chewed up the belt and the new belt is no longer useable. I need to buy another belt and kiss thirty dollars goodbye.
The rainy weather hasn't been very uplifting either. Hopefully April showers are behind us.