adventure, Adventure Tourism, Camping, Creator, Faithful Living, God, Heaven, Home, Outdoor Adventures, River, Travel, Uncategorized

Home is a Comfy Old Robe

It feels so good to be home after a month of adventuring. Stepping across the threshold is like slipping into a comfy old robe. Sleeping in our own bed. Salivating over the stack of waiting books that were too heavy to take along. Standing under a cascade of endless hot water. Driving a car! I think being far away from home for long stretches of time is good for us. We learn to appreciate what we have, and to be grateful for the hospitality of others. It teaches us to be better hosts, offering others sanctuary, nourishment, and rest.

To have a home is a great privilege, whether it is a dorm room, a tent in the wilderness, a small loft apartment in the city, a 3-bedroom ranch, or an old drafty farmhouse. What pleasure there is in making our own “nest” for rest and comfort and for hosting others, with a roof over our head, a place to sleep in relative safety, and an inviting place at the table!

Adventuring often means taking your entire home with you in packs- tent, camp kitchen, food, sleeping bag, first aid kit, knife, matches, lantern, clothing, water filter, camp stove, bucket, bear bag, hatchet, and trowel (for your outdoor “bathroom”). It is amusing to discover how much stuff you can live without when you travel like this, when the weight of everything is a factor for consideration.

It’s true: our stuff truly does weigh us down, and makes our homes cramped and confining. I think we try to fill a hole of deep longing with more stuff because of an undeniably lingering sense that we are never truly at home on the earth.

Jesus, to become a human, left an indescribably magnificent home in heaven. During his 3-year ministry he was an itinerant with no home and, short of the kindness of strangers, had nowhere to lay his head.

Imagine the Son of God having no home!

But he wasn’t homeless either, because he knew where he had come from and that he was going back. More than that, he told us before he left that he was leaving in order to prepare a home for us in heaven. Our unease on earth- really our dis-ease, is this whispering sense of longing, and of knowing that there is something better. It’s a God-given sensation, that we might pine for heaven and God himself while living right here.

These feelings are often most acute when we are away from home, sleeping under the stars, wondering what they look like from God’s vantage, carrying our necessities on our back, needing a map to get around, and relentlessly relying on the kindness of strangers. We miss our own bed, and the comfort of the rooms we know so well. It is a whiff of what heaven will be like-somewhere on the other side of the river of life, a place to be home, known, safe, and loved. That’s a trip I want to take, a threshold I will be glad to cross, and a robe I can’t wait to don!

~J.A.P. Walton

adventure, Adventure Tourism, Affirmation, Camping, canoeing, Faithful Living, God, Lessons from Mom, Lessons from the Wilderness, Outdoor Adventures, Rainforest, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized, wilderness

Thanks Mom

It is the last week of a month in France for us, and I find I have been thinking much about my mother, who first took me to France when I was eighteen.  She is no longer the robust, tireless woman of my youth, now frail in mind and body, though not in spirit. I have been missing her!

My mom taught me much of what I know about outdoor adventure. The first lesson in camping was how to squat to “go” in the woods: heels apart, elbows inside knees flanged wide, facing up a slight incline so the stream trickles downhill without pooling at your feet. My first attempt at the age of 5 exasperated her, as I haplessly filled my sneakers to the brim.

We camped a good deal back then, so I learned about tent setting and sweeping out, about food handling, about packing, site selection and more. We had a wonderful old tin breadbox that was the “kitchen” filled with cutlery, salt & pepper in Tupperware shakers, metal plates and coffee cups, tightly rolled dish towels, and, of course, matches. I still have it, and memories flood in whenever I open it.

My mom taught me how to ride a horse. And canoe. And row. And sail. And hike. And travel. I have climbed to high mountain tarns in the Colorado Rockies with her (she herself summited the 14-er Longs Peak). Together we climbed Mount Snowden in Wales. We paddled rivers swift and lethargic, and sailed and sailed and sailed. I owe my love of nature and the outdoors to her. Mom took me to Europe for a month before I started college, finding ourselves in Paris in the middle of the hottest weather in recorded history. We traipsed the city from end to end: Eiffel Tower, Tuileries, Montmartre, Notre Dame. This was when I learned that the French don’t like COLD drinks, and that asking for ice-MORE ICE S’IL VOUS PLAIT-only brings looks of disdain from the server.  My mother taught me to seek out the adventure, to get out into a new place and explore by foot. We had escargot in Nice because it was important to try a culture’s exotic foods. Today I recognize the privilege of such an upbringing, with a mother who worked fulltime to pay for the adventuring.

The world is a kind of wilderness in its beauty and unpredictability.

Still, I am a more cautious traveler now. Just the other day, two women surrounded me with clipboards asking if I spoke English. This is a typical scam in France-for gangs to send out emissaries to distract a tourist with a petition for a charitable cause and lift her valuables while she is signing. I said “no.” When they pushed further into my personal space, I shouted, “NO!” They jumped back as if I had a communicable disease.

My vehemence surprised even me, giving me pause. I must thank you mom for everything you taught me, but most especially for taking me to church week after week where I would encounter the adventure of a life with God.  I am learning that the world is filled with people wandering in a different kind of wilderness, where God is remote and survival is everything.

So, I have spent this week contemplating the wide gulf between awe and pain. Between beauty and baseness. Between the fist that holds tight, and the open palm that gives away. