Kenneth Feucht

Four Views: Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, by Gundry, Stump, Ham Ross, Haarsma, and Meyer ★★★★

I interrupted the reading of another book to read this book, as it had just arrived from Amazon. The other book, Darwin Day in America by John West is a book most needed to be written and read by many, and describes the consequences on society of a Darwinian Weltanschauung. I will be reviewing West’s book later, but will suggest that I’d probably give it more than 5 stars if I could. This current book was read as a step back, since its been at least 10 years since I’ve read any texts discussing the controversies of creation and evolution. My interest in intelligent design came in the early 1990’s from the appearance of Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, and has led me to have an Intelligent Design (ID) bias.

I’ve always appreciated the “4 views” texts, since they offer a discussion in a fair format for letting different views briefly present themselves. It’s weakness is that no view is able to develop itself fully, or defend itself fully. Yet, as this book demonstrates, it gives you a nice flavor of 4 different positions on Creation interacting with each other, and thus of value.

Ken Ham is a young earth creationist. He presents a mostly Biblical argument, supplemented here and there with scientific evidence, that supports a 7 day creation. I have deep sympathies for Ham’s thesis. My main disagreements include the fuzziness found in the Biblical creation language. As an example, Hebrew scholars are unsure as to whether Genesis 1:1-2 is a summary preface leading to the historical account of creation starting in Genesis 1:3, or whether the first two verses of Genesis are a part of that historical framework. I tend to side with the later view, though I won’t discuss the many reasons why I tend to lean that way. It is possible that the world was created with age, as Ham attests. Is that what God actually did? Only time will tell; hopefully, God fills us in on the details in the afterlife.

Hugh Ross has always been appreciated by me, as he writes well. He presents the old-earth view. He does not do an exegetical survey of Biblical creation passages in this argument, but mostly engages in the scientific rationale for his beliefs. The rebuttals were weak, though Stephen Meyer (ID defender) admitted that he had an old-earth leaning, and so had little to rebut.

Deborah Haarsma argued for a theistic evolution stance. Her arguments were quite flimsy when offering a scientific defense of her position. Her Biblical defense was even more flimsy. I believe that Meyer as well as Ross and Ham could have taken her to task much more than they did. Haarsma wishes to have her cake and eat it too. Evolution is unguided mutations leading to advanced biological life forms that God created by not guiding their evolution. Hmmmm. It’s a position that cannot be rebutted because it doesn’t make sense. What role DID God play in the formation of man? The position also leaves one very unsettled with the early Genesis narratives, especially with Adam and Eve.

Stephen Meyer offers the intelligent design arguments. Intelligent Design doesn’t fit the above categories, since it also assumes that you already have a position on young earth/old earth/theistic evolution, and indeed, members of all three of those camps live under the ID tent. ID doesn’t try to render a description for how creation happened, as God never gave us those details. Instead, it seems to be more of a negative argument, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the impossibility of unguided mutations leading to structures. ID actually does more than that, showing that even step-wise mutations would (in the case of complex machines like the flagella) demand thousands of correct simultaneous mutations for that structure to happen. You never see “loose parts” laying around awaiting a future function in a future biological machine. The main counterarguments from the young and old earth camp was that Stephen Meyer didn’t quote enough Scripture. This argument is specious, in that the discussion was NOT to establish the Scriptural grounds for a particular position. In the context of Scripture, ID tends to be strong and without need for defense. This is probably why the young and old earthers rely so much on the literature coming out of the ID camp.

Imagine the complexity of mutations leading to development of new organisms. Based on science, there is no precedent. We just don’t see that happening. Imagine if an organism had a mutation which rendered it superior in survival. This mutation must have had happened in either the gametes that came together, or immediately after the one cell organism came into existence before its first division. After the gonads are developed (which is fairly early in the embryological scheme of things), any further mutations will perhaps benefit the host but not its progeny. So, possible mutations in a species can happen only for a short period of time with a few cells. All other mutations will NOT be passed on to progeny. This means that Carl Sagan’s billions and billions of years are actually seriously reduced. In addition, the mutation cannot run through a “trial” to see if it is beneficial before being transmitted to another organism. Yet, there are other issues. Most genes are not dominant but recessive. This multiplies the problem since then, the mutation will need to have happened twice in exactly the same spot in order for the trait to be manifested. True, the genome has “hot spots” where mutations are more likely to occur. This might seem as a favorable trait for evolutionists, but it is just the opposite, since mutations are not necessarily as free to happen anywhere and everywhere in the genome. I don’t believe that the theistic evolutionists have adequately accounted for all the hurdles that need to be overcome, as it’s not good enough JUST for mutations to happening, even if they are favorable mutations. What about the time argument? All it takes is sufficient time, and anything could happen. In a purely materialistic universe, anything could happen. The entire world could have just come into existence 30 seconds ago, and this chance pop into existence could have born collective memory that misleads us into thinking that we had a history. Hey, if time and chance can explain the current universe, then it could explain anything. The multi-verse diversion (and it is nothing but a diversion) is an admission that there just isn’t enough time. In essence, all the multi-verse theory does is to contribute more time (though happening simultaneous with the current moment) to the equation. I guess that with enough time, even a universe like us filled with Donald and Daisy Ducks could (and will!!!!) eventually occur. All it takes is time and chance and every possible imaginative universe will eventually occur. When an answer actually explains too much, then the answer has failed. That’s my two cents worth, but not covered in the book.

Is this book worth reading? Maybe… It depends on where you are in the Creation debate. If you are new to the debate, just get a book by Ham, Ross and Meyer. I leave out Haarsma because I am still waiting for a credible argument for her position. Read the books, then read the 4 views debate and form your own opinion. My personal opinion is that either a young or old earth position can be true, ID supplements my belief in a theistic creation position, while ID tends to distract me from the theistic evolution position as being weak both scientifically and theological. Hier stehe ich!

The Move

By now, most of our friends are aware that Betsy and I have moved to Spokane Valley from our home in Puyallup, WA. We are frequently asked as to why we moved, and as to why we chose to move to Spokane Valley. The easiest way to explain the situation is to run through the history of the move, beginning in early June.

June of 2021 brought some interesting challenges to Betsy and me. I had determined to take off for 4-6 more weeks to get in more miles of the PCT. I was going to resume the hike from two years ago at Walker Pass, and seek to get as many miles as possible for me. The challenges were mounting, as the temperature throughout the west coast was much higher than normal and water was going to be an ever-present concern, especially for the first 40 miles, before I reached the high Sierra. So, with great enthusiasm, I hopped on the Amtrak train and headed out to Bakersfield. When the train reached Klamath Falls, the conductor announced that a fire in northern California had engulfed the tracks and burned out a trestle, so we had to turn back. Talk about popping a balloon! Months of training and no way to reasonably get to the trailhead in the time that my permit allowed. So, I did a short backpack with Sam Flanagan, and sulked. I made a number of suggestions for adventures with Betsy (my best friend… also my wife) but received the same answer back every time. “If we leave now the flowers will die, the garden will die, the grass will die”. “We can’t leave our home!”. Mein Gott!!!!!! Betsy and I both realized that we were prisoners of our home. As our frustration fulminated, we slowly began to think of an idea that had been mulling for about a year now that we were retired. Why don’t we move?

Move? To where? And under what conditions? Clearly, we needed a set of criteria for deciding the conditions under which we would move. It was at this time that Betsy and I learned that our kid brother Gaylon was going to move to Ocala, Florida. Soon after that, my (nearly twin) brother Lew announced that he was flying with his wife Carol to Ocala to possibly lay money down on a new home in the 55+ community called On Top of the World (OTOW). That sounded exciting but Betsy and I weren’t really sure that it would be our style. We lived for two years in Biloxi, MS, and had been to Florida a few times, so weren’t quite as snared by the enchantments of Florida.

Meanwhile, we met with a realtor that we had known from church for 5-10 years, and she felt that we could get good value for our home, but that we needed to reduce the clutter before it would be most marketable. For me, this meant boxing up much of our stuff and getting rid of bad furniture and stuff that was really nothing but junk. Multiple trips to the junkyard were experienced. The stuff of ours that we knew we needed to liquidate but was of high value were distributed among our children in the Washington State area. In the meantime, our refrigerator died, and our microwave went on the blink. We had already ordered nice replacements before we anticipated selling our house. As the time came nearer to having the house on the market, there became a problem of fitting the new microwave into the existing space of the old microwave. We purchased the appliances from Wiers (an awesome company), but the installer, young and enthusiastic but inexperienced dude did a horrid job on the installation. In a last-ditch frantic move, Weirs sent out an experienced installer and with some makeshift solutions, ended up with an attractive installation. We needed our shower glass replaced, and the upstairs bedroom rugs replaced. The bedroom rugs ultimately ended up being replaced after the fact. Meanwhile, we spent the full month of July and half of August doing nothing but packing, working on the house, and preparing the house for a sale.

But, where were we going to move? Options abounded. Should we stay in Puyallup? Should we move to Ocala? Belize? We seriously considered many options. The first option that seemed reasonable was to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, close to Rachel. Rachel naturally wanted us to move across the street from her in a retirement facility. For various reasons, this did not click with us. We looked intensely at which states are good states to retire in, and the list was somewhat short, the ones for us being South Dakota, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Idaho. Washington actually is NOT a bad state to retire in. They do not have inheritance and other death taxes. Iowa actually was quite low on the list of states that were favorable retirement states. We looked for 55+ communities in South Dakota, of which there were none. We looked for both houses and apartments, as well as what the Sioux Falls community would be like. We were ever so close to purchasing plane tickets to Sioux Falls when the words of my father became loud and clear to me. Our family moved from the midwest to California in 1962 because dad was totally sick of the winters. He had to get out of the midwest. Then, I looked at what old folk in Iowa and South Dakota do in winter. They sunbird to Texas or Florida. I had NO interest in sunbird-ing. So, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota option died quickly. Florida came up next. We examined both retirement communities as well as houses/apartments outside of the 55+ environment. I concluded that Lakeland, Florida would probably be my first choice. There were no choice retirement communities in that area, but there were nice apartments to accommodate us. It was at this point that I realized that the highest elevation in Florida was about 345 feet above sea level, but most of southern Florida barely achieves 50 feet elevation. There were no mountains in Florida. There were not even any hills. Florida was flat and I needed mountains. It just wasn’t the right fit for us.

