Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hiking Near Mount Saint Helens

Yesterday, a friend and I went hiking on a few trails near the famous volcano Mount Saint Helens (which erupted in May 1980). Even though it was the first day of the Olympic Games in London, with a bike race through the streets of London into the countryside and back. But, I wanted to see Mount Saint Helens again (hadn't been there since 2007) and hiking is always great. I love the change of scenery, the not knowing what you'll see, the little surprises you find along the way, and the feeling you get from this form of exercise. Also, the views are inspiring and fantastic.

This hiking buddy of mine, Jeff, attends the same Community of Christ congregation. I got to know him and his Japanese wife when I switched congregations in 2010 after Christine left Portland. It was too painful for me to attend the Portland congregation because my memories of that place are too attached to her (she was the only reason why I attended that congregation, because they are the least friendly Community of Christ congregation that I had ever experienced). Had I known about the great group of people that attended the Tuality (TCC) congregation, I would've went there when I first moved here in 2006. I knew about the congregation, and that my best friend Nathan's brother Andrew attended that one, but it was not easy to get to, nor did I know where it was exactly.

Though Andrew and his wife rarely attend, I did get to meet other people. Jeff is three to five years older than I am. He's an interesting guy, who is married to a Japanese woman and they have two children, a boy and a girl. He's into the environment and when he gives the sermon at church, he's quite creative and often uses props and talks about some aspect of the environment or sustainable living.

He heads a hiking group at church, though the past two years, it has been difficult getting other people in the congregation to join in the scheduled hikes, so it has basically been just him and myself. We have interesting conversations during the hikes. Usually about spiritual topics. On yesterday's hike, we talked about atheists and their closed-mindedness regarding any kind of spiritual ideas or unexplained phenomenon.

The first hike was really short. It was all on a raised wooden platform over an area that showed where the lava flow had hardened into rock. At one point, you could actually crawl through a tunnel. It was longer than I thought it would be and pitch black. Neither of us had a flashlight and there was no way I was going to crawl through some dark tunnel. That has to be one of the scariest things (I wouldn't say that I am claustrophobic, but I do not like feeling "trapped" and being in the pitch black with no idea if there was some creature hiding in the tunnel, it was a no go).

The next hike was the longest and took us to the edge of a lack, where we could see Mount Saint Helens in the distance. That was a nice, long hike. The temperature was hot, with the sun out. The bugs were out as well. The views were fantastic, though, as we winded around the peaks and valleys of the hill. We even came across a patch of snow (in July!).

The final hike was up a huge hill for an overlook of Mount Saint Helens and the lake nearby. The lake still had trees floating in it from the blast more than 30 years ago. The cool thing about Mount Saint Helens National Park is that they have left everything from the volcanic eruption. There are some areas that are bald from no trees. Other places have new trees growing. It's definitely worth visiting, as there are many different places to stop for a vantage point. In 2007, the Young Adult group (YAPS and MAYAs) went to the Visitor's Center, which offered the closest point from which to view the volcano.

The hikes turned into an all day thing and it was dinner time when we got back into Portland. We had left early in the morning. Since Jeff's wife and children were visiting her family in Monterey, California, we decided to eat at a Thai restaurant. We didn't know where one was in my part of town so we drove on one street and it did not take long to find one. I saw a new part of Portland and there was even some drama going on (an ambulance was parked on the street next to the restaurant, with some woman laying down on the sidewalk and policemen talking to somebody). No one else was in the restaurant. As we ate, I told Jeff about my frustrations with dating, how shallow women seem to be. He told me that what attracted him to his wife was that she didn't play games. She was straight forward. She is a nice woman, and attractive too. Definitely a good catch. Why is it so hard to find available women like her?

It was a great day, even if I missed most of the opening day of competition in the London Olympics. Since I will be watching the Olympic broadcast every night, my blog is probably not going to have many posts for the next couple of weeks. Enjoy the Olympics! They only happen once every four years.

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