Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

It was in the low 20’s with a stiff little breeze. I was looking forward to going into a warm cave (usually 59 degrees at our latitude). From the moment I stepped inside I thought that it felt colder than outside. It turns out that among the many entrances are two large ones, one a collapsed chamber at the top of the hill and the other one where the creek exits, plenty large enough to walk in upright. This arrangement makes for a nice chimney with a good draw of very cold air on this particular morning. At one point the guide was saying that a narrowing in the passage has been measured to have lower barometric pressure and “they” don’t know why. It was too simple. I explained Bernoulli’s Principle and how the narrow section of passage acts as a venturi in a carburetor. The faster the wind, the lower the pressure. It is also interesting that the seven species of bats (five of which are endangered) in this cave are not being decimated by the White Nose Fungal outbreak among bats. The regular exchange of fresh air is probably the reason. The cave also sits at a transition zone where sedimentary and igneous rock are interlayered. Of the several dozen caves that I have been in, it seems to be the most geologically diverse. I enjoyed the tour with my daughter and two grandchildren. It was supposed to be a 45 minute tour, but between Mr. G’s* enthusiasm and knowledge of the cave and our curiosity and general knowledge, the tour was more like 1:45. We as well as he professed to having learned a lot. Check out my pictures at AC Underground and then check out the Appalachian Caverns Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/appalachian.caverns)

*If you want to ask for a tour guide whose name begins with G, then I would recommend him. I don’t name people on my blog.

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I had not to this point ever spent any significant time at Appomattox. If you could only go to one Civil War site to get an understanding of the war, I would say spend no less than two days at Gettysburg. But if you want a better understanding of how the war ended and what the following days looked like, visit Appomattox.

Now the actual site name is Appomattox Courthouse. The nearby town of Appomattox was originally Appomattox Station where a separate battle occurred. Using the correct name reduces confusion but not entirely. When you refer to Appomattox Courthouse, it might be assumed that the surrender meetings and signature took place in the courthouse, but that would be incorrect. It was so named because the little town of just over 100 people included the county courthouse. The signing took place in parlor of a local house. Though I went over the property, history, write-ups, and people of the scene with decent thoroughness, I cannot quite say the same for my photographs. To see what I did manage to record, click on “Conciliatory Surrender“.

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The opportunities to do things with my children have been spread out more as time has gone along. People get busy, new responsibilities and challenges come along, and time is stretched. So it was good to take two short hikes with my youngest two sons and a daughter-in-law. Coming from two hours away and a half hour away, they met at my house at just after 10 AM. We drove to Catawba Falls, seeing four waterfalls in a mile and a half stretch. Along the way there is an old powerhouse built in 1923 by Daniel Adams. (1,2) My son inspects the foundation and well where the generator once resided.

His wife awaits our return to the trail and bridge on this bright, crisp day.

Right next to the powerhouse is a recent pedestrian bridge from which my son is considering the course and flow of the creek. These new alloys of steel that corrode protectively are a boon for non-maintenance. The trees in this area have been left alone for probably 70-80 years and are beginning to grow decently large.

A tributary crosses the trail a little further up. Just below the trail is a large pile of boulders and little waterfall tumbling between the boulders.

To the right of the falls and pool is a curious little cave that would be a good home for a water side creature. Tree roots provide a eerie entrance curtain.

She patiently awaits our silly exploring again. The boulders are fascinating with their significant overhangs.

The Lower Catawba Falls is a double falls, the upper part caused by the remains of the powerhouse dam. The dam is perhaps a 1/4 mile upstream from the powerhouse. I feel sure that this distance along the creek is to gain sufficient head (3), and therefore pressure, to run the generator. The water looks inviting, but icicles lined the edges of the falling water from the 20 degree morning.

The biggest show is the Middle Catawba Falls. It is said to be a 105 feet cascade. I don’t know where that is being marked from, but I’d say more. I have some better pictures of it when I went with my church group in September. (see “Cascade, Not Falls“) Today I was capturing our enjoyment of the scene.

It’s good to see the guys together and happy and enjoying the outdoors.

In this picture of me you can see icicles just up and left of my head. Pictures of falls in full sunlight are hard. In person the ever changing crystals of reflective light are enlivening to the eyes and mind, but my cellphone doesn’t know what to do with all of that light.

I wanted to see the Upper Catawba Falls. So my sons and I figured out a way to get safely above the middle falls. Recorded as 55 feet high, it is the most beautiful and symmetrical of the three.

I learned a little fun activity when I was at Machu Picchu, Peru. (“Peru 4“) I would go around and ask couples if I they would like for me to take picture of them with their camera. Being a cameraman, I know you can’t take the picture and be in the picture effectively (4). Several people offered to take my picture in return. Being by myself and wanting to record my presence there, it was a welcome offer. So this time I offered an exchange. I took their picture with their phone and they took our picture with my phone. Try it sometime. People are appreciative.

On the way back down there are good views and it is steep.

Next we took a 50 minute drive to the Bearwallow Mountain Trail. I should have taken a few pictures of the very open (no underbrush) woods on the way up (5). The large field at the top with the closely cropped grass and numerous variety of towers, both old and new, was a surprise to me. The short grass turns out to be the result of regular pasturing of cattle.

We lounged and ate in the grass and calm air. There had been a cold wind on the north and west slope on the hike up, but it was calm here.

My cellphone telephoto is not good but it does reveal mountains in the county where I reside some 45 miles away ‘as the crow flies’. The little pointy one is Table Rock and the asymmetrical one two peaks to the left is Hawk’s Bill.

The soil is very shallow at the top of this peak and the metamorphised granite pops out here and there.

Sadly, the old firetower is fenced off. It must provide a truly unobstructed 360 degree view.

The largest domed shaped peak on the horizon is Mt. Pisgah. Even my old eyes could discern the huge tower that resides thereupon.

I present this similar picture for the purpose of showing how large the field is. My three hiking companions stand halfway between the two power poles awaiting my return from picture taking.

The wind was still cutting on the north aspect when we descended, but the conversation was warm and lively, like the greening grass and bright sunshine in the pre-Spring higher elevation we enjoyed this day. I am thankful to God for time outdoors with family and hope that more will come with more of my family many times in the future.

  1. catawbafallspowerhousesidephotobuck.jpg (800×498) (wordpress.com)
  2. Catawba Falls Trail Map (hikingupward.com)
  3. Hydraulic head – Energy Education
  4. I don’t consider most selfies to be effective, that is, good picture taking, and certainly not to be compared to a good portrait.
  5. I commented to my sons that the “woods is sure clear.” My youngest pointed out that it should be “woods are clear.” He was right, but it caused me to be amazed once again at the crazy language we speak. I think that the reason I didn’t have subject verb agreement was our use of the word woods. Based on reading, I am confident that past usage was “wood” rather than “woods”. Therefore, the “wood is”, referring to the forest.

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In normal times “Out and About” sounds like a pretty lackadaisical pursuit of nothing in particular. But in these days of shutdown and stay at home orders, it sounds edgy and adventuresome. The beautiful days cry out for you to come outdoors. The first few pictures show flowers my wife and I found on our greenway walk.


Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

This species is so very common in Western North Carolina and so unknown where I grew up in East Tennessee. The mountains are quite the barrier for some things. They are also not to be confused with Mountain Silverbell (Halesia monticola) which I mention in a recent blog about hiking on the Tennessee side of the Smoky’s (“A Brief Brush with Winter“).


Common bloom in these parts


With my wife on the end of the Bridge over the River

I didn’t purposefully play with the focus this way, and in fact, it is one of the main frustrations I have with automatic focus. But the result of framing my wife in the background on the greenway did turn out nice. If I had done it on purpose, I would have framed her in the space just below the small branch that bisects her in the picture. That would have been a very nice shot, which I could have cropped to include a little branch, leaf, and bloom around her on the path.


Unintentional cool effect

My son asked why the lawnmower was parked on the carport. I said that I was trying it out to consider buying it, but then it quit. After a quick wolfing down his lunch, he offered to look at it. He figured out what was wrong in ten minutes. After work he came back and fixed the fuel pump without any need of parts. I have been impressed with how fast he has picked up on “mechanicing” since starting at the local independent Toyota repair shop.


Lunchtime mechanic

Another day I needed to go across the mountain to pick up whole food supplements. I took a quick stop to hike a short section of the AT. I saw no one and was informed afterward by a neighbor that it was closed down. This is getting ridiculous. Largely Yellow Poplar stands are not common in WNC, but they are in ETN. I believe the difference is soil and rainfall. There is a slight rain shadow effect from the mountains so that the average yearly rainfall is typically about 10 more inches per year in ETN.


Yellow Poplar stand in E TN

Yet another day I needed to feed the fish and water the plants in my classroom. Since we are told to not come to the school, if at all possible, I had to take my temperature upon entering. I brought the plants home and a secretary said she would feed the fish. This room has been my classroom for 11 of 13 years at this school. It feels a little like home away from home.


My forlorn classroom

Exceptionally pleasant temperatures and blue skies have been the rule of late. I hope we neither have drought nor crazy storms at the end of it. I have been making actual but slow progress in my running lately. When you are coming back from sickness and injury it is hard to tell how much is attributable to your present physical condition and how much to excuse by being old. I am trying to make no excuses and have no high expectations. I am thankful that I can make any come back.


At the end of my run

Today my youngest son called and asked if I would like to go for a hike. I had responsibilities at the beginning of the day, so we opted for a short jaunt in the woods. I honestly do not understand the mentality of closing trails. It further crowds the one not closed. Is that what someone wants so that there is an opportunity to close all trails and control people? It is beginning to feel that way. Why not rather let people make their own decisions about such things, warning them of the consequences, informing them about best practices, and limiting only the most obvious dangers. That is the way of freedom. Our founding fathers understood that we should trust the populace over the ruling class. We have reversed that and we will one day regret it. Thankfully on this day, the trail we had chosen was not shut down. We came in from a less traveled route and avoided all the more passes on the trail. I did not meet one person of the two dozen or so that did not make and succeed at social distancing.


Ominous sign

The view just off one overlook we lounged on was curious to me. In the valley, Spring has sprung. Here is has only just begun. Notice the unshod trees on the slope behind. The foreground tree (birch perhaps) is just beginning to open blooms. And just beyond is a fir tree. There were a dozen or so surrounding the base of this crag. They were odd because they don’t usually occur at such low elevation (no more than 3000′ at best) and they are totally healthy when almost all others are infected or dead from aphid. I mused to my son that here was an isolated, small stand of Balsam Fir on a north slope under a shading crag where there was plenty of moisture (protection from wind, I might add) and distance from other infected trees. Long may they prosper.


Spring barely begun

Look directly across from my nose, about 7/8 across the picture, to just past the slope down into the gorge and above the main body of cliffs. You can just see Babel Tower, a very worthwhile hike and view (Check out “Reminiscing Romp”.)


Most pleasant day to be out

The climbing area at Hawksbill is a little intimidating upon approach. There is some good climbing here and some hard climbing. I hope to be climbing here again one day soon.


Middle Hawksbill


a mini-ecosystem


The Gorge laid out before us


view over to Wiseman’s View


Roan Mtn and Hump Mtn


Gingercake and Grandfather


Enjoyable time with my son


From Hawksbill across Wiseman’s View into North Cove with the Black Mtns (Mt. Mitchell) beyond


Pitch Pine rather than Table Mtn Pine

I was reading another blog earlier today that suggested that spiritual life is better than physical life. The point was being made to focus on the more important one. I took the point, but took exception with the implied undercurrents. Our lives are not divided. All things have spiritual ramifications, including giving too much attention to your temporal life. But our physical life is not evil in and of itself as the Gnostics were apt to say. Instead, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) Enjoy God’s good gift of a good day but don’t live for it. Acknowledge His work in your life and live for Him, rather than take credit for it or sweat your way through making your own way. He is both pleased and you benefit from the mundane and extraordinary lived out for Him.

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My last post was about my third son’s wedding. You can see the pictures by clicking here or scroll down. This blog entry is a little commentary on stops along the way there and back.

On our way through Knoxville, we stopped to drop off some children’s clothes and baby equipment that Mamaw had gathered from the consignment sale. I got to meet and hold my seventh and newest grandchild. 


Newest Grandbaby


1st 2nd granddaughter


Yawns mean mom will get a break

We had a few minutes with the other grandchildren. May God bless, protect, and know them.


with Big Sister


My son’s former roommate and friend came along, too. He is good with children. As you can see, there was a one-sided water balloon fight.


Water Balloon prep

All things Scottish are greatly admired by my oldest son’s family.


Scottish watch soldier

The masked man next to the little guy was said to be wearing a cape and carrying a dear over his shoulder. Robin Hood stands between him and Maid Marian.


With the artists


The missing, shy, sleepy brother arose from a nap just before we left.

The following pictures were taken on the trip home. I told my partner that I wanted to stop somewhere along the line in order to stretch our legs. We left at 5:22 AM, as he reminded me several times. The sun rose in central Louisiana. Below is the Visitor’s Center in Jackson, MS.


I-20 at Jackson, MS crossing of the Big Muddy


Remembrance of darker days

The leg stretcher was a quick jaunt up the ridge to Neversink Pit in Jackson County, NE Alabama. The sign informed us that we needed a permit to even hike on the property. It is amazing what you can do from a cell phone these days. We filled out the permission slips and had approval is less than 10 minutes. I should have taken a picture of the map. It showed the squares of land that individuals bought to set aside this natural wonder.


Interesting Preservation and Access

The wildflowers were popping all over.


Fire Pink


Limestone has the weirdest looking forms


Not too close!


Neversink Pit, AL



My expert sister-in-law (in identifying wildflowers at least (couldn’t pass up the left-handed compliment, Sis)) assures me that it is Violet Wood Sorrel.


162 foot pit


Would love to rap it someday


flint sandwiched in limestone



Younger brother and oldest son


No expense withheld


In extravagant training facilities

The topics of conversation widely varied, though we are both science geeks. For example, we spent perhaps two hours on the way down reading and discussing the history of the development of longitude all because I made the comment, “I wander why they called it Meridian, MS?” We later found out that it stemmed from an argument two developers of the town had, but the discussion about longitude from 1541 to 1767 was interesting. If you are willing to explore and ask questions and be flexible, then the world has many wonders small and large to keep your interest. And we stayed well away from everyone else in the process. Social distancing is not all that bad.