Texas became a consideration. At this time, we were still thinking of 55+ communities. San Antonio and Austin had some nice options, but something wasn’t clicking with us. We looked hard at Arizona, both in the Prescott area as well as in the greater Phoenix/Maricopa County area. Slowly, the idea of living in a 55+ community with nothing but a bunch of old farts just didn’t appeal to me. We couldn’t do it. But, we realized that Las Vegas had many 55+ community options as well as apartments. Las Vegas seemed like a hyper-sleazy town, but we broke down and went to visit it. This was at the same time as our house was going on the market, so when we returned, we would learn as to whether the house sold or not. Betsy and I were both pleasantly pleased with Las Vegas. Outside of the strip and North Las Vegas, it had a nice feel similar to that of Phoenix or Scottsdale. There were mountains which were beautiful. Nevada was an inexpensive, low-tax state. It all seemed like the right choice, and we located several apartments that we thought would be perfect for us. But, the last day, after we had viewed several apartments, we took a drive out to Hoover dam. It was an impressive facility, but we noted that the level of water in Lake Mead was half of what it should be. The southwest was running out of water! We still had a level of unease about the whole prospect of moving to Las Vegas, though we both were thoroughly impressed with the area and the possible accommodations. Our two conclusions in Las Vegas were that we truly did NOT want to live in a 55+ community and that we really weren’t ready to immediately purchase another home. As the trauma of selling a home became more intense, it only strengthened our resolve to stay in an apartment for a while until we could see more clearly what we should do.

Behind Hoover Dam on half-empty with my lovely lady

On the plane flight back from Las Vegas, we discussed the possibility of putting down the money for the apartment we liked most in Las Vegas, but I then suggested that perhaps we should check out Spokane. As an aside, two other areas were under consideration. The first was various places in Idaho, but those thoughts were squelched by several issues: 1. Betsy did not wish to live in a remote location, 2. Housing prices were insane, especially in Northern Idaho, which was being bought up by Cafilornians. 3. The Boise area had low appeal to both Betsy and me. The other area under consideration for me was the Reno, Nevada area. I would have loved this area, but Betsy did not agree with my assessment, so Reno was tabled.

Two other issues were of concern for Betsy and me. The first is that we were concerned about finding a good church where we moved. Hopefully, this church would be a church of the Reformed persuasion. There was a PCA church in Las Vegas that Betsy and I attended for the Sunday we were there, but we really didn’t care for it. There was something just not right about it. We knew that there was a CREC church in Spokane, though we weren’t sure whether the Doug Wilson influence would so heavily prevail over the church as to make it an uncomfortable situation for us. I love the fact that Doug Wilson has held his ground against liberalism. I detest that Doug Wilson has what seems to be an obnoxious, confronting personality. The other issue was that of being able to easily travel, especially with a mind toward seeing grandchildren. Both Las Vegas and Spokane seemed to fit that bill with good airports, as Spokane had regular flights to many of the major cities in the western US, and to get to Rachel in Iowa would be easy, as well as the 5-hour drive to western Washington would be to see Jon, Sarah, or Diane.

Arriving home from Las Vegas, we learned that we had an acceptable offer on our home. This put much greater pressure on us to find a place to move to. The inspection report was borderline insane. Often there was no correlation with reality, and often the defects were so poorly defined as to be meaningless. Otherwise, the report requested items like cleaning out the rain gutters which had almost nothing in them. Though I was borderline furious at the inspector and ready to report him to the state, it was explained that this was just the norm for the real estate market. It really should be named the fake estate market, because that’s what it is. Using the realtor’s husband (whom I knew well) we were able to accomplish the various repairs in order to get the house acceptable to the buyer. In the tense days between the offer and final closure on the sale, Betsy and I took an overnight trip to Spokane to see several apartments. The apartments all seemed quite nice but we located one that we especially liked and made an offer on it that day. Soon afterward, our house closed and we were moving.

We left our home a week before the formal closure. My brother Gaylon drove up from Vancouver, WA, and was able to help us load a 20′ UHaul and get everything moved in a single load. Amazingly, Gaylon was able to fill every square inch of space in that truck, we were filled to the brim, barely shutting the truck door with all of our stuff. Sarah and her dear family were able to meet us in Spokane and help unload the truck so that it could be returned to UHaul. A final trip by me back to Puyallup and a meeting with the realtor left us to say our last goodbyes. A large sum of money was soon identified in our banking account.

Betsy and Gaylon ready to head out to Spokane Valley
Saying goodbye to our home of 29+ years

In Spokane Valley, we now had to create a home. The first chore was to discover the community that we were living in. There was a trail 10 minutes walking distance from our home which followed the Spokane River from Couer d’Alene to past Spokane. Betsy and I took off twice, first walking east toward Idaho, and then walking west toward Spokane. The trail was nicely kept up. Later, I was able to bicycle up to Coeur d’Alene and another day bicycle into Spokane to the Expo ’74 grounds. It was easy to see that cycling was a very acceptable activity in this community, and the potential for going much further afield was there. There are also an abundance of hiking trails in the vicinity. Closer to home, the apartment complex had a pool which we were able to use several times before settling in for the winter. There is a limited exercise facility in the complex which I’ve been able to use at least several times a week. Betsy also signed up for the YMCA, which is only several miles away. There is a shopping mall in the vicinity of our neighborhood, which we recently ventured into. It is big and beautiful, with more shops than appeared on the outside. Indeed, all the shopping, restaurants, and other amenities that we had in Puyallup are also close, but without the devilish traffic issues of Puyallup.

Betsy on the Centennial Trail with the Spokane River in the background
Our new apartment complex
A waterfall several miles from home in Mirabeau Park
Mirabeau Point Park, several miles from home

Getting all of our boxes unpacked has been a month-long plus ordeal. Thankfully, nothing was broken, and only several items remain unlocated. We discovered that we simply had way too much stuff. Did we need an extra set of dishes (which we never used anyway) for special occasions? Did we need 20+ wine glasses? Did we need 7-8 cookie pans? The list could go on and on, not only in the kitchen but for every room of the house. Truth be told, it has been a cathartic and wonderful feeling to get rid of all of your junk. We gave away much furniture that we knew would not be necessary after the move, but there was much furniture that we actually needed, mostly for efficient storage. We needed some bookshelves, pantry shelves, a tv stand, and various types of dressers and armoires. All of these arrived by Federal Express in very heavy boxes and demanded hours to assemble. Assembly was easy but took up much time. Once pictures were replaced on the wall and my cuckoo clock hung, it finally began to feel like home again.

Another issue was that of getting reconnected to the world. Betsy and I decided to drop our landline telephone and were able to maintain contact with the outside world with our trusty iPhones. Our only choice for internet connection was through Xfinity (Comcast) which I truly did not like. We did not sign up for extra sewage to come across our cable lines but were able to get our entertainment system rewired, which included a connection via an Apple computer to the broader internet. Lastly, I determined to start up my blog page. Hours and multiple evenings were spent trying to resolve the bugs. I decided to off-load my page to an internet service, which is relatively inexpensive, yet provided a little more protection against data loss. Sad to say, but I had to finally conclude that somehow I lost my entire webpage contents from the past 15 or more years. I’m sure the CIA has it stored somewhere in their vaults in Utah, but I’m not going to bother them to get it back.

The future now sits before us. This weekend will be our first trip back to Puyallup since leaving. We’ll be attending the funeral of a dear friend of ours, Delores Tulfo. We will also be seeing family at the Puyallup Oktoberfest where a friend of mine (Lyle Schaefer) will be performing with his polka band. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to see Dr. Peters as well as to make it to church. In the coming weeks, I will be helping Gaylon move to Ocala, Florida. We will combine that with a trip to Iowa to see Rachel, and will probably report that trip as a single blog entry.

On the home front, we still have many chores. We are still waiting for newly purchased furniture to be delivered, in order to complete the assembly of our home. We would like to get to know our neighbors better. We would like to develop a much stronger relationship with a church. We attended the Christ Church in Spokane and liked it, though there will be much that we will need to get used to. They take pride in their music, though I consider it to be strange, and could be of a much higher quality. The preaching is good. The church seems to attract those with a very specific mindset that is a bit foreign to our thinking, such as them wondering why we are doing what we are doing by moving to Spokane. I haven’t seen much with men’s activities, and the ladies’ activities center around crafts which doesn’t catch Betsy at all. Perhaps it is the church still emerging from the Wuhan virus era. Perhaps. The greatest draw of the church is that it has not given in to the liberalism that is destroying most churches in America. It would be easy for us to adapt to any church including a Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, or generic church, though our heart merges most with those who hold a Reformed theological mindset and where God is truly honored and the Scriptures truly honored.

Winter is setting in, and we haven’t lived for over 30 years in an area where it assuredly snows every winter. Will I take up cross country skiing again? Snow-shoeing? Do I dare ride my mountain bike in the snow, like many do around here? What about the PCT? Can I possibly resume the hike next year? Can I resume at Walker Pass like I intended to do this year? Will I be able to get to know the trails in this area? Idaho has much beautiful backpacking opportunities, but how will I go about getting to know the trails? Will there be backpacking folk interested in joining me? Will Betsy adapt to the area? Will we be able to find activities that we enjoy doing together? Only time will tell. At this point, we are completely happy and content with the decision we made to move to Spokane. We have no clue as to whether we’ll stay here or move on. We are happy that we don’t have the restraining ties of a home to limit our options. Maybe we’ll end up in the flatlands of Florida with a purchased home? Maybe we’ll end up back in western Washington? Only God knows.

The Spokane River, next to home
Trail going up Antoine Peak, just outside of our home
A view of the Spokane Valley from near the summit of Antoine Peak
Mt. Spokane in the distance, from the Antoine Peak Emerald Necklace Trail

Orthocogy

One of the last entries of my now deleted and forever vanished webpage was an essay on orthocogy. Since a few people have asked me about this word, it will be one of the blog entry sites that I will attempt to reconstruct.

Orthocogy is a word that I had made up, but is necessary for the English language. It is a composite construction with the first part “ortho” designating that which is true, right, or correct, and “cogy” is from the latin “cogitare” (to think). Thus, orthocogy is the art and practice of thinking correctly. It is intended to complement the words “orthodoxy” – to believe correctly (connoting the correct/true content of one’s believes) and “orthopraxy” – to behave and act properly. Thus is formed a triad of thinking, believing and acting well.

It was Scripture that first clued me to the need for another word in the English language. In Mark 4, Jesus tells the parable of the sower, and he was later queried by his disciples as to the meaning of the parable. His answer was quite interesting. “And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” This suggests that right thinking would have allowed the disciples to grasp the meaning of this and other parables. If Scripture did not record an interpretation, it is interesting to speculate as to how various factions of Christianity would have dealt with this parable. I doubt that none of them would have gotten it completely correct.

