July 31, 2012

Pardon the extended break

Hi there!  It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted and there have been several good reasons for it.  We took 700 pictures during our three days at the Grand Canyon, and by we, I mean my husband took pictures from his new Nikon digital SLR camera, as well as me.  The kids and I took turns using are small digital camera to take pictures and, when the batteries on both of those were exhausted, my husband and I used our iPhone cameras.  And they are beautiful, breathtaking pictures, at least most of them.  However, they are mostly of rocks and, really, how many pictures of rocks do you need to see?  And which picture of rocks would interest all ten of you who read my blog?

But what pulled me away from pondering these "very important questions" was some work as a result of a my new role at church. I was asked to coordinate all of children's ministry for our church.  I had been coordinating the elementary group for the last six months to help the woman who had been coordinating the entire group for the last year as the church began.  Because our church is a church plant, we really only have two different children's ministry groups:  younger than five and 1st through 6th grade.   When the coordinator of nursery gave notice a month or so ago, our pastor asked me as co-coordinator to start praying for a replacement.  At that time, I felt God put a big bulls-eye on me for the job, but the idea scared me to death and I wasn't being asked, so I didn't volunteer. Coordinating this can be a big job, even for a church small enough only to have the children divided into two groups:  kids younger than six and elementary age kids.  However, whenever God targets you for a job, it is EXTREMELY difficult to avoid doing it.  Even running away didn't help Jonah.  After praying with my husband, who made me promise to step down as a teacher, we agreed that this was God's job for me at the church.  As soon as I was given the job, there were some big projects to complete in a short amount of time, mainly getting enough people helping out in nursery, train them and do the required background checks.  And thus The Blog That Would Be the Definitive North Rim Grand Canyon Picture and Commentary Blog was postponed for God's work.

And now, I am going to give a brief homage to the Children's pastor at our Illinois church, Jan Meuth.  I worked with Jan for roughly ten years, on and off, in between getting married and having babies.  I worked with kids from babies up to 5th graders to help her out.  At the her good-bye luncheon, I told her that I didn't work so long with her out of sense of duty, but because she always cast out such a wonderful vision for Kid's Ministry that you wanted to be a part of it. She could be detail oriented, but she was also good at recruiting people to work out the details of her vision.  She was so gracious and so generous with her wisdom and she was great at communication.  Her fingerprints, along with God's, will be all over the way I coordinate our Kid's ministry program.  I hope someday to be half as good as she was in my new role.  Thank you, Jan Meuth, for all you shared and taught me.  May God continue to bless you and your family.

July 14, 2012

First morning: Walking the Transept Trail

I promise you that this won't be like a Charles Dickens novel which can sometimes go on endlessly because he was paid by the word.  My idea was to create a movie in Picasa with a bunch of photos and upload it to my blog.  I had difficulty accomplishing this last year, so I wasn't surprised when I had the same problems today. Thus, I am breaking down the trip into small segments with lots of pictures.

Our first full day started with me praying to God asking Him to help me overcome my natural grumpiness from being woken up eight or more times in the night by the boys.  Usually, after three or four times, I have difficulty getting back to sleep and this night was no different.  God was good and answered my prayer.  After a meal of breakfast burritos, we got ready to hike the Transept trail to the lodge and back, have some quiet time in the afternoon and then do a driving tour of the North Rim.  Unlike the South Rim, which is one giant, flat wall of rock, the North Rim has "fingers" sticking out.  Our campground is situated on one side of the longer fingers and the lodge is at the end of the longest fingers so that it has the best view of the whole canyon.  To give you a better idea, go this map provided by the Grand Canyon National Park, keeping in mind that the brown areas are the canyon itself.  We took the Transept Trail, holding close to the rim for most of the way until we reached the Grand Canyon North Rim lodge.  From the Lodge, after taking a bathroom break and a break to rub the nose on Brighty's statue, we continued walking on the trail until we reached Bright Angel Point (not to be confused with Bright Angel Trail which starts on the South Rim and ends at Bright Angle Plateau).  Before we returned, we snacked, browsed the gift shop and took another potty break. The altitude was getting to us a bit, becoming winded and easily tired.  On the return trip, one of my children broke down crying she was so tired.  Lunch helped everyone's attitude.  That and some rest time.  In the afternoon, we drove....
Some of the trail wound through the woods

I love the lines created by the rocks.  It was a very hazy day.


Rocks!  This shot was taken near the Grand Canyon Lodge.  Note the railing in the foreground.  It is not a very common sight, which can be disconcerting.

Interesting angles cut out of the rock and interesting colors spilled onto the rocks.

This is not anyone in our party.

The trail ends at the big pile of rocks known as Bright Angel Point.

A naturally occurring wall of rocks.

We climbed up one set of rocks, but not up the tall pile at Bright Angel Point.

I love being here!

A tree hanging on for dear life!

It isn't just about rocks...here is a lovely moth

The feathery seeds of an Apache Plume Plant

July 8, 2012

The Grand Canyon North Rim Adventure continues...

