#24 We’ve “Hit It out of the Park”

Today, we hook up our travel trailer, leave our campsite of four nights. As we have for the last three days, we again travel three states on U.S.  20, in the short distance from our campground in Idaho, crossing into Montana, and entering Wyoming at the West Entrance of Yellowstone. This morning, as I pass the roadside wildflowers I’ve seen every day, they seem to say goodbye from Idaho. 

We look different today, pulling our travel trailer, planning to drive the south side of the Grand Loop through West Thumb, around the big Yellowstone Lake and exiting at the East Entrance toward Cody. U.S. 20 runs through Yellowstone, but once you enter the park, you wouldn’t know it. I’ve seen no typical highway signs. Instead, when you drive these Yellowstone roads, you are separating yourself from not only the three states on this western side but from all of the 48 continental states. You are not on a U.S. highway – or any highway. Instead, you are in a unique land of its own. A land of varied wildlife, mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, obsidian cliffs, and a land of unusual geothermal features; geysers, springs, thermal pools,  mudpots, boiling waters, and travertine terraces. Along with a million other visitors, I  have gathered an understanding that I am treading upon volcanic surface, which may erupt at any moment, but in this magical land, I am at total peace with it.

Today, we cherish each site as we drive through one last time. And as I do, I again pray that I will never forget this land – that God will embed its sites deep into my long-term memory.

We’ve crossed the Continental Divide several times in this lengthy Adventure through our northernmost countryside , and today we cross it twice more within just a short distance, first at Isa Lake -and again a few miles further east. You can see the Divide shown in a dotted line. We are traveling the white route today.

Mule Deer nps.org


Suddenly, the forests surround us. I spot a mule deer, with large velvet antlers. We embrace the huge Yellowstone Lake for miles – then we climb and hug mountainsides as they drop beside us.  We round s-curves, both in ascent and descent. It is a beautiful day to go over Sylvan Pass on our way to the East Entrance.  

It seems we’ve traveled much of Yellowstone in the last four days, but we’ve only seen a fraction of all it has to offer. Yet today, as we leave, we take bits and pieces of this land, Yellowstone, with us in our hearts. Ron’s hand is resting on the console between us. I place my hand on his. We look at each other and smile as we pass the sign, “Leaving Yellowstone National Park, ” both feeling like we’ve “hit it out of the park” with this venture!

Have you read my book, When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers? Click here to order it – or the 6-part Study book,  Shh! Listen to His Whispers!

#23 Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam

Ron’s greatest desire was to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Mine had been to see Grand Prismatic Spring. Both of our highest priorities had been met in those first two days in Yellowstone, and in doing so, we had  seen and learned more than we had possibly expected.

As soon as we entered this magnificent park, we knew it would be impossible to cover all the areas we desired – spend all the time we wanted. We had to choose. Now, on this third day, we had to choose between going through the south entrance to The Grand Tetons or to the northernmost side of Yellowstone to Lamar Valley. We chose Lamar Valley.

It was a long drive – nearly 100 miles – and not typical driving at that! You can see our route in gold on the map, and photos taken along the drive follow, as well.

(Did you know you can click on each pic to enlarge it?)

The roads differed from those we’d traveled in the middle of the park, in that they were sometimes tight and curved with short stretches in mountainous areas. We were glad we weren’t pulling the travel trailer.

We saw Obsidian Cliff and stopped at a kiosk where we observed some obsidian close up. I picked up a few flakes from the ground where people had chipped the beautiful dark volcanic glass, although they had been asked not to. Original peoples had used this rock many years ago for tools and weapons.

By Acroterion – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12213799

And we were amazed at an entire mountainside covered in steam vents: Roaring Mountain

This National Park Service video explains more about Roaring Mountain. It’s short. Click here. 

A short walk along The Artists Paintpots was like walking along a painter’s palette:

Certainly this drive had already brought many delights, but reaching the main junction of Mammoth Hot Springs brought us something we hadn’t yet seen anywhere:  Travertine Terraces of steaming hydrothermal features, always changing. They were beautiful:

Continuing east, we saw the beautiful Undine Falls, a three-step waterfall, which had once been on the cover of National Geographic

A petrified tree fascinated us, as well:

And antelope (pronghorn)

Although we saw buffalo here and there on this eastbound route along the north edge of the park, we began seeing them in herds:

Soon we entered a massive open area, a valley larger than Hayden – a valley larger than any we had ever seen. We parked along the road to take it all in. As far as we could see – left to right – east to west – were buffalo – thousands of buffalo:

And as we drove further east, this scene continued for miles.

In this valley, of course, A River Ran Through It. And  men fly-fished in the river, the buffalo grazing a short distance behind them. 

When you’ve seen buffalo and deer and antelope, how can you help but not sing, 

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,

and the deer and the antelope play,

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

and the sky is not cloudy all day.

As we began the long drive back to our campground, the roadside flowers, as they had throughout the last three weeks, welcomed me. Today, they softly sang  Oh give me a home, and it felt a bit like this valley really was my home. 

Click here to read the next  post in this series, “We’ve Hit It out of the Park”

Click here to view a wonderful video from the National Park Service about bison (buffalo) in Yellowstone. 

#22 The Living Rainbow

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

~ John Muir

Oh yes. John Muir is spot on.  We are receiving far more than we had expected in today’s “walk with nature” here at Yellowstone National Park.