There are other Scripture passages that provide an equal challenge, and the reader is often left wondering as to how a consistent theology or ethic would be formed with the passage under consideration. Take for instance the parable of the unjust steward, where a steward in the process of being fired by his boss for dishonest dealings works some shady business with his bosses’ clientele. In the process, Jesus’ assessment is stated in Luke 16:8,9, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Clearly Jesus is suggesting that the disciples develop the ability to think through situations and deal wisely with the circumstances at hand.

Orthocogy could simply be called wisdom. The word in Greek is sophia, but the Hebrew word hokmah (חוכמה) tends to have a broader meaning with implications as to general survival in life, including skills, artistic abilities and craftsmanship as well as shrewdness and craftiness in thinking.

So often, the wisdom literature seems to contradict the writings of other Scripture. How often has one questioned statements in the Proverbs or Ecclesiastes as to their ethical correctness? How often has one pondered how the wisdom of the book of James fits in with the doctrines of Romans? A clear-thinking, orthocog person should not have a problem with the wisdom literature, yet how often we need the wisdom literature to allow us training in orthocogy! It is often that the higher institutions of learning best remove us from being able to think with orthocogy.

Make no mistake, orthodoxy and orthocogy are not the same. How often have one seen people of strong faith sometimes make the stupidest decisions? How often do you see the academic scholars of the seminaries make the most foolish political or social judgments? How often has one seen personal heroes of the faith in their worst moments owing to a fogginess in their thinking and inability to act in an orthcog fashion? The most bitter fighting among the most academically respected Reformed scholars leaves me baffled but demonstrates how people could be so orthodox and yet lack orthocogy. For examples, think about Luther’s battles with the Calvinists over the substance of the eucharist, or VanTil’s treatment of Gordon Clark, or Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ treatment of JI Packer, or the general PCA witch trial of Peter Leithart. Politically, I think of Machen’s strange love for Woodrow Wilson, or Doug Wilson’s most obfuscated thinking about Donald Trump. The list could be far lengthier, but I think I’ve made my point.

Orthocogy is a difficult trait to specifically identify, but manifests itself with how well a person is able to conduct himself in the art of living. Orthocogy cannot be measured. It is like humility; the person that claims to have humility is precisely the person that is NOT humble. A person that boasts the ability to think well similarly must be viewed with deep suspicion.

Proverbs entreats us to seek wisdom. Orthocogy is a trait that is acquired with time and diligence. Like the rest of the triad, orthocogy must (of necessity) be in partnership with orthodoxy and orthopraxy. True, there are godless men who possess orthocogy, yet for the Christian man, right doctrine and ethical practice must be simultaneous with right thinking. May we all acquire wisdom, and may we all have a proper balance of good thinking, good beliefs, and good behavior.

Hellstorm

Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947, by Thomas Goodrich ★★★★★

This is one of the most challenging books that I’ve read in a long time. It was difficult to speed through the chapters of this book. Each page held the earnest reader in grief and thoughtful reflection of the events of Germany at the end of the war* and the years that follow. This is not a revisionary history of the war; it doesn’t deny the holocaust or wholesale murder of “innocent” Jews. It doesn’t attempt to make the Nazis look nice or ameliorate the evil that they performed. But, it does add another layer to the evils of the war. There is a popular meme that has gone around (attempting to make a joke of the Nazis) with a Nazi soldier asking the question, “Are we the baddies?”. This book helps one to understand that when history is examined critically, it might be hard to know who really was the worst “baddie”. Perhaps the allies were the most morally culpable, explaining why we are now seeing God’s judgment on western civilization. The beauty of this book is that it is compiled of eye-witness accounts of each of the particular situations that Goodrich describes in this book. Thus, the only agenda is the attempt to give an account of the end of the war which also includes the perspective of those of German descent scattered throughout Europe.

Goodrich begins his war accounts with the firebombing of Hamburg. On July 24, 1943, long before Germany had committed any indiscriminate bombing of England, the British engaged in a massive firebombing attack on Hamburg. Before then, targets were selected (especially by Germany) as having military concern, and sparing the general civilian population. Now, the situation had changed, and an attempt to demoralize the general population through attacks on the entirety of Germany, the German public received the most hellish conditions describable to man. The toll of human suffering, of women and children, the elderly and infirm, and even foreigners who were held prisoner or otherwise detained in Hamburg were victims. It is easy to talk about firebombings, but to experience such a thing defies words, where the heat of the attack rises above 1000’s of degrees melting all in the vicinity, where the oxygen is sucked out of air letting victims suffocate should they escape the heat, and where massive windstorms then are generated by the atmospheric conditions. Eye-witnesses describe the horrors of such an event, which sadly the blind eyes of the attackers remain ignorant of. The Allied motives for such attacks were clear, in that their hatred for “Germans” had no bounds (though ignoring the fact that the British King was German!). Churchill and Eisenhower both had an unrelenting hatred for anything German and were not shy in openly admitting this, as is documented well in this book. Thus, it wasn’t the German militia or the Nazis who were the enemy, but the very German people.

The bombing of Berlin was a prolonged matter, as each square inch of the capital of Germany was bombed not just once or twice, but repeatedly, week to month on end, and long after there were no longer any standing buildings or structures. How people survived the bombings and continue to occupy the capital is a mystery.

A greater fire-bombing tragedy was brought out later in the book and was popularized by Kurt Vonnegut, the bombing of Dresden. This time the fire-bombings occurred days on end, and at a time when there was absolutely no strategic advantage to be gained. Indeed, there were large populations of American prisoners of war in Dresden who were also participants in receiving the wrath of Churchill and Roosevelt. Countless artworks and historical works were destroyed in the process. Dresden was not a military city and the west knew that. It was purely an act of blind vengeance and vengeance that someday would be returned on the English-speaking peoples of the world.

While the west was delivering its typical version of hell on the German people, the eastern front saw the Russian hordes pushing back the retreating German front. For the last 700 years the German people have been migrating eastward, much from the invitation of the Russian czar. Now, these ethnic Germans were caught in a life-and-death struggle. The Russians saw these people as no different from the invading Nazis and treated them no differently, even though they were entirely innocent of the sins of the homeland. The millions of ethnic Germans were now being displaced from their traditional homelands. Much of this was entirely supported and financed by the west, through agreements between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt.

The treatment of the displaced German people were as immoral and ruthless as describable. Many were shot point-blank, though that was usually too kind, and prolonged torture was more fitting to the Russian mindset. Women of all ages, from 8 to 80 and beyond, were raped, oftentimes abusing a young woman 20-30 times in a night. Those left to live were stripped of all of their possessions and typically died of starvation. All of this happened under the knowing eyes of Churchill and Eisenhower, who offered no appeals for restraint. Refuges from the east came under attack, and oftentimes the attack was from the west, when the Brits and US Air Force bombed boats in the North Sea which were known to contain only refugees fleeing from Russian hands.

Many military deaths occurred not only from the enemy, but from comrades, and this was true for Germany and even more so for Russia. The Germans wished so slow down the retreat back to Germany, and positioned SS troops behind the front to arrest and often to execute those moving in retreat. Oftentimes, innocent people like messengers moving back and forth from the front became the victim of these SS police. What the Germans did, the Russians did with a far greater degree, numbering perhaps even into the millions, of soldiers who were stalled or moving backward, or soldiers who were suspected of having been captured by the enemy; all experienced the same fate of death at the hands of a firing squad.

The end of the war should have been the end of suffering, yet for many, matters only became worse. This was true both from the west and from the east. Though both the American army and German army had violations of the Geneva convention for treating prisoners of war, Germany did its best to hold to the treaty. Contrary, the facts of the matter and statements from Eisenhower demonstrate a complete indifference toward adhering to agreed-upon conventions. The Nazi interrogators are oftentimes made the brunt of war movies, yet the behavior of the Americans and British after the war, in well-documented instances, make the Germans appear as school children. Starving women were turned into sex slaves for the teenaged American soldiers. The only glimmer of good behavior came from the frequent protests of the Red Cross, and the tireless and selfless work of the Salvation Army. The western allies have not a shred of moral superiority over their German brothers.

It is also noted that the suffering in the east was also in the extreme. The flow of immigrants to the west was greeted by the extreme savagery of the Russian soldiers. Typically, the front-line soldiers would pass through quickly, then the second wave of Russian soldiers coming through would engage in looting, raping, and pillaging in extreme order. Few women were left virginal. Nobody was left unharmed. Following the war, the Polish population then began to take vengeance on the German population that had done them no harm. If there ever was a situation of extreme genocide, it was to the Germans in Russia, Poland, and the Slavic countries. It is said that more citizens perished after the war than during. As an American population, we are quick to divest ourselves of this moral responsibility, yet that is not the case. Goodrich emphasizes time and again how the agreements between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt were such that all the players were responsible for what Stalin did. It is like how we would treat a mob boss who commissioned an underling to perform a “hit” job. Both the underling and the boss would be equally morally charged. Such is true of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt.

Goodrich details in the last chapter what has been considered the crime of the age, the treatment by the USA and Great Britain in their now vanquished foe. Revenge and vengeance were the themes. This was especially true of the Jews and their bitter spirit of revenge, which persists to this day. It is challenging to make a final assessment as to which nation held the moral superiority. Too often the Nazis behaved better than the Americans. When General Harris of the British Air Force was questioned as to the inhuman savagery of his bombing of Dresden, his reply was that he was only following orders. Seems like a few Nazis also offered that alibi.

Goodrich offers an epilogue that was quite moving. Germany began to rebuild, and in the absence of men, it became the duty of many women to clean up the streets and rebuild the cities. The Allies realized the Soviet threat that was now building and understood that the recovery of Germany would be in their own personal best interest. A German public that could have been justifiably revengeful chose instead the motto “Forget the past, only the future counts”. Meanwhile, their conquerors from the other side of the pond maintained the motto…

They got exactly what they deserved.
We felt we were fighting an inhuman philosophy
We became a force of retribution
I always said that the only good German was a dead one and I still say that!

Goodrich completes the book by requesting the reader to engage in a sobering reflection as to who really held the moral high ground in World War 2. Certainly, one is left with no doubt that the USA or Great Britain cannot make that claim. This is not historical revisionism. This book calls for the act of truly grasping the moral depravity of all sides in the second world war. By not grasping this lesson, the USA is now falling prey to the eventual judgments that will result. I shudder to imagine that someday the US population might receive the same brutalities that we blithely administered to Germany. Pray that God be merciful.

*I use the word “war” in the singular as I consider World War I and World War II as the same (though second) 30 years war that haunted Germany. It was the very poor decisions and attitudes of the west toward Germany after WWI which made WWII inevitable. After both wars, the west’s inability to acknowledge equal responsibility for the war has made the west the more morally culpable for the carnage that resulted.

