July 2016

Family Fun Idaho Trip with Patrick Flanagan

I had signed up to do a bicycle event ride with my oldest grandson Patrick Flanagan last fall. After anxious months of waiting and a few training rides, it is finally coming to fruition. For readers, click on images to see more detailed views.
Day 0 — Sunday 17July — we woke up fairly early, Patrick staying over at our house in order to get a jump on the road. The day before, we did a short ride together on the Orting trail, and Patrick was having a lot of trouble with the bicycle. I was able to determine that a few things went out of adjustment and fix them. We drove out I-90 all the way to Coeur d’Alene and then south to Plummer, which was the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Everything checked out ok, and we were able to meet a broad span of ages for kids doing the ride, with children as young as 7-8 doing the ride independently on their own bikes. That seemed to help Patrick think that perhaps he could also do it. *Nota bene-the ACA considers this to be day 1.
Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding
The cooks preparing fabulous food
Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don
Day 1 — Monday 18 July — This was the biggest day, with 43 miles to ride. The trail had a mile downhill grade for about 5 miles, and then remained mostly flat. The morning was quite cool, but it became moderately warm by 11 am. We left about 7:45, and arrived at the campground in Cataldo at 12:30. Patrick was doing quite well, even eager to go swimming, in spite of this being his longest ever ride.
Patrick at the beginning of the first day
Approaching the step bridge
Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge
Flat! Beautiful!
On the banks of the Coeur d’Alene.
Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.
Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride
Day 2 — Tuesday 19 July — This was an easy day, with a short 20+ mile ride to Kellogg. Our first stop was the Old Mission, built overlooking the Coeur d’Alene river just outside of Cataldo. The Jesuits were spreading their influence to the indians. The ride was short from there to Kellogg, and Patrick was exceptionally motivated, being that there was a water park in town. He spent four hours in the water park, and had a grand time.
The Cataldo Mission – oldest existing building in Idaho
The Snake Pit?
Day 3 — Wednesday 20 July — This was another easy day with lots of shuttling. At 08:30, we boarded ourselves and our bicycles, hopped on the bus, and traveled across the Idaho-Montana border on I-90 to the east portal of the Hiawatha Trail. It is an old section of the Milwaukie line that has been turned into rails to trails. We proceeded 14 miles down this trail, which included a 1.7 mile tunnel at the start, which passed from Montana back into Idaho. After lunch at the base of the trail, we we shuttled back up to the tunnel, in order to go through the long tunnel in reverse. We were then shuttled to the town of Wallace, and rode back to camp, 11 miles away.
The first Hiawatha Route tunnel
Doug and Dane eager to enter the cave.
Trestles on the trail
Day 4 — Thursday 21 July — Ride from Kellogg to Harrison. This was our second longest day, but it seemed like one of the easier days, being almost perfectly flat. The total distance was 38.5 miles, which Patrick did without any difficulty, save for the heat. We arrived in the camp at Harrison by noon, taking some time to get our tents set up, and then enduring temperature well into the 90’s. It was a lazy afternoon, waiting for the map meeting followed by dinner. In the evening a few of the boys (and girls) went out for a beer, bringing the event to a nice close.
Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Day 5 — Friday 22 July —Harrison to Plummer and then home. This retraced all that we had done the first day for the first 15 miles, going 7 miles to the step bridge across the lake, and then a very gradual 5 mile climb up to Plummer. Though the grade was never over 3%, the persistence became a little challenging for Patrick, who was quite happy to make it to the top and achieve the end of the trail. The drive back home got us to the Seattle/Tacoma area right at rush hour, which took almost as much time exiting I-90 and driving back to Puyallup as the time to drive as the rest of the trip.
Back across the step bridge
Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.
Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.
Day 6 — Saturday 23 July — North Bend to Hyak and Back. Wait a minute! This isn’t a part of the Family Fun Idaho trip, and I didn’t do it with Patrick, but I did it with family, my son Jonathan rode this with me. It seemed only natural to do it, since this rail-to-trail on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and John Wayne (Iron Horse) Trail is simply a continuation of the old Milwaukie line, just before it ends in Tacoma, WA. This is the last big pass that the trail must encounter on its journey west, and includes large trestles, a very long tunnel as well as smaller tunnels (east of Snoqualmie Pass), and a grade/appearance very similar to the route of the Hiawatha. In fact, the tunnel is 2.3 miles long, more than ½ mile longer than the long tunnel on the trail of the Hiawathas. I knew that I would be riding the Iron Horse Trail in two weeks for the Courage Classic, all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum, about 64 miles, so did this 56 mile jaunt as a warm-up. We were able ride at a considerably faster pace than with Patrick, and a considerably longer distance, climbing over 2000 ft from North Bend to Hyak, which is just on the east side of the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel. Oddly, this trip left me a little sore in the buttocks, which usually doesn’t happen to me. I also got my first flat on a mountain bike, though it was quite easy to fix with a spare tube. The bicycles returned home VERY muddy, and with very dirty but happy riders. The Iron Horse trail goes all the way across the state of Washington to the Idaho border, and ends about 20 miles from the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
Historical sign in North Bend
Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike
The Milwaukee Line info-board
west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel
One of the six large trestles on the route
Trestle view from above
Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700’s.

Summary of the Trip:

  1. The ACA gets an A+. They are an extraordinarily great group to ride with, especially as you get to know the staff.
  2. The people on the trip are awesome. I regret that I could not get to know better more riders. It was a little hard avoiding politics, and didn’t wish to contend with those who wished to make profound political statements which were farther left (and thus much stupider!) than my conservative approach to life, politics, religion, and things of that sort.
  3. The route was superb. I wish there was a better answer to the Hiawatha trail day — too much shuttling, but still not a day to be missed.
  4. Once again, the cooks were awesome
  5. My thanks to Tammy Schurr for making this a wonderful and special event for Patrick.

Rachel Lake with Peter T

Rachel Lake with Peter Tate
Peter and I had decided on doing this trip together for the last six months or more. He was going to bring along a friend, and I had hoped to bring Andrew and several grandchildren. In stead, it turned out to be me Peter, Karma, her son, and me. Peter and Karma showed up at our place in Puyallup on 07JUL, and early 08JUL we headed out for the trailhead. We met Karma’s son at the I-90 turnoff, and then proceeded to the trailhead. At this point, I discovered that I had forgotten one of my most important hiking device, my hiking poles. It would prove to me somewhat harmful to me. At least we had food, sufficient clothing and warmth to survive. Karma’s son also had his dog with him, another source of great entertainment on the trail.
Start of the trail
Bee sting spot. Rachel was stung by a bee here many years before
My tent at Rachel Lake
Peter and Karma’s tent at Rachel Lake
The hike from the trailhead was four miles, and only a mild climb at first, though occasionally having to hike around many downed trees. The weather was soggy, though we most had heavy rain the first night. We originally intended to ascend up to the Ramparts, but decided against that on reaching Rachel Lake. After finding a choice campsite, tents went up, and we settled in. That night was a very heavy rain, but we all stayed dry in our tents. There were still spots of snow at Rachel Lake, and much more as we ascended to Lila Lakes and the Ramparts. The next day, we did a hike up to and around the Rampart Lakes. After that, we went over to Lila Lakes, a place I’ve never been to before, though I’ve been to the Ramparts many times. Lila Lakes was most spectacular with Box Peak rising up out of the lake. From a viewpoint, only could see the whole of Box Canyon, and the ledge where Rachel Lake was sitting. I regret never having camped at Lila Lakes, and will return.
On the trail up to the Ramparts
Peter at the Ramparts
Lila Lakes with Box Mountain in the background
Lila Lakes
Lila Lakes
The second night had minimal to no rain. We woke up fairly early, made tea and coffee, and headed out. The trail down was prohibitively slippery, since it was over slick rock (when wet) and tree roots, which are always slippery when wet. I came out quite bruised. There was minimal breaks in the clouds, but at least it wasn’t cold and rainy. All in all, it was another great time with Peter.

If You Can Keep It

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, by Eric Metaxas ★★★
I ordered this book on-line in February from Amazon, and it arrived in the mail in late June. I’ve read another book by Metaxas which intrigued me, leading to me to order this book. I found out about the book on Facebook, coming from Metaxas’ blog site. I typically appreciate how Metaxas writes, and so felt that I would enjoy reading this book. I’ve met and chatted with Metaxas, I find him to be most likable, and would love to engage in more conversation with him. He is bright, and mostly right-on. The other book by Metaxas that I’ve read was “Bonhoeffer”, a stimulating read, though a book for which I felt Metaxas would frequently draw erroneous conclusions, such as to state that Bonhoeffer was a martyr, which he most certainly was not. That discussion might be found in my review of that text. But, let’s get on with “If You Can Keep It”.
The book is seven chapters, with an introduction and epilogue. I’ll comment on the chapters after I briefly summarize them. The introduction presents the topic, titled by a phrase uttered by Benjamin Franklin at the constitutional convention. When asked whether we would be a republic or a monarchy, Franklin noted that we would be a republic, if we could keep it. Focused on that phrase, Metaxas seeks to restore through the book the zeal to keep this republic founded roughly 230 years ago. Chapter 1 begins the argument by noting that a republic can function only in the environment of moral people. Government cannot make us moral, and each citizen must hold the responsibility for personal morality. Chapter 2 introduces a concept borrowed by Os Guinness called the golden triangle. Specifically, the triangle is that freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith, and faith requires freedom. Chapter 3 was simply a summary of the ministry of George Whitfield in America, leading to a spiritual revival. Chapter 4 notes how civilizations will have historical heroes that are venerated. He discusses the American heroes that are too commonly forgotten, such as Nathanial Hale, and the founding fathers, including Paul Revere. Chapter 5 builds heavily on the importance of moral leaders, contrasting the immorality of such leaders as Bill Clinton to that of Cinncinaticus, George Washington or William Wilberforce. Chapter 6 explores further the idea of American exceptionalism, and why it is important in thinking about our country. Chapter 7 is a plea that one must love their country (America) in spite of its faults. The epilogue recalls the sentimental experience of Metaxas seeing the statue of liberty in the New York harbor soon after the 9/11 tragedy.
What is the problem with this book? Several…