(I hope you have the music audio turned on! It might be located at the bottom of the page.)

We stand before Excelsior, once the largest geyser in the world. Its boiling water bursted 300 feet high and just as wide before the 1900’s, but with the exception of a two-day eruption in 1985, is now dormant as a geyser. One can only imagine what those monstrous  earlier eruptions must have been like. But I am fascinated  with simply observing it as it is today – a massive, boiling spring:

(Did you know that you can click on each pic to enlarge it on most devices?)

In his book, Our National Parks, John Muir wrote,

“Near the Prismatic Spring is the great Excelsior Geyser, which is said to throw a column of boiling water 60 to 70 feet in diameter to a height of from 50 to 300 feet, at irregular periods. This is the greatest of all the geysers yet discovered anywhere.”

As he continued, Muir referred to Excelsior as “incomparable” and that “nothing in the world” could match it.

Now we are watching the boiling  turquoise water of Excelsior spring up from deep within this crater and discharge 4000 gallons per minute into the Firehole River. It is amazing to think of the volcanic atmosphere underground.

Yes, John Muir, this Excelsior Geyser Crater is “incomparable.”

As we entered the park today, we had again followed the Madison River, but unlike yesterday, today we  turned south. It seems every road in the figure-8 loop of Yellowstone and those extending beyond the figure-8 loop follow rivers. Our ancestors and those original peoples of this area did the same – traveled beside the rivers. Today, we travel along the Firehole River, suitably named for the boiling water that feeds it. Here and there, a short distance below the boiling discharge from Excelsior, we see people wade and swim in its waters. Yesterday, we had seen men fly fishing in the Madison. (Click here) Not only does this park belong to its wildlife, it also belongs to us – the people of this country. And I am honored.

You’ll see today’s route in blue:

When you travel this area of Yellowstone, hot spots of this Yellowstone Volcano are even more visible than in other areas of the park. You can see them on either side of the road – for miles.

Planning for Yellowstone, Ron’s greatest desire was to see the Grand Canyon, which we had done yesterday. (Read about it here.)

Today,  we will view my greatest desire at Yellowstone – what I’ve most been looking forward to. And as awesome as I find Excelsior Geyser to be, I am most enthralled with the beautiful, colored spring behind it: Grand Prismatic Spring:

The center of the spring is near-boiling, and as the water reaches out to the edges and cools, colorful bacteria fill its waters. It is 300 feet long and 160 feet deep. The water in the center is 188 degrees! “The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters in the spring. The multicolored layers get their hues from different species of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring.”

It’s not surprising this spring is called a living rainbow. 

We have arrived mid-day. Having read that the colors are best if the sun is shining, we’ve pretty much hit it perfect! I am blessed.

Ron spots buffalo prints and a “cow pie” it left in the crusty geothermal area between the boardwalk on which we stand and the spring itself. We humans are forbidden to step in this area, for our own safety. Temps had dropped to 40 degrees last night, and a buffalo had come here to warm up. The few rules of Yellowstone do not apply to those who call it home – its wildlife. 

Before we leave, we stand and stare. Others move past us, but I am still, standing and basking, trying to push this scene of the Grand Prismatic Spring deep into my long term memory. The photos will help me to remember, and later I am pleased by their quality.  

When we finally leave, we drive just a bit further on this road, around a curve to the trailhead that will take us to a lookout point of the Grand Prismatic Spring. And along the short distance, we see one single buffalo – between the huge hot springs and the trail to the lookout. This is the big boy who visited the hot spring in the night – I am sure!

We hike a half mile uphill to see Grand Prismatic from the overlook. It’s challenging on this hot day, but oh so worth it. Can you tell from the looks on our faces? 

Finally we hike back to our truck, parked along the road. We enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning as we drive further south on this Grand Loop, following the signs for Old Faithful. Amazingly, we find shade in the outer area overlooking the geyser.

So we sit on a log to picnic, awaiting the eruption, and within the time frame predicted, Old Faithful erupts! Afterward,  we browse the buildings in this “tourist attraction” – both old and new – and have ice cream on the porch of the Inn.  Old Faithful most obviously attracts thousands of people a day. At least that many are here for this one “faithful” eruption. The number of people makes this spot so different from others throughout the park. Throughout the afternoon, we see smaller geysers erupting in this area. 


All day, I thank God I am here in this place of the yellow rock,  Mi tse a-da-zi , which I wrote about yesterday. I thank God for the opportunity to be here and for the good health He has given Ron and me to hike these paths. I thank him for my travel mate of 50 years, my Ronnie. But most of all, and continually, I breathe spoken prayers of praise to my Father, for His amazing creation and this tiny bit of the original magnitude of that creation and a foretaste of what I will see in heaven. 

At the end of this second day, we again follow the Madison River toward our West Yellowstone exit, and today, our eyes are fixated on Mt, Haynes, named for the first official photographer of the park.  Mr. Haynes might be appalled at the quality of my photos, but I am thankful for each one. I am already reviewing them with joy as I send them to our children, while we drive back to our sweet little travel trailer for the night. Tomorrow is another day in Yellowstone!