Return of feuchtblog.net

Betsy and I have recently moved from Puyallup, WA to Spokane Valley, Washington, from the west to the east side of the state. In the process, for unknown reasons, my blogsite deleted itself from my Synology server. I’ve spent countless hours trying to retrieve the data and resolve the issues to no avail. Thus, I will be starting a brand new blog page, beginning on 01OCT2021. I was completely unable to retrieve any of the past pages on my blog site, and that data is lost down the rabbit hole forever. But, I’ll start afresh and not make the mistakes of the past. I will not be administering the blog page through my own server but will be utilizing a hosting site. Hopefully, there will be less data lost and less downtime that is experienced. You should be seeing new blogs in the near future.

A Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac And Sketches Here and There, by Aldo Leopold ★★★

This book is very popular among environmental groups as it offers a strong case for the current environmental movement, and is often quoted by environmentalists. I became interested in the book only after reading another environmental book, Another Shade of Green, also recently reviewed by me. 

This edition is divided into 4 parts; 1) a fairly lengthy introduction by Robert Finch, which I’ll not review, 2) A Sand County Almanac, which is observations Leopold made on his farm in central Wisconsin for each month of a certain year. 3) Sketches Here and There, which are brief observations from various states of the USA and Mexico. 4) Leopold attempting to lay a philosophical basis for the environmental movement. Section 2 and 3 are very similar in their style detailing Leopold’s observations of nature, but are organized first chronologically, and then location-wise. 

First, I found it challenging to stomach the arrogance of Aldo Leopold. He is constantly making statements suggesting that he sees things in nature that other people callously don’t pause to notice. But, are you surprised? That is what Aldo is supposed to be doing. He has been trained to observe nature, and that was his occupation. He knows the names of minute plants and organisms. I scarcely am able to differentiate the names of various common trees. But, I am a trained surgeon and notice physical characteristics of the human body that go unnoticed by everybody else. Yet, I don’t insult or condescend to my patients for not noticing things that I have been trained to notice. That one does not quickly identify subtle changes in nature, or take note of obscure plants that wax and wane over the year, does not reflect on one’s absence of appreciation for nature. Similarly, my patients appreciate good health, even though they are not always cognizant of subtle signs and symptoms that reflect a loss of that good health. 

Leopold appeals most to the irrational emotions of people by creating a Disneyesque nature to our world. Animals talk and think rationally. Animals think out a rationality to nature that simply doesn’t exist. In the process, Leopold turns our world into a giant version of Disneyland. The technique of personalizing beasts of the field and birds of the air leaves for delightful reading. Doesn’t one often have curiosity as to what animals are thinking about? It’s ok to be creating scenarios of sentient creatures, but don’t sell it as a plea to protect our world.

Leopold is often hypocritical about protecting nature. He loves to hunt but laments how hunting has altered the ecosphere. He loves nature but complains when others get out into nature in a different style than him, such as through the use of RVs and motorhomes, etc. He bemoans over-population but doesn’t volunteer to help reduce human population by eliminating himself. Clearly, he lives in a solipsistic world that has reduced tolerance to those different from himself.

The greatest thing I noticed in reading this book is that Leopold remains entire blind to the most obvious fact observable in nature, that of a Creator. Leopold will frequently refer to Biblical stories, though they are treated more in a fairytale fashion than actual history. His god is evolution which created his beloved environment through time and chance from the primordial slime. Yet, the heavens and firmament are screaming at deafening volumes as to a loving, wonderful God who gave us a beautiful earth. It is sad that Leopold doesn’t see the forest because of the trees, and fails to realize that there is a connectivity, and moral rationale for protecting nature based on a desire to care and nurture the world God has given to us.

I found part 4 of this book the most interesting, but also the most muddled in thinking. He agonizes about a “land ethic” but never defines it completely. Then, he details the two types of environmentalists, those that are mostly hunters/RV campers/occasional participants in the outdoors, and those that have a strong interest in going as natural as possible and preserving wilderness as a natural phenomenon. He could have picked two names, Gifford Pinchot and John Muir, to make his point, but he didn’t. His idea was that the more “natural” we keep nature, the higher good is obtained. Now, I have my repulsion for hunters and RV campers, but that doesn’t make me establish a superior attitude to them. We all enjoy nature in different ways. I tend to side with the later (John Muir) camp, but also realize that we have a responsibility to care for nature. I also have a very difficult time identifying that the more natural things are, the better off they are. A perfect example is the California forests, which are burning up because of the absence of forest management. Another example is the rise of Lyme disease in the Northeast because of the return of farmed lands to “nature”. It is difficult for me to grasp exactly what the most proper natural state of the biosphere would be. I also have difficulty seeing the moral superiority of a burned-out piece of wilderness over a carefully managed piece of wilderness. The most aggressive environmental pundits long wistfully for wilderness in the Daniel Boone sense, but that is a wish that is similar to wishing that one could again believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. An expansive wilderness that covers half a continent simply will never again happen. 

Aldo Leopold paints a very fancy picture of the outdoors and longs wistfully for the wild untouched land of yesteryear, but that doesn’t help when attempting to create a rational policy toward wilderness and natural sites management. The environment remains an emotional issue for all. Who is there that cannot gaze upon a majestic mountain scene or a stately elk in its native environment, and not be overwhelmed with emotion. These emotions don’t help when attempting to formulate public policy. Leopold worked in the public sector all his life and should have known better. In my opinion, wilderness speaks for itself. Most people agree that we must not destroy the natural beauty of our world. How we go about saving our natural areas, and exactly what is meant by saving our natural areas remains a topic of discussion. Overmanagement might be a grave evil, but so is undermanagement. This is our earth, and we must care for it diligently but cautiously. 

I can appreciate the witness that Leopold gives to the beauty and majesty of our natural world. I don’t appreciate that he fails to discuss the most obvious conclusion of his observations, that…

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

…yet, there remain so many folk, especially educated elitists like Leopold, that close their eyes and remain deaf to the obvious, that we live in our Father’s world, and because it is His, we darn well better take good care of it!

Appalachian Trail

Me on McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail

This was the year I was committed to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. So, what in tarnation am I doing on the other coast, hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT)? Well, in late August, I discovered that the Wilderness Medical Society was doing a 4-day trip on the AT with lectures in wilderness medicine. I figured that I could use an update on wilderness medicine, and so called up my best friend Dr. Peter Tate to see if he wished to also do it. For him, it meant CME credits, for me it meant having some time with an old friend and getting a sample of one best portion of the AT, a 30 mile segment around Roanoke, VA. Peter bit. So, we were both signed up. I was to fly into Lexington, KY, stay one night in Lexington, and then ride with Peter down to the farm in Stanford, KY, stay two nights there, and head out from there to the conference. I arrived safe and sound in Lexington on 19SEPT and reconnoitered with Peter. The next day, we were off to the farm. Peter was in the early stages of building a new house the last time I was at the farm a year and a half ago. It was now in the nearly complete stages. It truly was a masterpiece, especially considering that Peter did most of the construction himself. He even included a swimming pool which the house wraps around. On the interior, he made certain walls at an angle off of 90 degrees, creating a wonderful character to the house, with the swimming pool sitting at that oblique angle from the house. 

The house that Peter built, nearing completion. It appeared to be complete inside.
The inside kitchen area
Hiking the farm

Our full day at the farm included an about 7 mile hike through the pastures and woods on Peter’s land. We carried our backpacks fully loaded just to condition our bodies to the upcoming adventure. The next day, we headed out to our group meeting point at a camp outside of Roanoke, VA, called Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing (WAEL). The first and last night of the adventure were spent at WAEL, with the first night in a cabin, and the last night in our tents. Peter drove the Tesla, which seemed to have some software problems on the trip. I also realized that long distances in remote territories are NOT Tesla’s forte. After an uneventful night, we headed out for the trail. We were going to hike the trail southbound, with a starting point at Daleville, and ending at Dragon’s Tooth, then hiking out the Dragon’s Tooth access trail. The first three days all entailed about 9.5 miles of hiking, and the last was much shorter.

WAEL main meeting hall

Our first night was at Lambert’s Meadow. It wasn’t really a meadow, and there was confusion as to where we were to camp, the instructions suggesting that it was at the cabin, rather than a ¼ mile before that, where most people stopped. I couldn’t help but think of Lander’s Meadow in the middle of section f (California) and a truly beautiful meadow lined by majestic Ponderosa pines. Peter and I and Jay camped in the correct spot, and met Smoking Joe, a NOBO, and in desperate need for food. I had way too much food, so Joe pumped me some water in exchange for a bunch of food. I missed the lecture that evening since it didn’t really start until about 8:30 or later, and I was sound asleep by then. 

A view of Carvin Cove Reservoir below, which the trail wraps around.

The second hiking day, Peter and I took off at a leisurely pace, encountering two of the three sites of note in Virginia, the Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob, the third being the Dragon’s Tooth, which we would see our last day. McAfee Knob seems to be iconic of the AT, so both Peter and I were photographed on the knob. Our second night was at John’s Spring. Though named after a spring, this was a dry campsite, and the last real water was at Lambert’s Meadow. We had to watch our water consumption. The site was a little small for the group of 23 of us, there was a shelter there where a few of our group slept, and we all managed ok. The lecture was on bears. 

Valleys were on both sides of us, and always civilized with farms filling the valley. The trail usually followed the ridge line. 
Peter on Tinker Cliffs
Lots of nice sandstone rock in the area

The hike the third day proceeded to have an interest in reaching the next water source, which was about 6 miles out of camp. Since the weather in the mornings was cool, there was not too much water loss, though I was down to my last half liter. We were to camp at Lost Spectacles Gap, a more roomy spot, though also a dry camp. The trail went through some nice meadows, and crossed a road where a short walk led to a restaurant/grocery store/gas station, where Peter and I decided to diverge and seek libations not found on the trail. We brought some beer back to camp to enjoy, and had a great time. Unfortunately, I ordered a hamburger for lunch which was larger than I anticipated, and when Peter and I stopped at a particularly majestic lookout point, I proceeded to throw up half my meal. Oh well. We arrived at camp fairly early, enjoyed a couple cigars, and laid low. There were no lectures, but instead, there was a mock bear attack session, where we had to make decisions regarding the traumatic injuries and administer initial care to the victims. It was a fun venture. 

