Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Wilderness

A couple months ago my buddy Jake and I decided to do a crazy thing.  We decided to strap heavy backpacks to our bodies and hike miles into the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico.  We'd need to filter our own water, brave whatever weather would come our way, and be prepared for anything that could come our way.  Some people in life choose to never venture out of their comfort zone, to rarely try something that they've never done before.  This is the story of what happens when you put that irrational fear aside.  

Day 1:
We spent the night before doing last-minute shopping at REI and Costco, while Mom picked up other miscellaneous things for us at Walmart and Target.  We had all of our new wares and food piled in the garage along with our rented equipment: backpacks, sleeping bags, pads, and a stove.  Unfortunately the water filter I ordered online didn't arrive in time, so our morning started with another trip to REI to get a new one.  We then stopped at Subway for some lunch, then got some gas and drove up into the mountains.  We arrived at the trail head about two hours later, and as soon as we stepped out of the truck we saw a deer.  Pretty darn good start to the trip.  We were starting much later than planned due to distributing and redistributing the weight back at home a lot of times in an attempt to get the backpacks somewhat even.  

The trail began with a steep incline and switchbacks as we climbed to the top of a ridge. When we were about halfway up we took a break and my dad broke some bad news. "I don't think we got the stove in." Not good. Without the stove we can't boil water, which means we can't eat! We all emptied our backpacks.  No stove.  It was looking like we would need to go home to try to find it, which would take hours. Thankfully God was looking out for us (the first of many times on this trip), and Dad remembered that he had put the stove in the coffee can to save room. We had everything we needed. 

As the day went on it became clear that we weren't going to make it as far as we'd planned.  We found a spot to camp so we would still have time to find a place to hang the food away from bears and set up the tent.  
Bear Bag

Later that night when we were eating dinner and watching the sunset, a mother elk and two calves came walking by over the horizon. It was amazing. The hung around for a while, but eventually they figured out there was someone else around and went off in the other direction. It was so cool!  

Day 2:
We got up and going around 8:30 ready to hit the trail. Our next stop would be a campsite near Pecos Falls. After we had hiked for a while it became more and more obvious that our original plan was not going to work. The land was mountainous, and it seemed like we were constantly climbing. There was no way we would be able to climb another 1500 feet to Pecos Baldy Like like we had planned. We decided to stay two nights around Pecos falls and do day hikes to give ourselves rest from the packs.  It was around noon when we reached Beatty's Flatts, the place we were planning to camp the night before, so we stopped to have some lunch.  

Once we got back on the trail we quickly wore out. We just weren't used to carrying 45 lb. packs up and down hills. Whenever we thought we were getting close to the campsite there was another hill to climb. At one point we pulled out the map because we were sure we should've been there by now. We definitely were on the right trail, and thankfully we were close. Just one more hill to climb. I was feeling lightheaded and my legs were numb. I just had to focus. Left-right-left-right-left-right. One step at a time. Somehow we all found the strength to get there. Finally we made it. We found a nice campsite in a grove of trees near Jerosa Creek.  None of us felt up to a hike down to the falls that night, so we just set up camp, had dinner, played cards and went to bed earlier.

Day 3:
We slept in a bit and enjoyed some coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We filtered some water and headed for the falls. We took a slight detour since we weren't sure which trail to take, but we eventually made it. And it was amazing. It was so cool being there just us, our awesome God, and His creation.  We climbed and hiked around the falls and took a bunch of pictures, then we hiked back to camp.

After we got back to camp and relaxed for a while, we decided to check out another trail.  It had some pretty awesome views of the mountains and we decided to hike out using that trail.  

After returning from our hike, a cool guy named Luke came into our camp and wondered if he could camp near us. We said it would be fine, and he set up camp on the other end of the creek. Luke built a great fire later that night, and we pretty much shared our life stories. We found out Luke was also homeschooled and now teaches in public school and works for summer camps. He was full of great stories and backpacking tips. Never know what kind of cool people God will bring into your life at the most unexpected times! 

That night was by far the coldest yet, but once we got into the tent we had no problem staying warm. 

Day 4:
There was a skiff of snow on the ground.

We bid farewell to Luke in the morning, as he was off to see the sights over by Pecos Baldy Lake. Meanwhile we made our way back towards Beatty's Flatts and the trail head. We ended up hiking even more than the second day, but this time it was mostly downhill which was much easier. We stopped for lunch by a really neat creek. Man, Korean BBQ Pork Jerky sure tastes good. 

By the end of the day we once again were nearly exhausted. We found some evergreen trees to camp in up on a ridge and settled in for our last night in the wilderness.

Day 5:
We started the morning by reflecting on the trip over coffee. Dad asked us what our favorite part of the trip was. Jake and I said the elk and the falls were our favorites. Dad said he was just happy we did it. We accomplished it. We relied on our instincts and survived in the wilderness on our own for five days. (With help from our equipment and food of course. We aren't quite Bear Grylls yet.;-)) We ran into Luke again on the trail and exchanged e-mail addresses. We had a fairly easy hike out since we made it so far the day before. We enjoyed more spectacular views and colors.