  1. Metaxas doesn’t express deep insights into the real nature of America, and with what has gone wrong. Perhaps the seeds of destruction were sown at the writing of the constitution itself? Perhaps America’s “exceptionalism” has been not the virtue of its wonderful constitution but its transitory moments where many Americans actually had a true faith in the God of Christianity? Perhaps many of the symbols that evoke sentimental emotions with Metaxas are false symbols, such as the statue of liberty, which is about as pagan as you can get. Not that I dislike Lady Liberty, but I acknowledge that the Christian faith has a seriously different concept of the entire notion of liberty and freedom than pagan or humanistic sources provide for. Metaxas almost hints on that in the book, but fails to follow through, lapsing back into a “God, mother and apple pie” notion of America.
  2. Metaxas confuses general morality with a Christian morality. He spends much time talking about the importance of American’s being moral, but fails to explain why any morality not grounded in Scripture is really a false morality. In essence, morality essentially becomes what the state deems to be good and right. If tolerance becomes the greatest virtue, so be it, because the state has declared it to be so.
  3. Public heroes are nice and important, but only in the light of how they lived consistent with Christian beliefs. I can hold Latimer and Ridley as far greater heroes, dying for far greater principles, than that of Nathanial Hale, or those that perished in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Heroes now tend to be sentimental figures that do not inform the public into taking a costly moral stance. Metaxas completely confuses this in his book on Bonhoeffer, who was executed for his attempt to assassinate Hitler, which might be noble, but certainly true heroes like David from Scripture had better restraint when an opportunity to assassinate evil Saul presented itself.
  4. The golden triangle, with deepest respect to Os Guinness, seems to be nonsense. There are no specific definitions of virtue (whose morality?) or faith (in what?) or freedom (from what or for what?). Faith in the Christian sense does NOT require freedom, but affords a much greater freedom than is offered by the constitution or any other man-created document or system of government.

Metaxas labors long about the importance of love for country, being sure to dismiss the “my country right or wrong” notion. He argues that you can love a country while hating the sins of that country. But, one’s love for country is far more complex than just “loving” America. Is he talking about America as a system of government? Do we idolize the good but seriously flawed constitution, the “living” document that now controls our country? Do we love it for its extreme secularism, that refuses to take a stance as a Christian nation, and supporting equally Islam, Buddhism, and even Satanism as legitimate religions of the land?  Metaxas doesn’t mention that our only real citizenship is a heavenly citizenship, and on earth we are strangers and pilgrims. It’s not that we are solely citizens of an other-worldly realm, but that we have dual citizenships, and must reconcile how to deal with that, being both members of planet earth and asked to care for the earth, yet members of a heavenly kingdom. Some have responded by claiming that the US system is too far gone, and moved to a country which tended for stronger Christian sympathies. Others have moved on to more oppressive nations, though with the thought that they are subject to a King that is not the prince of this world. Others, like myself, stay, realizing that this is my Heimat, my homeland, that I can have an influence for good in the community in which I live. I do not find America to be exceptional, but like the prophet Jeremiah, spend my time weeping that my nation could have made better decisions but have gone the way of inevitable judgment of a most serious nature.
I see our government as far more corrupt than meets the eye. I see the constitutional structure as fatally flawed in that it is primarily a secular humanist document, and we are now reaping the consequences of that structure. I see the loss of a public Christian morality as the essential loss of anything that once was good about our country. I don’t view ourselves as having a representative government, or that our votes have any substantial meaning. A plethora of events within the last twenty years have shown that a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” does not exist in the USA, and that it will never return, save for a cataclysmic revival in our country. Why can’t Metaxas see this? I don’t know. I ponder the imponderable question as to how the majority of our “well-informed, greatest-nation-on-earth” citizens could vote in a fool and evil person to be their president. I find it even more confusing that some of my Christian friends voted and still stand behind that man, and will soon vote in an even more evil, corrupt liar. These Christian friends are very moral people as well as well educated intelligent folk, and so a generic “morality” just doesn’t explain how to fix America, as Metaxas’ thesis claims.
There is much that Metaxas says correctly in this book. I appreciate his insights into American history and his dissatisfaction with the current status of our country. I appreciate his appeal to return to a moral stance. I would find it easy to get along with Metaxas if we were to meet in public, and could easily become a good friend with him. I hope that with time and age, Metaxas would write a text about America lacking the sentimental statements and the sense that America is a city on a hill that we all wish it would have been. I would hope that Metaxas’ love for America would remain strong, but become more mature,  perhaps seeing America the same way that Jeremiah saw (and deeply loved) Judah.