Life Verse:

"...I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly." -- JESUS in John 10:10

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Deadening Trail - Dec. 27, 2008

HIKE: The Deadening Alpine Trail, near Kowliga, AL on Lake Martin, 12/27/2008, 09:41-12:50
DISTANCE: 4.5 miles RATING: 5/5
DIFFICULTY: Difficult (due to steepness, danger of nearby cliffs, and some bouldering)
CONDITIONS: Mostly cloudy at start to Partly cloudy at end. Moderate to stiff breeze. Fast moving clouds. Lake wind advisory. Temps: upper 60's to low 70's
Perhaps the most difficult hike in this part of the state, but a very beautiful area. Observed 1 small whitetailed buck, numerous insects, a few passerines, numerous types of lichen and mosses as well as ferns and usual pine/oak forest types. Met three hikers as I was exiting the trail (they were from Colorado!). First hike with SPOT - did a CheckOK message from the trailhead. (Kathy and Diane both received the message.) Did the Needles Eye on way out.

Thank YOU, LORD, for this time and place and for what YOU are doing in my life.

Friday, December 26, 2008

OnLine with SPOT now

Kathy & Diane gave me a SPOT (Personal Emergency Locator Beacon) for Christmas. The idea of a GPS enabled, satellite emergency communication tool sounds good to me. I tried a test "Check OK" message tonight and it pinpointed my exact location. This is one of those tools you hope you never need, but it is comforting to know you have.

Hey, Les Stroud has nothing on me!!!

Hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Looking for a tremendous New Year. Agape.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alabama Nature Center - 12/20/2008

HIKE: Alabama Wildlife Federation Nature Center - Lanark, Millbrook, 12/20/2008 08:12-12:00
DISTANCE: 8.0 miles
CONDITIONS: Mostly cloudy, very warm for time of year (low 70's), nice moderate breeze through most of hike (a few good "leaf showers" in Still Creek Run area). Santa was at the Pavilion and the AWF was running a hayride through part of Turkey Ridge. Largest crowd of people I have ever seen here - but they were all at the pavilion or on hayride. Only met a few people on the trails.
Observed one very vocal Kingfisher (?) at the Still Creek Run pond. He (or she) did not appreciate me or a man and his small son being in the area. Many song birds seen and heard. (This is one of the best areas around for bird watching.) I could hear steam venting from the IP Mill south of Prattville from the Hilltop Pass area as well as traffic noise from I-65/Cobbs-Ford Rd., but they really did not intrude on my tranquility. It is so wonderful to be able to "get out" and enjoy YOUR creation, LORD. Thank YOU.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Red Trail, Swayback Bridge Trail of Legends

HIKE: Red Trail, Swayback Bridge Trail of Legends, Wetumpka, AL 12/17/2008 10:00-13:30
DISTANCE: 7.1 miles
CONDITIONS: Cloudy, unseasonably warm (mid 70's), a few light sprinkles near end of trail. Encountered one mountain biker on the trail. Lots of standing water and a few muddy/mucky areas from the recent rains.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate
INTAKE: 27 oz water, 1 pack Nekot peanut-butter cookies
Walked to within 30' of 4 whitetailed deer does around mile marker 3 of the Red Trail. The wind was against them and the rain drenched leaves deadened my approach. Also observed great blue heron, numerous turtles, gray squirrel, and chipmunk. Several assorted pasarines observed and heard throughout the hike.
This was a peaceful and enjoyable hike. The deeper I hike into the woods, the more "baggage" of troubles and concerns I seem to be able to drop off! Thank YOU, LORD, for this special time and place.
Was able to spend some quality time in meditation, prayer, and planning for ministry in 2009. Spending worshipful time in the outdoors has been such a special opportunity for me dating back to my adolescence. I know I can worship and commune with YOU anywhere, LORD, but it seems so much easier for me in the outdoors. Please guide me as I seek YOUR plan for outdoor based ministry into the future.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back on the Trail - It's been a month!

Hike: Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail, Lake Martin, AL Mon. 12/15/2008 10:05-14:47
Distance: 8.4 Miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Moderate
Conditions: Cloudy; very mild temps; a few light sprinkles near the end of hike. No other people on the trail today.
Saw two white-tailed deer doe (and one carcass floating in Lake Martin), Great Blue Heron, a few dogs (they barked at me but didn't bother me), one small lizard, and lots of birds (as usual). Noticed there were still some large grasshoppers around (would have thought they would be dead or gone due to the cold).
A very nice enjoyable (and needed) hike. It's been a month since I've been able to get out and hike. Thank YOU for this special time and place, LORD. It's so easy to get "side-tracked" because of the "busy-ness" of the season. Times like this help me to refocus.

Friday, November 28, 2008

SouthWest Adventure - Phoenix AZ

The Following is a copy of my Trail/Travel Log for my recent Adventure to Phoenix AZ. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

04:32 Diane and Robert dropped me off at Dannelly Field. Diane looked so small standing curbside with her sweater on and her lip poked out. She’s a Daddy’s girl and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m certainly going to miss my time with her once her and Robert get married (in the next couple of years). No one else in the terminal but me – so much for “having to get there” 2 hours in advance of the departure time. The ticket counters do not open up until 05:00! Oh well, I have time to think, meditate, and start this Journal.

Looking forward to some quiet time this next week. I have several things planned, but I hope to not be hurried. Rather I pray that I can enjoy the time, focus on the important things, and hear from YOU, my LORD.

If my plane arrives in Phoenix on time my first planned event is to drive to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park for some hiking time. This state park is touted as having a wonderful collection of native plants and some from Australia as well.

