Monday, August 14, 2017

This is Maren


She is really good at a lot of things.

Backpacking is one of them.

For those who read this blog regularly, you might remember a post from June 28th of last year. It started out very similar to this one, but then it took a turn for the worse. We had gone backpacking, and, in Maren's own words, "I was really grouchy."

Yes, she was. But now she is a year older, and a lot wiser. Instead of plastic sandals, she wore boots. Instead of a skirt, pants. And with a smile, she carried all of her own gear in her own pack, leading the group to the beautiful Revett Lake on the Idaho/Montana border.

When we got to the lake there was plenty of time for exploring, playing with new friends (see below), and picking all the huckleberries we could eat. What a great trip.

Here's some photos- a lot of photos:

At the trailhead


Snack stop

This guy had the heaviest pack, by far. Using his favorite rope (he has many), he even ended up lashing stuff to the outside. Books, blankets, stuffed animals. You name it. To his credit, he never complained once about the weight.



The girl on the left is Maggie, who was also camping at the lake. This is the rock where Addy and Maggie found each other. The opening dialogue:
A: Hi! I'm Addy, and I'm 7. What's your name?
M: Maggie. I'm 7 too!
A: Really! Do you also have an overactive imagination?
M: No...but I talk a lot!
A: Cool! Do you want to be a pirate or a rescuer?
...And the rest is history.

Evelyn and Addy on the "Pirate Ship" rock 
Making breakfast



Pumping water. The kids love doing this chore, which is perfectly fine with me

Maren has tough feet! She walked around for a good two hours in the morning- over sticks and rocks and everything- before I finally convinced her to put her shoes back on.
Ev got up early to go bird watching. It's sort of become her thing. She was rewarded by getting to watch an osprey catch a fish.

Hiking out, it drizzled on us a little bit. No complaints though. These guys were awesome!

Can you find all five of us? 

*****

Besides the backpacking trip, I had my birthday! I'm a whopping thirty-five years old now. I have to say, I feel pretty good. I mean, my "real" age is probably at least ten years younger...at least that's what people say when they see my baby face.

A couple weekends ago when I was up on Mt. Shuksan, I met some other climbers on the top. One of them was 78 years old, and he had come up a different route. He was in great shape, and had been climbing for most of his life. I told myself that that would be me. In this light, 35 is young. I'm only half way to my prime!

My team at work all pitched in and got me this snazzy new jacket for my birthday. Rachel and the kids also made the day special with presents and by treating me like a king. 
You know, I really do live a good life. I'm surrounded by great people. Lots of friends. Lots of family. My kids are the most important thing in the world to me, and I am playing a significant part in shaping the people they will become. I feel very happy and fulfilled in my career, where my talents can be developed and used for the betterment of others. I am building a solid reputation for myself in the various communities I am a part of- civic, church, work and several small niche groups of hobbyists. I have ample time and money to pursue the things in life that are meaningful to me- both the big things, and the little ones. I am healthy and in great physical and mental shape. Finally, Rachel is the love of my life and is by my side every step of the way to share this fantastic adventure with.

Honestly, what more could a guy ask for at this stage of life? It's a good birthday.
*****

Have a good week!
This is a teaser for next week's post.




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Tolkienesque landscape deserved its name and reputation. The Enchantments. When I first saw this word written on a map, I did a small eye roll. I mean, really?

Really.

To enter this magical zone of wilderness, one first needs to confront the intimidating Aasgard pass, which grants safe passage up and over Dragontail peak. These mountains loom up from the lake like guardians of a sacred treasure. Once the challenge is met, however, the terrain takes on a different feel- one that is difficult to put into words. It’s almost mystical. Colors seem brighter. Sounds, sharper. The panorama is too much to take in all at once, and I find myself gaping, slack jawed. First one thing catches my full attention, which is then met by another, and another, and another until my mind is just swimming and any sense of comprehension was left behind at the foot of the mountain.

The few hours I was able to spend in this exquisite setting were some of the best I have ever had in the mountains, and they passed by all too quickly. Most people take a full three days to traverse its length, whereas I had only a single morning. But still- it was spectacular. Eating lunch at a local pizza place, I sat on the veranda trying to figure out what had just taken place. I felt different, somehow. Cleansed.

This is definitely a place I’ll come back to.
This is the first lake you come to. The water was the prettiest shade of teal that I think I've seen. Aasgard pass goes up and to the left of this photo.

This was incredible! This is what my version of heaven would look like.

These goats were everywhere. By the end, I started yelling at them- "get off the trail, goat!" so that I could keep moving.

Water stop

This was my lunch break. Notice the goat sitting over my left shoulder. Like a puppy begging for food, he just sat there for about 15 minutes while I ate my sandwich.