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It has been a year and a half since we visited our son in Pennsylvania. I felt like I made more connection this time with the grandchildren than previously. We have forgotten how much energy young children expend and parents expend on their behalf. We sword fought, colored, cooked, ate, cleaned and organized, worshipped, ran around in two different yards, shopped, read, ate, recalled, sang, ate, talked, watched film, prayed, ate, played croquet, and cleaned some more.

Two of my younger sons were there for the first evening dinner. I would so like to get the whole clan together in one place, at one time. It is good to see the young ones healthy and happy. I think that their parents are tired. Many changes are coming.


A Stance and Grip on Life Ready for Growth



My Kitchen Is My Happy Place



I took two walks and a run while I was there. A walk down by the nearby creek occurred when all seven of the other people were napping. I wonder if the woods, creeks, and fields have always felt so lonely in the winter, or did we eliminate so many mammals as to make it so. I don’t mind alone, because it gives me time to process, meditate, consider, and request. I also observe much better when I have un-rushed time alone.


The Quiet, Melancholy of a Winter Riparian Scene


Natural Impressionism


Late Evening Winter Scene

We stayed in an airbnb all four nights. I discovered them this year because of increased travel and motels being a bit expensive for what you get. In someone’s home you have the option to cook, which both saves money and allows for eating what you want to eat. The first night we stayed in a very nice home, beautifully decorated with an inquisitive couple who would have talked into the wee hours if I had allowed it. The next three nights we stayed in a clean but very sparsely decorated older home. We hardly saw the host and had the two story house to ourselves for the little time we spent there. It was from this second home that I took a walk at dusk on the second night. I had to include the poor picture of the falcon sitting on the fence post. It was not more than 30 yards away. The small towns there are surprisingly compact. There were probably not more than 20 houses with a volunteer fire station, an auto repair shop, and a few small business warehouses. You could walk 200 yards from the middle of town in any direction and be in a farmer’s field.

I’m sure locals could tell at a glance, but just because you see a buggy doesn’t mean the occupants are Amish. Many are Joe Wenger, 35er, or Piker Mennonites. What is generally conservative in religious circles elsewhere is moderate to liberal in Lancaster County. 


Bad Picture, Amazing Sight


Mastersonville, PA


They do have running lights and headlights

We came home tired and satisfied. Time with family and time in a new place are refreshing to the spirit and mind, even if not so much to the body. God has so blessed us with children who seek Him and occasional opportunities to break up the mundane with new experiences. Life is good, because God is good.

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…and probably the final beach trip of 2018 for me. It was both profitable to my mind and invigorating to my emotions. The previous initial visits, I walked the beaches by myself. I took lots of pictures of the surroundings. Then I went several times with people and took pictures of the surroundings, except I did take several pictures of my wife when we went. This last time I realized that I wanted to get pictures of my newfound, fast friends. Fast has two meaning here: 1) quickly gained, and 2) firmly fixed. Because of the circumstances of meeting these friends, that is, at a seminar in a state far from either of our resident states, it seems somewhat unlikely that I will see them again. On the other hand, since God orchestrated these meetings and good fellowship with them, He may intend for it to happen again.

The horseshoe crab was, sadly, dead. I tried numerous times to take a picture of the flag unfurled just so. This close-up is the best attempt. It had a particular aesthetic appeal with the tall parallel lines of the Palm trees surrounding it and the foreboding thunderstorm backdrop. The foreground Palm trees increased the effect. Sometimes I don’t know how to take a picture of what my mind’s eye is seeing. Perhaps the mind is perceiving more than the light reveals. One of the guys and I went swimming. After just a few minutes it started raining. Wet is wet, right? Well, no, not really. Rainwater is cold, and this time of year, refreshing. But then there is the cellphone and camera sitting on the beach. I managed to wrap them up in my towel and tuck them under my arm so that no harm was done. I should get a waterproof camera for all of the humid and wet days I take pictures. Then I could snorkel with it as well. Speaking of wet, I had a student ask me facetiously if water is wet. My reply was not always. You see, water beading up on a well waxed car is not wetting the surface, so it isn’t wet.  Flying birds among the hardest things to take pictures of. There is so much going on in one cycle of the wings.

I experienced the beach more this summer than in many years past, and I saw things in terms of wildlife and thunderstorms that I had not seen before. It was icing on the cake of learning new things at seminar and meeting new friends. God is good all of the time. Remember His goodness in the difficult times by focusing on His character, on the promises of His Word, and on the good gifts of relationships with people, experiences, and things He has given you.


Old Glory Stands


Unfurled for Battle




New Friends


Swim anyone?


More New Friends


I just now noticed the curious pattern of shells around the horseshoe crab


On the hunt but gliding with ease

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I came to Clearwater for the third out of four training sessions. I convinced one of my classmates to take a walk on Sand Key Beach after class. The weather was perfect for a walk on the beach: cloudy, raining offshore, stiff breeze. He and I had good, substantive conversation. We began noticing medium small conches in the shallow water. They were actually coming to shore and gathering in pods of 3 or 4, presumably mating. We witnessed one hopping along the bottom by a quick flip of its foot that propelled it forward 2 to 3 shell lengths. I had never seen that before, assuming that they scoot along the bottom by foot pressure in the sand. When I picked up one of the shells, holding it upside down to see what was in it, the gastropod (snail-like mollusk living inside the shell) kept extending its bony operculum and running it quickly halfway around the shell to snag my fingers. It didn’t like me holding it upside down out of the water. I also observed several burying themselves in sand in less than 30 seconds. They are amazing animals.

The next evening we gathered a couple to go with us to Honeymoon Island State Park. The beach is strewn with much more shell debris, washed up coral and seaweed, and rocks. I saw a mostly buried “rock” and mused to my friend whether or not it was really a rock. Pushing at the sand to dislodge it, a crab crawled out and back seaward. We found others. Their backs looked similar to limestone but with small projections on their backs. Just back from the beach was a large pond with hundreds of very small crabs scurrying  away as I approached.

My only regret is that I didn’t get into the water. We sure sweated quite a bit on our walk. But it was good to share the beach with new friends. I like new adventures, learning new things, and meeting new people. And I am thankful that God created all of it with beauty, complexity, and variety. One day He will make “all things new”. (Revelation 21:5)


Godwit? Common Greenshank?




It’s alive!


How do you identify varieties of coral?


Just as I found them


It is nice to see a live sea star


It’s not a rock


Abundant life


Put me down!


It leaves quite the impression


I think that I like beaches on cloudy days better.

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Time to head south again for another training session. But this time I decided on a different route a bit out of the way for a three night visit with friends I had not seen in five years. We were amazed at how we picked up conversation as though there had not been two weeks between when we had seen each other last. And to make that more amazing (confession time), I’m not particularly good at keeping up long distance relationships. We have had occasional contact by Facebook or phone for needed prayer or listing what had happened in the last year or proof-reading articles, but these were not often. I reflect that one future day when we stand in heaven we will remember and give thanks for all of the people God put in our paths to help us along the way. Some we kept up with; others we did not, but the moments we did share were of value. So make your moments ever more valuable with conversation about your spiritual lives and learning, shared prayer and worship, all true fellowship of substance.