Click here to watch a video from the National Park Service : Yellowstone’s Restless Giant

#21 Mi tse a-da-zi

Yellowstone. There’s no beginning and there’s no end to this place – at least, we couldn’t find either. Your own personal beginning might be the time and location you enter – something like your first time at Disney World but in awe rather than excitement. You can’t take it all in, so you absorb whatever you can – whenever you can – as you drive and stop and hike and stare and bask.

In awe.

And by the time you leave, you are saddened because you want more of this place, Yellowstone. You have stepped upon only a few of its 2,221,766 acres, have gazed upon only a fraction of its 3,472 square acres, and have spotted only some of the 67 species of mammals or  300 species of birds. You desire more, but you must save it for another time. It’s like a difficult breakup because you’ve established a relationship with this place that you’ll never shed. You’ll take it with you as you go, and it’ll never leave you.


(Make sure your audio is on. You’ll find the adjustment at the bottom of this page.)

You’ve read about it – see pics of it. I joined some social media groups that shared information about it. Then you make a plan. Many people have a perfect strategy before arriving.

Ron and I know we are a bit weak on our plan. The night before we enter the park, after we are settled in our campground just ten miles from the West Entrance,  we review ideas and brochures. We have allotted three full days in the park and a fourth day to drive through the park, exiting through the East Entrance, planning much of that drive to be in yet a different area than we will see throughout the first three full days. So we plan our days in order of their significance to us, wishing for more, but realizing our time limitations.

We enter the park from the West Entrance each day, but the first day is something like that first day at Disney World, but both exciting and awesome! The traffic slows, and I fumble with my camera. I’ve heard that when the traffic slows, it’s most likely because they’ve seen wildlife. Yes, that is the reason today. This is the first but not the last time a park ranger coaxes us – well actually yells at us – to move on. “Don’t stop in the road,” she hollers to the row of cars in front and behind us. “View the wildlife from the pulloffs.”

But actually the traffic moves slow enough that we have ample time to view the wildlife from the vehicle. Our windows are down every day – all day. A big dark buffalo saunters in the tall bright green grass of the meadow. Elk eat from the plants a bit further back.  This is a pasture unlike any I have seen across the Northern Great Plains or anywhere through this land so far. It is an unusual scene for this Michigan girl, for sure!

We seem to flow with the Madison River along this welcoming route, first on our left, then on our right. The first day we view the splendor of this river. The second day we fall in love with it. The third day we adopt it as our own. And the fourth day, as we leave, we pledge to always remember it.

We soon discover that this place belongs to the wildlife and to the plants and the trees and the water and to their Creator. We are merely visitors. But we are welcomed visitors – you and I – if we recognize and accept our place amongst all of this. We are humbled by its magnificence and by its uniqueness and by its beauty. We eagerly accept our place.

Day 1 in Yellowstone. Yellow route.

The  Madison River runs through the pastures like a cutout intended for watering livestock on a farm. Then it widens as it edges the mountain beside it, finally disappearing in the forests beside us, as we turn north onto the Grand Loop. Now the Gibbon River accompanies us. This land is filled with rivers and lakes and waterfalls, and with something quite foreign to us – geothermal features: geysers, steamvents, mudpots, and hot springs. We pull off to view the first hot spring we come by: Beryl Spring. I video – and photograph, soon realizing I wouldn’t have the time or opportunity to video each of the unique elements of the Yellowstone caldera, even if I lived here.

Gibbon Falls.

We see the Norris Geyser Basin with its many geysers, springs, and geothermal grounds.

This park is like  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on steroids. Here, as in the U.P., one doesn’t find “Do Not . . .” signs all over the place – only occasionally and when necessary.  It’s all original and inviting – in its natural state. We are welcomed here. Roadside Parks are abundant, and we enjoy our picnic lunch up at one of those roadsides, along the Gibbons River. 

We follow Norris Canyon Road to the Hayden Valley where we drive slowly, stop, walk, view – and repeat this over and over for hours! Herds of buffalo, valleys as far as the eye can see, mudpots, caldrons – all along the Yellowstone River, from which this National Park was named. We have many close-up opportunities to view buffalo from our truck. We find that the bulls are often loners – near the road – far in the distance – but the cows are always seen in the herds, often with their babies.

Nearing the end of that first day in the park, we visit the location Ron has most anticipated: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

We have developed the habit of praying for one of our immediate family in each beautiful location we’ve visited on this western Adventure. We had started with our son, Matt, who we prayed for on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Today we pray for our grandson Noah as we stand in front of the powerful Upper Falls. The magnitude of its power and beauty is compelling, but when we proceed to the Lower Falls . . .

As I had been in the  Redwoods (Click here)., I am  again speechless. My eyes well up; I am so appreciative of being able to see this site. Ron stares in wonder. It is all he had thought it might be and so much more: the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: 

Borrowed photo of the canyon

First, the River was named by the Minnetaree Indians, who called it Mi tse a-da-zi, or Yellow Rock River in Eastern Montana, but the park then took the name Yellowstone after the yellow sandstones in this canyon. Now we understand.

Yellow sandstone formations in the Grand Canyon.

We literally force ourselves to leave this site to drive back to our campsite, our hearts full of the wonders we’ve seen, but our bodies tired from the day.  We look toward tomorrow –  another day in Mi tse a-da-zi – Yellowstone.  

Click here to read the next post, A Living Rainbow.

#20 The Trip, Itself

On these 21st and 22nd days, we were “headed” to Yellowstone, although we didn’t consider it our “destination.”  Instead of a place, every mile, every jaunt, of the trip itself was our destination. This was practice I had developed as a youngster and Ron seemed to come by naturally.

When I was growing up in Michigan, my Daddy and Mama took our family on vacation every year – never across the country or to another continent – but to northern Michigan many times and to Virginia once. The destination was never our focus. The trip was our focus. We stopped along the way at roadside picnic areas where Mama tossed a tablecloth across the table and set out cold fried chicken and homemade lemonade carried in a glass gallon jar that had previously held apple cider vinegar. As we travelled, my brother, sister, and I played games in the car and occasionally fought like cats and dogs, while Daddy and Mama discussed sites we passed. My little ears and mind must have picked up their conversations, as I remember such things as The North Begins at Clare. I learned in those years that the trip, itself, was the destination. 

Then, after Ron and I married, whenever we took our three kids, Matt, Kristen, and Amber, on trips – camping in the Upper Peninsula or the long drive to Florida – we tried to make the trip, itself, our focus, too.

That first travel trailer, a used 20′ 1971 Holiday Adventurer, was probably our all-time favorite – undoubtedly because with it,  we created our first camping memories with the kids. We loved our little trailer, its cushions covered in a green flowered print,  coordinating with the avocado green appliances. (I wish I had it today!) We had some great experiences in that trailer. The first time we took it out, our two new bikes fell off the new bike carrier on the back, and a tree limb took the antenna off the roof when we backed into the campsite. Camping was always an active adventure, from Kristen falling out of the upper drop-down bed to Ron and I yelling at each other nearly every time we backed into a campsite at a State Park!

In addition to camping, the hours spent on the road throughout two days of driving to Florida hold special memories, as well. I wrapped small gifts to keep the kids busy in the car: new crayons and coloring books, small  magnetic checker boards, or my favorite – Colorforms.

The fascinating thing about those long drives was our mode of transportation . I particularly remember traveling in a 1976 Chevy Caprice Estate Station Wagon. Ron and I had driven a couple hours away to buy this used wagon, a few years old but in excellent condition. We lovingly referred to it as The Tank.

The Tank was huge – three full seats, each with plenty of leg room. Behind the third seat was a huge cargo area. The back gate rolled under and the back window rolled up (see the pic). Everything was automatic. It was all decked out with power options. When we went on vacation, we put the second and third seats down flat and placed a full-size foam mattress in the back and let the kids have at it (it’s a redneck term). I placed a suitcase beside each back door so the kids didn’t get near the door handles or automatic windows. Lunches and snacks were packed in shoeboxes, so we only stopped when necessary and for an overnight at a reasonable motel. They played all the way to Florida and napped only occasionally! It was a joyous trip – one for which we would be chastised today – but in those days . . .

Regardless, whenever we left for a vacation – either pulling a travel trailer or in a big old station wagon, my Daddy and Mama reminded us, “Remember now, your vacation starts when you leave home.”  It was a statement they had made all those years ago when they took my brother, sister, and me on family vacations; they repeated it some years later to Ron and me and our kids as we left home for vacation; so Ron and I have the same mindset to this day: the destination isn’t the focus of our travel. Each mile of the trip, itself, is the focus.

So, on these 21st and 22nd days, the trip itself – not Yellowstone –  was our destination. 

The trip today took us further east, through the high desert region of Burns and Hines, Oregon. 

The barrenness of the high desert region eventually gave way to bits of green, first found in small evergreens, then in pasture and hay fields, and finally in a few green corn fields, irrigated, of course. 

Lunch at rest areas in 95+ degree heat meant finding a picnic table shaded by a small pavilion, as trees were rare.  

To look on the map, one would think it a hop, skip, and a jump to cross into Idaho and up to the edge of West Yellowstone, but in reality, it was a long drive. It required another overnight, one which we had expected to spend at a Walmart parking lot or at a roadside rest area, but we had a problem with either: the intense heat, which permeated the surface of our trailer with no means of release without electricity to run the AC or even our little fan. So, I called ahead and booked us a site at Mountain Home, Idaho. The campground and campsite left much to be desired, but we were just thankful to refresh the inside of the trailer with AC!

Ron stopped along the road occasionally to cool the truck in this heat. 

The landscape was fascinating. In spite of the heat, I was thankful for these two days of the trip itself through Oregon and Idaho.  

 (Have you read the post about our 21st day? Click here.)

Late in this 22nd day, the Tetons loomed to the east as we turned north toward Montana.

We settled in to our campsite just before dark. Behind us, chalets dotted the mountainside. To the west, the sun set, the end to another beautiful day of the trip itself. 

Tomorrow, our destination would actually be Yellowstone.

Click here to read the next post in this series,

#21 Mi tse a-da-zi

Click here to read the next post in this series, #21 Mi tse a-da-zi

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#19 Our Own Oregon Trail

We left the Redwoods, our hearts full. (Have you read that post? Click here.) We yearned for more time in these forests, but it was time itself that caused us to move on. We tried not to look at all we left behind – rather at all that lay ahead for us.

We took a bit of the Redwoods with us – a seedling for our grandson, Noah. It would yet travel over 2500 miles with us. I babied it all the way. We headed north on US 199 to Grants Pass and then continued on Highway 62.

As we had done for 20 days, we continued on this 21st day – to observe our surroundings with its varied landscapes and features throughout every mile we traveled. The truck was most comfortable. Ron and I conversed about everything we saw. We drank fresh hot coffee and cold bottled water and munched on trail mix. Unlike other shorter drives near our Michigan home, I did not read or write while we traveled on this trip. Instead, I soaked it all in. Ron and I loved every moment of travel and every moment together. We were creating sweet memories.

It was a hot day, but we found shade as we lunched along the Rogue River.

Shortly after, we stopped to view the remnant of Mt. Mazama in the distance, which now held Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States.

But soon an unexpected treasure loomed ahead of us. I quickly looked at my map to find the name of this mountain I had not anticipated. It was Mt. Thielsen, over 9000 ft. high with the sharpest, horn-like peak of any mountain we had seen thus far. 

Called the “Lightning Rod of the Cascades,” its peak often receives lightning strikes, which have actually melted some of its peak, forming fulgarites. We were fascinated by this mountain.

A beautiful, clear day with perfect road conditions, we reached Bend, Oregon, where we had planned to overnight, much earlier than expected. We stopped and had a milkshake, discussed our plans, and pressed on, turning east on US 20. We drove 100 miles through sagebush and tumbleweeds, with no towns in sight, rarely meeting another vehicle, feeling like we were driving our truck through an episode of Death Valley Days. But unlike  those old days of bumpy roads in a covered wagon, this drive was smooth and quiet. 

The sun set to the west, behind us, casting pink rays upon the sagebrush.  It was a sight I’ll never forget.

We settled our little trailer into a quiet rest area just at dusk, looked at each other and smiled. It had been an awesome day on our own Oregon Trail. 

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Click here to read the next post, #20 The Trip Itself.

#18 I Walk Among the Giants

We drove just a short distance into California before gps instructed us to turn east onto Highway U.S. 199 toward our destination campground. I had booked three nights here, which I thought gave us two full days to go into the parks to see the beautiful Redwoods: our purpose in coming to this southernmost point of our journey. I assumed we would reach our campsite, set up, and visit the parks the next day, but . . . once we made that turn onto U.S. 199 . . .  we were already IN the Redwoods:

This Highway was cut through the forest – around and between the giants – every turn and curve was jaw dropping. We were in awe of this place!


We passed the Visitor Center, which we would visit the next day, where we would not only gain information but I would buy more gifts for the younger grandchildren. 

Even our campground was surrounded by Redwoods!

Sometimes, even I am speechless, which was the case for the next two days. You know how it is – you take photos and you show others – and you add, Well, the photos don’t do it justice. It was much larger. Or prettier. Or brighter. The photos just couldn’t display what you actually saw. Viewed. Absorbed. Several times I asked God  to keep these images in my mind forever. Neither Ron nor I wanted this discovery to end. It was lifechanging. 

Our Redwood Forest Adventure began with a 6-mile drive through the Redwoods on “A dirt road where the Redwoods kiss your car,” as the nps site describes it. (Click to learn more.)   Yes, the Redwoods kissed our big black truck, and I reached out the window and kissed them back. It definitely was an immediate love affair.

 Howland Hill Road originally was a stage coach road! The drive alone normally takes an hour or two along the edges of the trees – sometimes wide enough for two cars – other times only one vehicle can slip through. People take turns. No one is in a hurry. In fact, you rarely are conscious of anyone else – because you are in awe.

It took us much longer, all morning, in fact, stopping along the way to hike deeper into the forest, trying to embed visions of these monstrous groves deep into our memories.

And into the forest I go

to lose my mind and find my soul.

~John Muir

At first we seemed to play the “big, bigger, biggest” game, amazed each time we saw a tree bigger than we’d seen before:



But the next two days really wasn’t about the size of the Redwoods. It was about the Forest itself ~

~  walking among the 1000-year-old giants.

~  banana slugs and moss and plants and ferns as tall as a man.

~ discovering connections between the past and present – between the east and west – between myself and this forest.

And . . .

It was about gaining new insight into the importance of roots – yours and mine,

If you’ve followed my previous posts, you know I’ve contemplated the value of our roots being deep. See post #7.  Today I learned about the root system of the Redwoods, and it quite surprised me. They have shallow roots! In Michigan, we know it’s important for trees to have deep roots in order to obtain the water they need, but here, along the west coast, these monstrous trees get all the water they need close to the surface of the ground! There’s quite a difference in the climate and the geological features of this area compared to that in Michigan!

When Ron and I built our home in Michigan years ago, Daddy helped Ron  transplant trees, usually the size of broomsticks, from the woods into our yard. It was important, he said, to dig deep enough to keep the “tap root,” intact so that the tree might remain upright and be stable in the wind. But now I discovered that these huge Redwoods have no “tap root.” I wondered what keeps these huge trees upright in the wind and the storm, especially in this windy area. I soon discovered that their roots, although shallow, are widespread – sometimes extending 100 feet in all directions, and always intertwined with other Redwoods. They have tremendous stability – because they are all connected. They literally hold each other up. 

What or who holds you up? With whom are you connected?

A lot of memes go around Facebook and Instagram about getting rid of “toxic” friends and surrounding yourself with “true” friends who stick with you and support you. That’s good. But we believers have even greater instruction!