Meadow hiking
Peter relaxing at the viewpoint having a beer while I was throwing up
A very relaxed Peter contacts Karma his wife

The last day was short, which us waking up a bit later than usual, ascending a rather treacherous portion of the trail to arrive at the Dragon’s Tooth. Arriving back at camp, we picked up our backpacks, and hiked out. We again were able to easily reach the store that we were at a day ago, and picked up a case of beer for the other hikers. We had yet another lecture on orthopedic injuries. The shuttles picked us up, hauled us back to WAEL, and we settled in for the evening. At this time, Peter discovered that his car, which was plugged in to be charged while we were hiking, had now totally drained of charge. After a few desperate measures, he had a tow truck haul him and the car to Richmond, VA. It was decided that with the uncertainty of repair of the vehicle, I would ride back to Lexington with Jimmy, a medical student at U of Kentucky in Lexington. I stayed for dinner, and enjoyed two more lectures, one on water filtration, and the other on Jessie’s thru-hike of the AT. Eventually, Peter arrived back to Lexington (quite late at night), and took me to the airport then next morning, on 28SEPT. I made it home intact!

Some of the trail was a class 3 climb! The white markers indicate the trail. 
Peter in front of Dragon’s Tooth
Riff riff back at camp, waiting to hike out. 
Ending the last hike of the season

Thoughts

First, about the WMS adventure. It was enjoyable, and provided me a chance to appreciate the AT for the first time. the WMS always does a first class act in their meetings. The nature of this meeting in the form of a backpack trip was a touch more chaotic. My only wish was that it would have been a touch more organized, with a stronger communication channel from the leaders about what was up, what was going on, and deciding on giving the trail lectures before it got pitch dark. Perhaps a 6 pm lecture time would have been most appropriate. At the time of the evening lecture, “map” sessions reminding us of the plan for the subsequent day would have been in best order. In spite of the problems, the infectious enthusiasm of the leaders for wilderness medicine was most notable. In all, I would call it a most wonderful adventure.

What about the AT? Having just hiked a 1000 miles of the PCT, could I make comparisons? Actually, the two trails are totally different. The strategy for doing them are different, the environments that you go through are different, and the personality of the trail is different. Most of the time, it is easy to get 15-25 miles a day on the PCT. Because the AT is less manicured, you would be doing well to get in 12-18 miles a day. The AT keeps you for the ;most part much closer to civilization, and in the section of the trail that we did, you never seemed to have ever left civilization. The AT is described as a long green tunnel. It is mostly deciduous trees, as compared to conifers for the PCT. The AT has many shelters (about every 8-12 miles) where the PCT has practically none. It seems that one must have a much different mentality when approaching the AT as compared to the PCT. In all, I did not acquire a bubbling enthusiasm to return and do the entire AT. After all, I still have large incomplete segments of the PCT to get done, if I even decide to do them! I will sign up to hike the PCT next year, but may spend most of my time camping with Betsy, and giving Betsy a summer of my life. I may get some cycling in, but plan to not leave home for more than a few weeks at a time. Betsy and I have depleted our Wanderlust, and wish for slightly more simple adventures from here on out. But then, who knows what the future will bring?

Playing Trail Angel at Harts Pass

Looking east from our campsite at Hart’s Pass

Betsy and I had two main reasons to go to Hart’s Pass. First, we needed to pick up Intrepid. Secondly, we needed to bring Jacob back home. Betsy and I decided to add a third reason, and that was to play trail angel. Hart’s Pass is the last portion of the PCT to cross by a road, at the Hart’s Pass campground, 30 miles from the Canadian border. At this campground, thru-hikers were getting their last “hurrah” before pushing on into Canada. If they did not have a Canada entry permit, they would turn around at the border and hike back to Hart’s Pass where they would hope that they could find a ride to Mazama and thus hitch-hike home. The gravel road from Mazama to Hart’s Pass is the highest maintained road in Washington, and often designated the most dangerous road in Washington. 

We had our truck totally loaded with hiker food and camping equipment. When we got to the Hart’s Pass campground, Intrepid was already there and able to find us a wonderful campsite with a great view. To our brief dismay, there was already a trail angel established there, a guy from Indiana named EZ, and was being helped by Tyler. After speaking with EZ, we quickly established how we would work together to maintain the trail angel spot. I brought my food up, as well as a 10 x 10 canopy. This came in very useful, as we arrived on a Tuesday, and it started to rain on Tuesday afternoon, the canopy providing much needed protection for our food and our hikers. Together, we actually had way too much food, so the next day, EZ went to town to get more ice and to drop off a large portion of our food at a trail angel in town, Ravensong. Several days later, EZ took off for three days to hike up to the border monument and back, leaving Betsy and I to take care of everything. We had a great time. At first, we felt that this was not an ideal site to be trail angel-ing, but quickly learned that hiker trash really appreciated our setup, and the non-hiker food, beer, and an encouraging word before their last push to Canada. What was most delightful was encountering hikers that I had met on the first few days of the trail out of Mexico finally arriving at the end. Some hikers had skipped the high Sierra, but all were eager to wrap up and move along, either returning home or returning to the high Sierra to complete that phase of their journey. Friday afternoon, a group from the Grand Coulee 7th Day Adventist Church showed up to trail angel. They apparently do this every year. They were a very kind group, and we were able to work out a transition for them to move in and us out. We had hoped that somebody would show up, since I knew that EZ would not be back from the trail until late Saturday or Sunday. Thus, the replacement group were most welcome to maintain continuity of the trail angel site at Hart’s Pass. 

EZ and I have met afterwards in Tacoma to discuss the future. We think that we will again play trail angel next year for 4-5 days, a week or two after Labor Day. Perhaps next year we will improve on our mistakes and make it an even better experience for thru-hikers in the last phase of their hike.

Our tent, a six man REI Kingdom, on space #5
Our camp kitchen table
Betsy in a very relaxed mode
EZ on the left and Tyler on the right
Denise with Betsy
Umbrella Man on the left, who I met south of Snoqualmie Pass
The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from Lynden, WA. They were quite familiar with the VanVoorst clan. They were doing the PCT by horseback, but made sure to come and enjoy a beer from us.
Betsy offering some slightly aged apples to the horses and mules, which were eagerly devoured.
The Mule. The Mule was from France, and most delightful and friendly character. I first met the Mule several days out from Mexico in the desert. I was in a long stretch of the desert trail when I saw a short happy person from France doing pushups just off the trail (as though the trail wasn’t exercise enough!). I saw the Mule a few more times in the next few days before losing him. I often wondered whatever happened to him. Apparently, his hike was totally successful!
A great Dane, I don’t remember his trail name. He got extremely excited when I informed him that I had some Carlsberg beer (from Denmark), which he was going to pack in and drink at the monument. This guy was really funny! Apparently, he was going to be on Good Morning Denmark when he got back home. 
The replacement trail angels, with some hiker trash (Intrepid and Jacob) as well as Betsy.

A Different Shade of Green

A Different Shade of Green, A Biblical Approach to Environmentalism and the Dominion Mandate, by Gordon Wilson★★

This is a book I received recently direct from Canon Press and not from Amazon, and chosen because of my avid interest in a Biblical approach to environmentalism, ecology, and wilderness ethics. Gordon Wilson has a degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy and lives in Moscow, Idaho. He is the brother of Douglas Wilson, a preacher and well-known personality in the town of Moscow, Idaho. 
The text is easily readable, which I did in about 4 hours, and geared for the early high school level. I don’t have any serious criticisms of the book, save for the book being moderately non-academic and rather incomplete in its thinking. I mostly agree wholeheartedly with the thesis and many of the conclusions of Gordon, but feel that he did a poor job of developing a comprehensive Christian/Biblical approach to the environment. There are many questions which he left untouched and unanswered in the book. 
He heavily quotes two people, Aldo Leopold and his Sand County Almanac and Francis Schaeffer in Pollution and the Death of Man, written in conjunction with Schaeffer’s son-in-law Udo Middelmann. 
I have read and re-read Schaeffer’s text many times, and it has been formative in my thinking on the environment; I’ve read the Sand County Almanac once and have reviewed it elsewhere on my webpage. This current book tends to support Schaeffer’s theses, and thus I would stand in whole-hearted agreement with all that Wilson has to say. New in Wilson’s thought was his emphasis on the biosphere operating analogically as a giant machine, and each part of the biosphere (and physical earth I presume) being an integral part of that machine. Thus, all species and subspecies play a role in the overall and necessary function for the best operation of the total biosphere.
What did Dr. Wilson leave up to question? He definitely overuses a few words without defining them, such as the word “dominion”. He quotes the word as used in Gen 1:28, where the text really doesn’t give a strong clue as to precisely what is meant as “dominion”. Perhaps the overplay of the word orients around a possible adherence to Dominion Theology. While Dr. Wilson may adhere to Dominion Theology (I don’t), I don’t find Dominion Theology as necessary in building a Christian stance for the environment. Certainly, Francis Schaeffer and Udo Middelmann did not feel that way! Wilson focuses heavily on the animal kingdom, giving the plant kingdom only passing mention, and the physical earth as almost no mention. This is problematic. To what extent is it ok to “remodel” the earth? Is dynamite sinful? What about the preservation of beauty? How would he lean in the (still ongoing) Hetch Hetchy controversy? Would he lean with Pinchot or with (the probably more Christian) Muir? Waffling on the question is NOT an option. What about the state preserving areas such as wilderness? Wilson in the book not once (that I could find) even mentions the word “wilderness”. This leaves a giant lacuna for the book. Can he form a wilderness ethic? Does he have any comments on the wilderness act of 1963? Is it good or bad? How would he change it? He suggests leaving some areas “natural”, yet that is NOT Biblical, as “dominion” suggests caring for all the earth in a fashion to groom, control, contain it. Another giant lacuna is a discussion of bioengineering, the production of genetically modified organisms, and its role in ecology. Is GMO a good or a bad thing from an environmentalist perspective? I would reiterate a question, how would Wilson lean in the Pinchot versus Muir debate? How do we balance utility of the biosphere with the preservation of the native state of nature? Is logging ok? How much logging? What about the grazing of sheep and cattle? Is it simply a question of “sustainability” (i.e., over-grazing”) or are there aesthetic issues involved? What about the preservation of exotic subspecies? Part of my recent hike (the PCT) was detoured because biologists felt that the sound of human steps disturbed the sex life of the yellow-legged frog. I felt that this was misdirected thinking. How would Wilson weigh in on this? The last few years had an unprecedented number of west coast forest fires, and at least a few of these were the result of poor forest management or laissez-faire attitudes toward forest upkeep. Does Wilson have any comments on this? Should we manage forests in a way to limit the number of forest fires, or should we allow natural fires to have their way? He quoted briefly Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, yet this book has come under serious attack for being very bad science, and perhaps completely inaccurate as to the effects of DDT. How would Wilson respond? I have been engaged numerous times with libertarians who contend that a libertarian approach to the environment would have the most salutary effect at preserving wild places. Experience and time have shown that the libertarians are dead wrong on this issue. I believe that there is a role for the state in preserving wild areas and maintaining laws that prevent the destruction of the environment, maintaining necessary areas such as wetlands, fields, forests and other habitats for members of the plant and animal kingdom to survive. How much control of our land does Wilson feel the state should have? How would Wilson interpret Biblical law in order to protect the environment? How does he reconcile the Quiver-full movement with environmental destruction from “over-population”? Any form of development of the land intrinsically leads to habitat destruction. Clearing out the land for a house or housing development, flattening a large parcel for a shopping mall, diverting rivers for flood control, putting in roads across natural ranges for animals (bison!!!), and even the development of hiking trails leads to habitat destruction. How does one balance the good and bad of human activity in this world? This ultimately leads to the most fundamental issue, and that pertains to the orientation of the universe. Wilson and I both believe that the universe was created for man, for both sustaining men but also for man’s enjoyment and pleasure. This makes both Wilson and I side (I presume) toward an anthropocentric universe. This seems to be the fundamental difference between us and the secular environmentalists who do not believe the world is anthropocentric, and that man is an often an unwelcome invader in this world. I wonder why he didn’t develop this thinking further, as any discussion of wilderness focuses on man’s role in this universe?
Enough questions. With time, I could draw more that I think are vital to answer in any form of engagement of Christians with non-Christians in their discussion of environmental issues. The book is an ok read, and I recommend it, even to those with a passing interest in environmental issues.