This couple also has three special little girls. As should be they eyed me warily, clinging to mom or dad. But as we interacted and their parents included me in family activities, the girls warmed up. Dad and mom told me to not expect one to warm up, so I was friendly but gave her some space. We played blocks and I read a few stories. I had suggested that the girls were old enough to have longer stories read to them. So I took it upon myself to ask to go to the library where they checked out “Little House in the Big Woods.” I read the first chapter; now it’s dad and mom’s turn. That should keep them busy for a while. It will increase their listening skills and attention span, properties deficient in many of their peers.

As I had been to the Naval Air Museum, the beach, and two historic forts in the area, Dad and I took an all day trip to the USS Alabama in Mobile Bay. It is being wonderfully restored by the money and efforts of the people of Alabama. I find it amazing how much money, energy, and technology goes into such a war machine for the amount of use and action it actually has. The Alabama took 2 1/2 years of 24/7 to build and had a crew of 2500, but saw action for only five years, shooting down 22 planes. It bombarded many islands in the Pacific. But what would have happened if these great ships and their convoys had not been built. Desperate times require desperate measures. War is madness and passive subjection is suicide. What is a people to do?

My friend teaches at the Roy L. Hyatt Environmental Center in Cantonment, FL. We and his girls went the next day to feed the animals and show the new guy around. The Center is in a major transition with a full teaching schedule during the school year while a new multi-purpose classrooms/exhibits building is going up. The variety of activities and creativity of my friend and his teaching colleague is inspiring. Even with many of their exhibits temporarily warehoused they have come up with new, engaging activities for their students, like a GPS treasure hunt that gets the students to solve environmental problems with science based on clues they are sent to find. They have many donated and injured animals that cannot be released as exhibits and 120 acres of swamp, bog, and woodland that has not been disturbed since WWII. They are doing real ecology with studies and allowing students to see, smell, touch, hear nature for themselves.


1 of 4 USS Alabama Screws


16″ Turret Nest


B-25, B-52, Mobile Skyline


Big Guns


Rings True


Anti-Aircraft Guns


Packing Some Punch


Comin’ atcha


Cruiseliner with Mobile Government Building in the background


But restoration funded by the people of Alabama


Modern Shipyard


C-47 (DC-3 Civilian) A workhorse in any capacity


Where are we headed Captain?


Keep regulation haircuts


Notice the overhead winch track for heavy repairs


Boiler Room


16″ Armor-piercing projectiles


USS Alabama Battleship


The fastest of the fastest (SR-71 Blackbird)


Grounded Submarine


Torpedoes Away!








Exhibit A


Native Florida Lobster


Corn Snake


Pitcher Plant


Actual Flower of the Pitcher Plant


Helping Daddy


High Protein Diet


Preying Mantis hanging out


Smaller Pitcher Plant


The Fun way to get around 120 acres

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I had asked my fourth born son to come to town one weekend and go for a hike with me. It has been a long time since I have hiked with any of my children. He decided to invite a friend from college days. Since it is summer, I thought it would be nice to visit one of our adventuresome swimming holes at the base of Babel Tower in Linville Gorge. It is a steep hike down for two miles. I love to stand on top of the tower, which sits in a severe turn in the river and look down at about 60 degrees to the right and then the left to see the upstream and downstream legs of the river. After we looked around, we went down to the river where we swam, jumped, and sunned. My son waxed reminiscent about past trips that challenged and pleased us.

He said that he liked the other swimming hole we used to frequent better. We still have a lot of daylight; we could go to that one, too, he suggested.

So we hiked as quickly as we could back up out of the gorge. This brought on a discussion (when I had enough breath to talk) about how he and his brothers learned to hike fast, trying to keep up with dad. “I remember the very hike that it changed. You could no longer keep up with us. To be fair, my younger brother and I could not keep up with our older brother either.” But I am thankful to God that I can still hike, and especially since I had a knee injury seven months ago. I have not run since then and could not walk any distance or speed for many months because the back of my knee would swell. But this time I almost kept up.

We went on to Wiseman’s View and took pictures there and told stories. Then we started the car ride around the top end of the Gorge and down Hwy 181 to Mortimer Road and cut across to Wilson Creek in order to hike to Lower Harper Creek Falls. There are few swimming holes so versatile as this one. There are two pools separated by a gentle cascade that you may slide down seated. In the middle of this cascade is a pothole of four foot depth and diameter that the water swirls around in. You can stand in it and even submerge into an airspace under the falling water to hide. The upper pool is narrower and deep with a forty foot waterfall coming into it. Along side the falls you can run off the steep incline at about twenty-five feet up and hit the pool beyond the sloping rocks. The water is quite cold, but the rocks warm up nicely in the afternoon sun.

My son wanted to do everything that we “used to do”. I figured out that between the swimming and jumping and eight miles of hiking to three locations that I was exhausted. On top of that we took very little for lunch. My wife had a three pound roast and plenty of vegetables prepared when we arrived home. There were very few leftovers after three hungry men ate supper. I am thankful to God for the mountains and the health so far to enjoy them, the memories we have of playing there, and the opportunity to show them to others. I need to do more of that.


I wonder if this is where the Babel Tower separated from the Gorge wall.


Friend from college days hopping around on the Tower


Hawk’s Bill and Table Rock


Beautiful day for a hike with friends


Upstream of the Tower just below the swimming hole


Frequently you can see people on top, but I don’t today.


The Tower has 100′ cliffs on one side and another 100+ foot drop to the river beyond that.


Deep pool, various jumps, current, decently cold water


It has been a wet season


from Wiseman’s View


Lower Gorge with Shortoff on the far downstream side


Brings back memories; makes new ones.


Lower Harper Creek Falls


The cascade into the lower pool


The way in and out to the upper pool


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I like the beach. I like the mountains better. I like change of pace, newness, different, interesting. It is the beach this summer since I have to go there four times this summer for training. I don’t really get to spend large amounts of time at the beach (which is OK (See sentences 1 and 2.)), but it has been enough mostly because it has been varied and beautiful.


Sunset at Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FL


Almost looks like smoke coming out of chimneys


Small craft upon the main


The sunset years?


A moment of quiet contentment


Real crusin’


Practicing or Protecting or Both


The warm glow and cool breeze


This scene reminds me of a William Cowper hymn (see below)


Taking it all in






The Airbnb where we stayed


Eyeing each other


Florida Softshell Turtle (A. ferox)


Shade is good


House of William Horton


Ready to make a stand


Hiding out in the shade


It’s alive


Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GA


Old Plantation Live Oak


Sidney Lanier Bridge

Following is the hymn by William Cowper that I referred to in the picture caption above. When all you see is the rain pelting down, remember both that it waters the soul and bespeaks of God’s kind and bright mercy:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

The glow of the sunset high up in the clouds is exhilarating. You most usually can’t see thunderstorms from a distance and entirely in the wooded mountains where I live. The beach affords a wide view. You can watch the rain and lightning and billowing heights and still get to your car before it hits. Frequently in the woods a thunderstorm is on top of you before you know it. Reflection upon God is similar; it requires distance from all that obscures reflection on Him. We need to find perspectives from Scripture, in meditation, surrounded by quiet, reflecting on God’s providence in our circumstances in order to again absorb His beauty and peace in our hearts.

