Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let’s Take a Shortcut

Those words make Ardella plant her feet on the ground like she is glued there and her eyes pinpoint deep into mine. I can’t understand why! A shortcut in the woods is full of unknown adventure and surprises. It can really liven up a day; create lifetime memories.

One fall, our son-in-law Thane, Ardella, and I headed into a high basin to hunt. Thane and I had archery tags for elk and Ardella took her rifle for bear. We walked in using an old road that was grown up with alder so it took a while to reach our destination. I think the only game we saw was a mule deer bounding off into the brush and way too soon it was time to leave this remote spot and head back to the truck. As we started to head back down the road I noticed a dry creek bed that dropped off the mountain side and looked inviting. It would save us miles of walking the road and it came out right by the truck. How could we go wrong? Ardella didn’t quite agree for some reason. Of course Thane understood my sound judgment and thought it would be great. Thane took the lead and all went well for about one hundred yards then the dry creek plunged off the mountain. We were soon in a small canyon the stream had cut into the rock formation and the walls crept higher. Ardella was following me and I could hear her mumbling words like crazy, idiotic, unbelievable. I think it was caused by high altitude sickness or maybe because the light was fading and the little canyon getting tighter. Suddenly Thane stopped and told us there was a ten foot drop off which in the spring would have been a great waterfall. He slowly climbed down the rock wall and made it fine. I turned and look at Ardella and decided I should take her rifle for safety reasons. Not hers, ours!

I tried to cheer up us by saying we could proudly claim no other people had probably ever set foot where we were going. It was like making history! Now I know how Lewis and Clark felt. We ran into a pine marten that was very surprised to see human life in this rocky domain. Finally just as the last light was leaving the day, we bumbled out at the truck and a bear greeted us with a loud woof as it rocketed down the mountain side.

Shortcuts can be dangerous too. Late in the deer season many years ago, pre four wheel drive days, I walked up a Forest Service road early one morning. It had snowed about fifteen inches that night so I left the Luv pickup at the bottom along the lake. After walking a mile an a half, I cut some fresh deer tracks and soon took a large doe. I tied a rope around her neck and proceeded to drag her back to the truck. The doe was easy to pull but when I arrived at a curve, the truck was visible straight below me. I decided to take her over the side even though it was very steep, to save a half mile of dragging. Instead of me pulling the doe; she was pulling me and we were soon sliding down the mountain making good time. She hung up on a small tree and I was going to flip her loose when I noticed the slope seemed to change. I let go of the rope and let her go and the doe disappeared from sight. I carefully lowered myself a few feet and discovered she had plunged off a one hundred foot cliff. Had I followed holding the rope, I would have gone with her and been badly injured or killed. I slowly worked my way to the doe and pulled her to the truck without incident.

We are tempted to shortcut many things in life in this fast paced world. Usually it results in a wreck. The worst is leaving God out of our daily life. Most people want Him only when a disaster strikes. Jeremiah says ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it. God is concerned about our path of life and wants to show us the good way. That means there is a bad way, concealed by Satan to look good. Oh, we are so tempted to take those paths, those shortcuts. Ask God to help you with the good path and you will discover He is waiting for you. Prayer is a great way to start. Then listen for His reply.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Walk In The Park

Saturday we went with our daughter Connie and her husband Thane to Farragut State Park. It was an absolutely fabulous day with sunshine and temps in the 60’s. As we ate lunch, a bald eagle soared on the warm thermals above the calm blue waters of Lake Pend Oreille. It is a place of peace and tranquility and many people were like us who brought the family dog along to enjoy the afternoon. In fact, I think it was golden retriever day at the park. Maddie and Sadie enjoyed meeting the other red dogs but Sadie growled at other breeds. Sadie and I walked out on the docks where you can look down and see the bottom of the lake fifty feet below. I felt blessed to live where the water is so clean and clear.

Farragut is a recreational area that draws outdoor enthusiasts from Idaho and Washington. You can mountain bike on miles of trails, bring you horses for trail rides, llamas for pack trips, dogs for walking, fly model airplanes, play horse shoe, camp, boat and fish, and play disc golf. The park’s origin was far different. Farragut was established during WWII as a naval boot camp and training center. Thousands of sailors trained there before shipping off to war. Not much is left of that era; mainly a water tower and a large one story building that was a brig. A memorial has been erected to those who served in the war and as I touched the sailor a realization swept over me that I was touching history. I had the privilege to personally know a few men that trained at Farragut and on Saturday I said a silent thank you to them. Their sacrifices make it possible for us to enjoy picnics and a walk in the park.

I had different plans for Saturday, working in the shop on an order and possibly fishing later in the day. God had other plans for me. He knew it would be better for me to rest and enjoy the warm day with the family. Being a work a holic, it would have been easy for me to come up with some excuse; but I knew God thought differently. I could feel Him nudging me to go. John Eldredge has a new book out called Walking With God. John says we can’t walk with God if we don’t listen for Him. Unfortunately, many of us busy ourselves with work and meaningless activities so we miss out hearing from the Father. Then there are those people who don’t think God wants to communicate with us. He sent Jesus to offer us life; now and eternally. Jesus told his disciples that they would be hearing from the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. They did and so can we if we are tuned in to God! It requires us to take the clutter out of life and really seek the Father. Through quite time, reading the Bible, and prayer we can hear the voice of God. What will surprise you is the voice is like hearing from a friend.