Background:  (Because you might have forgotten....) The Overtooms joined with another family, whose names will be changed for privacy reasons, to seek out the Rim less visited.  Two members were left behind at the start of the trip because of illness and were sorely missed.  It took eight hours to reach their destination, where they would set up camp for three gloriously cool days and enjoy nature as much as possible, though sometimes the parents would sometimes employ torture techniques commonly called "dish washing" and "hiking" to make sure the kids truly appreciated their free time.  When the last post ended, the families had just arrived at their campsite....
The Three Parental Units.  Don't ask me why I have that goofy smile.

The Six Future Junior Rangers in various stages of happiness
Me and my man, who loves me even when I have a bad hair day.
Our "Big Agnes" tent in the foreground; Our friend's tent in the background to the left.

The food preparation table was behind the eating table.  The kids used the eating table  and the adults either stood or sat in camp chairs.

On a way to the Transept Trail.  The boys are wrestling, as usual.
After setting up our tents and re-arranging the two picnic tables so that we could all eat together, we walked to the edge of the campground where The Transept Trail started.  Two other short trails branched off for different vistas.  We walked for about 1/3 of  a mile which allowed us our first unobstructed view of the Canyon.  I have visited the South Rim several times in the course of my life and even walked partway down the South Rim when I was in my 20's.  Every time I catch my first glimpse, the splendor of the view leaves me speechless and breathless.  The aching beauty brings tears to my eyes.  The depth and vastness gives me a sense of vertigo, as if my eyes were playing tricks on me.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  It is something you truly have to experience for yourself, but until that time....

My first glimpse of the canyon through the trees

Trees framing scuplted rock.  This was taking with Eric's Nikon

The big reveal, in all its glory, hazy in late afternoon sunshine
As I stood worshiping God for His intricate workmanship in forming and coloring this magnificent sculpture, high pitched, whiny voices penetrated my skull insisting that food be provided at once.  We trekked back to our campsite and started pulling out hot dogs, buns and coleslaw for our first, quick and dirty meal.  After stomachs were satisfied and dishes washed, we walk over to the Ranger "Campfire Talk."  There was no campfire because conditions were so dry that no fires of any kind were allowed--only propane stoves could be used for cooking.  We knew that in advance and had planned our menus accordingly.  Ranger Jake talked about nocturnal animals in the Grand Canyon.  The kids enjoyed the talk and Jessi impressed the ranger by telling him that bats use echolocation (Thank you Apologia Science program) to find their food.  After the nature talk, we returned to camp and I prepared hobo s'mores in honor of her birthday.  Hobo s'mores are graham crackers with chocolate frosting on one side and marshmallow fluff on the other side.  We sang the "Happy Birthday" song and let the kids play through their sugar high until they hit the insulin crash.  The parents were as exhausted as the kids and we all went to sleep hearing the sounds of the bats chirping to find their food.  Before morning broke the next day, Eric and I were awakened about ten times by the boys, each taking his turn in crying out, popping up half asleep and crying or asking for help to get back into their sleeping bags.  I started the next day with a different kind of prayer.

July 6, 2012

Driving to the North Rim

  At the beginning of the year, when most Arizonans are complaining about the "cold weather", Eric and I got together with another family and decided to go camping at the Grand Canyon in the summer as a way to escape the heat.  However, Eric suggested going to the North Rim instead of the South Rim because we had already been to the South Rim.  The South Rim is where most of the people go to because it is 4 hours from the Phoenix Metro Area rather than seven.  You see, you have to drive around the Grand Canyon coming from the South to actually get to the North Rim.  And the drive, at least for the first time, isn't necessarily boring because the scenery changes so much.  For those of you who have never been to Arizona, in some ways, the state is divided into two sections:  The southern half is generally flatter and lower in elevation.  However, two to three hours north of Phoenix, the land rises dramatically in a high plateau, called The Colorado Plateau.  The eastern part of the Colorado Plateau is called the Mogollon Rim.  We have gone there several times in the summer at a place called Woods Canyon Lake as a day trip to have some fun, hike and fish.  We also camped there briefly last summer.  So Phoenix is at somewhere around 1,000 feet above sea level.  The Colorado Plateau is somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level.  It also explains why you can ski in Arizona in the winter. 

To get to the North Rim from Phoenix, you take the only major northbound highway, I-17 to Flagstaff, get on I-40 for a very brief time to get to 89 North.  After about 100 miles, you get on 89A for 50ish miles, which actually is an east/west road at that point.  Finally, you travel another 42 miles south on 69 to the park.    It is 383 miles from our house to the campground. 

The day before our trip started one of the kids in the other family was fighting a fever and had developed a rash, so the mother decided to stay home with the sick child, bringing our total group to nine.  We started at 8:45, a little later than we originally planned and were delayed by a car fire (yes, I typed correctly) that closed down I-17.  Overheating while climbing over a pass is a common enough occurence that warning signs are posted telling people to pull to the side and let their car cool down if the temperature gauge rises too high.  Apparently, the drivers either had a malfunctioning temperature gauge or other serious problem with the car.  When we read the traffic sign warning us of the closure. we looked at alternate routes, but they would have added hundreds of miles and several hours to our trip.  We also figured that maybe we were at the tail end of the fire and traffic might get better soon.  We were right about being at the tail end of it.  About 45 minutes later, we passed the burned-out hull of a small pickup with a trailer attached.  We stopped at Flagstaff to fill up The Beast (our black Suburban tripmobile) and then again at Navajo National Monument.  We pulled into the campground sometime near 5 pm.

Pictures are worth a thousand words and mine are almost used up.  So below are some pictures that were taken during our trip.  My husband just received a digital SLR camera for his birthday, so between that camera, our little camera and two cell phones, we took roughly 800 pictures.  Most of these pictures here were taken as we were driving by my cell phone or the little camera because if we had actually stopped to take all of these pictures, it would have taken us two days to reach our destination and our friends and family in the Midwest would have heard the shouts and complaints from our kids.  I did use the new camera, but my husband wants to go through the pictures and remove some instead of downloading 600 pictures and then removing rejects, so those pictures are currently inaccessible.  Enjoy!

This was taken near Flagstaff, maybe even near Sunrise Crater National Monument.  The black soil is probably crushed lava cinders.

Navajo Bridge, which crosses the  Colorado River.  The bridge on the left was the original bridge that is no longer able to support car traffic.  It has been turned into a foot bridge.  We drove across the bridge to the right and turned almost immediately into Navajo Bridge National Monument, which is part of the National Parks system.  The bridge span is 834 feet and is 467 feet above the Colorado River.  These statistics were on display on a bigger nameplate to the side of the bridge.  This area is called Marble Canyon.
I took this picture because of the sign warning you that if you jump off the bridge, you will be breaking a couple different regulations and also to get a feel for the scope of the bridge.  The cliffs in the background are lovely, too.

The Colorado River, looking North from the Navajo Bridge.  On the way back, we saw some people fishing at the river in the bottom of the gorge.  When Jessi asked me how they got there, all I could say was, "I have no idea."

This is a very desolate section of the drive.  It almost felt like we were on the moon.  Parts of the Painted Desert, in the northeast corner of the state look a lot like this.  As you can see, there are very few plants that grow in this area.  And of course, this is one of the places where the government sent various Indian tribes to live over a hundred years ago when settlers decided they wanted to live on what was currently Indian land.  Nice, huh?

Some of these boulders look like they were placed by human hands, but not the boulders near the background.  Seeing big bouldners so close to the road is a little disconcerting.

This looks like a mini-Grand Canyon, or maye a future expansion site of the Grand Canyon?
This, I believe is a long distance picture of the Vermillion Cliffs.  they are about 2,000 feet lower than the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is slightly higher in elevation than the South Rim.  

A close up of the Vermillion Cliffs.  In the process of writing this, I just realized that this is also a National Monument which we can visit some day.
North Rim Campgrounds.  We drove through meadowlands, aspen and ponderosa pine groves to reach this point.  The temperature at the start of our trip in Mesa at 8:30 in the morning was in the 80s.  When we arrived in the early evening, the temperature was in the 80's and settle down to somewhere in the 50's at night.

July 5, 2012

Independence and Game On!

We just celebrated our independence by traveling to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and camped for the three days preceding July 4th.  Yesterday, we celebrated by traveling home, showering and unpacking "The Beast" as we like to call our Suburban.  It was wonderful and I will be posting on that soon.

Independence Day:  Yesterday was the day we celebrated our Founding Father's decision to break with England by formally writing up their reasons for doing so in the Declaration of Independence.  I am including a small portion of it below.  After the war for independence was won, the country tried for a few, short miserable years of trying to govern as a confederacy, a mistake the South repeated when they tried to secede from the Union 100 years later.  After realizing that a confederacy didn't work, our Founding Fathers decided to create a representative republic, based on a form of government that Rome established for a brief time.  A republic is a form of government where people operate under a rule of law.  Democracy is a form of government where the majority rules. Democratic mechanisms such as voting for senators and representatives and presidents were implemented to make sure the government would be under the authority of the people and would not devolve into a dictatorship.  Unfortunately, many people are being told we live in a democracy by senators and people in the media.  So next time you hear someone talk about this country being a democracy, please be one of those "Actually" people and tell them that our country is actually a republic and, if you need to and their eyes aren't already rolling around in their head, explain the difference.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Game On!:  June was not a good month for Game On!  Competing against myself is pretty boring and it wasn't the same showing my husband my daily score.  So after the first week, I stopped playing and decided to live by the Game On! principles as much as possible.  I did not gain weight and I even lost a teeny tiny bit.   I kept exercising, though I dropped it to three or four days a week rather than six and I allowed myself to eat brown sugar in my oatmeal and sweets.  Sweets are still my nemesis.  I think that, just like recovering alcoholics will always be recovering alcoholics, I will always be a recovering sugar junkie and need to think like a recovering alcoholic.  So I now know how to maintain my weight.  Great!  The problem is that I am not at my ideal weight and really need to find a way to motivate myself to lose more.  Help is on the way!  I now have two people in my Bible study who want to try the Game On! diet.  It is starting on July 6th.  I hope to lose 7 pounds during the game. Thank you, God!