William Horton came to Jekyll Island in 1736 with a land grant of 500 acres, 50 of which was supposed to be in cultivation within 10 years for him to retain the deed. This ‘big house’ was, no doubt, built years after first arriving. There are many more big houses of the rich who owned most of the island in the late 1800’s until WWII when it was evacuated. In 1947, Georgia acquired the whole island and administers it as a state park with natural, historic, and commercial areas. It seems to have a good balance. We may have much to learn by this experiment about how to administer other parts of the planet sustainably. We are, afterall, stewards on God’s behalf, and not owners of this Earth.

There was an old plaque under the ‘Old Plantation’ Live Oak that must have been at least 50 years old. It said the tree was estimated to be 350 years old. That means it was a fair-sized tree when William Horton arrived, very possibly a young tree when the settlers came to Jamestown, and definitely a maturing tree when the Declaration was signed. It helps to withstand the hurricanes that must have hit over time that the branches grow back to the ground to support the whole tree and that the tree grows on the inland side of the island. I want to be an oak firmly planted by the waters of His grace (Psalm 1).

The Sidney Lanier Bridge that spans the Brunswick River was named after the former bridge, which was named after the Georgian musician and poet of the Civil War era. The bridge is cable-stayed where all deck supporting cables come straight from the towers as opposed to a suspension bridge where the cables hang vertically from larger cables hanging in a catenary between towers. More frequently the cable-stayed design is used now because it is lowered cost initially and maintenance than a suspension bridge and now possible for long spans with new, large equipment to set it up. Man loves to design and order things, a characteristic that points to God’s image in him.

All of creation from thundercloud to beach to ancient tree to crab to the designs of mankind give glory to the Great Designer-Beautifier God, Our Creator. We may take great joy in enjoying and working in His grand terrarium/aquarium (Earth). He has put us here to acknowledge Him in doing so.

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…there’s a Gecko in your bathtub!


…Spanish Moss is in every Live Oak tree.


…there is sand and only sand, and it’s everywhere, in your clothes, in your car, in your house, in the breeze.


…the rocks were once alive- coral or shells.


…everything grows on everything else. (Pop Quiz: What is the difference in an epiphyte and a parasite?)


…there are a numerous variety of birds, many of which have long legs and long beaks.


…you can see thunderstorms coming hours and multiple dozens of miles in advance.


…the power company provides places for raptors to nest.


…most of the housing developments have walls and many gates and more than a few screened in swimming pools behind every house (a car in every garage?).

I like different for a change, but it is good to be home where   

   1) the tub don’t have no critters hangin’ out in it. (hope ya ain’t offended by my grammar).
2) the only thing hangin’ in a tree is branches and squirrels.
3) the dirt is orange clay and the rocks are hard with crystals.

   4) the birds are small and sing songs in the morning.
   5) thunderstorms pop up of a sudden.
   6) you have 1/2 million dollar homes and trailers on the same street.
I like traveling and exploring and I like coming home, too. God has created a big, varied world with so much to fill the senses and point us to Him.

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Many of the Thanksgiving traditions of my family are over 30 years old: the meal with the brothers at the oldest’s house, the flag football game, the day after hike, guests from near and far. Many of the children who are now parents don’t really remember Thanksgiving any other way. But as spouses have been added, which means extended families, the traditions have had to flex and bend to traditions and schedules of other families. The day after hike used to be on “Black Friday”, sort of a rejection of the shopping madness for a stroll in the mountains and conversation with family. But this year and last the big meal was on Friday, and this year the hike was on Thursday. Rather than brothers and spouses and children and cousins, it was trimmed down to my oldest brother and me.

We explored a few ruins and cemetery in the Sugarlands of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There was once a thriving community on this gentle slope below Bulls Head of the Mt. LeConte. The sugar maples upslope were a source of sugar and the name of the community. There was Pi Beta Phi settlement school begun there in 1920 with a stone house for the teachers and later a CCC Camp for workers in the young National Park.


Catching rays in the leafless Autumn before the dim winter days


The main school house? The boarding quarters or dining room?


Rest under the plush carpet




Creek crossing


Teacher’s House




Living Room


Beech and Sourwood juxtaposed


Bedload scouring


Both lively and peaceful


Double Duty- cleared land and separated

After the hike I went to visit my 3rd born. Arriving just before dark, we went down to Kingston to see the sunset. Having already set, we walked the concrete “boardwalk” enjoying the fading colors and good conversation.


Too late and just in time


On Saturday I went bouldering at Lilly Boulders at the Obed Scenic River climbing area. I was by myself at first but met up with another climber with whom I enjoyed the day. I was climbing exceptionally well, and truth be told, the grading of climbs seems easy here than at home. The day was perfect for climbing: crisp, dry, sunny.


One wall at Lilly Boulders


Lots of good climbing


Approach Pose

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I am very thankful for a weekend at home. I have been out of town six times in the last six weeks. I am also thankful that I am not a long distance truck driver or regional salesman. My back and mind would die a quick death in a vehicle seat. Last weekend I drove 32 hours in 4 1/2 days to see my fourth-born graduate from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas. Not only was the graduation worth the trip but the Christian fellowship I experienced while there seemed like a spiritual retreat.

The couple whose house my son has lived at the last two semester was where my fourth son and I also stayed. They opened their home and their hearts. The man is an emergency transport helicopter pilot who once flew in Papua New Guinea for Wycliffe Bible Translators. He uses his technical expertise as a witness to how believers in Jesus serve people. His wife homeschooled their eight children. She explained how inadequate and fretful about teaching she felt at first until she remembered her Christian college president’s saying,”Walk with the King, and be a blessing.” That is what she wanted to teach her children and that was all that was required of her. She could relax and live the life of grace before them.

I met my son’s Senior Design Project Professor. He has an encouraging testimony of how God saved a wild red-neck and put him into service to teacher young men and women to make good use of God’s gifts while giving God the glory. 

The commencement speaker was Edmund C. Moy, one time Director of the US Mint in Washington, D.C. With stories from his own experience he urged graduates to be competent and caring Christians. Following are my quick notes on the seven pieces of advice he gave: 

  1. Seek a Mentor.

  2. Find or form a like-minded group with whom to pray and fellowship and witness.

  3. Be trustworthy with the small things; integrity matters.

  4. Do good work; it praises God.

  5. Make a “to be list” to become spiritually mature.

  6. Consider public service.

  7.  Many resumes have a zig-zag path. That’s OK: God is behind it.

Both at the dinner on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon the hosts, other parents, and graduates talked freely of spiritual matters. Several of the graduates led singing of spiritual songs. Another father and I were grateful for the friendship forged between our sons and the hosts’ son-in-law over the last four years, encouraging each other to live godly lives and be good students imparted life-long lessons and habits in all three of these young men. On this Mother’s Day, several mothers told stories of God’s work in their children’s lives and the graduates responded with other stories and thanks for godly mothers and fun times with Christian brothers.