Through a simple walk in the park, I heard from God!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Exploding Caribou and Other Alaskan Phenomenon

Alaska is a vast region of unique people, wild animals, and an environment that can turn hostile in a minute. I thrived on the wildness that was beyond my control. Our society tells us we need to be in control; too bad these people have never experienced a month in the Alaskan bush where time of day means nothing and people are toward the bottom of the food chain. That helps put life in perspective.

Early one fall I was guiding two hunters from Wisconsin so the weather was still warm and the insects wanted to suck out all our blood. On the second day of their hunt a big bull with a small band of cows popped up in front of us about noon. One of the hunters immediately put the bull down so we propped it up for a photo shoot. We took rolls of film from all angles often with the hunters sitting on the bull. Caribou bloat up fast due to the lichen they consume and this one started resembling a balloon that would float off across the tundra. I said we better get to dressing the bull so we could get all the meat to camp before dark. We skinned out one side and were going to remove the legs and loins before I attempted to remove the entrails. I thought I would save the worst for last. As I was working my knife around the pelvic socket the blade point made a small slit in the abdomen. Instantly a piece of intestine popped through and exploded green goo all over my face. Both hunters jumped back and I’m surprised they didn’t crack up and roll on the ground in hysterics. I quickly became a fly magnate and a black swarm followed me all the way to camp. I stripped down, waded into the cold lake, and took a bath. As I thought at least nothing else can go wrong today; a game warden landed his helicopter in camp and wanted to see all our hunter’s paperwork.

Night wasn’t the best time to take a stroll on the tundra especially when there were grizzly bears feeding after dark on recent caribou kills. I was the one guide that usually came in last, often guided by a head lamp. The lichen was snow white because of the high phosphorous content and gave off a glow so we could traverse without lights many nights. A spectacular night show was the northern lights that would dance in green, red, blue, and bright white. We would often bring out chairs to watch this amazing heavenly display. There is something about the earth’s magnetic field that pulls in meteorites in record numbers. One night as we were setting up tents at midnight, a spectacular flash made everything look as midday. We exclaimed, “Wow”!

Unlike much of the lower forty eight states, Alaska hasn’t been tamed. It is big, wild and threatening just the way God intended. God formed wild places because he is a wild Creator. Our God isn’t some phony wimp. Psalm 104 says, “He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations, it can never be moved.” Yes, our God is a wild God! If you want to have a wild life, grab hold of Jesus’ hand and hold on. Peter did and never looked back.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Twelve foot Bear

Sometimes, things are not like they seem. People are known to stretch the truth or create an illusion of the real events. Even my title did; I should have written bear at twelve feet. You were probably envisioning a monstrous brown bear with snarling teeth. But this was a nine foot bear just ambling down the shoreline looking for salmon.

It was early September and I was dropped of with two archery hunters on a remote lake in the Togiak Wildlife refuge who had come to pursue brown bears. I had never been there before so the outfitter told me to set up camp midway on the lake which was about four miles long. I found a fairly level site in some aspen trees where we could blend in without the bears knowing we were there. The only trouble was a well used bear trail went through the camp. I put up the clients tent and set up the cook tent so we could have dinner that evening. Night descended upon us before I could set up a tent to sleep in so I spent the first night in the cook tent. As we settled in to sleep a bear started fishing for salmon just forty yards from the tents. We heard sploosh, sploosh for about an hour as the bear caught salmon. This raised the adrenaline level of the clients as I told them to be very quite so the bear would stay and fish. The next morning those two guys couldn’t talk about anything except the bear. I asked them if they heard the one that came up the path at midnight and woofed at us camped on his trail. Their eyes got big and said “No”! Later that day Justin the outfitter flew in to join us for the hunt which started the next day.

The next morning we were in the cook tent finishing up breakfast and planning the days hunt when the seagulls became very noisy so I went outside to take a look. One hundred years from camp appeared a nice brown bear walking the shoreline. Both hunters were still in their long underwear and stocking feet. I ran back into the tent and whispered, “Bear coming down the shoreline”. They both ran to their tent to retrieve the bows. One guy was so excited he couldn’t get his gear together so the other hunter, Paul got ready to shoot. We positioned ourselves just above the gravel shore as the bear closed the distance. It was walking directly at us so Paul could not shoot. The bear passed under an alder bush beside us and stopped. Paul released an arrow at the bear now just twelve feet away. Our hearts were pounding as the bow launched the arrow into the lung area. We were very relieved when the bear turned and ran off into the brush. An hour went by before we followed its trail. The bear was dead sixty yards from camp.

We propped the bear up to take photos and a video. By now both hunters had dressed and collected their equipment. Paul wanted us to video him as he explained how he harvested the bear for promotional purposes. First he said the camouflage scent lock clothing worked great as the bear never smelled him at close range. When Paul shot the bear he was wearing blue long johns and wool socks. He said the broadhead performed great by penetrating deep. It was an expandable head which on contact with the heavy hair slowed the arrow down and only about one third of the arrow made it into the chest cavity. He brought out some other gear that supposedly was used to harvest his trophy. Even the manufactures of the products he was promoting wouldn’t know the story wasn’t true. The video made it look like the truth.
Truth is hard to come by in today’s world. We become so accustom to lies and half truths that soon people believe just about anything. Politicians tell us what we want to hear to sooth our minds. Hollywood wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them on the rear. Unfortunately, some churches even conceal the truth so they won’t upset their members. They water down the Bible to make it sound good. Others completely dispel parts that are hard to accept; like some of the miracles and teachings of Jesus. Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way, the originator of truth, and life without Him is like a dead man walking. Jesus has a deep compassion for us and wants to reveal what an amazing life we can have with him. The Bible uses the word truth over two hundred times because God is Truth. Let God fill you up.