We made it back to the truck around 12:30. We called our moms so they could stop worrying, then went to Dairy Queen for a celebratory lunch.  

One morning in the wilderness I read in the book of Psalms. People often think roller coaster emotions and ups and downs are a bad thing. I was amazed at the Psalmist's transitions from happiness and thankfulness to anguish and sadness from chapter to chapter. It was then that I realized that life is kind of like a backpacking trip. There are amazing highs, like seeing the elk and the falls. But there are also lows. There will be exhaustion, and areas where we must struggle to meet our goals. One thing to always keep in mind? Keep on hiking. God always has a surprise waiting for us on the other side of the mountain.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Sorry for the long gap in posting, I've been busy with various adventures summer, so I'm going to take all of my activities and lump them into one giant post.  Feel free to skim.=P

The summer began with a trip to Colorado Springs, for NITOC.  The road trip was great, and the tournament was a great time for reconnecting with friends.  I did fairly well in debate.  However, despite feeling I did well with my speeches, I didn't move on.  It served as a great reminder that our successes have very little to do with how well we think we perform, but rather they depend on the grace of God.  If you think about it, this truth applies to all areas of life, not just speech and debate.  God puts us where he wants us to be, not where we think we deserve to be.  God also reminded me that His plans are always better than our plans.  Since I didn't break, I had a lot of time to go watch other speeches.  This gave me a great opportunity to support my friends, and meet and chat with some cool people that I probably wouldn't have had time for if I was trying to rush to a round.  Overall, the tournament was a great life lesson and a great time with friends.

The next big event was the NCFCA National Championship in Minnesota.  The tournament I'd been working towards all year long.  I wanted to make the most of it, as I knew many of my friends were graduating, and it would be a long time before I would see most of my Region 2 friends again.  The tournament was amazing.  From a great drive over, to John Branyan's comedy, to placing 6th in extemp and 4th in LD speaks, to playing frisbee in the sprinklers at 11 at night it was one of the best weeks of my life. 

After arriving home, there would be no rest from speech and debate as it was time to prepare for the Boise speech and debate camp!  God used the camp to put me in a position to mentor young speakers who were just beginning to be introduced into NCFCA.  What an amazing opportunity!  I could see tremendous potential in them, and it was so cool to be able to see them grow in their confidence and abilities even just during the course of a week. 

The week after camp, moving became more and more of a reality as the truck came.  We had very nice movers who worked very hard during the week.  After the house was empty, my dad flew up from New Mexico to sign the papers.  It was hard to drive away from the place we had lived for the past eight years.  As I look back on all of the songs I had written in that house I realized the story that they tell.  I am not the same person I was eight years ago.  I'm much closer to the person I want to be, but I still have a ways to go.  I know the move and my experiences the next few years will also work to change me for the better, and add to my life story.  I miss the people in the Northwest every day, but at the same time I know this is where I am supposed to be.  Sometimes God puts us in a place that we don't necessarily want to be, but He does it to help us to become more like Him.  The Israelites didn't like wandering through the desert for forty years, but God used it to prepare them for the promised land.  I know God has the perfect plan for my life as well, and He will use these experiences to shape me into who He wants me to be.  What an awesome adventure He has for all of us!

After spending about a week in Santa Fe, I had the awesome opportunity to fly up to northern Idaho for the TP camp in Post Falls.  I got to stay with my very good friends, the Pauls, and I was able to see many of my Region 2 friends one more time.  It's very cool when it feels like your friends are more like your brothers and sisters than just friends.  I also was able to practice debating with my new debate partner Josh, which I think will really help us as we compete this year.  Simply an amazing week with amazing people.  I feel very lucky to know them.

After debate camp ended, I flew out to Oregon.  The morning I flew in, I got to hang out with another one of my good friends from debate, and then I went to the coast for five days with my old band mates from Boise.  We had an awesome time playing badminton, poker, and jamming on guitars.  We also got to see a lot of the sights along the coast.  Such a cool place.

As a write this, I'm back in New Mexico and the summer's adventures have come to a close.  Another year of school is in front of me.  Life the next year is starting to look extremely boring compared to last summer.  I am determined to change that, though.  I'll use my spare time to record my first CD with the songs I wrote in Boise, and I'll prepare for my last year in debate.  A lot of doors close after this year.  I'm going to make the most of them while they're still open.

The promise I remind myself of:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.-Jeremiah 29:11.

God bless, everyone.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Wow, where did time go?  It seems like not too long ago I was a five-year-old boy playing by the river in Montana, and riding with my dad on the tractor.  Now, I've lived on this earth for 17 whole years.  I need to worry about college, work, money, etc.  But it is a good life, and growing up comes with a lot of advantages.