In the Sunday School my son has attended the last 3 1/2 years the teacher reminded us by a survey of examples that the stories of the Bible they had been learning are examples of God’s grace and sovereign plan worked without fail in believers’ lives. The sermon following was given as a series of five sermonettes by the five elders on aspects of God’s love:

1. God is love because He is a Father in a triune relationship.

2. God’s love is expressed in the Old Testament as ‘hesed’, steadfast love.

3. God’s love is best expressed in the gift of Jesus.

4. God’s love never fails.

5. It is difficult for us to comprehend how much God loves us.

I had abundant time to think about all of these lessons as I drove 5 hours on Sunday and 10 1/2 hours on Monday by myself back to North Carolina. My back ached by the time I arrived home and my mind was dull and exhausted but my spirit was refreshed, ready to begin again at the mundane and stressful job of teaching high school science with excellence and care.

Paraphrase of the Great and Secondary Commandments

Paraphrase of the Great and Secondary Commandments

One Time "Richest Acre in the World", Kilgore, TX

One Time “Richest Acre in the World”, Kilgore, TX








Senior Design Project and Senior Designer

Senior Design Project and Senior Designer

An Inventor, Entrepreneur, Industrialist, Philanthropist, Evangelist Christian

An Inventor, Entrepreneur, Industrialist, Philanthropist,
Evangelist Christian













Dad, Grad, and Sib

Dad, Grad, and Sib








Good Aim Matters

Good Aim Matters on The Big Muddy

Waiting in Line for the upstream passage

Waiting in Line for the upstream passage

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I having been blogging since July of 2007. Until the past year I have been very regular, blogging between 1 and 4 times a month with the most being 12 times in one month (need to go back and see what that was about). I have missed a month or two now and then. For 8 years and 2 months I missed blogging 8 months, more than I realized. September is my most missed month; I’m a teacher and life gets busy about then. Since last September I have missed 4 more months. I do not desire to slow down or quit but opportunities and responsibilities seem to keep increasing. So I find myself in a quandry. I don’t want to be so busy naval gazing that I don’t live life, but neither do I want to rush through all of the events of life without reflecting on them which allows me to live more deeply. 

Here I am with a few moments only to record part of a privileged event from April. I went to a seminar in Clearwater, Florida. It was very worthwhile and may open more opportunity and I may comment on it later. But in the midst of 10 1/2 hours of driving there and 12 hours back (There is something surrealistic about miles of stopped traffic for construction in the middle of the night on what would otherwise be a lonely stretch of interstate.), 20 hours of class in 2 1/2 days, and a 45 minute commute before and after each day of seminar, 2 hours on a beach just before sunset was glorious. I ran 3 1/2 miles barefoot to the north end of Honeymoon Island and walked through surf, collected shells, and took pictures on the way back. Such mini-vacations are what I find to be the balm for frenetic schedules. Many people I am around seem to take their comfort in interacting with people and food. As a teacher who happily interacts with people every day (OK, some people are annoying but I like to converse and teach and help.) and sits or stands far too much, I prefer to go “away” when break time comes. I hope that you may enjoy the thought of the break I took in these pictures and find ways to take breaks yourself.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

Honeymoon Island State Park Beach facing south toward Clearwater

Honeymoon Island State Park Beach facing south toward Clearwater

Tide coming in

Tide coming in

Plover or Least Sandpiper in its Winter Plumage?

Plover or Least Sandpiper in its Winter Plumage?

Got one!

Got one!

Working Late

Working Late

Wind in you hair; sand between your toes

Wind in you hair; sand between your toes

Evening Glint

Evening Glint

Day's End

Day’s End

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Culture is an odd and interesting phenomenon. Though the word has now been co-opted to refer to interaction in a business office, the more traditional definition looks more like the http://www.merriam-webster.com first entry: “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time”. Therein is the oddity and interest. That is a very broad definition trying to capture all that goes into a culture. You can mix and match the first three terms (and the “etc’s” for that matter) with any combination of the “particular” last four terms. Try for instances this combination that helps to explore a situation our tour explored in Peru: ‘art of a particular society in transition through time‘.

Pressing out the air bubbles

Pressing out the air bubbles

Painted, glazed, kiln dried, sun drying

Glazed and painted and drying in the sun in readiness for the second firing








We toured the Seminario Ceramicas in Urubamba of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The head potter, Pablo Seminario, along with his wife the head painter, Merilu Behar, developed a style of glazed and decorated pottery that has elements of ancient Peruvian cultures and modern stylistic exploration. The style was further developed by the isolation necessary for survival during the Shining Path insurgence of the 1980’s. One motif that the potter declared to me that he finds ever new is the shape of the arrowhead. As he said, “It was a tool for gathering food…is similar to the water drop or a leaf”. So Pablo continues to explore splashes of modern creativity mixed with hints of ancient continuity.

Moderno-ancient mix

Moderno-paleo creations

   I was temporarily separated from my tour    group because I was taking some pictures in this gallery of creations of the artist. When I exited the room outdoors I didn’t see anyone. I assumed a whole group could not have gone far in a minute so I went to the nearest doorway. When I entered, there was Pablo wielding a small carving tool on a large arrowhead. Realizing I had entered his private studio, I began to back out but he waved me forward, not even slowing the pace of his work. 

Pablo manifesting a new vision of the arrowhead

Pablo manifesting a new vision of the arrowhead


  For the next 10-12 minutes we amicably discussed the creative process. He seemed to be quite interested in talking with me because I had brought students to tour Peru and because I talked intelligently about art and science. I asked several questions about how he begins a concept and carries it out. One question involved the arrowhead, “You obviously like to make arrowheads. Why did you start with it and why do you continue with it now?” He related the request from an art exhibit many years ago that he combine modern and ancient elements of design. This request caused him to reflect on the usefulness and ubiquitousness of the arrowhead shape he noticed in nature as quoted above. He continues to see new things in the shape and strives to continue to grow and so pursues more content in the arrowhead. This discussion led to me commenting on how one should be thankful to the Creator for instilling the gift of creativity. He retorted that it was far more work than creativity. I countered that the work is necessary but without merit if the person lacks the creative ability; each of us should work to develop the gift we have. The waste of potential that he sees as an artist and I see as a science teacher consumed some of our interaction. We also interacted over the similarities in science and art, how each involves elements of the other, and how both center around the abilities to think and work hard. It was one of those moments when we both knew that we had connected in a meaningful way even though before that moment we had been total strangers from different cultures pursuing different vocations and avocations, separated by different worldviews. Our connection was musing on life, its processes, and its meaning.

His life had been one sufficiently isolated from the insanity of the violent culture around him in order to survive and thrive, and yet not isolated from creative interaction, as his collaboration with his wife and 50 potters and painters in training attests. 

Decorating the forms

Decorating the forms with Inca symbols

Main Gallery

Main Gallery








I think that in this discussion and on this trip I discovered a more complete reason for why I like to travel. It extends my musing on life through observation of diversity in nature, culture, thinking, history, distance, science, people, God’s work in the world, and a host of other providential allowances given by a good Creator. We want to see beauty and substance and understand its meaning and purpose. But many are not willing to wade through the meaning of ugliness and triviality to reach the beauty and substance that does not lend to their preconceived ideas of what it should mean. I agree with Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Don’t be afraid to examine yours and others and risk having to change what you hold dear for what is true and good and beautiful and full of substance.