The Bible instructs us believers to be connected with each other – to hold each other up: (see references at end of post)

“. . . encourage one another

. . . build each other up

. . . encourage each other with these words

. . . look to the interest of others

. . . let your talk be helpful for building others up

. . . pray for each other

. . . forgive each other

. . . be kind, tenderhearted to each other

. . . talk with each other

. . . bear with each other

. . . carry each other’s burdens

. . . meet together with others . . .”

There are a lot of “each others, ” aren’t there? And they’re all referring to believers. God knew we needed each other – we needed to be connected and hold each other up. In fact, the very instruction of meeting together with others is so that we might encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:25) We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and as the body of Christ, our roots must connect – gathering in church – or Bible Study – or worship – with other believers. Intertwined . . . 

. . . like the Redwoods!

There’s something special

about the body of Christ.

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Look for the next post – Burls in the Redwoods!

References to discover: Ephesians 4:29, 4:32; 1 Thess. 5:11, 4:18;Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25; Col. 3:13; Luke 24:14; James 5:16; Philippians 2:4

#17 The Fog Lifts

I wished I had booked us another night at  Honeyman State Park along this Oregon Coast. So much to see. So little time. Making these reservations from over 2000 miles away – not realizing all we would want to see, we had wished for more time at nearly every site we’d visited so far on this journey and would wish it again over and over in the weeks to come! But we moved on, driving further down this rugged, rocky, primitive-looking Oregon Coast.

First we passed more dunes between the road and the ocean – and several lakes along the coastline highway. Hidden lakes surrounded by nothing but trees and this bit of road we traveled. Occasionally we were higher than the woods beside us, and we viewed the Pacific over a carpet of pine forests.

We drove through woods. Miles and miles of pines.

John Muir, naturalist and conservation advocate wrote,

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”

We had pulled out of our Michigan drive weeks ago between the pines and have followed them all across the country – our doorway to new sites – new adventures. And the beauty of roadside wildflowers have welcomed me all the way.

Along this coast, we travel up and down, as the mountains are right along the coastline. We find “Entering Tsunami Hazard Zone” signs in the lower elevations and “Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone” signs as we ascend the hills.

Each area of our vast country has their “Danger” zones. In a recent post, I wrote about the tornadoes and thunderstorms we experience in Michigan (Click here.) and the hurricane and tropical storms we experience in Florida. And in the west, we’ve seen evidence of wildfires,  closed roads because of the their resulting smoke, warnings of wind gusts, and now, tsunami zones. Likewise, trials and troubles come to us all – at different stages of life and at varying levels. Jesus warned us about it:

          Where do these troubles come from? How often do we wonder, Why didn’t God just make everything perfect? Well, He did. God’s creation was good. We read about it in the book of Genesis. After each piece of His creation, we read, “And God saw that it was good.”

          He did not create the storms or tsunamis, the  sickness or death, addiction or meth, hate and pain – any of these things that create troubles or trials in our lives. None of these horrid things come from God. God’s plan is not for us to suffer. But it happens. Because “In this world,” or “Here on earth,” as some translations read, actually in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, in their sin, turned the keys over to Satan.

          “In this world, you will have many troubles,” Jesus said.

          So where do these troubles come from? Who brings them to us? Jesus answers this question in the gospel of John, also:

          So for a time, our enemy Satan, roams about, trying to steal from us and kill us and destroy us. Was this God’s original plan? Does He bring it? No. Does He allow it? Yes, because man chose it – long ago in the garden.

But God helps us through each of these trials. I’ll provide a link at the end of this post that will help you, as it helps me when I go through trials.

Oregon had already shown us its diverse landscapes, from the windy gorge, through stunning mountains with ice-capped volcanic peaks, into dry desert buttes, through its prairies – some irrigated to farms, into its forests with unending lumber, and now Oregon reveals its coastline on the Pacific Ocean – rocky, sandy, and mountainous. Today we will complete driving over half of its southern coast – over half of its 363 miles, open to everyone. It’s called “The People’s Coast.” That includes us.! And we are delighting in it! It is a beauty unlike any other we have seen.

When we neared Coos Bay, I entered a couple of state parks into the gps: Shore Acres and Cape Arago. I was looking for Simpson Reef in that area, as I’d read we might see seals there. If that was possible, it was my great desire. From Coos Bay, our “gps lady” led us along narrow, hilly, gravel roads. I couldn’t imagine tourists regularly traveling these roads, often with RVs or campers. Supposedly it was only 12 miles, but it seemed to take forever, and I couldn’t help but think perhaps I had put the wrong location into gps, but finally it happened. We neared the state parks and found Simpson Reef:

I expected the parking area to be packed, but it wasn’t. How could anyone in this area not be planted on the edge of this lookout, peering at the seals? Was I confused about the location? Ron parked, I jumped out, and we stood at the lookout rail:

It was foggy. Now I understood why the parking lot was nearly empty. We could hear barking – lots of barking – coming from the small island a ways out, but we couldn’t see anything – because of the fog. I had read that the coastline is often foggy, and we had experienced some fog over the bridge at the little borough of Charleston, just a short distance before reaching the state park. Now it was evident. We were disappointed but decided to have our lunch at this time, in hopes the fog would dissipate.

It didn’t.


So we decided to drive around the nearby area and look at the coastline. We would come back later.

Oh it was stunning. We hiked to points overlooking the coast.

