Adirondack Vacation 2015

We canoed on Lake Eaton and walked on the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake
We canoed on Lake Eaton and walked on the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake

I like sitting by the campfire late at night.   JoAnne likes to read, sometimes even sitting in the car to get away from the bugs or the rain.   Both of us love to canoe around the lake. I nearly finished one book this year.  JoAnne pulls out her recorder and plays folk songs, gospel choruses and patriotic tunes by ear at the campfire.  I roast marshmallows for s’mores.

For us camping is an Rx of sorts.   Being a pastor is a very public vocation.  So as part of our vacation time JoAnne and I try to get apart in the Adirondack Mountains.  Getting alone as a couple like this provides a good antidote to the high level of people time that is normal for pastoral life.   It gives time to process, time for extended devotions, and time to read.    We always find it a bonding experience too.   Whether it’s canoeing as a tandem, setting up camp together, enjoying a meal out at our favorite Italian restaurant in the Village of Tupper Lake, eating ice cream at Hoss’s, or holding hands watching the stars, we find ourselves drawn closer together in the Adirondacks.

This year we camped again at Lake Eaton State Park just Northwest of Long Lake, NY .  Even though we had multiple rainstorms, we still had a great time.   I had just finished sealing the tent fly again when the first downpour came.    Amazingly, it didn’t rain during campfire times at all and I was able to gather wood at the right stage of dryness so that it would burn in spite of the dampness.   But it did rain at suppertime twice.  Trying to cook in a rainstorm is the pits so we ate out for supper both evenings; chili dogs and ice-cream at a corner stand one night and Italian at Little Italy the next .

Probably the highlight of the vacation was the trip to the Wide Center in Tupper Lake.  We highly recommend it .   They have a new section called the Wild Walk that has been a huge success.   Thirty-five thousand people have visited the center in the twenty days since the Wild Walk opened.   We took the walk and highly recommend it.  The people who conceived this place have great imagination and make it so much fun for children.   This year the theater inside featured an award winning film about climate change.

Florida Vacation 2015


JoAnne and Kelvin walked on the white sand beach at sunset each evening
JoAnne and I enjoyed sunset walks

Must be we made ourselves useful and didn’t cause too much trouble in 2014 because our daughter Keely and her husband Mark invited us to go with them on their annual spring Florida vacation again this year.    Yeah!   Of course, it is such a trial (wink, wink) for us to be with our two wonderful grandchildren, not to mention our daughter and son-in-law for a whole week!

We flew down and they rented a beach condo on the Gulf coast on Gasparillo Island in Southern Florida for a whole week (in the units behind my hat) (such severe hardships, I know).     Thank you so much, Mark and Keely!

Annabelle and Sam love our attention (another tough break I know).    Of course we thoroughly enjoy spoiling them a little too.  Annabelle started learning to crawl on our vacation.   We tried to allow Keely a little more rest as Annabelle is not much of a sleeper.   JoAnne greatly enjoyed the pool, doing laps early every morning before others were awake.   In the evening, she and I walked on the beach at sunset while Keely and Mark were putting the children to bed.

It is always a pleasure for me to watch birds in a different location.  The only time while there that I took time away to specifically bird watch, I saw jungle but no birds.   Yet, for example, while pushing Sam in the swing at the Community Center, I notched two new birds as they flew over.    And as we walked on the beach, there were lots of shore birds to glass.

The attached gallery is a collection of pictures from vacation, some are taken with JoAnne’s camera and some with my phone.


A Maple Syrupy Memory

On the last day of our recent week of vacation, my wife and I stopped at a Maple Syrup Museum on Route 7 just north of Rutland, Vermont.  It was a fascinating stop for me as it brought back many childhood memories.   The museum contains many artifacts from the production of maple syrup in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  An entire wall mural was dedicated to telling the story of the production of syrup by the Native Americans of New England before settlers arrived.  This fascinating dimension of the history of the maple syrup industry was new to me and I was glad to see it featured prominently.  One of the most captivating displays was a hand-carved diorama depicting the gathering of maple sap using a team of horses and a sled with gathering tank on top.   In the same diorama is a representation of a sap-boiling shanty in the woods.  The first 3 pictures above are of this diorama.    The last two pictures are from an even bigger diorama depicting lumbering before tractor power.  The museum is a great stop for maple lovers and those who remember making syrup.

I have a very early childhood memory of assisting in the gathering of sap on the top of the hill above Twin Elms Farm.   Deep in the woods plot, there was an old shed devoted to boiling sap in the spring. My father and grandfather had traded the horses for a tractor the year I was born.   But, for the spring that I remember, it was too muddy in the woods to use the tractor for gathering sap.  Early tractors were not the behemoths we are used to today.    So my grandfather and father made arrangements to borrow a team of horses and use them to pull the sled and gathering tank.    I remember riding the sled with its metal gathering tank on top from the house up to the top of the hill and into the woods.   I recall the old wooden tank next to the boiling shed into which the gathered sap was dumped from the gathering tank.    I remember the old arch, as it was called, inside the shed.   It was simply two rows of concrete blocks, just wide enough apart to fit the large pans on the top.   The two pans were placed end to end on the arch.    The long slabs or poles of wood we burned were inserted into the arch underneath the pans at one end. The fire and heat traveled the length of the two pans– which must’ve been 10-12 feet — and the smoke exited through a stack at the far end.    The freshest sap was inserted in the pan nearest the chimney, the cooler one; the boiled-down syrup was removed from the first pan, the hotter one.   We did not use wooden buckets, as the diorama pictures, but galvanized metal ones instead.

This old syrup shanty on the hill was deserted before many years had passed.    After that, my father continued boiling sap on a smaller scale in a single pan over a smaller arch.   I remember helping and  trying to keep it clean and light colored.    I have many other memories that go with the traditions of maple syrup making at Twin Elms Farm too.   I remember loving to drink the sap straight from the tree.   I would go down to the maple tree in the front lawn and tip the sap bucket to get a drink.   There was just a hint of delicious flavored sweetness.

After the sap had been boiled down in the pans over the arches, my mom would “finish off” the syrup over the kitchen stove.    I don’t remember seeing it happen, but I was told that sometimes this released so much moisture that the wallpaper had come loose.   She poured milk into the syrup to help boil out the impurities.    I sometimes tasted the creamy, foamy skimmings, though I don’t think Mom approved of that.    I remember each year we would have a contest at stirring maple sugar.   Mom would boil down some syrup even further until it was just the right consistency for making sugar candy.  I think it was right when it would spin a hair from the spoon.     Then she would ladle it into bowls and we would begin stirring our bowlful.   The faster you stirred, the lighter colored and finer textured your sugar would be.   That was the goal.    Of course, the most delightful part was eating it.   I preferred eating it while it was soft and still do.   JoAnne learned about stirring maple sugar while she was dating me. She learned to love eating it too and still does, much more than me. I bought her some at the museum.

At the Vermont museum they had taste samples of different grades of maple syrup.  I checked them out!    I remember during maple syrup season on the farm, once in a while, Mom would serve us a small dish of maple syrup for dessert– nothing with it — just served to eat with the spoon.   I loved it and I still can eat maple syrup by itself.    Mom also prepared syrup for us to pour on snow if the weather made snow available.  This was also a delightful candy treat. We called it wax.

The museum had maple cream to sample also, which is the most delicious stuff ever, but correspondingly expensive.     As we left the museum, JoAnne and I just wanted to find a restaurant that served pancakes with the real thing—maple syrup—for a topping!  At home, we never ate pancakes any other way.

Visiting a Vanderbilt Home


The gilded dining room

I knew that the most opulent homes of late nineteenth century in America were built by the Vanderbilt’s, tycoons of the NY Central Railroad.   I did not realize how many homes they built, nor did I know that many of the homes had just one architect, Richard Morris Hunt.  They include The Breakers and the Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island and the Biltmore in Asheville North Carolina.  Years ago when I was stationed in Newport in the Navy we toured the Marble House.  Keely and JoAnne’s brother, Joe, have both recommended Biltmore.

Visiting The Breakers

Last Saturday, on a return visit to Newport, we toured The Breakers, summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt.   The home is immense-65,000 sq. ft.  The magnificent first floor rooms are almost indescribable.  The supersized main dining room could alone be responsible for the term “gilded age” as so much of the ornate wall decorations, door casings, and ceiling are covered in gold leaf of varying thicknesses, washes, and degrees of polish.   My favorite rooms were the billiard room-the nineteenth century version of a “man-cave;” and the music room-just a gorgeous space to match the beauty of the sounds produced there.   Also extremely impressive were the technics used to vary the wall décor.   Various uses of metals, such as platinum, and leather, in addition to the gold leaf gave the walls very unusual textures. As the economic fortunes of the super-rich changed in the depression, the house actually was unused for a time. Now it is owned by the Newport Preservation Society  (  

The People behind the House

I’m always interested in the personal side of the story.  The house was run by 40 staff—maids and butlers of various kinds who were under the leadership of Mrs. Vanderbilt. Many would have been newer immigrants.  In her bedroom which was also her office, was a row of call buttons to summon them. She also might be required to change clothes as many as seven times a day.  Interestingly, the family was very religious with Mr. Vanderbilt teaching Sunday School and the children restricted as to what entertainments they were allowed on Sunday.   Mr. Vanderbilt who built the house only enjoyed it in good health one summer as he had a stroke the following year. 

Luxury for show; verses to ponder

One cannot help but feel in visiting such a place that much of the luxury was over the top for the sake of ostentation.  This was definitely wealth on display.  The rich and powerful of the day met here and showed off their status by making wealth visible as people have done for centuries and still do.   On the one hand, a prayer such the Psalmist prays would have seemed natural to the Vanderbilt’s; “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.  Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name” (1 Ch 29:12-13 NIV).

While one can understand the cultural history of how such a display of wealth came to be, one cannot help but feel that it was questionable Christian stewardship to put so much wealth into such extravagant exhibition. Those of us enjoying the perspective of a hundred years of history, think instead of other verses;  “All can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others” (Ps 49:10 NIV);  or “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Ti 6:17-19 NIV).   

Snoqualmie Falls and A Railroad Museum

This railroad museum we didn’t just run into, but found on the maps and in the guidebook.   Near the end of our recent summer vacation, we decided to stop on our way back toward Seattle to see Snoqualmie Falls in WA (   It is an impressive cataract, higher than Niagara.  The viewpoint park was under reconstruction so we could not quite see it to best advantage.  In addition, the water was lower in August, so it did not show the power it would have in the spring.   But it still was very impressive.

On our way out to the falls, there were two tracks of old railroad equipment collected by the museum there, including numerous engines.  So JoAnne hung out at the falls park while I returned to the train museum.  A few pieces had been restored.  Many others were awaiting attention.  One of the most unique engines, in my view, was parked in the back where it could not be seen very well.  It was a large tank engine.   One usually thinks of tank engines as being smaller.   However, the curator at the museum answered that in the West larger tank engines were not that uncommon. Near the museum grounds was an example of the logs that where originally cut there. As you can see from the picture, it was huge.   You would think it was a redwood but it was not, it was just a big spruce. 

The depot itself was impressive and very well preserved.  Behind it was an old building, originally a lodge building, currently holding a restaurant/bar.  It had been preserved too and was fascinating inside.  I had a glass of Snoqualmie Root Beer on-tap there.   There was a mount of a mountain lion in the corner and a chromed wood stove. The old bar still had water running in the trough spittoon at its base.    I could only imagine how gross it must have been when that was actually in use. 

The Best of Glacier

JoAnne and I have been back from our vacation for almost a month already.  We’ve been extending the fun by enjoying all the pictures we took.   Love this digital age where you can take hundreds without paying a mint for film and developing; just click away, dump them onto the laptop each evening and go back out and fill the camera again.  In just a little over two weeks, JoAnne and I took about 1000 pictures.   So JoAnne has made up one slide show, a shorter one, and also a file of shots she wants to use for her painting hobby.   In addition to my blog galleries, I’ve chosen one for the desktop of each of my computers.

Needless to say, there are lots that have not surfaced here and won’t.  However, I thought you might like to see just a few more– a “Best of Glacier” selection.    I’ll try not to repeat shots form Logan pass or the animal article.  Glacier National Park was really the highpoint of our trip.  I was glad we traveled there last; I think it is best to save the highpoint (pardon the pun) until last.

A Unique American Vehicle

 One of the fascinating sidelights of our visit to Glacier National Park was the ubiquitous red tour bus.   Since I was driving my own rented vehicle, I did not actually get to ride one, but we usually saw them parked with us at various points of interest.   One’s first impression when you see them is, “How do they dare run an antique vehicle up these mountains?”   Then you discover that they have been refurbished beautifully.   Even the interior work is excellent.  Ford Motor Company did the remodeling job.  They add a unique element to the park that somehow complements in time frame and style the grand lodges of the park which were completed in the early twentieth century.     This link is about riding in them.

They have become a cultural icon in themselves in the park.   The drivers are called “jammers” from the old days when the vehicles had manual transmissions rather than the automatics of today.   Even a local root beer is named for the buses.  I drank a bottled of it and peeled the label off for a souvenir.  

