Dan and Hannah Hike White Oak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park

In retirement, I begin most days with my Morning Rituals.  One of these is repeating affirmations to remind me of my core beliefs.  The first of which is This is the best time in my life as I am more trusting and have greater faith.

To give further direction to my day, I then review my five wishes of goals I want to keep foremost in my mind in my day (from Gay Hendricks Five Wishes).  My first one is I have a strong, connected, and loving family.

To address that wish, Hannah and I have set in motion a mini-family reunion in rural central Virginia in mid-September.   Virginia is this year’s choice since our son Will and his girlfriend Laurel have recently moved to Richmond, VA; our daughter Molly with her husband Tip and our grandson Owen have lived in Arlington, VA for quite some time.  Our daughter Robyn will fly down from Syracuse, NY and Hannah and I will drive from our home in Maine to make the reunion happen.

The Commonwealth of Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia

Going online to Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) for the first time (shout out to Scott and Tree for the nudge), we find a modern farmhouse that sleeps eight to the west of Culpeper, VA near the Shenandoah National Park (SNP).

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

With the accommodations set and the kids making the dinner and breakfast meals for the weekend, we plan active, shared hiking experiences that will give us all a sense of accomplishment, an extended time to be together in twos and threes, and a lasting memory.  Such is the plan!

Honey Hill Farmhouse

VRBO’s Honey Hill Farmhouse

For this Saturday of our two day reunion, we settle on the White Oak Canyon Trail Loop which takes us up the Canyon, across a Fire Road, and then down the Cedar Run trail for a four to five hour hike of 8.2 miles.  Today we will learn a new meaning of the word of rocky.  Called strenuous by the trail guide, the hike is all that and more.  What hooks us is the promise of multiple waterfalls and cascades.

1 white oak sign

The trailhead is just outside the SNP with parking for 40-50 some cars.  Since much of the trail is within the park we are charged $15 per carload.  I love hikes where we get to interact with other hikers.  Shooting the breeze.  We have been on solitary hikes in Yellowstone where bear scat was our only companion.  I prefer hikers over ursine creatures.

Owen and his parents (Molly and Tip)

Owen and his parents (Molly and Tip)

Hannah, Will, Laurel, and Robyn raring to go

Hannah, Will, Laurel, and Robyn raring to go

As we innocently head out, we have no idea what we are in for.   The trail starts benignly with an easy grade and few protruding rocks under the forest canopy on this 60 degree morning.  Sunscreen will not be needed this entire day as the leafy ceiling protects us.

White Oak Canyon trail is a popular trail and rightfully so.   The stone steps are easy to negotiate and the trail has many knee-saving switchbacks.

Pairing off in twos and threes, we step up and over rocks as we will climb 2450 feet of elevation gain.  As the patriarch of our little gang, I am conscious of my role as the George Washington of the hike.

Rocky stairs of the White Oak Trail

Rocky stairs of the White Oak Trail

As students of history, you know that George made sure all his men were taken care of before he ate and settled in for the night.  Hiking in the rear, I am the sweeper of the hike making sure no one falls behind.  It’s not about the speed that Hannah and I known for, but the togetherness, so each one of us feels they have a place in our merry band.

The hike is a challenge, which means it has the potential to build a meaningful shared memory.  The theory is that such a memory will carry us when we each return to our wide-ranging homes and warm us when the snow flies this winter.

Along the White Oak Trail

Along the White Oak Trail

Playfully, our son Will stands tall when his mother is in need.

Laurel at the Lower Falls

Laurel at the Lower Falls

The Lower White Oak falls lie within feet of the trail.  Check out this 34 second very homemade video.

With eight of us including 14 month Owen, we take many breaks.  Once we start up again, Owen wonders about his Omi, wearing his hat.

Owen and his Omi

Owen and his Omi

The White Oak trail is two and a half miles of steady but manageable climbing over rocks and more rocks.  Once at the Upper White Oak falls and pools, we cross a metal bridge across the creek and head west on the Fire Road towards Skyline Drive which sits on the crest of the Shenandoah National Park nearly two miles away.

Upper Falls of the White Oak Trail

Upper Falls of the White Oak Trail

The Fire Road is an easy grade but rises steadily towards its confluence with the Cedar Run trail.

The Main Man

The Main Trail Man

After bouncing happily with each step in a backpack carried by his mother up the White Oak trail, Owen eventually falls asleep on the back of his Unkie Will.

Three and half hours into our hike, we turn for the trailhead of the Cedar Run trail.  We have no idea what we are in for after the easy-going switchbacks of the White Oak Canyon trail and the gentle uphill slope of the Fire Road.

The 3.5 mile part of the trail is absent of switchbacks and is a straight shot down.   We lean on each other to step down over and around the large rocks.

One man said to me, “Too many stones.”  He couldn’t have been more right.

As hikers who find three to four hours their optimum for hiking, Hannah and I marshal on in our fifth and sixth hours of hiking and are ready for the cold Corona back at the cars.

It’s just a steady descent on this nearly three mile pile of rocks under blue skies in a sun-dappled forest.

Nearly at the trailhead on the Cedar Run Trail

Nearly at the trailhead on the Cedar Run Trail

In triumph, six hours later, we unlace our boots, pleased that we have all made it.  We ride the 40 minutes back to VRBO rental farmhouse in Reva, VA.  Nestled a half mile off the country road, we can relax and unwind together.

By renting a house for the weekend, we have eliminated the isolation that can come had we been separated in four motel rooms.  We have no need to go out for meals since we have the use of a full kitchen with all the plates, bowls, and silverware we need.

Hannah leans into a game of washers and the fatigue and satisfaction of our hike give us all a mellow yellow sense of contentment.

We brought our Washers game from Maine for some friendly competition.

We brought our Washers game from Maine for some family competition.

Will finds the firewood and starts things blazing.

Sun setting on our early evening fire

Sun setting on our early evening fire

We each come and go and have all the togetherness or quiet we each want in this farm house.  We understand that a Saturday and Sunday of togetherness is just about the right amount of togetherness for us all.

Snuggled in for the night, I have hit a home run in this field of dreams.

Moon over Reva, VA

Moon over Reva, VA

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Dan and Hannah Hike Garfield Peak in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

After a couple of days at Mount St. Helens, we head to McMinnville, OR, home to friends Patty and Kent.  Patty and Hannah became fast friends at the College of Nursing at Arizona State University in the 1970s.  Friday night is out for Mexican food and a Saturday a visit to two Willamette Valley vineyards; we end with a boisterous game of Mormon Bridge with two of their three kids.  (n.b., Mormon Bridge has turned out to the best family card game the Rothermels know for laughter and good family times.)

Yes, you aerophiles (lovers of all things aeronautic) may have perked up when I mentioned McMinnville.  Yes it is here at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, we see Howard Hughes’ infamous “Spruce Goose.   Built almost entirely of birch because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum, the Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history!

The "Spruce Goose" of Howard Hughes

The “Spruce Goose” of Howard Hughes

Sunday is Hannah and Dan travel day and we are up and out heading south/southeast for Crater Lake National Park five hours away.  Once on I-5 south, we seek a locals breakfast place.

We have seven guidelines for finding such a diner or café for breakfast.

  1. Get up and out early.  We are off by 620A today.
  2. Drive two plus hours or 100+ miles first.  That way you have done significant pre-breakfast miles and have fewer post-breakfast miles to go.
  3. Avoid big cities.  We drive right by Eugene, OR (pop. 160, 000).
  4. Check your Rand McNally Atlas for small towns.  Sutherlin, some ten miles north of Roseburg, OR, is our small town of choice today.
  5. Avoid restaurants at Interstate interchanges (e.g., Denny’s and Friendly’s).
  6. Drive down the entire main street of town to catch those hidden greasy spoon jewels.
  7. Check out the side streets as you drive back slowly, which is what we do to find Pat’s Kozy Kitchen.
Pat's Kozy Kitchen, Sutherlin, OR

Pat’s Kozy Kitchen, Sutherlin, OR

With only two of the 20 tables occupied, Pat’s is not rocking this Sunday morning, when you think it might be.   Whenever possible when we are out for breakfast, we opt for biscuits.  Today with a hike ahead at 7000 feet, we make the safe choice with eggs, home fries and biscuits with our coffee for $6.50.  Not a burning deal, but we like the feel of the place and just want to support Pat and Bud; they could be your grandparents and still working, you know!

MG 2 PAT'S BFAST WITH H

Pat and her husband Bud are in their mid-70s and dearly want to sell Pat’s Kozy Kitchen.  Bud says its “turn the key” ready for less than $200K.  Online we learn it can be had for $199K and you can learn more by clicking on this link.

What once would have sounded to us like a romantic dream job stirs no interest at all.  One, it’s work.  Two, Sutherlin abuts the small village of Nowhere.  Three, it’s up at 4A and out at 9P that night.  Four, it’s not New England.

crater lake map

Soon we are following the meandering Umpqua River east on route 138 through pine forests.

Umpqua River Valley

Umpqua River Valley

Crossing very dry, high plains of southern Oregon, we stay south on route 138 to Crater Lake Highway.

Now six hours since we left this morning, we are just so ready to get up and out to hike.  Entering Crater Lake NP from the north we are soon on the Rim Road that circles the caldera that is Crater Lake for 33 miles.

MG 6C CRATER LAKE WITH D

As Hannah drives I am literally inches from certain death on this rim road.  The drop offs on the passenger side of the car are similar to those of the Going to the Sun drive at Glacier National Park in Montana.  The shoulder is pencil thin, which kind of spoils the view.  Hannah’s steady hand at the wheel gets us to the Rim Village Visitor’s Center.

Arriving at 1P at 73F, when much of Oregon is going to 90F today, we find what happens to any vacation destination within hailing distance of California.  Cars from the Golden State dominate and overrun the parking lot.   Eventually finding a parking place, we can’t get our hiking boots on quick enough and make a bee line for the lake.

mg crater map drawn

In the distance we see Garfield Peak looking from the east end of Rim Village.  We never find a sign to start the trail.  But the trail is obviously the one between the Crater Lake Lodge and the lake itself.

The deep blue of Crater Lake is transfixing.  The lake was named at least three times: Blue Lake, Lake Majesty, and finally Crater Lake.

Do you have a new definition of blue?

Do you have a new definition of blue?

No matter where you hike in this country and no matter how crowded the parking lots are, if you go three tenths of a mile along any trail, you will find 90% fewer people.  Today our hike begins at 7100 feet with a relentless, steady climb through an alpine meadow.

At any point, you can look left and see this awe inspiring lake (and that is no hyperbole!).  The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot deep caldera that was formed nearly 8000 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama.

Though much of the initial section of the trail is dusty lava packed dirt, the trail of switchbacks turns rocky as we approach the summit of Garfield Peak at nearly 8000 feet.

The Garfield Peak trail turns rockier

The Garfield Peak trail turns rockier

Though it is rated a difficult hike, it takes us only 45 minutes to get to the top.  The climb is a steady Eddie climb and my breathing is heavy. But I think that it’s Hannah’s due excellent pace, not the altitude.  Never does the trail have perilous ledges; that said, it’s important not to be an idiot.

We are told that the trail is usually covered in snow from October to early July.  The top portion of the trail may be covered in snow until late-July.   Today in the first week of August there is not a hint of snow.

Dan and Hannah on top of the world at Crater Lake

Dan and Hannah on top of the world at Crater Lake

The son of a French family snaps our picture.  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the second deepest in North America (after the Great Slave Lake in Canada).

Heading back on the switchbacks on the Mount Garfield trail

Heading back on the switchbacks on the Mount Garfield trail

No rivers flow into or out of the lake; the evaporation is balanced by rain and snowfall.

The Garfield Peak trail is very obvious, with no chance of getting lost as we are always in sight of the Rim Village.  The hike down is 35 minutes to the Crater Lake Lodge.

Once done, we take in the National Park film of the origins of Crater Lake.  Surprisingly when we emerge, there is a smoky layer descending into the pines of the valley.

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Click on image to enlarge)

It seems the wild fires 50 miles to the south of the Park deliver smoke on schedule each mid-afternoon.

The not so blue Crater Lake

The not so blue Crater Lake

Smoke or not, I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than Crater Lake or a person I’d rather be with than Hannah.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

Number one is Mount Fuji in Japan.  But the second most popular hike in the world is Mount Monadnock.  Here in little ole New Hampshire.  The word “monadnock” comes from the Abenakis meaning “mountain that stands alone.”  I think, How tough can climbing this mountain be if it is that popular?

mt m map

With a mid-September Saturday in New England predicted to be sunny and in the low 70s, with our friend Bill we leave our home in coastal Maine for a 100+ mile, two hour drive to the southwestern corner of New Hampshire.  Up at 5A, we are off before 6A so we can get breakfast on the road before the Saturday rush and hit the trail by 9A.

Joey's Diner - 50s dining at its best

Joey’s Diner – 50s dining at its best

Checking out online all the diners/cafes along our route west of Manchester, NH, Joey’s Diner jumps out thanks to Yelp reviews.  We had no idea we are in the for breakfast experience of our lives.

Arriving just after 7A we enter New Jersey circa 1950s: shiny red booths, mirrors everywhere and memorabilia celebrating Elvis and mid-century Chevy’s.  The décor and feel is cool, but it’s not the best part of the experience.

50s diner

50s diner

My two eggs over easy, home fries, rye toast and two pancakes prime me for the trail.  A good meal is important, but that’s not the best part either.

Our waitress is.  Hannah and I began breakfasting out when we were first married early in the 1970s at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona.  We learned that refills for coffee were free and my eggs and hash browns could swim in a sea of barbecue sauce.  But in 40+ years of breakfasting out, we have never had a better waitress.  Upbeat and personable, she makes mere nourishment an experience.  I begin by asking her name and introducing us three.  Are you a local girl? is my follow up question and our conversation is off and running.  She willing engages with Mama Bear information.  Not too little, not too much.  She gets our decafs and tea, gives us time to order, and once we order comes back just before the meals are to be served to see if we want any more decaf or tea!  Attentive and cheery throughout the meal, she made the experience.  She alone is worth the trip to Joey’s Diner in Amherst, NH.

26 mt m sign

Fueled and so energized by the Joey’s experience, we drive 45 minutes more along routes 101, 202, and 124 to Mt. Monadnock State Park.

25 mt monad wood map

The ranger peers into the car, determines there are three of us, and charges $5 each.  This is a gold mine for the state of New Hampshire.  With 35 cars in the parking lot just before 9A we easily find shaded parking.

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Told by the state park ranger that the White Dot Trail (2.2 miles to the top) is steeper, but the White Cross Trail has more obstacles and is longer, we learn he thinks them basically comparable.   Once done hiking  today we will feel very differently.

The gentle rise of the White Dot Trail

The opening gentle steady rise of the White Dot Trail

At Hannah’s suggestion we choose to go up the steep White Dot Trail and down the White Cross Trail as we join the legion of hikers.  Make no mistake about it, this is one popular hike.  But to me it doesn’t feel “busy.”   Right away we are climbing on an eight to ten foot wide trail filled with rocks.

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The white dots guide us to the best way across the rocky terrain.  The white dots are everywhere and most helpful.  Our climb is steady and relentless; my shirt under my backpack is soon soaked and in short order sweat seeps into my eyes.

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Bill and I use trekking sticks, and let me tell you they are a godsend on this rocky, steep terrain.  I can plant my sticks and push with my two arms as well as my legs to climb the rocky way, thus reducing the strain on my cranky knees.

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

As we hands-and-knee-it on the stone facades, we know that this is one demanding hike.  On these sharply angled stony faces, the trekking sticks can be a hindrance.  These are the times that my poles should be stored in my backpack.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns marking the trail.

No lie.  This is a taxing climb, not a walk in the park.  It’s challenging.  It’s relentlessly up.   As my friend Mitch says, these are Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up).  But indeed it’s satisfying.  Having recently hiked Mt. St. Helens and at Crater Lake, I know nothing we hiked there that compares to how tough this climb is.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

From the mountaintop

From the mountaintop

After one hour and a half of steady climbing with only one water break, we arrive to the celebratory mountain top which offers a 360 view.  Mount Monadnock is 3100 feet above sea level with the last 300 feet are above the tree line.  It’s windy up top and I can see how this could be a dangerous peak in cold weather on a trail that is open all year round.

Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

“Three Musketeers”  Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

Adding Bill to our hiking mix gives us quality extra interactions along the way.  We have hiked with him at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and he was our car courier when we biked across Prince Edward Island.  He’s good guy.  You’d like him.

Heading down the stony mountain

Heading down the stony mountain

After feasting on Hannah’s turkey sandwiches, snapping pictures with my iPhone, and providing a thankful hiker with band aids, we descend the bare steep rocky slopes below the mountain top.  I can’t imagine hiking in such rockiness in fog or light rain.  We’d be slip sliding away a la Paul Simon.  Below the mountain top, it feels ten degrees warmer.

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

We take to the White Cross trail which, though still steep in parts, is a gentler, kinder trail than the White Dot Trail.  It is no picnic, but again trekking sticks prove beneficial to a knee-compromised hiker such as myself.  I can place my sticks below me and use them to brace myself as I step down reducing the weight on my balky knees when I step down.  Multiple that by hundreds of steps and you can see how trekking sticks rock!

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

We learn 95% of all injuries happen on the way down.  Other than the scraped knee at the top, we see no twisted ankles nor bloody legs or hikers bemoaning beside the trail.

There are not too many people for me.  I love the interaction.  Sports is a great entre into conversation.  All the time I have wasted watching Sports Center is paying off.  To Red Sox fans (wearing the cap is how often tell) I say nice win last night to get the conversation going.  The Sox have comeback twice and beaten the Yankees this week.  To the one Yankee-capped fan, I sympathetically say tough game last night.  She laughs, but I know she is just hiding the pain and has daggers in her eyes for me.

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Let me say that the trail creation and maintenance are phenomenal on both the White Dot and White Cross trails.   Regulary stone steps are placed conveniently as well as stones have been hewed out for safer foot placements.

Hannah’s solid choice to take the steep White Dot trail up and the less steep White Cross proves genius.  She is one good thinker.  We are glad to have had both trail experiences, but we disagree with the ranger if he thinks they are basically the same.

The climb down takes a good 15 minutes longer than going up.  Gabbing with people and the longer White Cross trail explains some of that.  Our weariness explains another part of it.  The three to four hour estimate to hike up and down is reasonable.

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University after climbing the Grand Monadnock (another name for Mt. Monadnock)

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

At the bottom, I see adults folding shirts and wander up and ask them what’s going on.  It turns out they are from the nearby Franklin Pierce University and have brought the latest crop of first year students to the mountain to hike.  Having extra lunch food, they offer us sandwiches, salads, cookies, and bottled water.  Amazing what happens when we seek to initiate.

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Fifteen minutes from the park on our way home, we lunch at Howard’s Memorial Park on route 12 in Jaffrey.  Leaving this morning at 6A gave us the time to make our day relaxed and unhurried.  We even had time for a little garage sailing.

Nobody does it better!

Nobody does it better!

Dan and Hannah and the Lava Tube Crawl at Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

TTF cropped sign

How do you feel driving over high bridges?  I mean, really high bridges.  Say the Tappan Zee Bridge?   I have to say I’m not a fan.  They have a word for the irrational fear of crossing bridges – gephyrophobia.

Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, New York

Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, New York

What about bridges that extend for miles like the eight mile Confederation Bridge?  I hug the center line and death grip the wheel as I hang on for dear life.  They have name for this one, too –ancientmarinerphobia (i.e., water, water everywhere).

Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Do tunnels give you the willies?  This phobia is called wallsacreepinginphobia.

One creepy tunnel

One creepy tunnel in Plymouth, England

Caves?  Let’s talk caves.  Any reason to go beneath the ground; for any reason?  If caves are not your thing, you have speluncaphobia (You spelunkers know what I’m talking about).

When we heard of the lava tubes of Mount St. Helens, I thought, that’s nice, but you won’t catch me going subterranean.

Rim Rock (click on the picture to read the explanation)

Rim Rock (click on the picture to read the explanation)

Got to say, lava tubes are cool in the abstract.  Check out their story.  As the lava comes down the mountain it covers everything in its path.  The magma surrounds trees to the height of eight to twelve feet or more.  In time, the magma cools around the tree, but the tree doesn’t disintegrate immediately.  Eventually, the tree is consumed and what is left is a lava hole.

Lava Hole

Lava Hole

Sometimes these trees are knocked over by the force of the flowing magma.  It is estimated that this flow can be up to 30 mph.  When the tree is knocked over, the magma flows over it and eventually solidifies into a rocky landscape.  Again, in time, the tree disintegrates and a lava tube beneath the ground is left.

Lava Tube

Lava Tube

Two thousand years ago, Mount St. Helens blew its top and lava holes and lava tubes were formed that remain today at the Trail of Two Forests.  This 0.25 mile interpretative boardwalk weaves through this southwestern Washington forest near Cougar.

Boardwalk at Trail of Two Forests

Boardwalk at Trail of Two Forests

Within the Trail of Two Forests lies The Crawl, a lava tube that stretches for some 50-60 feet within the park.  I have no intention of navigating underground through this lava tube.  Ah, but with the daring of a champion water skier, Hannah is drawn to this subterranean adventure.

Lava Hole

Lava Hole

The more she learns about lava tubes, the more she thinks climbing down one of the holes and edging along the lava tube sounds pretty cool.  I mean, we are 2500 miles from home and may not be back soon.  You go girl.

The Crawl (click on picture to read the explanation)

The Crawl (click on picture to read the explanation)

The Crawl forks prior to its midpoint.  To the right, the opening is not wide enough for a person to emerge while to the left one literally sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hannah descending into the lava hole

Hannah descending into the lava hole

Borrowing a flashlight from a fellow hiker, Hannah waves a soulful good-bye, I bid her adieu, and I think, ours has been a good marriage.  Just kidding, it’s been great and I take to the boardwalk to see her emerge at the other end.

Crawling on her knees in just shorts, Hannah relates later that she didn’t feel any “fear” at all.  It was fun, but I wouldn’t have done it without a flashlight since I would have missed some of the detail of the tube itself along the way.

Hannah emerging

Hannah emerging

Pumped, Hannah makes it seem like a piece of cake.  I think, I like cake.  Perhaps it’s time for Danny Boy to step out of his comfort zone.  I wouldn’t say I am super claustrophobic.  It’s not a matter of peer pressure; my high school friends are nowhere to be seen.  All of a sudden, it just seems doable now that Hannah has shown the way.

For the first section, I crawl on my knees on the rocky surface floor.  I knee-along grabbing at the rock in front of me.  So far, so good.  The turn left is obvious and now I can start duck walking to the light.  I, too, feel no fear, just a little discomfort crouching along this unforgiving rock cylinder.

Dan making his way out of the lava tube

Dan making his way out of the lava tube in Hannah’s gloves

I stretch, smile, and nod in satisfaction as Hannah calls out, “Good job.”  Fact is, I am feeling that “Mr. Cool” just might apply.

Perhaps, this experience is a metaphor for life.  Stick with me.

When descending into life’s turmoil, look not back, but forward.  Though darkness surrounds you, use your flashlight and move forward in faith that you will emerge.   When the road forks, look to the light and go forth.  Your faith and your enduring spirit will bring you to the light.  I’m guessing many great religions are based on this one metaphor.

Or maybe its message is, Don’t be such a baby.  Wah, wah, wah.  Give it a shot.  What’s the worst that could happen?  It’s not like the earth is going to explode…

Mount St. Helens erupting on May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens erupting on May 18, 1980