July 1, 2015, I began a four-month pilgrimage called a Pastor Sabbatical, the second of such gifts I’ve received in my 30+ years in full-time ministry, thanks to the generosity of the people of Cannon Beach Community Church, and the gift of a grant from the Lilly Endowment. This sabbatical theme is “Cultivate the Vineyard: a Journey Together into Fruitful Church Growth.” I will be researching Church Growth through the Scripture, Church History, and Viticulture (the study of growing grapes and making wine). One of the leading pictures of Israel in the Old Testament is a Vineyard. One of the leading pictures of the Church in the New Testament is a Vineyard. During this four-month period, during this Pastor Sabbatical, the people of Cannon Beach Community Church and I will journey together in a pilgrimage to discover how our Lord wants us to grow closer together with God and with one another, and become more fruitful as a “Vineyard.”
July 1, 2015, I began this four-month pilgrimage literally on a walking pilgrimage with Trina, on the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. We’ve been hiking in national parks every summer now for 15 years. On Wednesday, July 1, 2015, we drove from Cannon Beach, Oregon to Longmire, Washington, inside Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP), picked up our backcountry “first-come-first-serve” permit from an excellent Ranger named Sarah. She gave us great tips and insights into camping in “cross-country” regions off the Wonderland Trail, allowing us to camp in places of extravagant beauty.
July 1: We hiked 8.5 miles from Longmire to Indian Henry Hunting Grounds, past Mirror Lakes to the meadowland saddle between Pyramid Peak and Copper Mountain. We arrived in “camp” at 8pm, just before alpenglow, exhausted from a six hour uphill hike, but exhilarated by the majesty of Mount Rainier and the glories of the meadowlands around. I took the lead photo on this post on July 1 at alpenglow.
July 2: We broke camp and headed 1.5 miles, past Mirror Lake (pictured above), back to the Wonderland Trail, then 9 miles north to St. Andrews Lake, where we camped for two nights in the Tokaloo Spire Alpine area, in an ‘eyrie’ like campsite perched on a ridgetop above St. Andrews lake, looking directly up at Mount Rainier. The hike to this site took us down to Tahoma Creek, across the amazing Tahoma Suspension Bridge, the highest and longest on the 93 mile Wonderland Trail; then up and over Emerald Ridge; then down to South Puyallup River Camp; then across the South Puyallup River on a beautifully crafted wooden bridge; then up and up switchbacks to St. Andrews Park, and finally, 2 miles traversing across to St. Andrews Lake (pictured below).
July 3: We enjoyed a leisurely day of resting in camp, journaling, reading, swimming in a nearby snowmelt tarn, sitting in the sun, napping, photographing wildflowers. What a gift to be in God’s creation, where all is made new and clean. As John Muir wrote, “Keep close to Nature’s heart . . . and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” (White Heather, or Cassiope, picture below, was Muir’s favorite mountain wildflower.)
July 4: We broke camp and hiked back 10.5 miles to the Pyramid Peak “cross-country” region, camping just east of Mirror Lakes, just below Pyramid Peak. A full day of pilgrimage with temperatures in the mid-80s, record highs for MRNP for this time of year; with weary feet, sore leg muscles, and crazy aching shoulders after 8 hours of backpacking. We guzzled mountain water, stopping often for rest, including one glorious stop at an unnamed beauty of a creek/waterfall on the trail, a mile above Tahoma Suspension Bridge where we took off our boots and soaked our hot feet in the cool waters. We were glad to arrive in camp. Indian Henry Hunting Grounds area in MRNP is an expansive wonderland of meadows, creeks, lakes, interspersed by copses of forest and rock outcroppings, all looked over by the majesty of the mountain. We heard not one firework on the celebration of our nation’s independence, but thanked God for the gift of freedom. Once again, we slept in our tent without the rainfly on, allowing us to look up at the stars, full moon, and glorious mountain by moonlight.
July 5: We celebrated our 34th anniversary by hiking 8.5 miles through wildflower wonderland of Mirror Lakes and Indian Henry meadowlands (pictured above), back down through the temperate rainforest, to Longmire. We covered a total of 38 miles in our 4+ days on the Wonderland Trail.
Our anniversary was celebrated in Paradise with the hospitable, old-world elegance of Paradise Inn, grateful for the gift of our married journey, soaking in the glory of our Creator God in this amazing national park.
All photos by David Robinson