PCT Summary

It is now 5 months later and 1002 miles of the trail completed. I certainly wished for more miles, but a combination of factors prevented that from happening. At this time, I have no intention of attempting to put on more miles this year. What I would like to do in this blog is to summarize matters, including a) what were the problems with the hike, b) what did I learn from it all, c) what equipment did I like and dislike, and d) what positive good came out of it all. This is a really long read, so I know that most of you will probably not read it all. That’s ok. It was written mostly to consolidate my own thoughts.

Problems

This was NOT a good year for thru-hiking the PCT. As a veritable matter, it was probably one of the worst possible years to do the PCT. I didn’t think that could happen. a) Record Snow Two years ago, the high Sierra (central California) had record snowfalls, and so I felt that we would not see a high snow year in a while. I was truly fooled there. Starting in central Oregon and south, the mountains recorded record years for the amount of snowfall, including the amount of snow water content. This extended all the way down to Mexico, so that in three areas, Mt. San Jacinto (around Palm Springs), Mt. Georgiono Wilderness, and around Mt. Baden Powell, were areas of the desert that had dangerous snow build-up, especially the first and last regions mentioned. I had to carry Kahtoola microspikes (crampon like spikes that you fit over your hiking shoes) through much of the desert from Idyllwild to just past Mt. Baden Powell, and even with the microspikes, the steepness of the snow led to some very challenging situations and extreme danger. Your speed of travel drops at least in half. Your ability to find the trail is dependent entirely on your cell phone and the Guthooks app on your cell phone. After dropping off Mt. Baden Powell, I determined that I would not subject myself to extreme snow situations again on the trail. Even still, in northern California, out of Burney Falls State Park, reports had it that the snow was gone, and yet I hit about 4-5 hours of hiking through very challenging snow situations. The prospects for much more snow further on in northern California and southern Oregon were daunting, and at least a few people soon around the time I was coming through were injured and helicoptered off of the trail in southern Oregon, Second Chance being an easy example of that. Not cool. b) Mosquitoes Who would ever think that such tiny little beasts could create such misery. When I consider the worldwide fatalities from mosquito-born illnesses it leaves me no wonder. Yet, even without the diseases, mosquitoes can be a source of intense misery. Truly, one must keep every possible skin surface covered because mosquito repellent has only limited efficacy. Mosquitoes will bore through your clothing, such as through my hiking gloves. At night, no matter how hard you try to keep the mosquitoes out of your tent, you will still spend an hour swatting the residual mosquitoes that snuck in while you were entering. You can’t cook a meal or relieve yourself without vicious attacks. Unfortunately, this year was reported to have record numbers of mosquitoes on the trail. I can believe it.  c) Early onset of fallSomehow, it seems like the weather got chilly much sooner than normal. Having lived for most of my life in the northwest, I’m used to fairly dry Augusts and early September. Now, it just feels chilly whenever one goes outside, and the sense that fall is in the air. Leaves are already being to turn color and fall. It just doesn’t seem like we had as long of summer as usual. It must be global cooling? d) Major areas of burn from recent years I was surprised how often I would be hiking through major forest burns. They were very frequent in the desert, but also frequent as one moved north. Most of these burns happened within the last few years, and almost certainly related to bad forest management rather than “global warming”. There is a sense of eeriness or spookiness from walking through a burn area. I oftentimes think that I am seeing a person standing just off the trail when it is actually nothing but a tree stump. The more troubling aspect of walking through a burn area is that you are getting no shelter from the sky. Whether it be the sun or rain, trees are highly protective. When the trees are gone or burned, it is like walking through a desert. It’s just not fun. e) Record number of people injured or bailing from the trail. This issue probably relates to all the other issues above, especially with the snow situation. A number of my friends with whom I hiked were later removed from the trail because of injuries. I have heard of only several trail deaths yet, thankfully. The attrition rate secondary to so many factors was a little discouraging. It also created heightened worries from Betsy about me being injured. So, multiple factors led to a disappointing performance on my part.

What did I learn?

a) trust in God You don’t have much to think about when spending all day walking. I’m used to reading books, listening to music or audio lectures, watching a movie, or something of that sort. The trail removes one from electronic media and leaves a person alone to their thoughts. My thoughts usually would go to God. It might be thoughts of contemplating the beauty of God’s world, or praying for friends or family, or singing to myself a favorite hymn. Always, I was seeking God for strength to continue on my journey, and I feel confident that I could not have walked a thousand miles without His divine intervention. It is a lesson to continue leaning on the Lord for strength in all of life’s ventures.  b) friends abound Almost everybody on the trail were friendly and helpful. It was a touch amazing that there was a sense of family and helping each other out while on the journey up the trail. In fact, while you may not be hiking with any specific person, there is what is known as the trail family associated with those people moving about the same pace as you and encountered by you in camp or in resupply towns. Many of these people I have stayed in touch with. c) backpacking style Ones’ backpack style of necessity must change while on the trail. Early on, most people that I encountered were doing ultralight packing. Once into northern California, Oregon and Washington, it was not unusual to see many folk backpacking in an older traditional way, with 50-60 lb packs, loaded as fully as possible and as much strapped on the outside of the pack as possible. At the Mexican border, I had a base weight of about 19 lb. Base weight is not well defined, but usually means the weight of all that you are carrying excluding food and water. People usually do not include the weight of your clothes or shoes. Things shed as I moved northward. Stuff sacks were seen as useless added weight. I left my wonderful ultralight camera at home in preference for using my iPhone for photos. I used trail running shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) instead of my standard hiking boots (I never got a single blister while using the Altras). Every fraction of an ounce was carefully reviewed. A 2.25 inch mini-Swiss army knife was used instead of the standard size 3.5 inch knife. At every town, I’d ask myself what else I could ditch, and then mail it back home. Hydration was another issue. I was using a 3 liter hydration pack which fit into my backpack. The problem was that I could never tell how much water I had left. When refilling the bladder, it was a challenge to remove the bladder to fill it, and if I’d fill it in situ, would never know if it was really full or not. So, I went with an outside hydration unit with a bladder, and kept a 1 liter SmartWater bottle for when my pack was off of me. Distances became different. Typically, I’d hike a 15 – 20 mile day, but got up to 28 miles when I was coming to a destination town. On flat roads such mileage is easy, but on the trail it was a concerted effort with minimal dilly-dallying to achieve those distances. Not that I would not enjoy the scenery, and a beautiful scene was an excellent excuse to stop and take a photograph.  d) knowing my own personal limits Before this adventure, I had no idea what I could handle for a thru-hike experience. My expectations were uncertain and I could only guess at what my actual performance on the trail would be. In the planning phases, I definitely over-estimated my hiking strength and thought that I could carry on easily hiking 20 miles a day for weeks on end. I anticipated that I would acquire my “trail feet” within the first two weeks, and then proceed with bold abandon. I learned very quickly the virtue of a day a week rest, which became my norm. The Creator’s instructions include a day in seven with minimal activity and clearly He knows best for us. Why we always question His wisdom and instructions for our lives speaks poorly of ourselves and not of the Almighty. Any question about the problem of evil (theodicy) is overwhelmed by the statements and experience of His love, goodness, kindness, wisdom and caring for us as pitiful, rebellious creatures. Trail feet are a real entity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will go faster on your feet over time. For me, it meant that I could push myself a bit harder as time went on without becoming a total cripple.  e) psychological effects of the trail The psychological effects of the trail are quite extreme. Can I do it? Will I die or require rescue in a long waterless stretch? Will the snow kill me? What in the Sam Hill got into my brain to even think about hiking the PCT? How will I contend with the monotony of every day for 150+ days waking up every morning, finding it nearly impossible to get out of the sleeping bag into the cold air, pack up all of your belongings, and then start walking, walking, walking, walking, walking. Will I reach an instance where I won’t be able to find a suitable camp spot and require to spend a sleepless night curled up in my parka and hugging a tree. Hunger combined with revulsion for food hits every moment of the day. Every part of the body hurts. The feet hurt. The ankles hurt. The hips hurt. The back hurts. The shoulders hurt. The hands hurt. The neck hurts. Mass quantities of ibuprofen only slightly alleviate the discomfort. Coupled with mosquito attacks (up north), a tipping point toward total insanity was not in the far distance. Then there are worries about back home. Will Betsy be ok? Is she surviving? Are there problems on the homefront that require my presence? Am I shirking my duties as a husband by torturing myself on the trail, even though Betsy has encouraged me to do this adventure? Perhaps she was just humoring me? Too many questions… too many episodes of skirting on the edge of insanity… I spent most of my life at a desk studying, talking to patients, reading and writing reports, or standing still at the operating table, worrying more about someone else’s life than my own. Now, I have transitioned from an essentially sedentary lifestyle to one of extreme physical activity and thought processes that pertain solely to personal survival. The contrast could not be more extreme. There were other aspects to the psychological effects of the trail. At the Mexican border, there was only one thought on my mind, which was that of walking straight to the Canadian border and then celebrating. The snow situation in the High Sierras made that an impossibility for me. I would need to flip flop and leap around. The discontinuity had a significant effect on my psyche. Then, I opted (because of snow conditions) to do some north to south hiking. This did not fit, since my brain kept telling me that I should be hiking north to Canada. Then the realization that I would not complete the PCT in one season further demoralized my efforts to persist. (Actually, that was the best realization to ever happen to me as I saw the craziness of feeling that a thru-hike MUST be in one season in straight continuity. So many of the older folk on the trail were breaking up the PCT into manageable sections and actually finding their hike pleasurable!). It was comforting to know that people were praying for me as I walked, yet, those prayers were for God’s provision, which I experienced with profound portions. My appreciation for all the prayer warriors that stood before God on my behalf.

