Pictures from a Trip

I promised some pictures from my recent trip to Zion National Park.  Here are some of the better ones.


A mountain called “The Watchman” watches over our campground


A lovely young couple from British Columbia–Adam and Cesca–enjoy lunch on Observation Point.


Joe admires the colored rock wall of the canyon in the Narrows


Inside the Narrows, getting close to “Wall Street”


Amazing colors, shapes, and textures in the canyon

Let me just add that the trip was everything it promised to be: good for the body, good for the mind, good for the heart, and good for the soul.  Joe and I questioned that occasionally, when we hiked near the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff on Angel’s Landing, when we were sloshing upstream through waist-deep water in the Narrows, when our hearts were pounding with the exertion of a climb to Observation Point, but when we got back to camp each evening, and sat down to some of Chuck’s gourmet cooking, all was well.  And when we sat by the fire later, talking and laughing late into the evening, all was even better.

God is good and his creation is a miracle. Get outside and savor it for yourself sometime.


KOH2RVA: Day 166

DaffodilsI did it.

I took the whole day off yesterday (well, except for that one little posting incident on my blog. But that was force of habit. It could hardly be helped).

And then there was that other thing.

It was a nice, sunny day yesterday—cold, but sunny. So, I decided to pack a picnic lunch and take a walk in the woods. I chose the Northbank/Buttermilk Trail loop which goes from the Boulevard Bridge down along the north bank of the James to the Lee Bridge, and then back up to the Boulevard Bridge along the Buttermilk Trail on the south bank. It’s about a 6.3 mile loop, with lots of ups and downs to keep it interesting.

My first experience of the Buttermilk Trail was in the fall, when the sunlight filtered through the red, yellow, and orange leaves and fell to the ground in leaf-sized patches of gold. It was glorious. Yesterday’s hike was a little more bare, brown, and wintry, but I was surprised by this burst of daffodil blooms (above) at the place where I stopped to shed my jacket.

And there were all those other things to see: a Great Blue Heron gliding to a stop above a tree limb and settling itself there, folding its wings like an umbrella; five Canada Geese diving for something delicious on the muddy bottom of the river, their tail feathers pointing toward the sky; and, to my surprise, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus train, parked on a side track (I kept looking for the extra-large car where they keep the elephants and the extra-tall car where they keep the giraffes, to no avail; that may be only in my imagination).

But here’s that other thing: as I was getting close to the Boulevard Bridge, near the end of my hike, I saw that some careless hiker or biker had dropped a piece of trash on the trail. At first I just muttered under my breath and walked on by. I had seen so much beauty on my hike, and it had done so much to restore my soul. It was like this perfect moment in time I was going to frame and hang on the wall of my memory.

But then somebody threw a piece of trash on it.

I could have just picked it up. I should have. But it didn’t look like the kind of trash you would want to touch with your hands. I had a trash bag in my pack, but I didn’t really want to unbuckle everything, set it down, open the pack, take out the bag, and poke the trash into it with a stick. That seemed like too much trouble, and I was almost to the end of my hike.

So, I kept walking, but as I did I remembered something I’ve said at Richmond’s First Baptist Church over and over again: “How do you bring heaven to earth? It’s simple. Just look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven and then roll up your sleeves and go to work.” Well, that piece of trash on the trail didn’t look like heaven. In fact, I thought, “In heaven there won’t be any trash on the trails.” And so I went back, dropped my pack, and did all those things I had been reluctant to do before.

Now, that seems like a small thing, doesn’t it? I picked up a piece of trash. Big woo. But think about it: if everybody who threw trash down began to pick it up; if everybody who cursed others began to bless others; if everybody who hurt others began to heal others; if everybody who hated their neighbors began to love their neighbors; if everybody who hated God began to love God…heaven would come to earth.

I believe that’s what Jesus was after, really: inviting the whole human race to join him in the redemption of the world God loves rather than its destruction.

Picking up a piece of trash is a tiny thing, but it’s a tiny thing in the right direction.