I got off-route a little bit and ended up down-climbing these ledges (the actual trail goes way off to the right of the picture). At one point, I had to leap off a cliff into the top of a pine tree and shimmy down. That was a new experience!

I didn't take this picture, but I wish I had. The dramatic skyline formed by Prusik Peak is the last thing you see before dropping into the canyon (or jumping into trees) to hike out.


*****

I am a teenager, hiking the John Muir Trail with my family. Me, Griffin, and Donny have a good lead over the rest of the group when we are confronted with a wall of snow. Forester pass. Switchbacks zig-zag up the steep incline, and I can see a party ahead of us with ice axes ready to arrest any mishap. Up until this point in my life I had never even seen an ice ax up close, and I scoffed at this precaution as overkill. For the record, it was. But it inspired me. Reaching down, I grabbed two sturdy sticks. Rather than make the grinding slog up the trail, I began making my own route- straight up.

Kick, kick, stick, stick. Kick, kick, stick, stick. It's silly, really, but I still remember thinking the words- saying them over and over again in my mind until they were just sounds with no meaning. Kick, kick, stick, stick. As long as there was mountain in front of me, I just kept moving. Kick, kick, stick, stick. The whole world seemed to revolve around this rhythm. Around my movements. My lungs. My heartbeat. At the same time, any sense of myself had faded into the backdrop, and I was simply there, in the moment. If my body was tired, I didn’t recognize it. I was in the zone. “Flow,” I think, is the contemporary term, and it is one of the most rewarding mental states to be in. Finally, as I crested the top, I remember looking back and seeing my hiking partners far below. How did I get here?

I was hooked.

Since that time, climbing has become an autotelic pursuit for me. I have tried to explain to others what the draw is. I have even tried to explain it to myself. At its surface, it makes little sense. And yet, to those who “get it,” it makes all the sense in the world.

Why do I climb?

Because I like it.

From left to right: Griffin, Me, Donny, Tyson. This isn't Forester pass, but it's the only picture I could find of the trip. These were formative years. Good times.

*****

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I were in Leavenworth. While there, we were wandering through an art exhibit when I saw this picture:


Mt. Shuksan- one of the most photogenic peaks in the world. Immediately, I knew I would have to visit this place.

Well, the time came a lot sooner than I expected. The day after my Enchantment trip, I got another early morning start, and was soon watching the sun rise from one of the best views in the Cascades.




Summit!
As far as the climb went, I left early enough to beat most of the guided groups (who usually take 3 days for the route). When I reached the summit pyramid, the route description has you working your way up some 4th class chimneys. On arrival, this area was crowded with people, so I opted for the more exposed East ridge instead (lower 5th class). Man, am I glad that I made this change, as the aesthetics of this section were probably the best of the trip.

*****

After coming down from the mountain, I treated myself to a nice lunch at a local grill, and then made the long drive home so I could work the next day.
*****

As far as Rachel and the kids- I'll let her write about things when she gets home. She has spent the last several days in Utah with her family, and might go visit my sister, Courtney, later on. I talk to her most days on the phone, and I think she's had a good trip. 

Have a good week!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Cousin Camp
by Evelyn Hazard

Every once in a while, Grandma and Grandpa hold a camp called cousin camp. This year I was in the cousin camp group. So, let me tell you about it.

First, we went to a Burger King far away and Grandma and Grandpa picked us up and brought us to their house. They taught us a cheer! 

Hey cousins, you're so fine, 
you're so fine I'm glad you're mine!
Hey cousins! (Hey cousins!)
Hey cousins! (Hey cousins!
Cousin Camp!

When we got to their house we played in the back yard. Then we had a picnic in the back yard with Little Caesars pizza. Then we had a campfire!

The next day, Amy took pictures of us! We got new camp t-shirts! Then we went to Bear World! When we got home we had lunch then we picked raspberries from Grandma and Grandpa's raspberry patch. Then we made jam out of them.

After that, we had a water balloon fight with kids vs Grandpa. Grandpa has five balloons, and the cousin camp kids got the rest! Grandpa won though! Then, dinner and a game night.

The next day, it was Zoey's birthday and we did a service project for the food bank. We got cupcakes at the Cocoa Bean and left them at thome. We went to Rexburg Rapids! And, for Zoey's birthday we went and watched Despicable Me 3! Then we came home, ate the cupcakes, and opened presents! Bennett got her a foam plane. Me, Addy, and Jack got her fun cards with candy taped to them!