Equipment Reviews

A) Backpack I used a ULA Circuit. It is a relatively light pack at 2 lb 9 oz, and I’ve appreciated how it was designed. My main complaint was the minimal padding of the shoulder straps. The straps tended to cut into my neck and after many months of use created fairly sharp shoulder pain. I tried to prevent this by keeping the pack weight down, yet even with a base weight of 16-18 lb, when one needs to carry 5-6 liters of water and 5 days of food, a heavy (up to 35 lb) pack is unavoidable. I will probably be switching to an REI Flash 55. It is a 2 lb 3 oz pack with nicer back and shoulder/hip belt strap padding, a nice design, and very comfortable on the back. B) Tent I started with a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 Platinum tent. It was a fairly expensive tent and reasonably light at 2 lb 10 oz. I found that it is NOT a durable tent, and the fabric tended to easily tear. You needed a ground tarp. In foul weather, it was almost impossible to set up because a wet rain flywould not fold out easily and demanded exact orientation to place over the tent, which was challenging in high winds and heavy rains. The tent did not dry out quickly and tended to hold water. For some crazy reason, Big Agnes changed the size of the clips for attaching to the ground tarp and my tent clips did not match the ground cloth clips. So, the Copper Spur flunked, regardless of its cost and popularity. I went with a Z-Packs Duplex tent, weighing 1 lb 3 oz, very easy to set up, but needing two adjustable hiking poles. It is very spacious inside and the vestibules were spacious. Because it is NOT a free-standing tent, one could not use this tent on a concrete or rock slab. The only change that I would make would be to switch out the MSR mini Ground Hog stakes which were not substantial enough, and go with the regular MSR Ground Hog stakes. The guide lines holding the hiking poles especially need to be staked down very well, which the minis did not accomplish. C) Ground pad/pillow. I started with an Exped Synmat HL MW ground pad and Exped down pillow. The ground pad was VERY slippery and formed a rip in a seam the second night out on the trail. The third night out on the trail, the down pillow would not hold air any longer. I purchased an egg crate mattress (ThermaRest Z Lite Sol) and a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Regular pillow in Warner Springs, and they have held up well. Later, I switched back to an air mattress, this time using a ThermaRest NeoAir Uberlight mattress. It immediately developed a slow air leak, and needed to be reinflated several times a night. It was also slightly slippery, necessitating careful choice of a camping spot without a slope. There are reasons I liked the egg crate mattress in that it could also be used during the day as a pad to sit/lay down on, and was not very slippery. It was less comfortable than an air mattress.  D) Sleeping bag I used a Feathered Friends Flicker UL Wide quilt, which worked wonderfully. It could be opened up in warm weather and closed down in cold weather. Only once did I need to also use my down coat with it to stay warm at night. It stuffed nicely into a sea to summit 13 liter dry sack.  E) Down Coat I used the Feathered Friends EOS jacket. I did not wear this jacket while hiking, but it was wonderful for the evenings and morning. I did not use the stuff sac but simply packed it around items in my back pack. It is a perfect down parka for backpacking. F) Shoes My main shoes were the Altra Lone Peaks. They are NOT a durable shoe and wear out at 300-500 miles of use. In spite of that, I had not developed a blister while wearing these shoes, making it worth it. They are super-comfortable, to the point that I saw no use in having flip flops or slippers to wear while at camp. I used the Merrill Moab 2 shoes for a short bit, hoping that their rigidity would permit better handling in snow. Within 50 miles, I had blisters on both feet, so quickly returned to the Altras. G) Clothing Nothing special here. I used a synthetic REI long sleeve shirt that buttoned up, REI Sahara convertible pants, ExOfficio briefs, Darn Tough socks, and OR Helium rain jacket. The Helium rain jacket was wonderfully light and effective at keeping out the rain, but had no arm pit vents, and tended to create sauna like conditions when hiking. It still remained my preferred rain protection. H) Hat I used an REI Sahara hat in the desert, and had wonderful sun protection, so that I rarely ever needed to put on sun screen. Elsewhere, I used my OR Seattle Sombrero, a hat wonderful for rain, sun and the like. It is a somewhat warm hat, so that it was slightly uncomfortable in very hot weather. I) Hiking Poles/Gloves I started with Black Diamond 110 cm poles, and needed to switch to an adjustable pole when I went with the Duplex tent. For that, I utilized Z-Pack poles. I always wore OR sun gloves, and found that many other people also utilized OR gloves with their hiking poles. J) Stove I used the JetBoil Flash Lite stove, and was most happy with it. It was light, I didn’t need to worry about carrying a pot, it had a dependable ignitor, and it was extremely efficient on fuel, with a small canister easily lasting 2-3 weeks. K) Garmin InReach This is a personal locator beacon (plb) which allows for an SOS rescue signal if I ever got in trouble, and also allowed others to regularly see exactly where I was on the trail. I could also send and receive messages. It’s only problems were 1) it was heavy, and 2) though it was a Garmin product, was incompatible with all the other Garmin products, including their maps. Shame on them. If I were to do it over again, I would have used the InReach mini because it is significantly ligher. I won’t buy another plb until Garmin corrects the issues mentioned with the InReach. L) UrSack For the desert, I did not worry too much about the little critters, and simply used a dyneema food bag with an odor-proof liner. Outside of the desert, I used the regular size UrSack. The UrSack offered me protection from rats, squirrels and chipmucks eating my food (a real and serious problem), and allowed that I did not need to hang my food, but instead, I stored my food in the tent vestibule. I used an odor-proof liner also with the UrSack. M) Thru-Pack The Thru-pack is a fanny pack designed by some dude in a cottage industry. It was perfect for backpacking. I debated long and hard before the hike as to how I would carry my iPhone. The iPhone was used constantly since it was my main map system. The Thru-Pack had a pocket that very securily held my iPhone, yet the iPhone was extremely easy to quickly access. I also stored small items like lip gloss, sun glasses, mosquito repellent, and small candies in the bag. N) Pocket knife Believe it or not, some people do not carry a knife on their thru-hike. I needed the knife mostly for the scissors in order to cut things like the LeukoTape for my feet to prevent blisters. Swiss Army produces a very small 2-1/2 inch knife that has only a blade and a scissors, with a few other minor implements. This was more than adequate and worked out well for me. O) Safety equipment I carried a small amount of repair items, such as tenacious tape (which I used on the Copper Spur tent), duct tape (never used), and a small sewing kit, which was never used. For medical safety, I carried a roll of LeukoTape, which was nearly always being used on my feet to prevent blisters. I also carried superglue, blister pads, mild narcotic pain meds, antibiotics, and a sleeping pill. None of the medications were used. P) Toilet sack The toilet sac was a small stuff sac kept on the outside of my pack with a small trowel to dig holes, toilet paper, hand sterilization gel, and a small zip lock for packing out the toilet paper. The trowel was ineffective at digging a hole in northwest soil, but did allow scrapping for covering up the poo. Q) Electronics My electronics was limited to my iPhone and the Garmin inReach device. I carried a 10,000 mAh battery backup as well as the necessary cables. I carried earbuds but ended up never using them. R) Phone case I used the LifeProof Fre upon the recommendation of Halfway Anywhere, and didn’t like it. It was protective, but made the iPhone difficult to use. I just didn’t need that much protection of the phone so went back to a regular iPhone case. S) Headlamp I started with the lightest cheapest Black Diamond headlight, and noted that the case would frequently pop open. A switch to a more substantial Black Diamond light solved that problem, even though it was slightly heavier. T) Hydration system I started with an Osprey 3 liter hydration reservoir. I liked it better than the Platypus or Camelbak products,but disliked that the reservoir sat inside your pack, leaving you clueless about how much water you had left and making it very hard to refill the bladder without emptying out your pack. Outside of the desert, I rarely needed to carry more than 3 liters, so utilized the outside side pockets of the backpack, which were meant for liter water bottles. Because I like hydration systems, I found a tube system for this purpose, exchanged the mouthpiece with the Osprey mouthpiece, and utilized a Platypus 1 liter very lightweight collapsible bag for this purpose. I always carried in addition a liter SmartWater bottle but drinking when my pack was off of me. So far, this system has worked out wonderfully. U) Food choicesFood is not really equipment, but it is a necessary item that weighs a lot, so it is worth discussing. I felt that it was important to eat well on the hike, and so did not consider cold-soaking food seriously. I liked a warm meal at least once a day, and was willing to carry a lightweight stove for that purpose. The popular foods that hikers used like Top Ramen were all doctored to taste better. I would add freeze-dried vegetables and beef as well as sriracha sauce to improve the nutrition and flavor. I chose foods that would require minimal cleaning of dishes, since I often dry camped, and even when camped by water, would not feel like doing dishes. I started using lots of prepared meals like the Campbellsor Pace prepared foods. These were a bit more heavy but offered reasonable tasting food at the end of the day. They would come in bags that could be crunched up and inserted into my stove pot with boiling water, let it sit for five minutes, and I would have a warm meal with warm water for a cup of hot chocolate. It couldn’t get any better than that!

