Monday, August 29, 2011

Monadnock - see next post

So, I'm trying to figure why I get SOOO much advice about having too much stuff from people with WAAY more stuff than I have. But that's a minor mystery. All I need to know is: I don't want to solve my problems with materialism by taking up OTHER people's problems with materialism! (Which, sadly, is one likely result of taking their advice.) Instead, I want to treasure my heavenly possessions so much that my worldly ones become not fewer, not less significant, but simply not significant at all! I count them as refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law (better management of my possessions) but that which is through faith in Christ!!! The righteousness that comes from law and is by faith. . .
Let me think about that on tomorrow's hike.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011



2. Any combination of trails that includes the Old Toll Rd. is likely to spare your knees. The trail up is not as important. I like the Spellman Trail. It fits all the hard climbing into half a mile.
3. NEVER, EVER TAKE THE SPELLMAN TRAIL Descending. You will complete your trip in an ambulance, and hobble around or crutches for weeks, if you ever recover from your head injury, that is. (I don't know this from experience, thankfully, and I never intend to find out.) This warning applies to any age, especially if you are in a hurry.
4. Cascade Link to the Red Spot Trail is slightly shorter, and almost as pretty for ascent. Cascade Link all the way to Pumpelly is worth the distance.
5. The best views descending, far and away, are from the Smith Summit Trail. You will have daylight even if you get a late start, since it descends the west side. And, since most times I meet NO ONE on this trail, you'll have all the blueberries to yourself. The views are spectacular, and it passes close to Monte Rosa, which is great for solitude. Has a photogenic weathervane, too.
6. Smith Summit, like most other trails, is not difficult to follow IF you always look for round white paint blazes and/or cairns. Expect to walk toward the edges of a lot of cliffs, and not see the way down until you peer carefully over!

Rules, no particular order:
1. Wear boots with ankle support, and synthetic, wicking fabrics, at least for your t-shirt. Wear long pants, to save the skin on your knees. Bring 4 or more pints of water.
2. Use one or two hiking sticks, or a CC ski pole. Even a tree branch is better than nothing. There are plenty of fallen trees along the Cascade Link, but, get this, none above the tree line;-)
3. Avoid any trail that begins with “White,” especially when descending. These are the trails that were rebuilt with tons of rocks, many many tons, to combat erosion. They are death to knees, and dangerous if you fall. Leave these trails to 20 somethings in sneakers. They are in a hurry. You are not.
4. STAY ON THE TRAIL. ALWAYS. There are dozens of trails. Do not make your own. You do NOT want to be rescued, you don't even want to hobble home in the dark. STAY ON THE TRAIL.
5. Never hop. Hopping is for frogs, and 20 year olds. You are neither, and want to be inches from any hard surface before you shift your weight towards it. Hard landings, and imbalance resulting from a hard landing, leads to the breaking of your bones.
6. Bring bug spray. Unless it has been very dry, you will need it. I was even attacked, once, on the Pumpelly Trail by one of the new Asian, day-biting mosquitoes. Yes, these pests with a striped abdomen have even found the paradise that is Monadnock Mountain.

Misc. comments on trails:
Sidefoot: a great alternative to White Arrow. Hard to find the beginning, then it's easy. It's a trail on earth, with grass and plants! Hardly any rocks! I've descended it once; never gone up because: a. it is not the Spellman Trail, and b. if I'm on that side of the mountain I go to Bald Rock, which it bypasses. Unless you want to take a crazy, up and down, zigzag sort of hike, which is fine.
The Spellman Trail is beautiful. My blog background is a view of North and South Pack Monadnock from about halfway up, looking toward Boston. Bring binoculars and you may see The John Hancock, Prudential, New England Life and perhaps downtown, on a clear day. These can also be seen from the summit, and the Pumpelly Trail. You do NOT need to brave the rigors of the Spellman Trail to enjoy a good view!
Cascade Link/Spellman up
Smith Summit&Old Toll Road down.
The best views, and the best sunlight, and lots of time above the tree line.
No crowds except at the Summit.
3 miles each way, or about 6 hours on the trails, if you take long breaks and lots of pictures.
White Dot Trail to Falcon Spring (refill one water bottle here; I keep this for emergencies since AMC says don't drink any of the water. Falcon Spring comes from a pipe installed in 1995 and is far less likely to be contaminated than a stream. According to the park rangers(8/30/11), they drink from Falcon Spring all the time, but from NO OTHER source out on the trails.)
Cascade Link to Spellman Trail
Turn left at Pumpelly Trail, and walk for what seems like forever in Heaven (actually 0.7mi) surrounded by SPECTACULAR above the tree line views. Sneak up on the vultures at the pool halfway between the Sarcophagus and the Summit(I've never managed to do this)
At the cross marking the entry of the Red Spot from the left, just keep on hiking. You will see the cross on the horizon, and you will pass it on the left, after skirting the left side of a pool rimmed by cotton sedge.
(Use a map to navigate, not my rambling thoughts, of course)
The trail zigzags, and markers are fewer, near the top. Look carefully for cairns.
Bathroom breaks: use the woods. When above the tree line, on Pumpelly, there is a small valley with trees just before the final ascent. It is easy to get a hundred feet from the trail here and still find your way back.
From the Summit, turn right, looking carefully for cairns and signs for Smith Summit or "SS." You will be on the D/M trail for only a few yards. Keep looking for the SS white circles to the left or you'll end up hiking towards Mt. Washington in the far north. Take the Smith Summit, past many blueberry bushes (ripe from mid July and peaking in mid-August) toward Mt. Rosa. Climb it, or take a left at "The Tooth" for a shortcut to the Fairy Spring Trail. The Tooth is a VERY large glacial erratic, perhaps 15 ft. high, with a weird overhang. Another place where I flushed a large bird. Next time, I had my camera ready, but no bird:-(
The Smith Bypass is a shortcut to the Fairy Spring Trail; it goes left, under the overhang. Monte Rosa is straight ahead, to the right of The Tooth. Where the trails rejoin is easy to miss (no wooden sign; you may notice paint on a rock). The Fairy Spring Trail passes, get this, The Fairy Spring! And the walls of an early house by Fassett Brook. This trail, or the parallel Monte Rosa trail, which are the same length, brings you to a short, level stretch of the White Arrow Trail (an exception to my rule against Whites;-), and the site of the 1860-1952 Halfway House. This spot is peaceful, and also the next-to-the-last scenic place. If the sun is setting when you get here, you will not have time to reach the parking lot before dark; bring at least 2 flashlights just in case. A lightweight headlamp is an even better idea; it's also good for camping and cabin use. I follow the Old Toll Rd. down; I'm able to move rather quickly here; so quickly that I fear missing the well marked Parker Trail intersection to the left. The Parker Trail is slightly downhill or level, and leads to another beautiful view, both of a waterfall over the dam impounding the Poole Reservoir (aka Jaffrey Reservoir), and your last view of the mountain, perhaps with a reflection on the water. But if you are with someone, they may be in a hurry, so don't count on too many more pictures.
Speaking of hiking companions--know them well! Know their endurance especially. If there is any chance they will want or need to turn back, plan for this. (There is no good place to turn back on the Spellman Trail!) I suggest starting along the Parker Trail, then take either the Old Farm Trail or the Cliff Walk to Bald Rock. There is a spectacular view at the Old Farm/Cliff Walk intersection, and from Bald Rock itself. By this time you will know if a first timer is ready to go to the top. Don't force them, or yourself, for that matter. On Fathers Day, with my adorable daughters (both soccer players, one in average shape, one in "I jog 3 times a week" shape), we did the following from Bald Rock: Smith Connecting to Amphitheater (which has BLUEBERRIES in July/Aug.), a quick trip up Monte Rosa, then Fairy Spring to the Old Halfway House site, Old Toll Rd and Parker back to the parking lot. A slightly shorter trip would be to start 200 feet higher, from the western parking lot (no bathrooms) and take the Old Toll Road or the Halfway House Trail to the Halfway House Site. Then, you could either take Sidefoot/Amphitheater/Smith Summit or Fairy Spring to Smith Summit. This has the drawback of taking Smith Summit both up and down, which I've never done in 30plus hikes! The White Arrow is very difficult at the top. I wouldn't necessarily rule it out for "up" but as I said before, it is uncomfortable and slightly dangerous to take it down.
Once again, THE SPELLMAN TRAIL IS UNCOMFORTABLE AND DANGEROUS DESCENDING, and you lose the advantage of the views because you spend all your time dragging your chin over rock. It cannot be descended facing away from the mountain (unlike the Smith Summit).
. Follow a few simple rules, plan ahead, and you'll spend your time glorifying the God of all creation instead of worrying about your aching, painful knees. The saddest thing I ever heard while hiking (White Dot Trail), was one woman saying to another "I'll never ask you to do this again." It brings tears to my eyes even now. The one for her willingness to please her friend& go way beyond her comfort zone, the other for her guilt and disappointment. Monadnock Mountain is a beautiful, emotional place.