This time we ate then left for Island Park! We practiced our play in the car, and when we got there we ate lunch. When we were exploring, I found a trail, since we had nothing else to do, we followed it, we saw some museum cabins and went into two of them, then we turned around and headed for the car, then in the car we went to the yurt we were staying in and unpacked then we rode horses. Addy's horse tripped and she held on tight then it started to hail! Luckily, we were pulling up the stables around that time, then we rode to the yurt and played Bingo, then we got into bed and told spooky stories, then we fell asleep.

Today we got up, ate, practiced our play, packed, and drove back to Grandma and Grandpa's house. When we got there we got on our swimming suits and went to the splash pad where our parents were waiting. Then we ended the Cousin Camp and started the reunion!

The End.













*****

Last Thursday, Rachel, the younger kids, and I drove down to Rexburg to meet for my family reunion. My parents and the three older kids met us there after a great week at Cousin's Camp. This year, we rented a big cabin in Island Park and we had so much fun reconnecting and playing with each other. Here are some of our main activities:

Escape house in Rexburg. We made it though...but we had a LOT of help along the way.


Rodeo. Ev and I were the only ones from our immediate family who went. We had a great time! 

Floating the river!


I do not think I have EVER been on a river this crowded. I counted at one point, and I could see 49 other boats besides ours before the river rounded a bend and went out of sight. It was crazy!

The crowds didn't seem to bother the wildlife. These moose were almost close enough to reach out and touch with a paddle.

Here's a picnic we had with Haley's family on our way out of town at the end.
Besides the activities, we did a lot of talking, game playing, and relaxing. I think everyone had a good time. I have a pretty cool family.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Several years ago I lived near a large Buddhist temple, and I took the opportunity regularly to visit its grounds. Honestly, it was probably the most serene man-made location I have ever been to. From the moment I walked through the gate it felt almost as if I had entered another world, and the experience was nothing short of "spiritual."

As I learned about Buddhist traditions though, there was one thing that returns to the forefront of my mind almost every time I have had a remarkable experience. This thing is the Mandala.



From one article: "The creation of a mandala, the representation of the world in divine form, perfectly balanced, precisely designed, is meant to reconsecrate the earth and heal its inhabitants. But it is more than a picture. Sand painting is an intricate process. It requires millions of pieces of sand to make a mandala five by five feet square. It requires a team of monks working anywhere from days to weeks, depending on the size of the mandala, to create this floor plan of the sacred mansion that is life. It requires the interplay of vivid colors and ancient symbols.

The monks bend over the piece for hours on end, dropping one grain of sand after another into intricate symbolic patterns. The purpose is to call the community to meditation and awareness of something larger than their own small world."

That's cool, right? But the really cool part (to me) is what follows this laborious process:

When the mandala is finally finished, however long it takes for the monks to deal in this divine geometry of the heavens, they pray over it — and then they destroy it. They sweep it up, every last grain of sand and give handfuls of it away to those who participate in the closing ceremony as a final memory of sublime possibility. Then they throw the rest of the sand into the nearest living stream to be swept into the ocean to bless the whole world. And that’s it. It’s gone. In an instant, after all that artistry, all that work, it’s over.

Isn't that amazing, in an almost bittersweet sort of way?

This practice, in many ways, reminds me of this blog.

One of the main purposes of this endeavor is to preserve memories. We take pictures and we write stories. Sometimes I spend a long time trying to craft the perfect mix of words that will help me recall a set of feelings or thoughts that I had. Occasionally, I think I come close to hitting this mark. Most of the time though, this blog is more like a handful of sand- a distant reminder of something that was far too beautiful to endure.

Experiences are transient by nature. They come, and then they are gone in an instant. We will never have it back. That exact mix of external atmosphere, internal perception, and physiological conditions can never, ever be reproduced. It's just not possible. And yet, for the time that it lasted, it was absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful.

*****

Leavenworth

As one might expect with that introduction, this week was pretty amazing. It's difficult to know where to start. Instead of going in chronological order, I'm going to try to hit on different things in a way that sort of makes more sense. Also, instead of saving the best for last, I'm going to jump right in to the weekend, where Rachel and I spent a fabulous time in the quaint little town of Leavenworth.


This is a picture of Stollerheart Ranch. It's a wonderful little Bed and Breakfast we found in the foothills of the Cascade mountains. As you can see, the lodgings were beautiful. To make things even better, the hosts were from Switzerland and we got to stay in the "Eiger Room," with decor to match the name. In light of the trip I have coming up next month, I thought this was a happy coincidence. In spite of the beautiful home and landscape, I have to say that my favorite part of this place was reading my book on the deck, early in the morning, and hearing the intermittent bleating of the goats in their nearby pen. It was an idyllic setting.

Panorama of our living quarters. Large picture windows, stone fireplace, and a beautiful lady just taking in the morning.
As picturesque as our alpine chalet was, we didn't actually spend much time there. The reason for this is because we were out playing in one of the coolest little towns I've ever visited.



Leavenworth is a quaint German-themed village in central Washington. With the stunning highland backdrop of the cascades, the smells of seasoned meat in the air, and the sounds of traditional music, it is easy to forget where you are. A good amount of our time was spent just wandering the streets of this splendid town.

But also, we're us. We don't just wander around. Here are some other activities:

Mountain biking along the beautiful Wenatchee river. I'm pretty sure this is a place I'll have to come back to with a kayak. There's a class III run through the town (we had a raft, but the river was a little low this time of year), and a refreshing looking class V run just upstream. Anyone want to plan this with me?



Story of this hike: We were headed up to do a little 6 mile jaunt to a lookout point. On the way, we picked up a hitchhiker who was doing the complete Pacific Crest Trail and had gone into town for supplies. Over sandwiches, he told us about this pretty little lake he had been to the day before, and immediately we knew we had to see it. 13 miles later we were feeling rewarded by our abrupt change in plans. What an invigorating walk in the woods!




And then there was this. The whole reason we were in Leavenworth in the first place. Every year, there is a professional theater troupe that spends its summer doing a production of "The Sound of Music" in an outdoor amphitheater. Now, let me admit here that I love this show. I have probably seen the Julie Andrews screen adaptation about twenty times. And every single time, I get emotional. I've seen a lot of plays, and to me this is one of the best.

All that said, I have never experienced it quite like I did on this night. "The Sound of Music," in the mountains, on the outskirts of a German village, was a touchstone experience for me. Of all the moments in the week, this one made me think the most of the Buddhist mandala.

*****

Ben Harper

1) Jack-of-all-trades; Master of none
2) Leader and Expert in the field

There is an essential conflict between (1) and (2) that drives me crazy. It goes something like this: Most people, myself included, cannot devote enough time/energy to achieve (2) without significant sacrifice to all other areas of life. (2) is important to me, but...I would like to achieve (2) in "all trades." There are some people who seem to have done this in life: Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle...maybe Arnold Schwarzenneger. These people, to varying degrees, are heroes of mine.

The same dilemma exists, on a smaller scale, within every field. You can see this easily in medicine, with general practitioners being supported by a host of specialists. The same things exists in the world of business. Or law. Or teaching. Or sports.

Or music.

And that's where Ben Harper comes in. An amazing musician, he has won Grammy awards in Blues, Soul, and Pop music, but is probably still most recognized by the acoustic Rock or Reggae crowds. The point is, this guy is just plain good at anything he tries (at least within the realm of music).

Anyway, he was on tour in Spokane recently, and on Wednesday night Rachel surprised me with concert tickets. It was a great night out! Thank you, Love!


*****

Free Dental Day

Every year our office does Free Dental Day, and every year it is a highlight for me in a professional sense. As a doctor, I feel like many of the services I perform aren't just meant for those with financial means to afford them. If I were selling cars, or high level education, or insurance, then I would probably feel differently. But a lot of what I do falls within a pretty basic standard of care- one which, in the most prosperous country in the world, I believe should be available to everyone. This is a big part of why I began seeing Medicaid patients earlier this year even though I don't really make any money by doing this (sometimes I even lose money if I do the case right). Unfortunately, in some places (like Idaho) there are still large populations who have no access to the care they need for even a basic level of health. A lot of this is because programs like Medicaid are only offered to a very narrow group of people. A lot more of it is because the funding for these programs is so sparse that it is difficult to entice doctors to sign on. And I don't care where you stand politically- we may agree or disagree over answers, but these problems are real and need to be acknowledged.

Now, offering to do free dentistry one day a year is less than a drop of water in the great blue sea when it comes to fixing things. At the same time, it matters to the people who are able to take advantage of it. Some people reading this blog might think of throwing starfish back into the ocean...or something like that. Either way, it is rewarding to use a talent you have to make people's lives a little bit better.

This year we worked for about 4 hours and saw a little over fifty patients. Each one of them got to choose between doing an extraction, a filling, or a cleaning. All told, we did a little over $14,000 worth of dentistry, but all for free. I like to think that in our little corner of the world, this matters.

It was a good morning.

*****
Hanging out with Kids

This week had a lot of "special" stuff going on. It was a lot of fun. At the same time, this didn't slow us down one bit from our normal daily routines. For us, that means doing stuff as a family and loving every moment. Here are some photos.
Jazz concert/pizza party in the park. I love the support for the arts in our area!





The reptile man came to town.
Taking all the kids to the movies while Rachel packs for their big trip that is coming up.

Barbecue and swimming at the beach.

Have a good week!