Review: The Pacific Crest Trail

March 19, 1998

The Pacific Crest Trail

“Wherever we go in the mountains, we find more than we seek,” said John Muir, an avid naturalist who fought for the preservation of the western wilderness because of their beauty and the relaxation he found in them.  The Pacific Crest Trail was a delight to read as I followed the author from Southern California to Northern Washington.  It took me from the roadside view I have seen blur past my eyes into the wilds and rugged topographic beauty of the Sierra Nevada range across the Mojave desert, into the bowl of Crater Lake and the icy peaks of Mount Rainier to the Canadian border.

Author and adventurer, William R. Gray, wrote this book in such a way that I felt I was experiencing along with him the wet, boulder-strewn trails, the breathtaking uplifted peaks, and the flora of the trail.  Never before have I taken much interest in extensive backpacking/hiking but being able to see the rugged mountains and serene valleys while actually experiencing the world God created has grabbed my attention.  Perhaps I shall attempt the hike myself sometime.

Gray met 87-year-old geologist, Dr. Rene Engel, who described subterranean forces of mountain building and offered this advice, “Be alert as you walk through the mountains.  You will learn much more geology from them than you will from me.”

I think Dr. Engel said it well.  For myself it is one thing to read, study, or even see pictures of the structures of the earth.  But it is a whole new dimension to feel the rough ancient volcanic rock under my feet and understand the gigantic forces God used to make the beautiful ranges Gray described.

Through the variety of ecological environments he passed, Gray, brought the pages of this book to life with descriptions of the land, the creatures and the people who have made these areas their home.  The flora which struggles to survive in the scorching heat of the Mojave Desert draws life-giving water from the porous stone which seems to soak up any moister as quickly as it falls.  This book, with its photographs and descriptive phrases, has given me a guided tour through the deserts and mountains of the Pacific Coast.  Gray described the contrasts of nature as he saw them change with each mile he passed.  The heat of the desert gradually became the freezing wind at the cap of Mount Whitney at 14,494.164 feet.

Just as John Muir said, I found more than I expected in mountains and valleys described in this book.  Not only did I learn about the topography of the Pacific Crest Trail; I learned about the forces which made the numerous ridges and volcanic cones.  I learned to take a second look at the world around me and find the natural beauty of God’s creation.  Someday, perhaps, I will follow the Pacific Crest Trail, but for now I will let this remind me to take a closer look at nature around me and remember the natural geologic stories beneath my own feet.

Philbrook Museum

I visited the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  As I walked through the villa I couldn’t help but take note of the amazing architecture of the structure itself.  From the rotunda to the twisted columns and elaborate painted ceilings,  it was a pleasure to walk through the building itself.  And besides there is a lot of nice art work on display as well.

In the American Still-Life traveling exhibit I had little taste for the majority of the pieces because I personally don’t care for the modern style.  One smaller painting particularly caught my eye: Carpetbag Days by Priscilla Roberts was stunning.  Roberts’ oil on masonite is a dark painting with light coming from the right upper corner.  Roberts used a technique and style that created a lifelike representation of a scene from bygone days.  In the photographic like painting a clock, carpetbag, chest and a couple of other items can be seen.  I liked the simplistic yet pure style.

Another piece was Blue Blanket by a different artist.  Blue Blanket was striking in that it showed a (what else?) blue blanket on a lawn.  The artist’s shading and highlights gave the effect of a pool of refreshing water.  It was odd but I liked it.

Of the European art I like the portrait entitled “The Shepherdess”  it is simple in content but speaks loudly of  an era in Europe.

The Villa Philbrook building and grounds have an interesting history.  Designed by architects from Kansas City, Missouri; the structure and Italianate gardens were built in the 1920’s for Waite and Genevieve Phillips where the wealthy couple lived from 1927 – 1938.

Now the Philbrook is made open to the public for the enjoyment of the property and the wonderful works of art it contains.

Nikon’s Mega Lens 1200-1700mm

The mega lens!

Popular Photography shared an image from the Italian newspaper La Stampa showing Reuters photographer Dylan Martinez using  the mega  Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6-8P IF-ED in Rome.

According to Popular Photography the lens that Nikon briefly made in the early 90s, which sold for $60,000-$75,000. Apparently it weighs about 35 pounds!

Read Reuters description of using this looooong lens in France back in 2007 (although they modified it to fit a Canon body).


I remember getting to borrow a Nikon 400mm lens when I was at the Mountain Workshops in Kentucky for shooting off the top of a bell tower. I thought that was pretty cool but imagine shooting eyelashes from three blocks away with the 1200-1700mm!

Here are other incredible lenses that are worth checking out for the extremist photographer!

Photography Projects that show a worldview of life

Where Children Sleep is a project by photographer James Mollison that shows children from around the world and where they sleep at night. See some of the images here.

While I’m not particularly fond of the stark white “studio” shots of the kids themselves, I like what Mollison did with showing how people live through this collection of images. Nice idea!

A similar book that I’m reminded of by Where Children Sleep is Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Menzel, et. al.

Hiking the Volcano Santa Maria

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.                © MICHAEL SHEAD

The Volcano Santa Maria; been there, done that…and it was tough!

Ever since I heard about the moonlight hikes of the volcano Santa Maria, I thought that it sounded like a blast!

Hiking through the moonlit darkness into the dawn and then seeing sunrise from the towering peak and viewing up to 11 other volcanic peaks including looking down onto the live crater of Santiaguito, sounded like a great adventure for this Kansas farm boy.

So, here’s the story of my volcanic hiking adventure…

The Mountain

  • Name: Santa Maria
  • Height: 12,375 ft (3772 mts)
  • Type:Volcanic
  • Comparison: Mt. Fuji in Japan is about 10 feet taller
  • Trail rating: Strenuous
  • Trail distance: Approx. 6.21 miles (10 km)
  • Elevation increase from trailhead: Approx. 4,173 feet

The hikers

I had been dreaming of doing this hike for two years so when I found out that some friends were interested I planned it for Nov. 15th, 2013 (technically a few days before the full moon but it worked better for our schedules). There were five friends from ASELSI and three guys visiting town from Michigan plus our friend Kevin, from Totonicapan, our guide, Hansy, two friends of his and two police officers for safety. (Apparently there have been some thieves prowling the trails and they recommend armed escorts to prevent attacks.)

In Quetzaltenango, we met up with Hansy near the stadium and his friend wowed us with a  story of Hansy’s record ascent of the mountain (an incredible 45 minutes). Then we drove over to the central park where a van pulled up at about 12:30 a.m., and we headed out to the Santa Maria Summit Trail trailhead which ended up being quite a long ways from the foot of the mountain but, unless you’re on dirt bikes, that’s as close as you can get in a van. Continue reading

Review: The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov


The play The Cherry Orchard was written in the last year of the life of its author Anton Pavlov Chekhov and was first performed the same year in the Moscow Art Theater in 1904 as a tragedy despite the fact that Chekhov insisted it was a comedy rather than a tragedy as the director portrayed it.

According to The Reader’s Companion to World Literature by Hornstein, Percy, and Brown (1984); Chekhov was a pre-revolutionary Russian writer who at least fairly accurately reflected the Russian society of his day.  With his family heritage and experiences as a physician, Chekhov was able to look at Russian society from the point of view of the poor as well as the rich.  RCWL describes the Russia of Chekhov’s day as including the suffering of the poor and the rich who live in boredom.

In his writings, Chekhov takes a realistic although sometimes surreal view of his subjects.

I once saw the Oral Roberts University’s production of Chekhov’s play The Seagull which seemed to have a tragic surreal air about the characters.  His play The Cherry Orchard is a good example of realism since it appears to show a slice of society not as Chekhov wants it to be but as it is.  Chekhov presents his audience with the common, the mundane, and the seemingly unimportant as it would be in everyday life.  Chekhov once wrote about life, “It is very monotonous and boring; one day is very much like another.” (RCWL, p.105).  In his writings this outlook on life is definitely apparent.

The characters in The Cherry Orchard are upper class but bored people who have just arrived home from a journey and are now discussing old friends, how tired they are, debt problems, and a myriad of other topics.  I find it ironic how devoted the servant girl is yet the aristocrats seem not to care.  The plot, if you can call it that, peaks at the suggestion that the family owned cherry orchard be cut down and leased to builders to get them out of debt.  While this would solve their debt problems the family is much more devote to the traditions of what the cherry orchard represents and how historical it is as a local attraction.  In contrast the problem-solving merchant who proposed its demise cares nothing for traditions.  I suppose this was an idea from that time period or Russian culture, but I do find it amazing that they would talk of marrying off one of the daughters to a rich man as a more viable means of relief from debt even more than selling a parcel of land.

I like the sense of tradition as held by the landowners.  This sense of something which outlasts themselves and should be held as it is despite their financial problems.  I felt The Cherry Orchard somewhat ironically displays the problems with selfish aristocratic living including arranged marriages because of money, apathy about the devotion of servants, and self-centered attitudes. Even now I think reading Chekhov’s slice-of-life style help people today to understand an era when people have lost this sense of dedication and seek after “their own thing”.  After all anyone can learn from the way people were if they are willing to consider the past and do something different in their own lives.

Review: Keep Talking by Freiderike Klippel

Definitely a book worthy to be in the hand of every language teacher — Keep Talking by Freiderike Klippel. Klippel brings together a wonderful culmination of exercises and teaching techniques and ideas which should be practiced in many a classroom.
This book contains 123 activities all organized and categorized to be of maximum use for the teacher. For convenience, the activities are listed so a teacher can look up an activity which will fit her classroom needs specifically. There are three major headings for the activities: Questions and answers, Discussions and decisions, and Stories and scenes. Each activity is categorized by topic, language level, type of student organization needed whether from groups to individuals, amount of preparation involved, and time in minutes for the exercise to be completed.

Continue reading

Purposeful Attitudes

23 February, 2000

Human attitudes toward each other reflect a deeper level of consciousness toward God.  In her short story, “The Displaced Person,” Flannery O’Connor shows how self-righteousness and prejudices are within the characters while subtly allowing the reader to recognize those same attitudes in himself.  The text has the feeling that there is great significance in the words that hold a sense of power.  Still, the story retains the smooth rhythm that keeps the attention of the reader with a natural ease.  O’Connor uses a limited omniscient point of view to give the reader a sense of being alongside the ever-observerant Mrs. Shortley in the fields, barns, and conversations as she sees, hears, and takes note of all that occurs until the author carries on the story without her.  The symbolism O’Connor creates in this story is beautifully mysterious, strangely prophetic, and subtly vibrant.  Despite the seriousness of the ending, the displacement of characters en masse keeps the reader acutely aware of the irony of misconceptions, biased attitudes and disregard for Christ. Continue reading

Mission Trip Devotional Resources

Team Devotionals in Action

I recently hosted a mission team from Michigan and they had some great team devotional and individual resources that they brought with them to encourage the youth to build in quiet times and deeper devotional times into their team’s down times.

I’m going to start referring new teams to this resource for those who don’t want to or have time to re-invent the wheel with their own custom devotional resources for the team.

LeaderTreks also has pre-trip and debriefing tools available.

Mission trips should be more than just mountain top experiences. They should be life changing.

via LeaderTreks Student Mission Trip Resources

Review: A vocal concert

On Thursday, February 18,  I attended the senior recital of mezzo-soprano singer Charity Barker at Oral Roberts University.  Usually, I am not one to pick out concerts for vocal qualities.  I tend to prefer the more instrumental performances.  However, I did attend Ms. Barker’s recital and feel it was a good experience for me.

Ms. Barker has a strong vibrant voice.  As vocal majors are required, Ms. Barker sang songs in Italian, German, French, and British and American English.  Since I do not understand most of those languages, I followed along in the little flier in the bulletin. I was surprised at the depressive lyrics to several of the songs.  The song Son tutta duolo especially was full of saddened lyrics.

The Italian piece, Oronteasomehow reminded me of aristocratic gardens as one would watch out a large window pane.  It seemed to flow gently.  Even though I could not understand the lyrics, they held the quality which made me think of a lady missing her lad who was away.

As I listened to the music, I took notes so I could write some of the feelings I was having as I listened.  I described the German music as heavier and darker than the other pieces.  Of the German pieces I wrote, “Tries to be light and jovial but doesn’t quite make it.”  The German pieces somehow had a heavier sound.  Perhaps it was the guttural sound of the German tongue or just the style of those pieces.   The American pieces by Gershwin held a light sound with a hint of frivolity.

Overall, I think I gained a better understanding of what the different language styles and at least a little more appreciation of vocal music by itself.