To end on a happier note, listen for kids at the summit announcing "I made it to the TOP"
May all your mountaintop experiences be so joyful.

Marriage: Tearing down a false definition

A sojourners discussion, after one poster belittled marriage as depending on the good intentions of the nearest male:
The definition of marriage that has been attacked by self-styled “feminists” for decades, and which is still under attack, is not marriage as established by God. Marriage, like all of God's Law, is not designed to promote one sex over the other, or even one human religion as “the best.” It is part of God's loving design to bless all of His good creation. Abraham was promised that His seed would bless all the earth. This promise has come true exactly to the extent the blessing has been accepted. But our society has substituted a secular religion (or religion-equivalent, if you insist). The practice of this dominant religion obviously isn't working, yet the blame falls on Christianity, unjustly, and Christians, occasionally with good cause. All of the world's major religions have surprisingly similar definitions of what marriage is and isn't. Those who believe in common grace aren't surprised, but they are saddened that our culture, almost alone across the globe, has such open scorn for what a loving God created and pronounced "very good"

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wisdom from Bonhoeffer on the unsolved questions of life

"It is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them" . . . "He [Jesus]is the centre of life, and he certainly didn’t ‘come’ to answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I’m thinking of the judgment pronounced on Job’s friends). In Christ there are not ‘Christian problems’. – Enough of this; I’ve just been disturbed again.”

I ask:
Are these quotes (see context below) a condemnation of evangelical theology? Of course not. They are a condemnation of our oh-so-human-human rationalism: wanting to win arguments, and needing to have it all figured out so we look good(like Job's comforters). In fact, if we are following Jesus, our desire to look good will diminish. We will think of, and point to, Jesus. That doesn't mean we will never engage in debate, or be careless of our image before the world. But the concerns of self will surely fade into the background of a life centered on Jesus. Raised in a rational, self-justifying background, it took me a long time to figure out Job, even a little bit. I think I'm getting there. But there I go again, thinkin' about myself;-)

It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. It is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever of God. In point of fact, people deal with these questions without God (it has always been so), and it is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them. As to the idea of ‘solving’ problems, it may be that the Christian answers are just as unconvincing – or convincing – as any others. Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized as the centre of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigour, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He is the centre of life, and he certainly didn’t ‘come’ to answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I’m thinking of the judgment pronounced on Job’s friends). In Christ there are not ‘Christian problems’. – Enough of this; I’ve just been disturbed again.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lost and Found Dept.

