Monday, October 30, 2017

Heading West

This summer our family took a trip west.  In mid July, we entered Yellowstone National Park dressed in short sleeves and shorts only to discover that at the altitude we were, we needed more.  It was a chilly 47 degrees.   Just before entering the park, we came upon a huge bison bull lumbering up a hill alongside the road.  We passed within a few feet of him, and he totally ignored us.  We were not about to get out of the car though because we had heard of some horror stories of people being seriously injured by these monstrosities of nature.  We heard of one very foolish tourist who tried taking a selfie with one of these huge beasts and got stomped.  Yellowstone itself is a beautiful park if you enjoy nature, which we do.  Above Matthew and I are seen just before we entered Yellowstone.

As we started through Yellowstone, the road climbed steadily until it seemed as though we could see forever.  Here Tess and the boys are pictured above a huge lake with the mountains in the background.
As we were driving along, we heard the distinctive bugle of a bull elk not far off.  Look though we would, we were unable to see any elk; however, about five miles down the road we were fortunate to glimpse some elk grazing among the trees some distance from the road.  These animals are extremely shy, so we counted ourselves fortunate to see them.  Tess and Matthew also saw a gray wolf that Everett and I missed.  We all saw a couple of bald eagles as we drove through the park but were unable to get a picture of them.
Here Matthew is pictured with Old Faithful beginning its periodic eruption in the background.  Erupting approximately every 65 minutes, this geyser has been named for the regularity with which it erupts.  Each eruption lasts for approximately 2 and one-half minutes.  This picture was taken as the eruption was actually winding down, so it was almost twice this high when it reached its climax.  While it is not the largest geyser in Yellowstone, it is probably the most popular because of its predictability. The largest geyser in Yellowstone is Steamboat Geyser which can shoot water over 300 feet into the air while Old Faithful is limited to about 186 feet.  Not far from Old Faithful is Mammoth Hot Springs another beautiful and colorful site to visit.
Here Matthew stands above the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (not to be confused by the Grand Canyon), an impressive gorge running through Yellowstone.  Matthew, Everett and I all hiked to the bottom of this gorge which turned out to be a real workout, especially for me.  Tess did not attempt this one.  By the time I got back to the car, I was battling for breath, so quite possibly I was already dealing with the pneumonia that took me down when we returned.  Viewing the falls after reaching the bottom of the gorge is a breathtaking experience.
Here is a good picture of one of the bison we saw while driving through the park.  Grazing serenely in the grasslands, this animal seems very innocuous.  Don't be fooled!  They can be extremely bad-tempered and can easily kill a man.Not only are they big, they are also very fast, reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.  They seem slow because their movements are somewhat sluggish, but when angered or frightened, they are flat out fast.
Our budding photographer, Matthew, took our picture here above a pond in the hills of the Yellowstone National Park.  We were fortunate to experience great weather the whole time we were out west.
Above towers the Mammoth Hot Springs.  Clouds of steam rise into the sky.  Colors transform the rock faces into a beautiful scene.  The hot springs are transformed into many colors because of the minerals that are present.  One thing that is not so pleasant near the hot springs is the sulfuric odor.  These springs are frequently called paint pots because of the many colors seen in them.
Picture is another view from above of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  The beauty of this park is amazing.
As we travel north, we climb higher and higher into the mountains.  On a narrow two lane road, one peeks down hundreds of feet while at these dizzying heights.  Needless to say, one does not drive fast on this road with its nonexistent shoulders and its sharp curving switchbacks.  The view, however, is spectacular.  Leaving these mountains behind after a nine hour drive around the park, we finally began our descent towards the eastern exit where we left all this glorious God-created majesty behind.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Start of a Summer Vacation to Remember

     Visiting my old college friends in Ohio, my sons enjoy time outdoors jumping on the trampoline and a great fishing outing.  Mike Bonham, Matthew, Everett and I combined to catch a total of 9 fish in this tiny pond in rural Ohio.  Fishing is one of my boys' favorite past times. This was the beginning to what would become one of our family's more memorable vacations as we stopped in Dayton first to visit my friends and then traveled to Wakarusa, Indiana to visit my former in-laws. 

     In Indiana we spent some time on the farm.  Here the boys are visiting with "Uncle Glenn" after he returns from milking the cows.  Though he is not really related, my boys look upon Glenn as a true uncle.  While we did not spend as much time on the farm this year, the boys always like to see and spend time with Glenn.  Matthew and Everett did get to spend time playing with some great friends they had met on a previous trip here and saw the puppies their dog had birthed.  They begged for us to take one home, but it was not destined to be. This would be the kickoff though to a great trip west which I will write about in another entry.  My original intentions were to travel from Wakarusa to Minnesota and then back home; however, the night before departing from Wakarusa, I changed my plans to head west to South Dakota.  Later still, I would expand those plans to include Wyoming.  What was meant to be a trip of 1800 miles would turn into a trip of 5000 miles.  We would visit the Badlands, the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower and Yellowstone before finally returning home just in time to discover that I had contracted a case of pneumonia.  Our westward travels will be the subject of an upcoming entry.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Shenandoah Shenanigans

      One of our family's favorite places to visit is the Shenandoah Valley along the Skyline Drive.  Enjoying the benefits of a senior pass, we frequently visit the Shenandoah National Park, especially around the time of the changing of colors in foliage. While the foliage was not at peak season yet, it still was beautiful and very colorful.  The day was glorious with a bright sunny sky and a cool breeze.

      Here my son, Everett enjoys a brief respite in the middle of a rather long and somewhat arduous hike in the morning.  The hike covered  a steep portion of the Appalachian Trail with numerous switchbacks which my boys tried to avoid by climbing straight up through the underbrush, usually resulting in a loss of time overall.
      Here Tess and Everett share a hug as we look out over the Shenandoah Valley.  Breathtaking scenes such as this are common along the Skyline Drive.  Although we always enjoy this scenery, we also enjoy hiking and climbing in the park.  Numerous trails besides the most famous, the Appalachian Trail, bisect this huge park.
      Here Matthew can be seen kneeling in a bed of ferns in the Meadows as we opted for a change of pace from the mountainous terrain.  My wife and sons were able to take a breather on the level meadow lands.  Below, we can be seen gathered under a beautiful birch tree.

          One of our more challenging climbs came on the rock scramble at Bearfence Mountain south of the Meadows.  By this time Tess had had enough for the day and decided to wait this one out in the car.  Everett started out with us but turned back before reaching the rock scramble.  Matthew and I continued on and tackled the rock scramble.  The photo above gives a clue to the difficulty of the climb although one cannot truly grasp the level of difficulty from the photo.  There were a couple places I literally had to crawl from one boulder to another to make it..  On our return to the car, Matthew was funny when I complimented him on his caution while traversing this section of the trail.  His response was that he needed to be there for me to help if necessary because his mother would not be happy with him if his daddy fell and had to be airlifted out.  Needless to say, we had no mishaps and our trip turned out to be a great precursor to our 14th wedding anniversary.

Monday, October 2, 2017

When They Don't Want to Eat

What does one do when his/her child refuses to eat?  This was the predicament my wife and I found ourselves in with our youngest son, Everett.  His pediatrician assured us that physically he was fine and there was no need to worry.  It still concerned us that he would not eat what was placed on his plate, so one day my wife decided she would teach him to cook his own food, hoping that this would encourage him to eat better.  While it has not been a silver bullet that would cure all ills, it has seemed to encourage him to eat better.
The interesting thing is that he absolutely loved cooking and baking, and it really strengthened the bond between Everett and Tess.  Together they cooked and baked, producing everything from doughnuts to pancakes to pasta dishes.  Everett has learned to make his own toasted cheese sandwiches among other things.  It has been a while since he and his mother have cooked together and he still refuses to eat any meat except the occasional chicken, but I have a feeling that this is an interest that he will continue to develop as he grows.  As you can see, we all enjoyed the fruits of his labors in the kitchen.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fun on the Weekend of the Fourth 2017

A warm summer morning turned into a sweltering afternoon this July Fourth.  During the morning, my elder son and I spent some time tuning up his baseball skills.  His plan is to try out for the middle school baseball team this year, so I spent some time in the morning pitching to him and then hitting him some fly balls.  My first few swings really made me realize how long it had been since I had last hit fungoes.  It is scary to realize how much age has eroded skills that I had always taken for granted.  Age is definitely taking its toll. Matthew enjoyed this workout immensely although he eventually grew tired and decided it was time to quit.  Undaunted by the sweltering heat of the afternoon, both of my boys took to the pool with their cousins for a time of refreshing and cooling down.  There is not much they love more than to spend time in the pool, so they made the most of this opportunity.  Here they can be seen hauling their cousin around on an inflatable alligator in the pool.  Days like this are always greatly enjoyed by Matthew and Everett, and I enjoy spending the time with them.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Simple Pleasures

     I happened to be opening some older photos the other day when I came upon these from two years ago.  I was immediately reminded of the importance of family relationships and the importance of grasping every moment as it comes.  As I viewed these photos of my boys, I was struck with their growth across the last 27 months.  They are no longer little boys; the eldest will be a teen by the end of October while the younger just turned eleven.  I was also reminded of how important family is to Philipinos.  In this post, one can see three sisters and a close family friend, and their close attachment is easy to distinguish.  My boys can be seen playing football with their cousin and uncle in our backyard.  As always, food is very important when Philipino gather, especially Philippine foods.
I have come to realize that these are times to cherish and to revisit as the pressures of a busy life seek to bury us beneath a load of care.  Simple pleasures like feasting with family, playing football outdoors and just enjoying each other so outweigh the material wealth for which we sometimes strive.  A verse from I Timothy comes to mind, For contentment with godliness is great gain.  Not always easy to follow, but definitely worth the struggle!

Starting Fresh

It has been a long time since I last posted to this blog, and I am committed to renewing what I had been doing previously although I will be going back in time to hit some high points in our lives which have not made it into this blog. In the summer of 2016, our family took a trip to Niagara Falls.  That was a great experience for the boys who had never seen the falls before.  They marveled at the majesty of the falls as we stood near the thundering waters.  When viewing Niagara Falls, the trip is never complete without an excursion on the Maid of the Mist.  We enjoyed our trip up close to the falls even if we did get soaked.  I was reminded of the passage in Psalms where the Psalmist had this to say.
     In the roar of Your waterfalls,
    ancient depths surge, calling out to the deep.
All Your waves break over me;
    am I drowning?
Yet in the light of day, the Eternal shows me His love.
    When night settles in and all is dark, He keeps me company—
    His soothing song, a prayerful melody to the True God of my life.
Experiencing extreme difficulties in life may cause us to feel as though we are drowning, yet we are reminded once again of the power and love of a God who cares for us. As a family we were fortunate enough to see another result of an all powerful and loving God's great acts of creation.
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