A modeling company (The Open Top Bus Company) has produced an O scale model of the 1936 White Tour bus # 706.  (White is the name of the company that made them, not the color.)  Being an O gauge railroad buff on the side, of course, I had to have one.   This link details the history of the vehicles. 

The animals

Everyone wants to see the animals when they go west, and we were no exception.      One warning, you never know when you will see them.   It might be in a park and it might not.    One of our most exceptional sightings on this trip happened along the journey.  We were just a little ways out of a small town cruising along in Idaho when we saw some cars parked by the side of the road and people looking at something—usually a good sign for travelers looking for animals.  When we went by, we saw why.   On the far side of the pond filled with water lilies were a mother moose and her calf contentedly munching.       I turned around and we went back and took their picture.   On another rural road we passed a fenced in herd of buffalo.    Other times the animals were more where you would expect, like the grizzlies in Glacier National Park.   The pictures below start with the smaller animals.

For fun — the best and the worst chart for vacation 2010

 When you go on a long travel vacation, you just can’t resist rating things sometimes.  You know–what did you like best?  Well, here’s a for-fun chart of some the best and worst moments.    Part of our blessings were that none of the worst moments were very bad as you can see.


The best

The worst

meal Gail and Sue Stater’s salmon dinner Truly extraordinary Leftover bagels for breakfast with no banana, but we ate.
restaurant meal Happy Garden Chinese in Wallowa, OR – steak and vegetables – very tasty, excellent service Applebee’s Asian Ribs, Kalispell, Montana.  – thin cut with little meat, cooked dry and charred.
hotel Shilo Inn, Moses Lake, WALarge clean room, great breakfast, good internet, convenient,  and medium priced Edgewater Inn,  OR, near Crater Lake, in spite of being expensive.Not well cleaned from the last party, very skimpy breakfast.
roads 70 miles per hr freeways in WA Hell’s Canyon switchbacks  without guardrails
views A very tough choice – I nominate Logan Pass, Montana by a hair over Hurricane Ridge, WA Mile after mile of dry sagebrush in eastern WA
surprise The height of the Crater Lake peak and the size and beauty of the lake The great scarcity of rooms available close to Glacier National Park on both sides.
Enjoyable driving Farming valleys of eastern OR, Idaho and Washington Seattle traffic as we came back into the city at rush hour.

Mountain Pass Hiking (written Aug 23)

I may be a little sore tomorrow, but what an exhilarating feeling.   It was too cold for JoAnne up at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.  The wind was blowing hard and the stormy gray sky was spitting occasional rain, snow or hail as clouds tumbled over the backbone of the continent, as the Native Americans call it.   I had on a warm Henley, a flannel shirt and a wind breaker and I could still feel the chill.   JoAnne stayed behind at the center while I pressed ahead up the stepped walk over the Alpine tundra, 1.5 miles, mostly up the mountain, then over the Continental Divide, to the overlook to Hidden Lake.  The flowers were blooming everywhere.  Near the top, picas were abundant.    Just as we neared the overlook, a young teen girl behind me screamed/squealed as only girls that age can, “A goat!”     There it was– a momma goat ahead of us and in the middle of the walkway with an offspring close behind.  What a treat.   She was nearly pure white with those little curved black horns.  All the hikers were so distracted by the goats that the view hardly got the attention it deserved.   And it deserved attention!  The beautiful boomerang shaped lake lay below us, surrounded by mountains on every side except in one small corner. In that corner was an endless vista facing west.    One of the surrounding mountains was a tall pointed one named after an Indian leader called “Bear Hat.”  Little picas were running around everywhere, rating a poor third to the goats and the scenery.  On the way back I also spied a tundra-loving white-crowned sparrow and a marmot.    The hike was rigorous for me.  I could feel the altitude and had to stop a couple times during the ascent.   Between the cold wind, the occasional hail and the long climb, I was tempted to turn back.   But I am so glad I did not.   The hike was a great climax to the trip, both literally and emotionally.  

Whenever we accomplish something difficult that requires pushing through difficulties, we can relate to the climbing metaphor.  The difficulty tempts one to turn back.  The obstacles must be faced with courage, determination and savvy.   There is often pain in the process.   But the view from the top is worth it all. The feeling of accomplishment is thrilling.   And whether we realize it or not, we are better prepared for future challenges.  This kind of thinking is often applied in Scripture to help us with life’s challenges too.  “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12 TNIV).   Or consider the thought in Hebrews as the author explains the example of Christ.   “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2 NIV).