Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas greetings!

Dear friends and family,

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to glance through our blog. The photos should capture the highlights of our year. About half our entries are about our adventure to the Yukon last summer: five weeks, 5000 miles, and two weeks in our canoe on the Yukon River. An awesome experience.

We have big changes in store for us in 2010... Dan is retiring as of January 1st. Actually, he is taking vacation next week, so he had his last day of work on Friday and came home with a big box of stuff from cleaning out his cubicle. He has many ideas, but no definite plans at this point. Among other things, he wants to build a guitar, remodel the Crystal condominium, and take voice lessons. Speaking of singing, Dan was able to sing a sizable solo with Opus 7 at our October concert – and it was in Czech!

I have a new “volunteer vocation” which I love. Last January we began an after school tutoring program at our church. Once a week twelve elementary children from two schools come to the church for two hours of one on one tutoring and some recreation. My part in this program is to recruit, train and support the tutors. There’s actually a lot more to it than that, but that is the part I like best. This work is such a good fit for me, and I’m excited about the progress the students are making. So many of the kids have said, “I wish I could come here every day” and parents report that they really enjoy coming.

Celia and Keith graduated from Regent College and now are serving as short term missionaries in Japan. I have a link to their blog, which is full of interesting stories about their life in Sapporo. Celia and Keith started posting photos and updates on Facebook, so the rest of the family is now making facebook “friends” as we follow Celia and Keith’s adventures. You can be our friends, too!

Colin has been a hiking machine this year, with his biggest accomplishment climbing Mt. Stuart. He co-leads a couple of informal hiking groups and has had the opportunity to introduce a number of international students to the beauty of our mountains. He is working on the 747-800, and has indicated his desire to work overseas for Boeing, especially in Asia. He enjoyed watching the 787 take off on its first flight last week. Dan and I watched it on TV.

As Christmas approaches, we are having a very different kind of experience than usual. Since the fall, Dan’s mom, Grace, has been very ill. She is not expected to live much longer. We have spent many hours sitting with her along with other family members. We don’t really feel like celebrating Christmas, at least not in the traditional “ho-ho-ho Merry Christmas” fashion. But the hope and peace of Christmas are exactly what we need now. Even in the face of death, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Peace comes because the Son of God came into the world to be our Emmanuel, “God with us”.

May you experience this hope and peace at Christmas and all year long.

Dan and Joann

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reflections from Grace's bedside

What an immense privilege it is to sit at the side of a person who is soon to die. When time is short, every moment matters: for expressing appreciation, for sharing memories, for saying “I love you”, for forgiving past wrongs. Regrets are dealt with and laid aside so that one can fully appreciate the sacred moments left together. Sadness is present, but also laughter. Prayer is freely offered and accepted. In the presence of a dying person, it becomes clear what is important, how little is truly essential. With all the trivial swept away, we are open to receive blessings at the most difficult time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Early skiing

Skiing on November 14th??? We haven't seen that for a while. Yeah, there were some rocks, but the snow conditions were excellent.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fall Colors

On a cold October morning we drove up the Teanaway River valley to the trail head for Ingalls Lake, known for its golden larch trees. A few snowflakes were falling as we began hiking. We were not alone - these larches are a popular destination in the fall. They look like evergreen trees, but they lose their needles in the winter after putting on a beautiful display.

Mt. Stuart is in the background.
The sun came out later in the day, adding brilliance to the larches. It didn't do much for the temperature, though.

Colin was making the same trek that day with a group of friends, and we finally ran into them just as we were heading back down.

A prosperous garden

In spite of being away for five weeks, during super hot weather, my
garden survived and we had a good harvest!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dan turns 55, or how to make a great deep dish pizza

While the AARP invitations began coming years ago, Dan is officially eligible now for membership, having turned 55. We celebrated with deep dish pizza assembled by friends. Here are the assembly instructions:

First, make the pizza dough, roll it and then toss it a few times.
After placing the pizza dough in the pan, cover the dough with about two pounds of shredded mozzarella. Then layer meets and veggies on top of the cheese.
Put the second pizza crust on, press down to make room for...
the sauce, which goes on top of the second crust. Bake for a long time, and don't expect to eat much more than one piece.
Here is the assembly team.

Other summer happenings

While we were still in the Yukon, Celia and Keith departed for their short term mission to Japan. You can get an update on their experiences there by checking out their blog.

We picked lots of blue huckleberries. Love those pies!

Colin climbed Mt. Stuart with Joann's brother and several other guys.

We spent a weekend in the Goat Rocks wilderness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reflections on the Far North

During our journeys in the Yukon, we immersed ourselves in the writings and history of the far north. Reading such books as Pierre Berton's Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush and Jack London's Call of the Wild left us quite amazed by the hardships that the gold seekers suffered. Some of the hardships were due to their lack of preparation and knowledge; the Far North is not a place to fool with. We discovered this in a small way while in Tombstone Park. We took a hike into a high and windy area, and had to turn back when our hands became numb.

Overall, we gained a great respect for the people, animals and plants that have learned to live in this harsh and spectacular place. We met First Nations people who still live off the abundance of the land, catching and drying salmon every year, hunting, and using the native plants for medicinal purposes. Museum displays taught us about the dangers of travel in the far north, whether on the river, by dog sled, or by airplane. Animals, too struggle to survive. The caribou, who eat the tundra plants, have found it more difficult to get to their food because the warming climate has caused freezing and thawing cycles that turn the snow to ice. We walked on those delicate tundra plants, sinking in to the soft spongy medium. We counted rings on a two inch diameter tree in the Boreal forest; 140 years old! We enjoyed the brilliant but short displays of fireweed which covered entire hillsides. We observed the shoreline trees torn up like sticks along the Yukon where the ice had scraped past.

The Far North: a land of rich resources, stark beauty, fearful barrenness, wide open wilderness that is Bigger than Life. It is hard to miss the hand of the Creator.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Long Way Home

Dawson Dan and Klondike Kate take a parting shot of Dawson City and the Yukon River.

In a particularly high area, we suddenly saw a herd of caribou crossing the road in front of us. The camper in front of us didn't stop soon enough, and cut off part of the herd. We were able to see this group of about a hundred caribou and also observe another six on the other side of the road. We then stopped at a viewpoint and saw them again on the top of the ridge, siloetted in the sun. Awesome.

The Alaska range. Here's the Alaska Highway at Teslin Junction. Looks kind of like our road at home.

The road from Tok to Haines Junction was amazing. I wanted to stop and take pictures every mile.

Lake Kluane

This is Lake Kathleen, where we camped for two nights. It was very windy in the evening - we didn't take our canoe out.

A passing thundershower added drama to the mountains.

The next day we took a steep hike to the King's Throne, near Lake Kathleen.

Our view from the King's Throne.

On the way to Haines, we observed this moose enjoying her breakfast. As we neared the coast, we saw the evidence of more snowfall in the many glaciers.

We took a short hike through a meadow in an area where we could view about ten glaciers.

At Haines, we found a wonderful bed and breakfast in an old officer's quarters similar to Fort Warden. Our room had a view of the water with high mountains on the far side. Since there were very few restaurants open on Sunday, our hosts invited us to join them at their salmon barbecue. We met a number of very interesting people, both locals and visitors. Later in the evening we went out toward Lake Chilkoot, hoping to see grizzlies feeding on Salmon. We didn't see any bears, but the salmon were definitely there. we had a lovely view over the lake.

After a nice breakfast at our b and b, and doing a post on our blog, we drove the Mud Bay road. Klondike Kate was a little disappointed that the fog had rolled in, hiding the mountains, but it did add a certain coastal feel.

We bought smoked salmon at a local cannery. this would be our lunch mainstay for the rest of the trip.

Later in the day, we took the ferry to Skagway. The fog had lifted some, but the clouds were still covering the mountain tops.
Being the middle of the day, the town was crawling with thousands of cruise ship passengers. We hadn't been in a crowd that thick since leaving Seattle. It felt a bit uncomfortable after all the solitude.

It was 4:30 by the time we left Skagway, and the clouds were still hanging low. We went through really thick fog (in the area where GrizzLee and Yukon Johann went on their fantastic hike two days later). Fortunately, the fog cleared right as we reached the pass and here was our first view:

This is Tutshi Lake. The wind had really stirred up the waves.

We stopped in Carcross briefly (above) and then drove partway to Atlin Lake, arriving at Tarfu Lake at 9:00. After a quick dinner, we took the canoe out. The sun was just setting and we saw several beaver.

Atlin Lake, north British Columbia. What a spot.
We took a very hot hike to a viewpoint in the afternoon. Once at the trailhead again, we headed for a wonderful beach and took a cool refreshing dip.

Back to Tarfu Lake and more beaver watching...
Wednesday highlights: Wildlife!!! This was a looong day of driving, from Tarfu lake to Summit Lake.

This was one of many fires we saw in our journeys. Hot summer means more fire danger.
The Alaska Highway had warning signs about Bison being along the road. We saw about 20. Cute baby, huh?
We stopped at Liard Hotsprings and took a dip in the cool end, which was still quite warm. It was really hot that day, so we walked back to the car in our swimsuits to cool off. Pretty area.
This is Muncho Lake. We had hoped to stop there, but the campgrounds were full. I can see why.
But we were rewarded a few minutes later with our first view of a bull moose! We'd been waiting to see one.
Entering Stone Mountain Park. Named appropriately.

More wildlife: Woodland Caribou
We camped at Summit Lake. Even though it was at a high elevation, it was very warm. We were surrounded by very rugged, gray mountains.

Thursday: We took a short hike in the Stone Mountain Provincial Park, in the northern Rockies.

Thursday highlights: Giant cinnamon rolls, freshly baked.
The heritage museum at Ft. Nelson was a wonderful eclectic collection. We especially enjoyed the antique cars, all of which still run, and were featured in the Canada Day parade. We watched a fascinating video about the building of the Alaska Highway. It was built in 1942 because of the perceived threat of invasion of Alaska by Japan. Military people worked on the original road, which was completed in 8 months.

This was a particularly large black bear, which we watched from the safety of our van.
We camped at Charlie Lake, nearly at the end of the Alaska Highway, near Ft. St. John.

Friday highlights: Chetwynd, the chain saw capital of BC! Dinner at a nice restaurant in Quesnel - something other than hamburgers!!
We left the Alaska highway, heading south on a shorter route toward Prince George, and back through the mountains again.
Saturday we had our sites set for home, with about 450 miles to go. We had been quite orderly during the rest of the trip, but this is what the back of the car looked like that morning. We're still cleaning it out.
We didn't take much time to stop along the way, but we did watch enviously as some rafts went through the rapids on the Thompson River. The temperature was 98, and the water looked sooo inviting. We did find a nice warm lake and stopped for a swim.

We're ready to go back!!!