The 50-Mile Walk

My friend Randy said he wanted to walk 50 miles in one day, that it was something he had wanted to do since he was nine years old, when President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to get fit.  Kennedy had heard that during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency army officers had been challenged to walk 50 miles in three days, but some of them had done it in one.  The idea fascinated him.  He challenged his own officers to try it and said he would see to the fitness of the White House staff.

And so it was that his brother Bobby, the Attorney General of the United States, hauled himself out of bed early the next Saturday morning and walked 50 miles on the C&O Canal towpath in a pair of sturdy oxfords.  The date was February 9, 1963.  The towpath was crusted with snow and ice.  He started with four aides and when the last one dropped out after 35 miles Kennedy said, “You’re lucky your brother is not the President of the United States!” 

And then he kept walking. 

The story spread across the country and within weeks everybody was trying to walk 50 miles in a day.  My friend, Randy, begged his father to let him try but his father said no, it wouldn’t be safe.  Randy said, “You could follow me in the truck.”  But somehow the thought of driving slowly behind his son for twenty hours in a pickup truck didn’t appeal to Randy’s dad.  He still said no.  But when Randy told me about his childhood dream I said, “Let’s do it.”

On Easter Sunday afternoon Randy and I drove up to Arlington to spend the night with friends, and then got up at three o’clock the next morning to begin our walk.  The condo where we were staying was exactly one mile from the C&O Canal towpath, and from there we simply walked north, along the sand and crushed-gravel surface of the towpath, from one mile marker to the next, until we reached mile marker 25 and turned around.

There was more to it than that, of course.  Randy nearly stepped on a copperhead in the path at about five o’clock in the morning, while it was still dark.  We looked back and saw the thing in the beam of our headlamps, coiled and ready to strike.  Not far from Great Falls we came upon scenery that made us think we were somewhere in the Lake District of England—beautiful, silent, and serene.  At 22 miles we stopped to inspect our feet and treat blisters; and found to our dismay that Randy had developed some doozies.  He limped on to 25, turned around and struggled heroically to finish the walk, but at 31 miles I told him, “Randy, if you were playing football, and got injured, they would carry you off the field.  You’re not playing football, you’re walking, but you’re injured and you’ve got to let somebody carry you off the field.” 

At 36 miles he did.

And here’s a funny part of the story.  The friends we were staying with came to pick Randy up at Great Falls.  Betty said she would drive him home but Wayne offered to walk with me the rest of the way—14 miles.  Betty wasn’t sure he could do it.  Wayne is 80 years old.  But Wayne had his running shoes laced up, he was wearing his reflective vest, and he had his iPod clipped to the front with the ear buds in.  We walked about a half mile together when I became concerned about our progress.  I was trying to finish the walk by midnight but Wayne was strolling along as if we had all week.  Finally I asked him what he was listening to on his iPod and he smiled and said, “Gershwin!” 

Well, that was the problem right there: we needed something with a little more tempo.

But after about five miles of strolling I asked Wayne if he would like for Betty to come pick him up and he thought that would be a splendid idea.  We spent the next two miles trying to find a place where she could meet us, and when we finally made the connection it was after nine o’clock.  I had seven miles to go, alone, in the dark.  I picked up the pace considerably, gravel and sand crunching under my feet as I hurried along in the tunnel of light shining from my headlamp.  At 10:45 I turned off the towpath and headed uphill through the empty streets of Arlington, bone-weary and footsore, arriving at Wayne and Betty’s condo at 11:15. 

They welcomed me with congratulations and an enormous hamburger from a nearby restaurant.  Randy was sitting there, soaking his feet in warm saltwater, a little chagrined that I had finished and he hadn’t.  But when I saw the bottoms of his feet I wondered how he had made it so far.  Sheer determination, that’s how, and even then he was beginning to talk about a second attempt. 

I don’t know if I’ll go with him next time.  I’ve done my fifty miles.  And if there had been video of me trying to get out of bed the next morning it would have surely gone viral on YouTube.  I couldn’t find enough pieces of furniture to lean on as I tried to make my way to the kitchen for breakfast.  But if you’re interested let me know, and I’ll let Randy know, and then…who knows? 

This fad could catch on again.