08:29 Landed at Memphis at 07:31 (4 minutes ahead of schedule). Ate breakfast (bacon, egg, cheese biscuit, chunk fried potatoes, and Sprite) at Backyard Burgers. Flight to Phoenix boards at Gate B30, sitting here waiting on it. I’m convinced that a great portion of travel time is spent waiting. Hopefully my “waiting” is constructive.

As a side note, Memphis airport provides WiFi (Boingo), but at a charge. MGM provided it free! (Go Montgomery!)

The day is gorgeous – hope it’s the same in Phoenix.

Kathy, Diane, and Merla should be well underway with Jean’s Estate sale – I pray that all goes well. LORD, please comfort Kathy and Merla during this grieving process.

20:43 Safely in Phoenix – thank YOU, LORD. Airline was actually a few minutes early landing but I waited in line “forever” to get my rental car. Don’t know why all these people are coming to Phoenix – vacations?

Drove directly out to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park on US60. Very scenic and nice drive, but did not hike much there. Once I got out of the Mazda 5 I had a sick headache and was light headed. What a bummer! I think the headache and dizziness was a result of the flight, no lunch, and no sunglasses on the drive out to the park. I drank most of a Sierra Mist and tried to eat a bag of Sunchips but was a little too sick to eat much of anything. I hiked a little over 1 mile of the Main Trail and decided I best stop (combination of the heat and my yukiness was asking for trouble). I did manage to get some good pictures of PicketPost Mountain and parts of the desert flora. Stopped at Walgreens on the way back to Phoenix and purchased sunglasses, Advil, and water for the week. I also realized how sleepy I was on the drive back! Thank YOU for getting me to the hotel safely.

Room is quite nice and the hotel is adjacent to a Waffle House (though the hotel does have a free breakfast each morning).

Took Advil and a short nap in the room and woke up feeling much better. Ate supper at Waffle House (TX Bacon Cheeseburger and hashbrowns with a Coke). Certainly not a healthy combination – but it made me feel better.

As I write I am seriously considering a change in my destination tomorrow. I have been thinking about Red Rock State Park near Sedona. The descriptions on line and photos paint a very beautiful area. It is a little further than The Superstitions but I have all day tomorrow. The Superstitions are impressive but I saw quite a bit of them from the car today… LORD lead me the right way tomorrow!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

19:11 Entire day spent on hiking, exploring, and worshiping at Red Rock AZ State Park and Tusigoot National Monument! Was a wonderful experience – thank YOU, LORD!

Started the day out early, leaving the hotel at 6:30am and hit I-17 toward Sedona and the Red Rock area. Stopped at McDonalds near Black Canyon for an Egg McMuffin – did not want a repeat of yesterday.

The Red Rock area is about 4000’ in elevation (3000’ or more higher than Phoenix). The temperature was much more comfortable (certainly Fall like) in the mid 50’s to low 60’s. Clouds began building early in the morning and a thundershower came up about 3pm.

Red Rock State Park was the perfect spot! The park is in the Oak Creek valley surrounded by high red rock cliffs, including Cathedral Rock. The riparian valley contains great quantities of Sycamore trees and other indigenous hardwoods, some in various stages of yellow and a few in red.

Trails crisscrossed the area and wound through the ridges and highlands with adventurous-sounding names like Eagles Nest, Coyote Ridge, Javelina, Apache Fire, Kivsa (Hopi for Shaded Wood), Smoke, Bunkhouse, and Rattlesnake Ridge. The trails were very well maintained and signed. Several aptly situated overlooks dotted the park yielding sweeping panoramic pictures to be burned into one’s mind.

I worshiped at 10:00am (11:00am central time to coincide with Crestview’s worship service) on top of Eagles Nest (the highest point in the park) overlooking all of the breath-taking creation. I had spent time reading Psalm 90 and 91 before leaving this morning. I reflected on GOD; HIS Creative work; HIS grace; and prayed for Crestview.

There was no cell service in the park, so I turned off my cell phone. To be honest, I felt a little guilty doing that – I felt like I was abandoning everyone. I finally managed to put that out of my mind and enjoy the hike.

A thundershower forced me to end my hike about 3:30pm (otherwise I probably would have continued until they closed the park at 5pm!) with almost 9 miles of hiking, over 6 video clips, and I-don’t-know how many hundred pictures. (Martha would be proud!)

There were many birds, lizards, and grasshoppers observed. There are many other species of fauna in the area, they’re just shy. In a conversation with the clerk in the Visitor Center I learned that they often see large numbers of Mule Deer, many coyote, and the occasional cougar in the park. A cougar had recently taken a Mule Deer just below the visitor center and (possibly the same cougar) had taken a small dog in a residential subdivision near the park last week.

After leaving Red Rock I noticed the brown info signs along AZ-89A advertising Tuzigoot National Monument. I couldn’t resist… driving through some small historical Arizona towns arriving at Tuzigoot about 3:45 (and the park closes at 5pm). Since it was a small park with only about 1 mile of trails and a “super” pueblo site, I made the loop and explored the pueblo before the park closed.

It was quite interesting. It would have been good to have had at least two hours to explore. The site was quite captivating, nonetheless.

To be able to walk through where a thriving Indian culture had thrived for so many thousand years was humbling. To know that they suddenly disappeared without a trace and without a known reason was sobering.

The sunset over Sunset Point just off I-17 was the final crowning moment in a wonderful day. Thank YOU, LORD, for this special time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

06:14 Bible reading for this morning: Psalm 92. O LORD, YOU are glorified in YOUR Creation. It can be readily seen – if we will only look and sense. YOU have revealed YOURSELF all around us and most especially in YOUR Word and ultimately in YOUR SON, JESUS CHRIST. I pray that others will see YOU in me as well. I love YOU. All praise, honor, and glory to YOUR name.

I’m glad my hotel is close to the Honeywell Automation College. I can travel back streets to the site and avoid I-17. Traffic on I-17 and I-10 is extremely heavy, as one would expect in a city of 6 million. There was a motorcycle fatality accident on I-17 SB early this morning and the southbound side is still closed for the investigation.

I hope to hike Lookout Mountain this afternoon. My book of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Phoenix indicates this hike is do-able in less than two hours. It is also relatively close to Honeywell.

Hopefully the temperature will not be too bad this afternoon. Forecast calls for high of 86 degrees.

19:51 A semblance of Fall has arrived in Phoenix. The night, early morning, and especially late this afternoon felt better. Highs were probably in the low 80’s but this afternoon had a nice cool breeze blowing at Piestewa Mountain Park.

I went to Lookout Mountain directly after class (left Honeywell at 4pm). Got to the park and on the trail about 4:30pm. I had planned on hiking the circumference trail (2.6 miles) but saw that the park locked its gates at sunset. I wasn’t about to chance getting my car locked inside the park so I turned around just before the saddle and returned to the car.

Knowing that Piestewa Mountain Park did not lock their gates until 11pm, I took a drive over to visit an “old friend”. Detouring by North Mountain Park I got a good view of this popular area. This mountain is cluttered with communication antennas on top – really detracts in my opinion.

Piestewa Peak was in its regal form when I arrived a little after 5pm. This park gets lots of visits and there was a parking lot full of vehicles at the summit trailhead. Driving to the end of the park I had an idea to try the Mojave or Nature Trail. Since daylight was rapidly fading on this side of the mountain I elected to strike out on the Nature Trail (#304). The trail is well used (and relatively easy to follow) but the metal cairns still lack a lot to be desired in my estimation. I traveled part of Trail #304 and a little section of Trail #8B before turning back to the parking lot. Being caught on one of these trails in darkness is not my idea of fun. I was equipped with a headlamp and flashlight but these trails have some steep sections and quite a bit of loose rock. Wisdom dictated to be safe and get back to the parking lot before it got too dark. I would have not hesitated to hike in the dark around home and/or familiar areas, but testing out new trails in possible physically challenging situations is not on my list of to-do’s. The thought of twisting an ankle or breaking a leg so far away from home was distasteful.

The short time I was able to spend on Trail #304/8B at Piestewa Peak was rewarding and worth the drive. I am still amazed at the giant saguaro cactus contrasted with the numerous smaller barrel cacti in the area. The slopes of Piestewa Peak and the surrounding valleys and washes are covered in small desert shrubs. The earth tones blend together in a canvas of browns, greens, blacks, and grays with splashes of red and yellow in the rocks. If one takes time to be still, he is readily rewarded with numerous bird sounds or the bark of a coyote. Yes, even here in the middle of a large urban area GOD can reveal HIMSELF in HIS Creation. I wonder how many people here this evening are even aware of HIM and HIS working all around.

Not sure what’s on my agenda for tomorrow afternoon. I would like to try some trails at South Mountain Park but I’m not sure I can make it there before darkness prevents hiking. I would really like to see sunset across the Sonoran Desert at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction (The Superstitions), but I know I can’t get that far before sunset – rush hour traffic is too bad in that direction. We’ll just see what doors GOD opens for me tomorrow! Stay tuned. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts while I’m away. I am really enjoying your email replies to my postings!!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

06:05 Psalm 93-94. All praise, honor, and glory to YOU, my GOD. Today is election day. Our nation will choose its leader for at least the next four years. May we do so after prayerful consideration. I know that it is YOU that truly rules among the nations. May we seek YOU with all that we are.

8 Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?
9 He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
10 He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?
11 The LORD knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.

12 Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD,
And teach out of Your law,
13 That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,

-- Psalm 94:8-13a

20:42 Today was a lot more like fall with temps in the 70’s and a steady, cooling breeze. I didn’t get out of class until a few minutes after 4pm so I headed south on 7th Street toward North Mountain Park. This park is larger in area than Piestewa Peak though not as crowded. As I said earlier, the summit of North Mountain is cluttered with all sorts of communication antennae which detracts from the beauty of the park (in my opinion). The other areas of the park are beautiful, typical Sonoran Desert mountain landscape. There seems to be more scrub bushes (like Acacia) than cacti at this park. In fact the flora seems to be denser here than at Piestewa Peak or Lookout Mountain. It almost seems like the amount of water available to plants is greater on North Mountain as they are denser and greener here.

I hiked portions of Trail #100 and #101 in the valley of North Mountain, being careful to get back to the parking lot before they closed the gate at sunset. (Do you get the impression that I was constantly thinking about my car being locked up inside a park?) The trails were well maintained and the metal cairns seem to be better here (though the signage is still not good). I understand there are no trees to bear trail markings in Arizona but the metal cairns used in Phoenix as trail markers do not display enough information nor are they strategically placed.

Did not see any wildlife in North Mountain Park, but I was impressed by the varied colors of the flora. Being denser, the greens of the desert shrubs were prominent along with a surprising display of red swaths from small desert grasses in the valley and on the mountain slopes. The same chocolate brown rocks could be seen breaking through the surface in places throughout this mountain range.

This was an enjoyable and relatively easy hike. It would have been great to have had three hours or more to fully explore this park. I’m certain there are many hidden jewels here. I had largely dismissed this park from my list because of the antennae, but GOD opened the door and I’m glad I stepped through!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

06:14 Psalm 95-96. LORD GOD, YOU are GOD and there is no other. Our nation selected its next president yesterday, but it is my prayer that we will always seek YOU, above all else, as our King! YOU are glorified in these two psalms as Creator and Giver and I have experienced that even this week. Thank YOU for YOUR love and presence in my life. I pray for Crestview and specifically for the Prayer & Praise Service tonight.

I hiked a little over two miles this evening, but not the “normal” hike for me. GOD blessed me in the classroom this week and I was able to finish the entire course a little after 4pm! The instructor was amazed on the completion of a 4 ½ day program in three days, but she printed out my certificate for me and when I left the parking lot about 4:15pm I was through! Needless to say, it was too late to find a mountain park close enough to get any hiking done.

I gritted my teeth and pointed the Mazda 5 south on I-17 toward Tempe and Arizona Mills. Traffic was very heavy but thankfully there were no accidents and at least it did continuously move. I was genuinely surprised to find Arizona Mills not overly crowded – it is a rather huge place though. Walking around in the mall for over 30 minutes, I suddenly realized I was hungry. Well wouldn’t you know it, The Rainforest Café was right there in the mall! There was no wait and shortly I was sitting at a table in front of a fountain and waterfall, surrounded by the rainforest at night – complete with the moon and stars overhead. I shared this location with a leopard, several primates, lots of birds, and one elephant. Scattered throughout the café were large aquariums filled with all sorts of fish. There was no volcano in this café but we did have occasional lightning and thunder. Scattered on the outside perimeter of the café were huge (animated) butterflies and one crocodile in the pond. The food was ok (not great) but who cares when you have an atmosphere such as this!

After eating I had to walk off my dinner at the mall. Lots of interesting places here. I particularly liked the Black Market Minerals which had stones, trinkets, and other interesting articles from exotic places. Altogether I hiked (guess you would call that “urban hiking”) about 2.5 miles at Arizona Mills.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

07:00 Psalm 97-98. LORD GOD, YOU reign in majesty and splendor. May I honor and glorify YOU even more than YOUR Creation. May I reflect YOUR love and truth to all that I encounter everyday. Please forgive my sins and guide me to walk daily with YOU. Help me be the husband, father, and pastor YOU call me to be. I pray YOUR care and blessing for all of my Family of Faith. Keep them especially while we are apart. I wish they could be here with me.

I have a “free day” today!!! My plans are to travel east toward The Superstition Wilderness to check out Heiroglyphic Trail off US60 and then explore Siphon Draw Trail toward Flatiron from Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction.

20:07 What a wonderful way to end the day and my stay in Phoenix! LORD, YOU really had a glorious day planned for me today! I got to spend the whole day in The Superstitions.

Drove east on US60 to Kings Ranch Road and followed serpentine turns to the trailhead parking area for Lost Goldmine and Heiroglyphic Trails. You can probably guess which trail I chose – Herioglyphic. After a moderate hike of almost an hour I reached part of the inner canyon where eons of water has polished the granite and small pools of water still stand. The ancient Hohokam drew many petroglyphs in this area – according to sources this is one of the best examples preserved for us of these ancient people’s petroglyphs. It was a truly beautiful area and quite thought provoking. Looking at the petroglyphic representations of animals and the landscape, one can’t help but wonder about the Hohokam and the life they lived in this rugged landscape so long ago. What did they think about? How their spirits must have yearned within them as they gazed up at the heavens and lived in the shadow of the impressive Superstitions. I wonder what they called the mountains.

After a break for lunch I headed east on AZ-88 toward Apache Junction and Lost Dutchman AZ State Park. This is the hike I got knocked out of last summer because of traffic delays in Phoenix. You can bet I was eagerly anticipating this exploration – and GOD did not disappoint!

As you turn into Lost Dutchman State Park, you are almost overwhelmed by the sudden and massive presence of the North side of The Superstition Mountains. Visible immediately is Praying Hands and the ridgeline with Flatiron. These mountains are awe inspiring in their own right but they are just the north and west anchor for an entire ridgeline. These giants command a wide view of the valley to the west all the way back to Phoenix. I hiked from 1:30pm until sunset (about 5:30pm) and spent considerable time on Siphon Draw, Jacob’s Crosscut, Treasure Loop, and Discovery Trails. All total about 6 miles of hiking and I’m not sure how much total elevation gain. I know the basin of Flatiron (Siphon Draw Trail) is at 3100’ and the Green Boulder (Treasure Loop Trail) is at 2580’. I did a lot of climbing and descending.

Believe it or not – I am almost at a loss of words to describe my experience in The Superstitions. The hiking was physically challenging in spots (climbing and descending through inner canyons with lots of rocks) but it was so very refreshing and comforting to my spirit.

The ascent up Siphon Draw Trail was difficult in spots but the workout was rewarded with great views of Siphon Draw Canyon and up toward Flatiron. Looking behind the entire Valley of the Sun lay before you. I did not climb up to Flatiron. The climb up does not worry me as much as the climb down. I’ll save that for some other time.

Jacob’s Crosscut Trail does just that, it crosscuts roughly north to south across all the other trails and is a convenient connector. The Sonoran desert plants and landscape is beautiful and full of life (observed many different birds and quite a few lizards). (There was a sizeable "covey" of desert quail that I spooked on my descent from Treasure Loop Trail. Their sound and actions reminded me of Bobwhite quail from home, though these birds are bigger.) The desert plants flourish on the slopes and the canyons of the mountains.

As I hiked up Treasure Loop Trail and toward the Green Boulder and Praying Hands I was not really prepared for the feelings and thoughts that flooded over me. As I stood at the base of The Superstitions and looked up at them and at Praying Hands the words of Psalm 121 poured through my spirit. How great and wonderful is our GOD?!

The perfect end to a perfect day was to watch the sun setting across the far ridges in the Valley of the Sun. The orange, yellow, red, violet, and blue spread slowly across the western sky. I was alone in the Siphon Draw parking area – though not really alone. As I finally tore myself away from the park and headed west toward Phoenix I just had to turn the radio off to tell GOD how much I love HIM.

It’s a little weird, but as I turned left out of Lost Dutchman State Park The Superstitions filled the rearview mirror. I had to look back again. It almost felt like I was leaving a friend behind. Maybe I’ll get to come back again – and maybe this time I can bring Kathy and Diane and maybe some of you as well!

Friday, November 07, 2008

07:19 An entire week in Phoenix is complete! I’ll be flying out a little after 1:30pm this afternoon. Should arrive in Montgomery at 9:00pm.

Psalm 98-100 YOU are faithful, LORD. I love and praise YOU. Help me seek YOU daily and walk with YOU continually. Thank YOU for such a great week. I ask for travel mercy as I head back to Prattville. Please give me YOUR words to speak on Sunday.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back at Mountain Creek

Hike: Alabama Historical Commission's Confederate Memorial Park, Mountain Creek, 9/26/2008, 10:40-14:00
Distance: 6.3 miles
Rating: 5/5
Conditions: Mostly sunny. High, fast cirrus clouds. Light breeze. High 70's to low 80's.
Difficulty: Easy
Intake: 27 oz. water, one pack of Nekot, one Oat 'n Honey bar
Met one other person on trail. Also met a park ranger for the first time ever here. He was curious about what I was doing since the lady in the museum said I was there often. Had a good conversation about the ecosystem of the park, especially as it relates to the forest itself. Ranger thinks the forest is in decline - quite a few dead adult trees due to beetles and stress from the drought. He was concerned about my safety around the dead trees. There are some dead adult and young trees easily seen as you hike in the park. Most of the dead pines in the upland area are the victims of pine beetle. I believe most of the young hardwoods that are dead have succumbed to stresses from the drought. I have noticed some black pustules on the leaves of some of the hickories - some type of fungus? I certainly hope that this "Treasure Forest" is not declining but rather just undergoing normal growth and death in a forest. There is an abundance of young saplings throughout the forest - that makes me feel better!

Got a fleeting glimpse of a black bird with yellow on back of wings on way into the park. Not sure if it was an oriole or maybe an American Redstart. Lots of other pasarines: titmouse, cardinals, etc. Grey squirrel scampering around on the ground. Several fall wild flowers in bloom - most notable in the park right now is the goldenrod. Blackgum is well into its change to red.

Paced the boundary trail from yellow gate at field entrance to yellow gate at the spring - 0.9 miles, longest single trail in the park.

Thank YOU, LORD, for this time and this special place. Speak to my heart.

Swayback Bridge Trail

Hike: Swayback Bridge Trail, Wetumpka, AL 9/25/2008 12:40-14:40
Conditions: Continued wonderfully beautiful Fall day! No clouds. Temps in high 70's to near 80. Light breeze. Only met one mountain biker on the trail and 2 others at the parking lot.
Distance: 4.4 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Intake: 20 oz. water (ate lunch before going on hike)

Most enjoyable hike. Maintained better than 2mph pace. There is some rolling terrain and a few short hills but they did not tire me. Could probably have done the 7 mile trail within another 1.5 hours but decided to finish at 4 miles and get back to help Kathy with her mom.

Observed box turtle, lizard, and white tailed deer close up! Saw couple of busy ground squirrels (chipmunks) near half-way point. Videoed a large white oak for Kathy to see what they look like. This forest is mixed pine/hardwood. I call it an "adolescent forest" because most of the trees (all but a very few) are probably less than 50 years of age. Perhaps this area has been harvested before?

Thank YOU, LORD, for loving me and creating such a place as this.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sharing the Trail with a....errrrr..... another creature!

Hike: Alabama Wildlife Federation Nature Center Lanark, Millbrook, AL; 9/20/2008 08:18-13:15
Distance: 5.1 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Mild (almost Fall like), high cirrus clouds, light to mod breeze. A few other people on the trails, but I was the first to sign in this morning!
Intake: 1 Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey bar, 1 Sweet/Salty bar, 27 oz. water
Planned to do 6 miles but had to leave to prepare for Johnson/White wedding ceremony. Observed cottonmouth moccasin for some time from the bridge behind pond in Still Creek Run area. He (or she?) didn't seem to be in a big hurry to leave - you can see from the picture that he showed me his nice white mouth. Guess he did not feel me approach since I was on the bridge. A good reminder to watch where you step or put your hands. Notice he was stretched out in a muddy drainage area that was full of small mammal tracks. Another long black snake observed on Cane Creek Loop (backside). Many birds (as usual), numerous lizards and frogs. Saw one large (Great Blue Heron) bird in trees at Gum Pond. Lots of mammal tracks about. Thank YOU, LORD, for this special time and the feelings it engenders within me. I love YOU, LORD GOD.

I don't think the stride length is correct on my pedometer - was over 11,000 steps today. Changed stride to 27 inches.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Exploring More at Mountain Creek 9/6/2008

Hike: Mountain Creek, Sat. 9/6/2008, 09:15-12:20
Conditions: Very warm, muggy. Rained this morning at 05:30. Mostly to partly cloudy.
Distance: 5.3 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Intake: One pack of Lance peanut butter crackers, 27 oz. water.
Observed skunk (at a distance!); numerous woodpeckers; beautiful oriole; butterflies; lots of different colors and types of mushrooms (from the recent rains, I guess); and bunches of mosquitoes (I did have on repellent). Was a beautiful day. Thinking about the world traveler/journalist interviewed by NG Adventure who had seen and experienced so much, yet she was still searching (is a self described atheist). Thoughts for sermon tomorrow "Joy in the Journey - Pursuing GOD". (1 Tim. 6:20; Prov 3:5-6)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hiking in a Tropical System

Hike: Mountain Creek, Sat., 8/23/2008, 08:00-11:30
Distance: 5.6 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Tropical Storm Fay coming south of us. Cloudy, light rain. Moderate wind gusts.
It was great to be in the woods during a tropical system. I know that may sound weird, but it reminded me so much of my youth at home - hiking in the forest behind home and feeling the comforting wind blow through the trees and the broom sage. Speak to my heart, LORD GOD.

Rain was not very heavy during morning hours - mostly light to heavy sprinkles, intermittently. Many birds observed and one very small green lizard seen on the way out. Temperature and windy conditions were quite enjoyable. I was really out of the woods before Fay became an issue in our area.

Monday, August 18, 2008

C.O.M.E. #7 Gulf State Park / Bon Secour NWR

Hike: Pine Beach Trail, Bon Secour NWR, Saturday, 8/16/2008 11:30-13:30
Distance: 4 miles advertised (more like 3.5)
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Cloudy, occasional sprinkles, warm, muggy, breezy
C.O.M.E. #7 Gulf State Park / Bon Secour NWR. Glenn, Emily, Jonny, Martha, Nathan, April, Sabrina, and me on this expedition. Em, Nate, April, & Sabrina stayed at the beach pavilion while the rest of us drove to Bon Secour (9 miles) for hiking on the Pine Beach Trail. The cloud cover and occasional sprinkle made the heat and humidity factor comfortable. I had never hiked in a salt marsh or high dune area before and this was a special experience.

Observed an Osprey, Great Blue Heron, numerous small crabs and fish, many, many shore birds. Saw quite a few burrows in the dunes but did not see a beach mouse. Being elusive, we did not observe any alligators either. Even though you know the Gulf is ahead, one is not adequately prepared for the panoramic vista that unfolds before you when you clear the high dunes and see the beach!

, this is such a special place. Thank YOU for making it and for allowing me to share it with those that are so special to me.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Break in the Heat - Early August Hike

Hike: Mountain Creek, 08/09/2008, 07:30-11:00
Distance: 5.1 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Sunny; High 60's; low dewpoint; light breeze. Warming up, but almost fall-like.
Very good hike. First time in a long while that I was not hurried or had other things pressing me -- I am not on call this weekend and there is nothing planned at church or with family today. Thank YOU, FATHER, for this time of peace and reflection. Gorgeous red headed woodpecker in the pine upland area -- vividly contrasted against the bright blue sky and stone gray dead tree. Many birds about. Velvet ants and cicada observed.

I thought a lot about our Great Western Expedition in June-2009, about late Fall trip to Phoenix, and about our upcoming Expedition to Gulf State Park. Work in all of these, LORD.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Tallapoosa Kayak Hike

Hike: Kayak Exploration - Tallapoosa River near Ft. Toulouse, Wetumpka, AL, 8/2/2008, 09:30-12:00
Distance: 4 miles (estimate)
Rating: 5/5
Conditions: Mostly sunny. Very hot and muggy. Clouds gathered around midday but no rain.
Difficulty: Easy (Except that heat was bothersome)
Launched from Ft. Toulouse boat ramp. Nice exploration of Tallapoosa River around the National Historic Site. Lots of back waters, islands, and sloughs. Many herons and egrets. Saw hawk diving for fish! Some small sand pipers along the beach. Explored one island beach on foot. Very hot today - almost got too hot (tshirt was drenched with sweat). Guess I should have taken a dip in the river! Kayak makes it possible to get close to wildlife and explore shallow areas. Photographed whitetail deer coming from National Historic Site area. She swam the Tallapoosa River to other side! Thank YOU, LORD, for this special time and place.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Coldwater Creek - C.O.M.E. #6

Expedition #6: Canoe/Kayak Big Coldwater Creek, Milton, FL, 7/26/2008, 10:30-14:00
Sunny, very h-o-t, humid. Typical sub-tropical summer in FL panhandle. Gauge height about 3.5ft. Good river conditions - level fine for canoes and kayaks. Two tree-falls encountered with restricted passage area - no portages required. Bottom of creek is largely small gravel with some areas of sand. Many gravel and sandy banks or bars to stop and recreate.
Trail Distance: 7 miles
Rating: 4/5 (due to number of tubes from MM 3 to 7 that made the creek crowded in places)
Expedition #6: 22 people (14 kayaks and 2 canoes) departed the church at 6:15am! We made great time - GOD blessed us and we were on the creek a little after 10:00am. We had a successful launch of all boats - no wrecks or roll-overs here.

First three miles of Coldwater Creek was mostly just us and Coldwater Creek's riparian environment. To me this section of the creek may be the best and was over too quick.

We encountered lots of tubers on the Creek as expected after Mile 3. Jonny & I swept. There were several congested areas but also areas of solitude. Thank YOU for such a place to appreciate YOUR creation. It was so great to share this experience with people I love.

Little viewable wildlife on this trip(I'm sure due to the volume of people and noise.). Water level was high enough to make paddling easy for the kayaks. Nicole, Savannah, & Ashton (our youngest adventurers) all enjoyed the trip! I believe a great time of fellowship and fun was had by all. Maybe we can do this again some time as an overnighter?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Alabama Nature Center - 7/19/2008

Hike: Alabama Wildlife Federation Nature Center, Millbrook, AL 7/19/2008, 08:30-11:30
Distance: 5.8 miles
Rating: 4/5 (Due to heat, humidity, and gobs of gnats!)
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Hot, humid, hazy.

Hot and muggy - typical for summer in Alabama. Several birds: jays, cardinals, flycatchers - one quite vocal hawk! Plenty of frogs in the streams. Several beautiful butterflies observed in the Turkey Ridge area. A gracious plenty spider webs across the trails (not my favorite thing). Almost no one else on the trails - a few people fishing at the main pond. A great time of peace and solitude. My overriding thought was "Speak to my heart, LORD JESUS."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Suburban Trail # 001 - Hiking on Concrete

Hike: Home to Main Street (Thames-Jay-Sheila-Main-Return), 7/8/2008 19:30-20:15
Distance: 2 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Partly cloudy; humid; comfortable temperature. Light winds.
Nice walk. Area is recovering from tornado damage of 2/2008. Sunset reflecting off clouds and a crescent moon - beautiful and peaceful scene. Prattville seems very peaceful this evening.
Thank YOU LORD for YOUR many blessings.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve Hike

Hike: Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, Auburn, AL Saturday, 7/5/2008 10:00-13:15
Distance: 4.4 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Sunny to Partly Cloudy. Humid/hot. A few sprinkles near end of hike. Thunder in the distance.
Got a later start than I had planned. almost did not go because of the distance, time, and gas cost - glad I did though! (And that's so often how YOU work, LORD.) This is a great place. Lots of thought and hard work to make it informative and fun. The few structures that are present are the typical engineering statements I've come to expect from Preserves and parks associated with Auburn Univ. The structures added to the experience and were impressive in their own right. They also fit into the nature scape quite nicely.

Many lizards, birds, butterflies, and bees observed; some squirrels. I'm sure more reclusive mammals are present - just not readily seen during the middle of the day! I could see numerous fish and tadpoles at Hidden Falls hole. I was treated to the song of some amorous frogs at the small pond in the center of the preserve. Dragonflies and Damselflies were in great abundance.

Trails were well maintained and adequately marked. This is not a large preserve (110 acres) but there are many trails and one can easily do 3 to 4 miles by combining trails. Little to no elevation gain makes the hikes easy. There is even a compass challenge course of about 1.2 miles (I didn't find it until late and did not have time to complete it.).

Thank YOU for this special place, LORD. Thank YOU for the treasure of the "Hidden Falls". I've included a video of it!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mountain Creek June Hike

Hike: Mountain Creek, 6/14/2008, 06:45-09:00
Distance: 4 miles (approx.)
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Mostly cloudy to mostly sunny. High 70's. Humid. Thunder in the distance.
Soft, delicate sounds this morning. Stillness and peacefulness in the forest. In pine upland area, some type of Oriole, black head, khaki breast turning to copper as it moved to wings. Gray squirrel, cottontail, cardinals, crows, bream, & big tadpoles.

Turned partly sunny for a while, but it is amazing how fast it can get cloudy!

In pine upland came within 20 yards of large doe. I could even hear her snort as she ran off.

Thank YOU, LORD, for this peaceful experience in YOUR forest. Please bless the mission outreach as we surrender it all to YOU. Be honored and glorified. Draw people to YOURSELF.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chinnabee Silent Trail - June Hike

Hike: Chinnabee Silent Trail, Cheaha Wilderness, Talladega National Forest, Mon. 6/9/2008 10:15-15:30
Distance: 7.4 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Conditions: Hot, humid (normal for the South). Mostly sunny. Very light breeze to still.

Hiked with Glenn. Traveled 94 miles from Prattville to trailhead on AL281. Got on trail at 10:15. Hiked to Lake Chinnabee, where we snacked and rested up. Retraced our steps, arriving back at trailhead about 15:30.

We got tired and hot by the return side of the hike but Cheaha Falls was quite refreshing! Not quite as cold as Blue Springs, but it will rapidly cool you off. It was very much appreciated on this hot afternoon. The falls refreshed our spirits and bodies. It was certainly a GOD send.

Scenery was spectacular - what else would you expect from Alabama's highest point. There were many wildflowers still in bloom (this was a surprise to me) and the Oakleaf hydrangea was showing off everywhere. A couple of great vistas greeted us on this hike. Most pleasing and enjoyable of the scenery was probably at Cheaha Falls and Cheaha Creek. The area around Devil's Den reminded me of scenery one would expect to see in an Indiana Jones movie - complete with wooden bridge. "Hike Alabma" describes the Chinnabee Silent Trail as one of the most beautiful hikes in the state - I believe him.

Many lizards and butterflies observed. Lots of birds (as expected). Saw no mammals (unless you count the few humans at Cheaha Falls and Lake Chinnabee).

I ran out of water with 1.2 miles to go in the hike - reminder to self to take minimum of 2L of water on summer hikes!

Thank YOU, LORD, for this great time and place. Focus my spirit and mind on YOU every day!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

National Trail Day - Kayak Autauga Creek

Kayak: Autauga Creek, Prattville, AL 6/7/2008 18:30-20:00 From Downtown to US82 Bridge
Distance: ~ 2 miles (rough estimate)
Rating: 4/5 (due to technicality and failing light)
Difficulty: Very difficult - technical due to numerous snags, brushpiles, blockages and shallows. Had to portage several times. One log and brush jam before US82 bridge was very bad, just one small place to scoot through!
Conditions: Hot and humid. Ran out of daylight! Had planned to take out on County Road 4 but coming darkness forced me out early at Hwy 82 bridge.
A lot more difficult than I expected. Numerous snags, log and brush jams, and shallow areas made this very (technically) challenging for me. I was about as wet from sweat as from water by the time I finished the route. Somehow lost my sunglasses during the trip (probably during one of the portages).
Observed several herons and ducks. Scenery was pleasant, but I did not get to admire it much as I was busy navigating snags, logs, and jams.
Thank YOU, LORD, for this challenge and for getting me through this "new thing". Teach me YOUR will and way, that I may shepherd YOUR people at Crestview.

National Trail Day - Hike at Mountain Creek

Hike: Mountain Creek, 6/7/2008, 08:30-10:30
Distance: 4 miles
Rating: 4/5 (Due to heat/humidity and equipment trouble)
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Extremely hot and humid - much more like August than June.
Extremely hot and humid today - even for the South. Serenaded by wonderful bird songs near the creek. I had to stop for a little while and just listen. More beautiful than any orchestra concert!

"HE is the treasure and We are the vessels" kept going through my head. Please speak to my heart, LORD.

Binoculars strap came loose near the beginning of hike and got sand on my binocs. Carefully cleaned them off - didn't see any scratches.

Inaguration of Alabama River Trail

Hike: Kayaking around Cooter's Pond and Alabama River 06/06/2008, 11:30-13:00
Distance: ~ 2 miles
Rating: 4/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Very hot (even for the South during the summer) and humid. Got a little sunburned on my arms even though I had on SPF30 Sunscreen!
Inauguration of the Alabama River Canoe Trail that goes from Ga state line to the Mobile Delta! Great time on the water, but extremely hot. I got a little sunburned on my arms even with sunscreen. Numerous herons and egrets; turtles, and fish. Many powerboats but I did not see the canoes/kayaks that were to be coming from Montgomery. Guess they came after I left.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mountain Creek 2008-05-24

Hike: Mountain Creek, 05/24/2008 10:00-12:00
Distance: 4 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Partly cloudy, very warm, humid; mild breeze.
Wonderful hike. Observed grey squirrel, several hawks, numerous birds (various kinds), large tadpoles at the reservoir, bass, large black ants, velvet ants, smelled a skunk (didn't see him, thankfully!), and a gorgeous tiger swallowtail butterfly. I continue to find trees and bushes that I'm not familiar with (even as many times as I have been to this park). There is a treasure trove of flora and fauna here. Thank YOU, LORD, for speaking to my heart today. Message for tomorrow is "Listen Up!" from John 3. "Open my eyes that I may see visions of love YOU have for me." I love YOU, LORD.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oak Mountain State Park Hike

Hike: Oak Mountain State Park, Mon., 5/19/2008 10:00-15:00
Distance: 9 miles
Rating: 4/5
Difficulty: Very Difficult
Conditions: Mostly sunny, low to mid 80's. Solo hike (Glenn had training today).
Went to the Wildlife Rehab Center; hiked the Treetop Nature Trail out and back; and hiked Peavine Falls Trail (Green Trail) all the way to the bottom of the falls and back out. This was probably the hardest hike I've done to date. I was physically exhausted at the end. Drank 1.5L of water on the trail and ate 1 protein bar. After hike drank cold Tropicana Lemonade from vending machine at Park HQ and got a large Coke from McDonalds in Clanton on way back. Lots of birds, lizards, and insects. Peavine Falls was outstanding, but it was a very difficult trail down to the bottom of the falls and then a little bit of rock climbing to get out! These trails require lots of physical energy - up and down and some of the elevations gains are acute! A definite physical workout. Don't believe I got much of a spiritual workout on this one though. LORD, help me to keep focused on YOU always, in everything I do. Thank YOU for showing me these sights and getting me through the very difficult areas. Took lots of pics.

Wilderness Park Prattville

Hike: Wilderness Park, Prattville, AL 05/18/2008 15:30-16:00
Distance: 0.5 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Sunny, warm to very warm.
Hike before evening church with Glenn. The huge bamboo is still a sight to see. One large bamboo stalk had broken off and was full of water, just like Bear Grills demonstrated the other night. It was amazing to see it in actual practice. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another Mountain Creek Hike

Hike: Mountain Creek, AL, Sat-05/10/2008 09:00-11:00CDT
Distance: approx 4 miles
Rating: 5/5 (Just about always at this site)
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Cloudy; mild temps (upper 70's) - moderate humidity. Still to light breeze. No one else on trails.
Saw a coyote, 2 cottontails, and numerous pasarines. I was greeted with a beautiful concert of bird songs and the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle today. Thank YOU, LORD, for the beautiful peace that YOU provide for me -- the tranquility that I experience here is profound. I certainly need it.
Please give me YOUR words to speak and teach -- help me shepherd YOUR people at Crestview. Thank YOU for YOUR love and for this place!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Rainy Restful Saturday Morning

Sitting here in my great room with Soundscapes playing and watching the rain through the front storm door is quite relaxing. I had planned to go hiking this morning or to take Kathy to the Alabama Wildlife Nature Center at Lanark for their Birding Weekend – but that is not to be. Instead I am here in the restful quiet of the house (Kathy is still asleep) – just Gracie, Buttons, and me.

I was able to complete the powerpoints for both morning and evening sermons for tomorrow along with the Kids with The KING message. I even managed to complete the eTrailGuide powerpoint!

LORD, thank YOU for YOUR peace and stillness. I need that in my life, so much more so today. The demands of family, job, and ministry are wearing heavily on me of late. I pray for YOUR strength, wisdom, and peace.

The soothing sounds and thoughts gently wash over me this morning. Thank YOU, LORD.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring Hike - Mountain Creek

Hike: Mountain Creek, 4/26/2008 09:00-11:00
Distance: 4 miles
Rating: 5/5
Difficulty: Easy
Conditions: Cloudy, low to mid 70's, very light to no breeze. Some "bugs" beginning to show up. Insect repellent will be needed before to much longer.
Thoughts/Observations: Enjoyable hike. I missed the Wisteria bloom this year. All hardwoods have leaves out now - even the Hickories. Many birds today; pasarines, crows, and hawks. Several lizards, but no snakes observed. Azaleas and some wildflowers still in bloom. Sermon topic for tomorrow: "What's So Great about Christianity?" Thank YOU for YOUR presence in my life, LORD.