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#70: Hike a “Fourteener” in Colorado

On Friday morning, in Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, Colorado, I reached the top of Long’s Peak (elevation 14,255 ft.), after an overnight hike with my buddy Paul Ross, and scratched off #70 on my list. This is the tallest peak I have ever ascended (exceeding the previous high by over 2000 feet). At the Iron Men X Anniversary Dinner in August, I will make some remarks about the most important lesson I learned from reaching this goal (I’ll post them here after the dinner), but here are a few other scattered thoughts. 

First, I owe a great debt to my fellow Iron Man Paul Ross (and his family, including his wife Tommye), who graciously furnished me with my own cabin (one of three on their property) in Estes Park, as well as providing me with delicious food and pleasant company. Furthermore, Paul’s guidance, wisdom, and encouragement on the trail proved to be invaluable. I’m also greatly indebted to Carrie for running the Moreland household solo for four days, while I was gone. This trip would not have happened if not for either of their efforts and encouragement. 

The National Parks Service posts a weekly report on trail conditions for the Keyhole route, which is what I used to climb the peak, here: http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/longs_peak_conditions_report.htm. Their site also contains descriptions of different parts of the trail, and advice for what to do after the trail runs out (yes, the trail ends long before the climb does). Check it out for more pictures and descriptions. I cannot stress how important it is for climbers to check these reports before attempting an ascent; even in July, we saw quite a bit of snow (including several snow fields at least a foot thick). Luckily, we slipped into a perfect weather window (it only rained/hailed on us for a few minutes, well after we were down off the peak). Had we come a week earlier, I probably could not have made it to the top because of ice and snow; had we started up later on Friday morning from the Boulder Field (our campsite), I probably would have been caught in the storm that rapidly swept over the mountain after noon.

On the Narrows, I met a husband and wife team who were climbing Long’s Peak for the first time as well. However, they had climbed a few other 14ers before. When they asked how many 14ers I had climbed, I replied, “This is my first.” At this, the man exclaimed, “Holy s&$^%! You chose this mountain for your first 14er?!" By this point we were close to the top, so it made me feel pretty good.

The top of the peak is the size of a football field, which is rare in my experience. It was a fairly clear day. We saw Pikes Peak and the Collegiate Peaks to the south, several glaciers, waterfalls and mountain lakes to the west (which my friends Berry and Cyndi have toured with Paul), the aptly named Never Summer Mountains to the far west, the Front Range to the north and east, and beyond that…well, we saw Denver, Eastern Colorado, Kansas, Illinois…I mean, it felt like you could see all the way to the Appalachians. 

We met several runners on the trail (technical climbers too), including one woman so swept up in the beauty of the scenery that she broke down emotionally. I casually commented that no man could make what we were observing; later, as we were purifying water from a snow-fed stream near a herd of about thirty elk, we met her again as she descended the trail. She said hi, and subsequently knelt down by the stream to drink directly from it! I offered her some filtered water; she replied, “It’s like you said! If God made this, then it can’t be bad for me!” Later, as I recounted this story to some people on the peak, I mentioned that I thought about saying to her, “Well, God gave you a brain too.” A fellow hiker chirped, “Not much of one, it seems.” Ok, so we had a little fun at her expense, but you know, if you saw what we saw, you might have understood her point of view.

We took several pictures of rock cairns throughout the park for our buddy Berry, including one (oddly) on the peak itself, which had a sign posted: “Descend Keyhole Route. Roll no rocks.” No kidding!

If I never had to go through Amarillo or Dalhart again, I wouldn’t mind it. However, I’d live in Canyon, TX, and Loveland, CO as well; both gorgeous towns (it didn’t hurt that I drove through both during the “magic hour,” but still).

You can keep your mansions and streets of gold; I’m pretty sure that Jesus will meet me in heaven at a log cabin, by a creek, under a canopy of pine trees, just before sunset. Hope you can visit.

I planned on the drive taking eleven hours; in both cases, it ended up taking thirteen. Outside Pueblo on the way up I-25, I was stuck in a dead-stop traffic jam for an hour. People were getting out of their cars to use the restroom, play football, etc. On the way back, I had to search for a public dumpster to unload a few bags of trash (sorry, Raton McDonald’s).

One other delay: in Denver, at 5:00 of course, I stopped at the Flagship REI store, which has hiking and river trails surrounding it, a three-story rock climbing wall, a parking garage, and every single thing a hiker could ever want or need. I bought a pair of hiking shoes (North Face Hedgehogs - broke ‘em in on the trail, and they did splendidly), as well as water-resistant cargo pants. I could have spent the entire day in that place.

On the way back through Boulder, CO, I probably passed 200 bicyclists. Cory Callaway would make friends there (even though they’re all a bunch of liberal hippies). Also, the cycling room at REI would have made your head spin, Cory.

On the way up to Estes Park, I listened to Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life, and started in on George Sayer’s Jack. Listening to a book straight through while driving is an interesting experience: I gave my full attention to the book, and when I arrived in Estes I felt like my mind was spent. (I also quoted Lewis to Paul for the entire trip.) At the end of the hike, my body was spent. And on the way home, I sang U2 and Delirious songs at the top of my lungs; when I arrived home, my throat was spent. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t recharge on vacations; that comes later. Nevertheless, my heart is full, and as always when I finish a strenuous hike, I’m reminded of the saying of Mother Pollard, an elderly woman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the Montgomery Bus Boycott: “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”

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#30: Read the Koran

It took me a year to read this book, off and on. To be honest, I thought about giving up several times. I’m sure some of the difficulty comes from not reading the text in the original language, though the research said this was the best English translation. It is very repetitive; no doubt that helps Muslims memorize the text, but it proved to be very arduous to read front to back. Reading the text as a Christian was very enlightening, and made me contemplate how non-Christians read our sacred texts. I did enjoy certain parts and observed similarities between our faiths, but some key differences exist as well, the most prominent being: Muslims seem to believe that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ is beneath the dignity of God. It hit me again and again reading this text: the cross is offensive to those who don’t believe in Christ’s divinity. There are other things I could talk about, but really, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m glad I’ve read it, and I’m glad I can read something else now.

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berrysimpson:

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(This is from an email that I sent to a friend. If you have questions or suggestions, contact me.)

So I published my first book, Running With God, through Xulon Press … a faith-based self-publishing company. They did all the layout and printing and all that. I thought it was too expensive…

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#41 - Create a Living Will
Grateful to our friend Shane Stokes for helping us get our estate in order. (Snickering at the word “estate” here, but still…) And no, I didn’t decide to do this after watching The Other Side of Darkness.

#41 - Create a Living Will

Grateful to our friend Shane Stokes for helping us get our estate in order. (Snickering at the word “estate” here, but still…) And no, I didn’t decide to do this after watching The Other Side of Darkness.

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A quick update about my GoFundMe: I’ve raised $800 so far (goal = $5000), and Carrie and I are aiming to travel to England for our fifteenth wedding anniversary in the summer of 2015. If you’ve got some spare change or wish to give us a Christmas gift, we’d be thrilled if you contributed.
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#16 (Take a Cooking Class) - Incomplete

I need your help. Does anyone know someone in Midland who can teach basic cooking to me? I’m not looking for a full culinary education; just enough to cook for my family without embarrassing myself. Also, I’d like to learn to bake a cake…”I like to cook the way I feel, and I feel good!”

PS - Thanks to all of you so far who have donated for my GoFundMe for a trip to England (#68, 77, 86, 95, & 98). We’re up to 10% ($500/$5000)!

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#74: Hike to Devil’s Hall in the Guadalupes

In the past eight days, I have walked 27 miles in two different national parks. I’ve also knocked out a couple of life goals. As with the Emory Peak hike last week, however, I didn’t expect to cross off this goal until the morning of the hike, when my friend Paul decided he would hike Devil’s Hall instead of the planned route up Guadalupe Peak. He had knee surgery a few months ago, and didn’t want to put too much stress on it right away.

So I took three guys who had never hiked the tallest peak in Texas along with me, while Paul did some reconnaissance work on Devil’s Hall. After a quick 5 hour scamper up and down G Peak (Aside: I don’t care how in shape you are, Guadalupe Peak is a challenge. It makes even the best of us wheeze.), we met Paul at 2:30 PM under a shady Madrone at a trail junction. Paul said it was an easy extra couple of miles; he had also taken careful notes of all the birds he had seen that morning. (If you know Paul, this doesn’t surprise you one bit.) The rest of the guys were bushed from the Peak and wanted to head back to the car, so I went by myself.

I’m glad I did. It’s a magnificent hike: short, scenic, and on a fairly even grade. As you can see from my pictures above, I’m fascinated with plants growing straight out of rocks, and there are plenty of examples of this in Devil’s Hall. This will be one of the hikes I take the boys on when they’re a bit older, maybe even this fall (I suspect the big-toothed maples on the trail will be sublime by then).

PS - This was the first time we took the long route down from Guadalupe Peak, instead of taking the steep “shortcut” (sponsored by the Arthroscopic Knee Surgeons of America). The long way is actually prettier; you go back into the canyon and see some lovely foliage. We also happened upon a herd of deer and a couple of snakes. I guess the wildlife knows which trails are less traveled upon…)

Martin Luther King used to quote a woman who, at the end of a protest march in Montgomery, would say, “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” Yes.

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#73: Hike Emory Peak

(These photos are courtesy of Shannan Goss.)

As we left Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park Saturday afternoon, I looked at my friend Shannan and asked if he thought we could make it up Emory Peak (7825 ft., the tallest point in the park) and back to camp before night fall. We were there with 11 other guys from my Sunday School department on a guys’ retreat. We had already experienced some spectacular things, including the 1500 foot sheer rock walls in the canyon that morning, and a magnificent evening on the “Window Trail” the night before. But I had shared my 100 Life Goals list with the guys that afternoon, and Shannan, Jeremy, and Justin all said they wanted to help me cross Emory Peak off my list. As we walked back to the car, we decided to do it, though in order to make it back in time, we would have to shave an hour off the normal time it takes to complete the hike (five-six hours). I also happened to make a brief, passing comment about the small clouds gathering in the distance over the Chisos Mountains. There was a 10% chance of rain, Shannan said; surely we wouldn’t run into any of that.

But we did. About 2 hours into the hike, dark, foreboding clouds gathered over Casa Grande Peak and started to roll over towards Emory. We could hear thunder getting closer by the minute. As we reached the turnoff from Pinnacles Trail to scale the peak itself, we laid our packs in the thoughtfully placed bear bins (thanks NPS!), grabbed our Camelbacks, and began jogging towards the top. By the time we reached the peak, we were into a full run, heaving and huffing our way up the gradually disappearing trail. Finally, we reached the final challenge: a fifty foot rock wall to the summit, which has been identified as a class three scramble. (I have no idea what that means, really.)

The wind started to howl out of the northeast. The rain clouds were tumbling over the peak like tumbleweeds; I have never seen anything like that before. It was becoming a dangerous situation. One false step and you weren’t just injured, you were dead. I felt that queasiness in the pit of my stomach; you know what I mean. How am I going to explain it to one of these guys’ wives if they get blown off? How will they explain it to Carrie?

"Guys," I turned back and said, "Should we stop here? This might be as far as we get to go." Shannan replied: "Clark, we’ve come this far. Let’s finish." I turned around, for no other reason really than not wanting to be the one guy in the group who chickened out. We said a prayer, and I started to climb. The other guys followed. After some careful maneuvering and a few breath prayers ("Lord, help!"), we reached the summit, and I crossed #73 off my list.

Here are some photos of the hike. There’s a reason we seem to be leaning on the peak. :) The picture at the top is what the peak looked like right after we got off the mountain, so we made it just in time. Afterwards the storm passed, and on the way down we observed the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen in my life. We thanked God for giving us that moment. We made it back to the trail head in four hours and fifteen minutes.

I told the guys when we finished that there aren’t many things you know in the moment that you will never forget. This was one of those things. Thanks guys - thanks for encouraging me to finish. It was worth it. And thank you Father in heaven - you were good to us that day.

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#99: Reach my 2012 Fitness Goals (13” bicep, 38” chest)

I didn’t reach this goal until February of this year, but I’m glad I finally made it. It was the bicep that gave me the most trouble. It wasn’t until I started ingesting large quantities of horse steroids that I…well, never mind about that. Anyway, as always with my fitness goals, I do not show pictures on this blog, because A) nobody wants to see that, B) Carrie would kill me if I posted pictures of me with my shirt off on the internet, and C) really, nobody wants to see that.