We pulled in to Simpson Reef once more on our way back to the main roads – just in case. Once again, as He so often does, God gave me the desires of my heart. I not only heard the seals, but I saw them. Just as closely as our binoculars could take us. And I zoomed in with my 12 Pro Max Iphone as much as I could. (You’ll want to pause the website music in order to hear the seals bark!)

The view out our trailer window during the fog.
The same view out our trailer window after the fog lifted.

You know what it’s like to drive through fog or be stuck somewhere in the fog. It’s gray. Dark. It closes you in. Seems stifling. But, as I rediscovered today, the fog doesn’t last. Let’s remember that when we are going through trials and troubles – when we feel stifled – like we’re in the dark. It won’t last. Soon you’ll see the sunshine and see the desires of your heart fulfilled!

Psalm 107 – This chapter reinforces God’s faithfulness to be with us and to rescue us. Click here.

Have you subscribed to the devotions and writings on this website? Please do. You’ll receive them in your email. Click here.

Thank you, Eric Ethridge for your permission to use your awesome photo of the seals as my featured photo on this post. You’ll find more of his photos on Instagram: Eric Ethridge.

#16 Reaching the Pacific!

I think I’m a light sleeper, so it’s amazing how well I can sleep inside a thin-walled travel trailer, on the outer sides of a Walmart parking lot, semis and RVs pulling in and out all night.

But I did. Sleep well. And after a breakfast of pancakes and french press coffee fixed over the gas stove, we were on our way from Corvalis to Newport where we would discover the Oregon Coast on this beautiful sunny day.

 The logging industry was evidenced here. Plywood, stacked high on railroad cars was of high value in today’s market. Farms – not green farms as in Michigan – but hay – lots of hay. And old barns here, as all across the country, told stories of long ago. We’d already seen such diverse landscape in this beautiful state of Oregon – ice-capped volcanic mountains, dry desert buttes, hay fields – and we weren’t yet at the water. I was anxious to see the coast


Soon we turned south on Highway 101, another scenic byway, this one along the Pacific Coast, and we crossed a beautiful arch bridge, The Yaquina Bay Bridge, 133 ft. above the waters of the bay below.

We saw the dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Anxious to get to the water, we stopped at the first beach pull off we could find. And we were simply amazed! 

Then we continued to stop as often as we could throughout the rest of the day. 

The winding roads of this southern Oregon coast mimicked those to which we’d become accustomed on this trip, but in contrast, these roads were set in clouds atop rocks extending well into the Pacific. 

Heceta Lighthouse on the cliff

Before we knew it, we had arrived at our reserved campground for the night. We would still cover much of the coast tomorrow as we continued south toward the California line.

We found Honeyman State Park to be perfect! 

We checked in at the small office and drove to locate our site in this beautiful park. Shady, Sun-filtered. Mossy trees. Everything I love in a campsite. Yes, it was perfect, at least, until we arrived! Yikes!

Water Spigot when we arrived
Water spigot after we backed in to our site!

When Ron and I were younger and took the kids camping, we struggled to back the trailer in to the campsite every – single – time! But we were well beyond that now. We never had a problem setting up the trailer at ANY site during this trip – until this one! 

In all fairness to us, you “campers” can look at our designated site and perceive the problem: The water spigot is on the edge of the drive – close to the drive – with no support post beside it.  (The wooden post you see is angled behind it.) When one backs in, one must crank . . .

Well, you see the problem. We, on the other hand, missed it!

Water started flushing out . . . oh, it was pitiful.. . . 

Two phone calls, campers walking by and pointing out the problem (as if we didn’t see it!), four park rangers, the water shut off to the campers for 45 minutes,  and over an hour later, the pipe is fixed.

Whew! Let’s take a walk and get away from this embarrassing situation! 

Although the campground is in a deep woods setting, the sand dunes are the key feature of this state park. Dune buggies run the dunes. 

We would have liked to have hidden when the tire of Ron’s truck broke that water pipe, but it’s difficult to hide with a pickup truck and a 24 ft. trailer! Ron kind of blamed me, since, as he backed up, he had called to me out his side window, “Am I okay on the other side?”

“Yes,” I answered. Never considering . . .

I assumed he had checked the area before backing up, so . . . 

But, unlike those early years of marriage and camping, there was no yelling – no anger – very little frustration. Not that we’ve reached any level of perfection . . .  I think we’ve just learned to put our problems in perspective!

We laughed about it then, and we laughed about it today, when I wrote about it!

By nightfall, the tent campers in the area were able to once again access water from the spigot, campsites downhill from the water spigot dried up from their flood of water, and Ron and I both slept well in the dark night of this forest.

See my next post, #17 The Fog Lifts. Click here.

Thank you, Eric Ethridge for your permission to use your awesome photo of the boulders on the Oregon Coast as my featured photo on this post. You’ll find more of his photos on Instagram: Eric Ethridge.

#15 Escapades, Palisades, Cascades!

As I’ve written previously, the climate and landscape can change almost instantly when driving through these western states. Today was a perfect example.

We left our perfect campsite in Viento State Park (did you read my last post about perspective? Click here)  and drove east along Interstate 84 for the last time, enjoying every moment: (Pause the website background music when viewing videos.)