Contrasts of Hues and Properties

Contrasts of Hues and Properties

Courtyard Beauty

Courtyard Beauty of Seminario









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Peru 4

From Ollantaytamba the train winds down the ever narrowing and deepening gorge toward Machu Picchu. The trip takes 1:45 including a few short pauses on siding for passing trains. The gorge only has room for the river and the cut for the train in many places where an extended arm would literally touch the jagged rocks of the cut. Some of the rapids are intense looking and the vegetation slowly increases in density, height, and variety from semi-desert to cloudland rainforest. Students in their uniforms and farmers in their work clothes were headed to school and field. Terraces still hold corn and grazing animals.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

I spent most of my time looking out of the windows.

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Whole Tour Group at the first good view of the city

The Narrowing Urabamba River Gorge

The Narrowing Urubamba River Gorge

Terraces still used

Terraces still used


The village of Machu Picchu is not more than 100 m wide and is cut in two by the Urubamba River and the railroad. Densely vegetated cliffs rise easily 1500 feet on either side. I find the topography the most amazing characteristic of the village and the ancient site. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by over one million people each year. Many details about the construction, location, and history of the site are amazing. Being in a rainforest, the Inca engineers provided it with a subterranean drainage system without which it would have long since eroded away. The temple and Inca rulers’ structures are built of the smooth, fitted stones that are earthquake resistant and yet the Temple of the Sun is slowly splitting apart due to a minor fault line that extends across the concave city green. A wire stretched across the green from one side to the other and made taut by a weight and measured by an instrument indicates that the green is expanding by a few millimeters per year. A quarry on the brow of the ridge was the source of the building stone.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail (25 miles to the Capitol Cusco)

Main Gate to the City

Main Gate to the City

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Temple of the Sun has a fault

Living and Working Spaces

Living and Working Spaces

Llamas wander throughout the site

Llamas wander throughout the site

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)

Steep Real Estate (note the archaeologists in blue)









Chinchilla Chillin'

Chinchilla Chillin’

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Huayna Picchu overlooks the ridgetop city

Hiram Bingham, the Yale historian who revealed Machu Picchu to the world in 1911, was not the first person of European descent to explore the terraces and temples. It was not the Spanish who saw it though, for they never found it. Why? It had been abandoned before they came and conquered the Inca. The actual reason for its abandonment is unknown but the well worn theories about religious, political, or military causes are not very convincing. Our trained Peruvian guide seemed to think that the evidence of syphilis in the bones of some buried at the Temple of the Condor suggests that an epidemic caused the inhabitants and would be inhabitants to forsake the city. It seems most plausible to me since the Spanish never seemed to have even heard about it. Their writings make no mention of its existence. Also, syphilis was a new world endemic disease before Europeans arrived. Epidemic levels of syphilis result from a sexually debased society. A mere 10 years of abandonment would have been sufficient for the jungle to cover all evidence of its existence. Hiram Bingham would not have found it if farmers had not shown him exactly where it was and had several terraces cleared for farming. The Europeans who discovered it before the American were treasure hunters who did not want Peruvians or anyone else to know they had come and gone.


Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Inca Bridge-a secure gate against an enemy who never came.

Farmers were in good shape

Farmers were in good shape








Built in about 1450 and abandoned before 1520, the 140 stone buildings of a construction project in progress testify to both the semi-permanence and futility of all that we do apart from God. Syphilis, war, superstition, drought, or whatever caused the peoples of Machu Picchu to leave give testimony to the ultimate powerlessness of an empire to perpetuate control and forego God’s judgment on evil practices. If we assume that empires and culture are simply short-lived because that is the way it must be, then we fail to remember that this world is fallen and it did not have to be that way. God did not create life for death; man chose death. The enemy is not outside the gate but inside the heart.


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In the late afternoon the bus labored up the steep, windy streets out of Cusco onto a highway and through a gap into a increasingly rural setting. The highway wound from there ever down through a steep-sided valley with occasional leveler spots where villages cling to the side of hills. Chencheros is one such village with walled adobe courtyards along both sides of its streets and no appearance of significant prosperity or poverty. The bus stopped at an open gate in one of the 7 to 8 feet walls. Here is a tourist market for the woven goods of the village, a village where the real things are made. A short distance beyond the gate are pens for llama and Guinea Pigs, the latter having come over from Africa many centuries ago are now a food delicacy and a source for fine wool. Further in young and old Quechua women were weaving various textiles and a pavilion was setup for the demonstration of cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, and drying yarn. Leaves and roots provide for many colors but the most fascinating is the Cochineal insect that inhabits cacti of Latin America that provides deep, crimson red colors. The woman demonstrating crushed the white remains of one she had dug out of a prickly pear cactus fruit between her thumb and forefinger. Swirling the contents into her palm revealed the deepest, purplish red. Boiled in water with the yarn these produce a very permanent dye.

Leaving Cusco

Leaving Cusco

Moving Upward

Moving Upward

Wool on Hoof

Wool on Hoof

Cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, drying

Cutting, washing, carding, spinning, dying, drying

Weaving Alpaca Wool

Weaving Alpaca Wool

Sacred Valley Downstream of Temple Site above Ollantaytamba

Sacred Valley Downstream of Temple Site above Ollantaytamba

  Dusk was upon us as we left Chencheros.

   It was time to head down to Urubamba.

I saw a most beautiful sight as the bus cruised across the upper reaches of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A high, rugged peak to the west combed the rays of the setting Sun into golden strands while a sliver of the Moon looked on from the deeply violet background. A picture would have trouble doing the scene justice even if I could have stopped and attempted a time exposure, much less my words, for it was profoundly beautiful. By upper reaches of the valley I mean that it is much higher than the part down by the Urubamba River. As the twilight dimmed we came to a set of switchbacks 1000 feet above the provincial capital of Urubamba, shining by electric lights in the dark valley below, while the snow capped peaks loomed darkly above pressing down on the small village below.

Peaks 'feel heavy' on the small valley below

Peaks ‘feel heavy’ on the small valley below

Peaks to Comb the Sun's Rays

Peaks to Comb the Sun’s Rays











The next morning we headed further downstream to the village and temple site at Ollantaytamba. The temple site has pottery and stonework evidence of pre-Inca terraces and temples. The Incas never finished their temple site here because the Spanish interrupted their 100 year empire and building spree. This fact actually left abundant evidence for how it was being built. Boulders of the acceptable type to the builders (gray basalt) were quarried several thousand feet upslope on the other side of the valley and rolled down. The Urubamba River was divided into two channels by a central levee and half at a time blocked off so the blocks could be pulled across half the river at a time. A ramp on the near side of the valley provided the route up to the temple site. It was perhaps a 9% (~5 degree) slope. We were told that experiments with a 1 ton block required 180 men to drag across smooth, rounded stones lubricated with wet clay up such an incline. The estimate was that 2000 men would have been needed to pull some of the blocks resident to the site!

