Indian Cave State Park Hike: April 15-16, 2014

Following two days of rest at home after my hike on the Cedar Creek Trail, I headed out with my oldest son Wesley and my friend Barry and his son Alex on a 15-mile, two-day hike at Indian Cave State Park just North of Fall City, Nebraska. It was spring break for the boys so we were hiking on a Tuesday and Wednesday.


After stopping at a Subway we made it to the park a little after 1PM. We had to pay $5 for parking and a total of $13 for camping. We drove through the state park stopping along the way to check out one of our road crossings. We arrived at the backpacking parking lot in between Trailhead 8 and Trailhead 9/10 and loaded up our packs.


We started the hike at Trailhead 8 at 1:50 PM. A few minutes down the 8 trail, we came across the first of many intersections to come. We turned right and went down the 8A trail, which followed along the river.



There had been a controlled burn in this part of the state park recently. Some of the fallen trees were still still smoldering. Even though it was mid April, there were still no leaves on the trees. The 8A joined the 8 trail and we were headed towards Trailhead 6. We came across an intersection not marked on the map and had to use a map and compass to determine the right way to go. We chose to go right which turned out to be the right turn.

Trailhead 6 opened up to the road. We went right and walked along the road to Trailhead 5.


The map showed at water source by this trailhead and we found it but….the water that came up out of the pump was rusty. As I filled up my clear water bottle it looked like bad orange juice. I ended up taking it to camp to use as water to cook with. I ended up straining it through my pack towel as I poured it into my pot!

Trailhead 5 is the beginning of the Hardwood Trail and it is the best hiking in the park. The trail has been cut wide, presumably for horses. Speaking of horses, it looked like they have blazed a few new trails for horses but have not put up signs. We hit quite a few intersections where we had to stop and figure out which way to go. I do not mind sharing the trail with our equestrian friends but c’mon peeps give me some signage!

We hiked down the Hardwood Trail until we got to an intersection for 5A. The 5A trail eventually re-joins the 5 trail, but it adds a mile or so to the hike, so of course we took it. 5A took us along two open meadows. We walked along the tree line until we entered back into the woods.


We stopped at the first shelter we passed on the Hardwood Trail, but decided to press on to the next shelter about a mile away. After the 5A rejoined the 5 trail in the woods, the trail had us going up and down the bluffs. Parts of the trail were muddy. It was sunny while we were hiking so the trail was dry (but soft). If it had been a rainy day, the trail would have been a muddy mess.


We made it to the second shelter about 7PM. It had a fire ring and a few flat spots for about 2-3 tents. Barry and I went to work setting up our tents while the boys collected fire wood. It was going to be too cold to sleep in the hammock bit I set it up to lounge in before supper. As the sun went down, the temperature started to drop so we lit the fire and started supper. Wesley and I had stove top stuffing with summer sausage bites.



The fire turned into a disaster. Some of the large logs we put on the fire were obviously waterlogged, because they began to smoke terribly. We cleaned up as fast as we could and retreated to Barry and Alex’s tent to play pitch, the older men versus the young men.


The young men won. Grrrr….

It was a windy night. I slept warm in my 20 degree synthetic bag, but getting out of the tent and into the cold wind at 7AM caused me to start shivering. I put on all may layers including my rain jacket to break the wind. I grabbed my sleeping bag and made my way to the back corner of the shelter. I sat on the bench back there and covered my legs with my sleeping bag. I lit my alcohol stove and enjoyed warming my hands while the stove was priming. I heated up some water for coffee and quickly warmed up.



I was up eating breakfast at 7:15 or so, everyone else rolled out of their tents at 8:30. They ate and we packed up camp and hit the trail by 9:30. We continued to go up and down through the bluffs. I enjoyed challenging myself on the ascents, setting a swift, but steady, pace, digging in with my trekking poles. On one ridge we could see through the leafless trees and we spotted a shelter at the top of another bluff.


We have stayed at the shelter before. It is on Trail 9/10 and has a great overlook. We continued hiking until we reached on intersection. The boys wanted to go left on Trail 10 to go back to the parking lot where we started. Barry and I wanted to go down Trail 11 to the cave. We decided to split up.


Barry and I hiked the final 2 miles or so to the cave, which is just a rock outcropping. It does have a few ancient petroglyphs, which are hard to spot with all the modern graffiti and defacing that has taken place.


I wanted to shoot video at the cave so Barry dropped his pack and jogged down the road to the truck where the boys were waiting. After my video shoot I carried Barry’s pack on my front and headed down the road.


They picked me up and we changed into clean clothes and left the park. We ended the trip eating some pretty good Chinese food in a nearby town.


More pictures…
















Cedar Creek Trail: Southern Loop Hike

The Cedar Creek Trail is just outside of Ashland, about 20 minutes South of Columbia, Missouri. My friend Ben and I started out from the Pine Ridge Campground at 12:30 PM on Friday April 11. This was a shakedown hike for me in preparation for my hike of the Georgia Section of the AT in June. It was a beautiful day for hiking, sunny with highs in the 70s. One of these days I will need to practice hiking in the rain, but there was a zero percent chance of rain as we headed North on the 22-mile Southern Loop of the Cedar Creek trail. The trail is blazed with gray diamonds.

The blazes were really hit and miss. We lost the trail a couple of times and had to backtrack a bit to find our way. We had maps and GPS so we were able to pick up the trail again. I guess “route finding” is a part of the adventure. During one of the creek crossings we saw a blaze on one side of the creek, but could not find one on the other side. Flooding had brought a ton of debris to the banks of the creek and we could not find the trail. Luckily other hikers had built a rock cairn marking the way. There would be no way a rookie could hike this trail without a map and compass.

An hour and a half or so into our hike we came across the Nevis Farmstead, an abandoned two-story house dating back to the 1800s. We stopped there for lunch.

We continued to hike North through wooded areas, road crossings, and a creek crossing until we turned West onto the Smith Creek Loop. By 3:30 or so we made it to the Cedar Creek. There is a great campsite by the creek with a large fire ring and plenty of room for tents or hammocks. We spent about and hour at the creek wading in the water and taking pictures. I would have loved to camp here. If I go back I may start at the Pine Ridge Campground and go North like we did, but I would do the entire Smith Creek Loop at stop for the night at this campsite.


After filling up with water we headed on down the trail. One of the things I have learned in hiking lightweight is to drink a full liter of water when you stop to fill up. This way I am carrying the water weight in my stomach and not on my back.


We crossed over the Devil’s Backbone Road and talked to a guy, apparently a local, who was hiking back towards the Cedar Creek. He was telling us a little about the area and warned us that the next section would take us through a pasture, but it was indeed the trail. We followed the trail through a few connected pastures, lost the trail for a bit, before finding it again. I didn’t mind hiking through pastures/meadows or even the road walking, but I missed being in the woods. We started road walking as the sun was going down.

We debated whether or not to go on or make camp, but we decided to go forward. We found a nice clearing in the woods not far off the road and we made camp. I was able to hang my hammock and tarp before the sun went down. For supper I boiled water and cooked Spanish Rice, which I spooned out onto two tortillas and covered them with string cheese. I rolled it up like a burrito. The only thing I was missing was hot sauce. I ate my fill and after supper we enjoyed a fire. As the fire died down I made my way into my hammock.


Here is my video from Day 1:


This was my first time sleeping in my new BIAS Weight Weenie hammock. I got in the hammock at about 10:20 PM and I was asleep by 10:25 PM. I woke up off and on until about 8:00 in the morning. It was great night sleep. I have never slept so long in the woods. I am now officially a hammock camper!

After pop tarts, oatmeal, and coffee we packed up camp and headed out at out 10:30 AM. Not ten minutes down the trail we came across a blow down and an open area where we could find no blazes. With no sign of the trail we followed a logging road to the gravel road we saw on the map. After walking down this road for a whole we finally found the trail again. We ended up doing a lot of road walking on the morning on day two.

By 1 PM we made it to the bridge over the Cedar Creek. We stopped here for lunch and to fill up on water. The banks were steep and muddy, but we finally found a place to fill up our water bottles. A local guy was driving by when we were eating lunch. He stopped and we chatted for a little bit. He told us not to drink straight out of the creek and watch out for ticks. He was right about the ticks. I ended up knocking two off my legs on day 2 and I found two more ticks when I got home. After a short jog through the woods we turned North and we were back in an open meadow where we spent most of the rest of the hike.


We passed some mountain bikers heading South towards the bridge where we had lunch. One of the bikers stopped and we talked for a few minutes. We are finding lots of friendly people out here. We continue hiking from meadow to meadow, most of them connect by a gate. Ben and I guessed that this was farmland or pasture land that was bought by the forestry department. It is not the same as hiking in the woods, but it was nice scenery. I was concerned about getting sunburned, because it was another sunny day. Ben ended up getting a sunburn on his arms and the tops of his hands. We continued hiking and  stopped at a nice overlook maybe a mile South of the Pine Ridge Campground.

We made it back to the trail head, finishing our loop by about 3:30 PM.

Here is my video from Day 2:

It was a good hike. As I mentioned, this hike was a shakedown hike in preparation for my section hike in the AT this summer. All my gear worked great, I just need to decide what gear I can leave behind to lighten my load. I have a number of luxury items that I may leave behind like my inflatable pillow, FM/AM radio, and camp shoes. I don’t think I need the pillow in the hammock. I used it, but I think I can get my head comfortable without it. We listened to the radio while packing up camp in the morning. It was nice, but we could have just listened to music from my iPhone. I took off my socks when we were setting up camp and put my hiking shoes back on and that felt pretty nice. I ended up wearing my camp shoes, but I don’t think I will need them on the AT. I wore my camp shoes (which are Vivobarefoot Ultras) when I had to cross the creek. No need for them on the AT.

Here are some more pictures:






NT Visits KC


N.T. Wright speaking at Christ Church Anglican (Overland Park, KS)

Yesterday was (for me) N.T. Wright Day, the long awaited day when I had the opportunity to both meet and listen to N.T. (Tom) Wright lecture live in person. In looking forward to this event I felt like a 14 year-old girl preparing for our One Direction concert. In meeting Tom, I felt like a pastor from the 20th century meeting Karl Barth. I think Tom Wright is important. In a hundred years when the history of theology is written about the early 21st century, I think Tom Wright will stand head a shoulders above the rest as the most influential theologian of our generation.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the morning and evening lecture. Ellis Brust and the St. Mellitus Theological Centre did a wonderful job hosting the event. Hats off to them and the staff and volunteers of Christ Church Anglican for their hospitality and work in putting together the logistics for this one-day event in such a short time. They announced the event a couple of months ago and it sold out in three weeks.

While thoughts are still fresh in my mind, I want to share some of the notes I took from both lectures. As all Tom Wright devotees know, he talks fast. He spits forth truth with rapid-fire accuracy. There is no way I can transcribe the entirety of his lectures, but I can share a few notes.

The evening lecture was a hurried overview of his massive work on Paul’s theology, Paul and The Faithfulness of God. I am finishing the book during Lent. I should be done by Easter Sunday. My goal is to create an extensive outline of the book over the summer and then teach a 10-12 week class on the book in the fall. Tom has interpreted Paul for the church and I want to interpret Tom for you. So if N.T. Wright has left you wanting more, hold on. A class is coming soon to Word of Life Church.

Here are some of my takeaways from N.T. Wright Day at the St. Mellitus Theological Centre in KC.

Morning Lecture

The Gospel is good news. We cannot assume people are asking the questions that make the good news really good news. People in the Western world today are not walking around asking, “How can I know I am saved and am going to heaven when I die.”

The gospel is a new way of looking at the world.

The resurrection is like a strange, but beautiful gift that causes us to remodel our house to be shaped by it.

The gospel is scandalous and foolishness, but to those of us who believe it is the power of God.

We need to preach the gospel more than prove it. We do not need to prove it according to the values of Western rational enlightenment.

The word “god” is a question mark in our culture. Often when people say “I don’t believe in god,” we should say “I do not believe in that kind of god either, I believe in the God revealed in Jesus Christ.”

God is not distant. (Deism/epicureanism are the dominate views of god in our world.)

There are many tombs to the unknown god in our world.

Jesus reveals God. Jesus exegetes God for us.

Many people in our culture have a passion for justice. We can capitalize on this passion as justice is connected with the Gospel.

Liberal democracy has NOT brought us utopia.

Western democracy does not have a narrative to do justice. Progress, yes. Justice, no. God is about bringing a new world of justice and peace. (Isaiah 11)

We need not a happy triumphalism over the other ways of being human, but a travail in prayer with those who suffer. (This is a picture of doing justice.)

The 18th century dismissed political theology. Religion was to be private, spiritual, and about heaven. The thought was “let us enlightened, reasonable human beings figure out how to run the world.”

The church is to speak to power. (The cross was the voice of justice to the powers that be.)

We get our atonement theology in the redefinition of power.

We have idolized our modern culture. We have become smug and self-serving.

Christianity is rejected by modernism and postmodernism for different reasons. They both deny the Christian narrative. We say history turned a corner not in the 18th century age of enlightenment, but at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Postmodernism rejects all meta-narratives. Postmodernism never sees a turn in human history.

The big story of Christianity is not a power story but a love story.

Thoughts from the Q&A after the morning session….
Paul layers the Jewish narrative for us in Romans that we look through in order to see his point.

Romans 7 is a retelling of Israel’s story/struggle.

In a strange way, Israel was to be the Isaiah 53 people suffering in order to bear God’s image.

Evening Lecture

Everywhere St. Paul went there was a riot. Everywhere I go they serve tea.

Paul pitched his tent near the fault lines between Jewish culture, Greek philosophy, ancient religion, and Roman politics.

God’s new creation has launched through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

In starting communities loyal to Jesus, Paul started a new discipline, what we call Christian theology. This is the central thesis of Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

Diverse people come together to be a family in Christ, holy and united, and they need to be sustained by something new…new symbols.

Paul believes unity happens as these communities practiced what we call “theology.”

Jews did not do theology, not the way Christians did/do.

Be ignorant of evil, but be mature in your thinking.

After Paul says everything he has to say in Romans 1-11 about the Gospel, Jesus’ death, justification, the unity between Jews and Gentiles, etc. he then says in Romans 12 “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

People take doctrinal questions to Paul (and he does in fact have many answers to these questions), but Paul does not simply want to give us a list of answers he wants us to teach people to think Christianly.

Teach a person to think Christianly and you will build up the church for generations to come.

Every generation needs to think fresh and new, to face new challenges in the light of Christ.

Christianity is a new sort of knowing. It is a new epistemology. 2 Corinthians 5 calls this “new creation.”

Every person in Christ becomes a little model of new creation.

God is not an object in our universe; we are objects in his universe. He wants us to become thinking objects in his universe, thinking according to a new kind of knowledge.

What does it mean to be a human being? We reflect God’s love and stewardship to the world, and then we return back the praises of creation.
God wants people not puppets.

What is launched in resurrection is transformation.

Paul’s writing is rooted in Scripture, Paul may quote a line from Hebrew Scripture, but he has the entire context in mind. He was not proof-texting the Old Testament to prove things like justification by faith. Rather, in Romans, he was thinking about the entire Jewish narrative.

The whole world is to be God’s holy land.

Genesis 15: Abraham – This is God’s plan to save the world.

Biblical theology is narrative theology. How does the narrative work? We are invited to participate in it.

Daniel 9: Daniel’s prayer in exile

Combine Daniel’s prayer with the expectation of covenant renewal (Deut. 30) and the promise of a new covenant (Jer. 31) and we see the Jewish expectation in Paul’s day. They were expecting liberation and new way of living as the people of God.

First century Jews were not asking, “How can I know that I will go to heaven and not hell?” They were asking questions about the renewal of the covenant.
What Israel thought would happen at the end of the age, happened in the middle to one son of Abraham.

Exodus is retold by Paul, rethought through Jesus and the Spirit.

Ezekiel 1 is a vision of God’s throne; God taking off (abandoning) the temple.
Ezekiel 43 speaks of the return of God to the temple.

Isaiah 40 speaks of the time when the glory will come back.

First century Jews looked for the return of Yahweh to Zion and none of Israel’s prophets said it has happened yet. It was still a future event. John announces “IT HAS HAPPENED!” John 1. The Word became flesh and tabernacle among us.

Paul says in him dwelt (this is temple language) the fullness of the God bodily.

In order to understand Paul, be so soaked in Scripture (Old Testament) that you know where Jesus is going.

1 Corinthians 8:6: Shema language: The LORD is one. The answer to what to do with eating meat is found in doing theology. God is one. One Lord Jesus.

Philippians 2: Jewish monotheism and layers of theology

“Work out your own salvation.” This is not a call to pull yourself up by your bootstraps…rubbish!

Paul’s task: The new vision of God seen in Jesus and the Spirit.
Galatians and Romans: A new story of Exodus

Romans 8: “led by the Spirit” is language from the exodus (pillar of cloud by day / pillar of fire by night)

Theology is the central task of the church.

Election: Who are the people of God?
In Paul, election is renewed. God has ONE family. (Galatians 3) A new people who inherit the promises given to Abraham.

Justification: not a mechanism for going to heaven

God’s purpose is to put the world right. This action requires God putting people right.

Start with God’s people redefined through Jesus and that helps sort out theological problems related to justification.

Every Christian must learn how to think through:

Eschatology in Paul has little to do with the American fascination with the rapture. A caller to a radio show asked: “How does Mr. Wright think he will get to heaven if he is not raptured?”

Phil 3: Our citizenship is in heaven, but we are to colonize the world with the culture of heaven.

Paul redefines monotheism, election, and eschatology around Jesus and the Spirit. This is all political dynamite.

Power gets redefined around the cross.

Acts 17: Paul in Athens. He spoke longer than 2 minutes. He probably spoke for 2 hours or more. He navigates between religion and philosophy in order to preach the gospel.

Theology is joined up for Paul in prayer.

Romans 9-11 opens with a lament and closes with praise, just like many of the Psalms.

Paul includes his own prayers in his writing to the Ephesians.

Our theology does not lead us to know it all, but it leads us to worship.

Me and Tom, my theological mentor

Me and Tom, my theological mentor

Shelters along the Georgia Section of the AT

In June this year some friends and I will be hiking the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail (AT), a 95-mile adventure starting at Deep Gap in North Carolina and ending at the Visitor Center at Amicalola State Park. The goal is to complete the hike in nine days, averaging 10 miles a day hiking up and down the North Georgia mountains.

One of the questions people ask is where will guys stay along the way? Some of us will be sleeping in tents. Others of us (myself included) will be sleeping in a hammocks. (I will blog on my hammock system after I get to test it out this Spring.)

We will be setting up camp in one of the designated campsites or near a shelter along the trail. The entire AT has approximately 290 shelters along its 2,185-mile path. These shelters normally have three walls and a roof. Many have a picnic table and most are near a water source.

We will camp near shelters most nights. We are choosing to camp and not sleep in the shelters because they can get crowded. There is no reserving shelters, so you could arrive at a shelter one night and find it filled with people. Mice also become a problem in shelters, so we are choosing to camp close and use the shelter to get out of the rain if needed and certainly take advantage of a table if it is available. There are also composting-style privies near the shelters to do your “morning business” (TP not included). On Day 5 we are staying in a cabin at Neel’s Gap. This is a full-functioning cabin with electricity, a hot shower, toilets that flush, and laundry facilities. Every other night we will be sleeping in the woods.

Here are pictures of where we will be staying:

Day 1: Plumorchard Gap Shelter

Day 2: Deep Gap Shelter

Day 3: Cheese Factory Campsite

Day 4: Low Gap Shelter

Day 5: Blood Mountain Cabins

Day 6: Lance Creek Campsite

Day 7: Gooch Mountain Shelter

Day 8: Stover Creek Shelter

Day 9: The Finish Line!

(Side note: I posted this blog and pictures from my phone, testing out the WordPress app for the iPhone.)