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#32: Read the Tao-te-Ching
I teach sections of Lao-Tzu in my 1302 classes, but I needed to read the entire thing to make up my mind about what I really thought about Lao-Tzu. After reading the whole thing, I’ve come to two conclusions: 1) I am closer to Confucius than Lao-Tzu. 2) The guy who wrote The Wizard of Oz was a Taoist. No doubt in my mind.

#32: Read the Tao-te-Ching

I teach sections of Lao-Tzu in my 1302 classes, but I needed to read the entire thing to make up my mind about what I really thought about Lao-Tzu. After reading the whole thing, I’ve come to two conclusions: 1) I am closer to Confucius than Lao-Tzu. 2) The guy who wrote The Wizard of Oz was a Taoist. No doubt in my mind.

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#5: Win a teaching award
Incredibly humbled and grateful for the teaching award I received tonight from the UTPB Student Senate. There are two signatures on the plaque: the President of the Student Senate, Brittany Pitrucha (pictured far left), and President Watts. The first means just as much to me as the second. Accepting the award, I thought to myself, how lucky am I? I always get the best students.

#5: Win a teaching award

Incredibly humbled and grateful for the teaching award I received tonight from the UTPB Student Senate. There are two signatures on the plaque: the President of the Student Senate, Brittany Pitrucha (pictured far left), and President Watts. The first means just as much to me as the second. Accepting the award, I thought to myself, how lucky am I? I always get the best students.

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#23: Annotate Ten Bibles

This is the first Bible that I’ve read cover-to-cover. Patrick Payton suggested I try out the Key-Word Study Bible; it was an excellent suggestion.

My only quibbles: the binding came apart early on (hence the masking tape), and the margins are still not big enough. But the integration of Strong’s dictionaries of both Old and New Testaments was an invaluable part of my study every day. The commentary was conservative as far as Biblical exegesis goes, but it was measured and thoughtful. I don’t like Bible commentary that’s longer than the Bible itself (something to keep in mind for my next purchase; anyone got a suggestion?).

Looking over my comments in the margins, I think the phrase I wrote the most (by a long shot) was “Wow!” I read Job 42 (see above) in the Gila Wilderness; the comment I wrote next to the scripture eventually was transformed into the essay I contributed to the Expect the Unexpected book. 

My friend Berry taught me to date and write down significant events in my Bible. As you can see from the chapter above (Hebrews 13), I’m really glad I did. I scrawled next to it on 4-16-10, “Bills to pay, $70.00 in the bank, baby crying.” God is faithful.

"The Lord is my Helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?"

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#9: Learn three new languages: Greek, Spanish, and French
Ok, so this is not a completed goal, but merely the starting point. My mom bought me the Rosetta Stone software for learning French on my birthday. Had my first lesson yesterday, and I thought it went pretty well. (Though I think Carrie got annoyed with me afterwards, roaming around the house muttering Il mange! Elle mange! Le garçon mange!)
Obviously this goal will take some time to accomplish (like, years). Will update you occasionally on how things are going. Au revoir!
(Yeah, I know.)

#9: Learn three new languages: Greek, Spanish, and French

Ok, so this is not a completed goal, but merely the starting point. My mom bought me the Rosetta Stone software for learning French on my birthday. Had my first lesson yesterday, and I thought it went pretty well. (Though I think Carrie got annoyed with me afterwards, roaming around the house muttering Il mange! Elle mange! Le garçon mange!)

Obviously this goal will take some time to accomplish (like, years). Will update you occasionally on how things are going. Au revoir!

(Yeah, I know.)

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My sisters have set up a GoFundMe page for a trip to England. As you know, several of my life goals involve making the trip across the pond, including:

  • #68: Go to a Liverpool Match at Anfield with Doug
  • #77: Travel to London, the Lake District, and Edinburgh
  • #86: See The Light of the World at St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • #87: Spend the night in a castle
  • #95: Visit the Tate Gallery
  • #98: Visit the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford
If you have a little extra spending money lying around, kindly throw a little change in the bucket. See the link above for more details. Thanks!
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Win a teaching award (#5) - Spring 2012

Hope there are more like this to come. Very grateful to the NSLS.

Win a teaching award (#5) - Spring 2012

Hope there are more like this to come. Very grateful to the NSLS.