Rated R

I was on a walk this morning, in between summer storms, and found something white on the sidewalk(the R part begins here). Without investigating, even with the toe of my sneaker, I assumed from its size, shape, color&location that it was girls underwear tossed out the window of a car the night before. (Yes, this could be a puerile male fantasy, but read on as I think my reflections are worthwhile beyond any relation to the actual physical evidence.)

SOMEBODY LOST SOMETHING last night. Perhaps her virginity (if the first time) or her self respect (if the 5th or 50th). It matters a lot less than you think whether or not she “asked for it,” as that only determines whether it is rape or not. Maybe this guy was her dream date, maybe not. In any such transaction, the girl loses something important, and the boy gets something for nothing. Maybe he paid for dinner, maybe he just paid. That hardly matters either; it only determines if it is prostitution or not.

While I have no desire to trivialize the ugly violence of rape, the importance of sex goes far beyond its current legal or political status, and far, far, far beyond what two 15 year olds, or 50 year olds, give it on a certain night in a certain place. (At least that was the conclusion back when people actually studied these things.) Occasionally, as in Mary Pipher's frequently excellent “Reviving Ophelia” people still “get it” and actually write about how demeaning sex is for teen girls. The religion taught in public middle schools says that sex is OK if you've thought about it enough. I disagree, unless by "thought about it" your thinking leads you to realize that sex belongs exclusively within marriage, as previously taught by all cultures, even those that wink or even celebrate violations of this heretofore obvious fact.

In the 19th century, Leo Tolstoy found meaning in the simple faith of the peasants. Today, Dallas Willard tells us, “there are no more peasants.” We convince ourselves that even the most obvious truths are just “lifestyle choices” and think we are sophisticated. Instead of just stupid.

A friend told me a story; hopefully it's not true. Year after year, a certain parent would tell their young child, as they went outside to play: “Have fun, and if things get too hot, put your panties back on and come home!” They thought they were being supremely clever, especially when, as a teen, the child finally got the “joke.” It's not a joke; it's immature parenting at best. And, yes, it would be of some comfort to learn that the parent made up this sick story to demonstrate their “cleverness” to an adult, and never actually spoke to a child this way. But in the end, perhaps it doesn't matter:

We trivialize sex, and then wonder why it doesn't satisfy us. The same lawgiver that governed the rising of the sun this beautiful summer day also said “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The celestial bodies have no choice in their obedience; human bodies do have choice, we abuse it sorely, and feign surprise when teen girls and many others suffer consequences. . .

Christ and Culture, or "To Go or not To Go"

How the Christian engages culture and particularly pop culture are interesting questions. There are two bad answers: “We can avoid sinful influences by simply avoiding it or condemning it” and “I can do anything I please”

The former thinks of sin as contamination (usually); but sin starts in our hearts before it exists in something discrete and external that can be “consumed”

The latter is willful and ignorant, and not freedom at all: it is bondage to self will and to what others may think of us for consuming, or not consuming, a particular aspect of culture. We DO have the power to choose, but the people that talk about choice all the time are nearly always those that are bound by sin. There really is NO freedom except in Christ. Non-believers have widely varying degrees of overt sinfulness, obviously, but none of them, not even one, is free at all.

(Pop culture is merely a large, and obvious, part of the overall culture: business, ideas, politics. When one shops, one is either cheap, or indulgent, or occasionally thoughtful and purposeful, but you are always engaging the culture.)

While the “don't go to movies” crowd is right that much of what depicted is sinful, it can't be avoided simply by staying home. The other extreme is right in the sense that it may be OK to attend, but is often na├»ve about how much they are influenced by something simply because it is well done, or because it contains one good idea. Avatar, for example, contained the idea that systemic evil should be resisted, but it also promoted pantheism in a big way that was doubtless overlooked by a lot of admirers.

Our pastor had a whole series on engaging pop culture a few years ago: sports one week; I should look up the other topics. He and his wife are huge movie fans, but they are conscious about their Christian worldview.