As I look back on my 16th year on this earth, I see myself making a lot of mistakes.  And I see God's blessings and forgiveness in spite of those mistakes.  He's blessed me with the best friends in the world, an amazing family, and has provided for my every need.  And the amazing thing is He's already providing opportunities for me in the "unknown" of New Mexico.  He's already given me a TP partner for next year, a speech club to work with, and I have no doubt He'll find the perfect place for us to live, and hopefully a job opportunity for me.

One of the biggest blessings as I look back on my 16th year happened just last week.  About the only word that comes to mind as I think about last week is: "Wow."  Even as I look back on it I still struggle to gain a perspective.  It's incredible to see how much I've grown this year, not only in speech but spiritually.  I don't think it's fully sunk in that this was my last Region 2 tournament, and that I might not ever see some of these incredible people again.  I'm so happy to be able to go on to nationals, to spend another week with some of these people.  The friendship's I've formed in Region 2 are worth far more than an award.  It's going to be so different going to a tournament without these familiar faces, but I know that I'll be able to stay in touch with most of them through modern communication and I'll also make new friends in Region 3.

Last summer was by far the best summer of my life.  I want to top that this year.  In the year ahead I want to make the most of every opportunity, be a blessing to others, not let love go to waste, make a difference, come up with goals for what I want to do with my life, and have a positive attitude with everything.  That is the good life, and I hope all of you will join me in this endeavor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stoa tournament and Oregon

Well this last week was awesome.  First I went to a Stoa tournament in Seattle area, then got to spend the day with two of my best friends on the Oregon coast, then I got to visit Corban University in Salem for my very first college tour.

Well, let's start with the tournament.  First of all, I'm sick of the NCFCA vs. Stoa debate.  Both Stoa and NCFCA are legitimate leagues.  I have my reasons for preferring NCFCA, however I can see from an administration standpoint, and the fact that they have a more accessible National Championship why many prefer Stoa.  So why can't we just leave each other alone?  I've heard numerous competitors and even parents and tournament staff from each league insulting the other.  We're both supposed to be Christian organizations, so why can't we treat our "rival" league with a Christlike attitude?  I'm not calling out any specific people here, but I'm talking about the general attitude that I've seen at competitions.  Anyway, the "rant" part of this post can be over now.:P

So about the tournament.  I ended up going 5-1 in prelims, which surprised me.  I didn't think I did nearly that well due to the different resolution.  Besides that, my friend Drew got 1st place in LD, which was definitely the highlight of the trip.  I also did well in my persuasive and expository (IO).  God definitely used both of those speeches to make a difference in the lives of people at this tournament, and for that I am very thankful.  It's amazing how God can use us sinners to be His messengers, even if our hearts aren't always in the right place.

Then the Oregon Coast was incredible!  There's something about the ocean that always amazes me.  This was my first time to the Oregon coast, and I'm already hoping to go back this summer.  We also got to see our good friends in Cloverdale, which was a blast, even though it was short.

And then, the college.  Going on the tour was a bit intimidating, but the prospect of college life is also very exciting.  I love Oregon, so going to college there would be really cool, but it's also a long way from New Mexico, so we'll see...  All of my options are still open at this point.

So yeah, long story short: Awesome week.


Thursday, April 5, 2012


Well it's official.  We'll be moving to New Mexico in July or August.  This will definitely been an experience, as it's been 8 years since I last moved.  I remember it well enough to recall that moving means a lot of lasts.  So some lasts that are soon to happen:
-Last day in the Boise house.
-Last Region 2 NCFCA tournament.:(
-Last Sunday at VLCC.
-Last time I'll suit up for my football team. (Sadly, that one's already happened...)
-Last day as a part of Firm Foundation Speech and Debate.
...and many more that I'm just not thinking of right now.

However, moving also means there will be a lot of firsts.
-First day exploring NM.
-First Region 3 tournament.
-First day for my dad in his new job. (a HUGE blessing for him)
-First night in a new house.
-First new friend in NM.
-First job for me in NM. (Hopefully!:))
-First day in new debate club. (Hopefully!:))

Well, moving sucks.  There's no denying that.  But it also creates a ton of new opportunities.  Maybe it's just what I need.  So, in light of that, I'm not going to focus on the lasts.  The next few months will be hard, but I'm going to choose to focus on the firsts.  God wants me in NM for a reason, so I'm going to focus on figuring out what that reason is.

Monday, April 2, 2012

WA Open

Another tournament is now over, and I'd say my first national open was a great success!  Not only did I place well in all of my events, but one of my good friends from club qualified to Nationals in OI!

But, now begins the "tournament hangover" that comes after tournaments.  The time when the exciting break announcements, road trips, and philosophical chats with friends are over, and the boring schoolwork returns.  Not fun.  But, as Dr. Suess said, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."  I think I'll go for a run and enjoy a fine day in Boise.  They are getting fewer and fewer....

I can also look forward to Regionals and, Lord willing, Nationals.

Keep on being awesome, speech tournaments!:D