We exited south at Hood River, onto Highway 35. We had previously stopped at the Walmart parking lot where I saw this view:

Yes, Mt. Adams, at over 12,000 feet, ruled the northern landscape. I was amazed to think of this view at one’s local Walmart! Certainly different than any Walmart parking lot view I’d ever encountered! Probably 40 miles north (by way the crow flies), this is the mountain we had observed throughout southernmost Washington before crossing the Columbia River into Oregon just a few days previous. 

Mt. Adams also reigned in the downtown area of Hood River –  one gorgeous town!  Homes are set in hillsides along narrow streets. The downtown is inviting with some shops open to the street.

A day or two before, Ron and I  had lunched outside one  cute little coffeeshop – then had coffee outside another. I had decided I could live in this town – if I didn’t get “blown away” in the wind. Like every area in the gorge, this town is very windy.  I spent my coffee time writing postcards to some of the grandchildren; the centerpiece on our outside lunch table was a bronze piece called Mama Bear. I knew, in reality, that I could never leave my Michigan kids, no matter how appealing this mountainous area might be! It’s the Mama Bear in me! But I certainly would love to spend a couple weeks exploring this town!

But today was our day to move on and head to the Oregon Coast. There was no “easy” route to the coast, except for Highway 84 directly west to Portland, but we didn’t want Portland, nor the busy interstates, so we chose a scenic route instead: the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway. And scenic it was – for awhile, that is.

As we drove south, we lost our views of Mt. Adams but gained views of magnificent Mt. Hood, over 11,000 feet high. It was within our sites for hours. (How many pictures of one mountain can a person take! ha-ha)

We turned on to U.S. 26, heading south, which took us away from the remainder of Mt. Hood Scenic Byway curving northwest to Portland. This directional and road change also created a landscape change, that of which I wrote at the beginning of this post: “the climate and landscape can change almost instantly when driving through these western states.”

Now we observed a different but equally striking view: Mt. Jefferson. Instead of appearing to be nestled in pines, as Mt. Hood had been, it stood beyond dry ground – miles and miles of dry, rocky surface – in all directions. Mt. Jefferson, in the next 100 miles, left our sights, as the dry ground became hammered into palisaded cliffs. As we travel, if I have cell coverage, I do a bit of research about the area we are traveling through. We are now in the middle of The Confederated Tribes of the War Springs Reservation of Oregon. (Click here to read more about this reservation.)

I read that typically, the summers are not “hot” here, but today most definitely was. Hot. Over 100 degrees hot! My fears of pulling the travel trailer around curves above steep edges, in windy areas, and 6% grade descents on hot pavement quickly returned as we neared Warm Springs, Oregon. (Click here to read that previous post: #10 Mountain-Size Fear) Thus, I was quite relieved  when we finally went through West Springs and Madras and turned west at Redmond.  I had become accustomed to looking at the triangles on the map, indicating mountains, by this time having learned that the mountains and their passes surely meant sharp curves and a multitude of ascents and descents! This next route had plenty of both mountains and passes! I wondered what lie ahead between us and the coast. But I was pleasantly surprised.

We were passing through a stunning range of the Cascades, viewing not only Mt. Jefferson now, but Black Butte and Three-Fingered Jack to the north and Three Sisters and Mt. Washington to the south. 

Pause the website music for the video. Use full screen, if possible:

Sage brush and rocky ground gave way to irrigated hay fields. Flat ground soon gave way to mountains.

Three-fingered Jack
Three Sisters
Mt. Washington

The mountains had one thing in common with the dry buttes we had traveled through earlier: evidence of wildfires. But in the wooded mountain range, the evidence remains for years. Burnt, charred trees and landscape revealed the  large wildfires of 2007 and 2011 – and smaller ones as recent as a month before we traveled through.

(I hope you’re enjoying the background music on this site. )

I discovered that a pleasant drive through the Willamette National Forest lay ahead; Yes, it was filled with curves and ascents and descents, but each was surrounded by sunlit green forests – not steep cliffs dropping hundreds of feet beside me. This last stretch we covered today was Highway 20 – the same Highway 20 that runs 2000 miles east through Angola, Indiana, just a hop, skip, and a jump from our Michigan home. Once again, I find connection with the rest of this great country in which I live. 

This scenic highway is called Over the River and Through the Woods Oregon Scenic Byway:

Its very name denotes beauty, pleasant memories, a peaceful future. It is beautiful – this route through the wonderland of The Willamette National Forest. But my new life in Christ is even greater. It’s the byway that takes me home. And this new life – this beautiful route – can be yours , as well. Click here to learn about that new life in Christ.

Life is like today’s drive – always changing – bringing dry, rough patches – frightening ups and downs – but then times of refreshment. 

We are battered and destroyed – often by our own choices. But our loving Father is waiting, desiring us to seek Him, wanting to restore us to Himself. 

The burnt landscape is

– but a reminder of our lives before Christ 

– or of the damage of our own destruction 

– or the pain and grief the world has brought us.

The new growth arising through the rubbled ground and the freshness of the green, sunlit forests is

– the new life He offers us when we become Christians.

– Or for those of us who are Christians, it’s the restoration He brings when we turn back to Him after wandering. Or the comfort and peace He gives when we’ve been hurt by the world.

We must keep traveling forward:

. . . focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

Philippians 3:13

Enjoy this short video:

Please contact me if I can minister to you – speak to your group. Click here.

Click here to read the next post,#16 Reaching the Pacific Waters – and Unleashing Water into the Campground!