Positive Good of it all?

a) personal health/weight loss I was down up to 25 lb during the hike, though that weight loss was at a time when I was also markedly dehydrated. The health benefits for my heart and overall fitness were balanced by the severe strain and abuse afflicted on the musculoskeletal system. I general, I would surmise that I gained a grand total positive health effect by my activity, though it is something that only time would tell.  b) spiritual growth Hiking offers the hiker must time to contemplate, reflect, meditate, ruminate, and think over one’s self, the world, and the grand scheme of things. It was a time to spend in prayer and worship. On the negative side, my brain was often in a fog, so that reading had to be forced to happen. When I was not walking, I was either eating, writing my blog, or sleeping/trying to sleep.  c) Betsy My absence gave Betsy time to learn how to manage house and home. We learned more than ever that even though we often need our “space”, long periods apart become difficult. I don’t think that I’ll ever intentionally plan for more than 4-6 weeks apart. Some folk may consider that short and some long. I don’t think I could give definite times since much depends our ability to stay in touch with each other even when we are not immediately face to face. d) new friends It is fascinating how one quickly develops friends on the trail. I have yet to meet someone who is a “jerk”. Some hikers are more reclusive and wish to mostly be to themselves, some can’t tolerate loneliness, some are Macho man (or Macho woman), some are flaming drunks (just one that I met), some are quite old and putting in few miles a day, others are young jackrabbits flying down the trail, but they all are friendly folk. Perhaps because we are all striving for a common goal, we form a “fellowship” that binds us together on the trail. e) rethink of my personal Wanderlust A year ago, I attempted to bicycle the TransAm, a bicycle ride that goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It was a true flaming failure, but it taught me much about tempering my expectations, and about planning for epic adventures. I would not call this year a failure at all, even though I was slightly disappointed about having to put the reality of the weather and trail conditions together with the ability of my body to endure hundreds upon hundreds of miles of sheer abuse. I believe that I got my Wanderlust out of my blood. No more attempts EVER for epic adventures. I wouldn’t mind filling in the gaps over the next few years in the PCT, like completing Washington and most of Oregon, doing the high Sierra, and other parts of northern California. I wouldn’t mind attempting the Colorado Trail. But, anything longer than 500-600 miles will not be performed. My body has spent most of its life behind a desk, reading or writing reports, or standing still in the operating room for hours, trying to avoid inflicting harm on oneself. Unlike most older hikers, I would do maybe 2 or 3 hikes a year in fair weather lasting only 2-4 days, and that was it. I’d come back as sore as imaginable and immediately return to a sedentary lifestyle. True, the last ten years of my life involved much long-distance bicycling, but that is using much different muscles, and MUCH less abusive on the body. As I write this, I’ve been off of the trail for 5 days, and yet I still ache seriously from head to toe. I’m not taking massive doses of ibuprofen any longer, and the body is really feeling it. I have competitive passions that cannot be partaken in while hiking. I love to read, I love to listen to classical music and watch opera, and I love to play my trumpet. Those activities take a true back seat on the trail. I love bicycling, but will probably never ride coast to coast or any really long distance. I’ve lost the desire to do that. With a friend, I wouldn’t mind hiking or bicycling in Europe (Betsy isn’t into that), but not for a long distance. I don’t even have the rage like I had in the past to travel to distant lands and far-away places. I think my Wanderlust has died. f) awareness of Huguenot Heritage Ministry Those who know me know that I tend toward strong passions. The work of Huguenot Heritage is one of those passions. When Betsy and I served in a hospital in extreme North Cameroon, we noted the desperate need for theological education in French-speaking Africa. Huguenot Heritage is filling that void, by providing Third Millenium materials in the French-speaking tongue. It is a vital ministry worthy of support. Several years ago, I mentioned to Francis Foucachon who runs the Huguenot Heritage of my plan to walk the PCT, and he seemed interested in seeing my walk function as a walk-a-thon. I was to do the hike last year, but then decided to attempt the TranAm bicycle ride and put off the PCT for a year. I didn’t realize that I was going from one horrible weather year on the east coast, to a horrible weather year on the west coast. It wasn’t until about February of this year that one realized the immensity of the snow situation on the west coast, yet I had already received my permit, and planned and packed 20 resupply boxes in order to attempt this adventure. While I realized soon enough that I (and almost everybody starting the hike) would not complete all 2652 miles, it was worth trying for as many as possible. I am a touch disappointed that I couldn’t get more miles in, but grateful that I was not brought home in a body bag, or needing rescue from the trail. I truly hope that the hike-a-thon spin on my trip helped bring enhanced awareness of Huguenot Heritage, and support for their work. It’s a strong conviction of mine than when I’m dead and six feet under, the church in Africa will be the center of Christianity. Christianity is dying in the west, but growing in Africa, and one of the main languages in the African church is French. Hopefully, we can see more seminaries and bible college in Africa, like the African Bible Colleges with distinguished theologians such as O. Palmer Robertson. Christianity and the Muslim religion clash in the north (Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, etc.) and so other means of accomplishing theological education for Christian pastors becomes necessary, and Huguenot Heritage fills that void. Please consider strongly support of this vital ministry.

The Future and Summary

So, what is my vision of the future for me and Betsy?  a) playing trail angel Trail angels are those people who meet thru-hikers at various places where the trail crosses a road and is known to be in an area where outside contact from the trail is minimal. Typically, it’s a place where prior thru-hikers know that they would have gone a long distance without food or water resupply, and thus welcome ice-cold beverages or a snack to eat. Some trail angels tend to be more expansive when their house is close to the trail, such as at Hiker Heaven or Casa de Luna where the host family provides more extensive care and overnight capabilities for guests. Sadly, the two places just mentioned are closing this year, and we wait to see if there is any sort of replacement. Meanwhile, trail angels will provide sporadic “trail magic” which is unpredictable, but when present, is always welcomed by hikers. I don’t plan on doing this extensively. It’s a nice gesture, and in several areas of the desert, trail magic in the form of cold pop and other goodies saved the day and so were gratefully received by me. Trail angel-ing has become a preoccupation of many in towns, and there are separate Facebook pages for various trail angel groups. Much of their purpose has been to shuttle hikers from the trail to town and back. In fact, they really don’t serve totally as trail angels because they request (or should recieve!) payment for their services. As the PCT has become busier and busier, more people are getting on the trail less prepared for the task. Many do not adequately think out their resupply strategy and depend heavily on hiker boxes at the various places where resupply packages are mailed. Others hop around the trail quite casually, calling on the good nature of other folk to shuttle them around and about, to specifically allow their hike to be tailored to convenience. Many places on the trail demand hitchhiking to get to town and back, and that is awkward enough, but still different than asking people to go out of their way in order to service your whims and recreational pursuit. Betsy and I will be spending 03-08SEPT camped at Hart’s Pass and will have goodies for passing by hikers. We’re not sure how many hikers to plan for, but anticipate no more than 10 hikers/day coming through. I can envision occasionally going up to Chinook Pass with a cooler of soda pop, but other than that, I will focus on other activities to spend my time.  b) Backpack conference I will be attending a Wilderness Medical Society Backpacking Medicine CME hike on 22-27SEPT. I’ll fly back to Lexington, KY where I will meet with Dr. Peter Tate, spend a few days with him, and then go together to attend this conference. I don’t need CME (continuing medical education) credit anymore since I am retired, but I still backpack and so would like to remain knowledgeable about what is the current standard for medicine in the wilds. c) volunteering for PCTA/WTA/MORA The initials are Pacific Crest Trail Association/Washington Trail Association/Mount Rainier (National Park). All three have volunteer slots for trail maintenance, which I enjoy doing. The PCTA does a phenomenally spectacular job with their volunteer vacations at making an enjoyable week of camping, doing trail work, and meeting other hikers. Because of the infirmities of my body, hard heavy lifting is no longer possible. I will probably shift toward volunteering mostly with MORA, doing things like trail walking, and giving advice to tourists lost or confused on the trails around the mountain. d) shorter adventures next year I would like to complete portions of the PCT, including the high Sierra and the northern aspect of the PCT from Snoqualmie to Canada. I’d also like to do the Timberline Trail again. The Olympics calls for me. I will probably do these trails solo but welcome others to come with if they are able to travel light. e) return to some bicycling I love cycling and would like to not only ride my bicycle on a regular basis, but also to do some touring. Maybe I’ll do something with Adventure Cycling next year, but will have to look at their tours and think about how I can mesh a cycle tour with my backpacking. I’d also like to consider how to lighten up my entire bicycle touring apparatus, similar to what’s happening with ultralight backpacking. f) car camping with Betsy Betsy and I will be car camping next week at Hart’s Pass, doubling up as trail angels. I hope that we could get away to the beach or elsewhere to spend some time just relaxing together in the woods. We have all that we need for that, save for the time and the initiative to get off our butts and out into the woods. I need to determine ways of making camping more comfortable and fun for her, but I’ll find out next week whether some of my ideas were successful. g) Overnighters with the grandkids I would like to eventually take each of the grandchildren individually out backpacking in the woods. Ethan happens to be next on the list, and hoped to do that this year, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully, next year? h) work with outdoor club at church Our church has a youth outdoor “club”, but I’ve not been involved with it. Perhaps in the future? i) more writings on conservation/the environment/wilderness ethic It is sad to say that writing related to the environment are generally poorly thought out, or solipsistic in their thinking. Now that the environment has become a political issue, it is guaranteed to be even less well thought out. Much of the writing on wilderness ethics is very self-centered—everybody should support wilderness, but please stay away and leave it for me alone to enjoy (i.e., since I am the only person that can truly “appreciate” wilderness)—sort of attitude. Leave no trace (LNT) thinking is great, but every human involvement in the wilderness leaves a trace. On my last venture, I was looked on very disapprovingly for leaving an apple core to rot in the woods. Soon, they will be telling us to pack out our feces! The Wilderness Act speaks of wilderness being an area untrammeled by man with no trace of man’s presence, yet man’s presence in the wilderness is “trammel-ment“, and trails are distinct traces of man’s presence, let alone structures built in the wilderness, a perfect example being the hut on top of Muir Pass! All of this is highly inconsistent. Perhaps the refusal to accept that this world is anthropocentric, that is, made (by a Creator) for man, with man’s responsibility to take care of his world. Wilderness ethic implies a sentient being which has the capability of appreciating beauty and acting on that appreciation, and so restricts the beings to man alone.  j) home plans My favorite moments are the time I have with Betsy. We will soon be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary, and the memories are long and fond. Betsy tends to not be so adventure minded as myself, and is content to putzing around the house, working on various projects inside the house and outside in the garden. I have a mild love-hate relation to gardening; it’s fun once in a while, but not all the time. We’ve engaged in a number of projects, the latest being that of building a backyard small raised garden for vegetables. Betsy and I also enjoy watching movies together. We do not get any form of subscription tv services and do not get television in the home, but will watch movies. Currently, we are working through the Lost in Space series from the 1960’s. It is quite corny, but also very informative as to how greatly society has changed in 50 years. I love to watch operas on our big screen, and hope to soon work through Der Ring des Niebelungen again. I happen to be a Bach and Wagner addict. I love to read, and still have stacks of books waiting for my attention. I’ll be refreshing and advancing on my French instruction, and also trying to learn a little Spanish. I hope to return to regular practice on my trumpet. I am working on a 40th anniversary get-away with Betsy. She would like to visit Lost Vegas but still have our plans wide open. I have more stuff to do now that I’m retired than when I was working. C’est la vie!