Ollantaytamba Temple site, terraces, and village

Ollantaytamba Temple site, terraces, and village

Temple of the Sun at Ollantaytamba with quarry site in the background

Temple of the Sun at Ollantaytamba with quarry site in the background















While we were at the temple site the local tour guide was telling us about the various foci of Inca worship: sun, moon, stars, earth, water, the underworld, fertility of land, animals, and wives, and more. Solstices, equinoxes, planetary conjunctions, and the like were times for worship. In their pantheon of gods and means of worship they recognized the invisible god who created all things. At this temple site they believed that this god had left them a representation of himself in the rock formations across the valley. They built a small, four parapet structure on top of this formation as a crown. Why with all of their worship of created things did they recognize an invisible god, utterly different from all of their other objects of worship? But remember what Paul said to the men at Lystra who tried to worship Barnabas and him: “We…preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17) What was this witness that He left? What the text lists is the very things that the Inca culture worshipped, physical sources of life. And God left further witness: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6) All that those priests were worshipping in the ridge top temples were witnesses to the very God they acknowledged exists but did not worship. How could they have known of His existence? Was it a long forgotten tradition? Perhaps it was but it need not be. They may have figured out the evidence: “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (Romans 1:19-23) Wow! The object of their worship became the snare that prevented them from worshipping the true God that all of those things clearly pointed to. This perspective on their knowledge and lack of worshipful acknowledgement of God helped to inform my understanding of all that I saw of Inca culture in Peru.

Unfinished Entryway

Unfinished Entryway

A Block left just short of its destination

A Block left just short of its destination










The ancient way still practiced

The ancient way still practiced








No cement, no gaps, highly earthquake resistant, not eternal

No cement, no gaps, highly earthquake resistant, not eternal








If you care to come along I will explore another strand of this thought in the next Peru entry on Machu Picchu. Until then, blessed truth hunting.




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Peru 2

An American educated Peruvian named Rafael Larco Hoyle opened a museum of Pre-Columbian pottery in 1925 after his father gifted him 600 ancient pieces of pottery and his uncle suggested a museum should be set up. For the rest of his life Larco added to his collection which is now the Museo Larco tesoros del antiguo Peru. [tesoros- “treasure”] There is evidence of 43 Pre-Incan cultures who were sophisticated metalworkers and weavers and farmed and hunted arid and semi-arid landscapes successfully.





Royal Decorations

Royal Decorations

Amazingly Lifelike

Amazingly Lifelike

A Small Part of the 'tesoros'

A Small Part of the ‘tesoros’

Possibly Cerro de Salantay west of Cusco

Possibly Cerro de Salantay west of Cusco

Flight from Cusco to Lima

Flight from Cusco to Lima




The Andes Mountains beyond Patagonia are little considered as significant mountains by most North Americans and yet Peru features 9 peaks over 20,000 feet.

Salantay, which is west of Cusco standing 6271 m (20,574 ft.), waters much of the area of the Sacred Valley of the Incas by its melting glaciers. Without these glaciers a large part of Peru would be barren. Flying into Cusco, the one time capital of the Incas (kings of the Quechua), is impressive. The airplane has to snake its way in between high mountain peaks all around and drop fast to land at 11,000 feet. The air is crisp and dry. A certain smell persisted the first half an hour until I was used to it. I finally figured out it must be the smell of ozone that forms at higher elevations. You quickly learn that the sunny side of the street is just barely uncomfortably warm while the shady side of the street requires a sweater if you are not active. Sunscreen or a covering hat is advisable.

A Higher Plain (~11,000 ft)

A Higher Plain (~11,000 ft)

Welcome to Cusco, Royal City of the Incas

Welcome to Cusco, Royal City of the Incas










Watch next time for forays into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Traveling Buddies

Traveling Buddies

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For 8 days four of my students, a mother, a grandfather, and I learned about culture and history, and observed wonderful beauty of the unique and diverse country of Peru. 

Launch Complex 39 Assembly Building

Launch Complex 39 Assembly Building

   But first we had to get   there. The flight from Charlotte to Miami flew right over Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Looking out the window for a glimpse of the coast now and then, I looked at just the right time to see Launch Pads 39A and B. At 36,000 feet the 10 story Assembly Building and trackway to the launch pads look like diminutive LEGO constructions. I was surprised by the airport code for Miami-Dade International – MIA. That means something else to me, but I must confess that layovers in airports can feel just like what I thought that codes means.

Stain Glass in Lima

Stain Glass in Lima

Because of clouds I did not see land again until we turned to make our approach on Lima. I must confess that big cities are a bit intimidating, stressful, and dirty to me. I like people but not so many at once. Lima has its own differences. At 10 million people, it constitutes a full 1/3 of the population of Peru. One native told me that this proportion was largely a result of people escaping the Shining Path during the 1980’s and 90’s. Because of cold ocean currents offshore Fall and Winter are almost entirely cloudy and rainless. This combination results in a dreary, humid, polluted, pleasantly cool climate with very little variation at night. How so many people have enough water from rivers flowing from the mountains is amazing to me. Downtown Lima has numerous churches. Most of the ones I went into on this trip disallow pictures, but I did get some in a basilica near our hotel.

Statue and Hotel of Bolivar on the Main Square

Statue and Hotel of Bolivar on the Main Square

The two heroes of independence in Peru, Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar, figure in numerous statues and place names in Lima. San Martin proffered partial independence in 1821 and Bolivar completed the task in 1824. Two other tumultuous periods figure largely in the abbreviated Peruvian history that I received: The War of the Pacific (1879-1883) and The Shining Path Insurgence (1980-~2000). During the former, Chile seized territory from both Peru and Bolivia over a mining treaty dispute via naval and desert battles. Peru lost three ports and Bolivia lost access to the ocean. A tour guide explained that the most northerly port city was returned after 10 years by referendum. The Communist Party militant arm, The Shining Path, committed many atrocities in an attempt to gain control of the government. Desperate times require desperate measures, so that President Fujimori from 1990 to 2000 committed atrocities of equal if not greater intensity to rid the country of this scourge. He succeeded and failed; he is now in jail in Peru.

Kennedy Park ("Park of the Cats")

Kennedy Park (“Park of the Cats”)

After hostilities calmed down I am told that Peru experienced a period of phenomenal economic growth, the best in South America until a few years ago. One reason may be the large number of government employees. Every park and sidewalk has workers who sweep, wash, plant, water, weed, in a word, beautify, and the same spaces have provincial and national police.

Peruvian National Police

Peruvian National Police

Beautification Committee

Beautification Committee








Construction and Prosperity

Construction and Prosperity

Shine and Decline

Shine and Decline








The view from our hotel window told a variable story of economic stability. Even in the downtown area many building are in decline while others shine.

Franciscan Monastery

Franciscan Monastery


A Franciscan Monastery that we toured was more interesting to us for what was under it than what was in it. When the archeologists were allowed to survey the catacombs in the 1990’s they carefully estimated that 25,000 people had been buried there. Bones and skulls in every compartment and such superior structure as has survived several major earthquakes. The tour guide pointed out a “well” said to be 10 meters deep in bones. Everyone wanted to be buried under the church. Believing in the invisible church as the actual body of Christ, many of these bones will not arise at the resurrection, but the magnitude of this scene gave new meaning to the excitement on resurrection day- bring it quickly, Lord Jesus.

Next time I want to discuss the Larco Museum of Archeology in Lima and the flight and first impressions of Cusco. (Note: I find it nearly impossible to orient the text and pictures just as I want them. Oh well, hope you enjoyed my discoveries anyway.)

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18


Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains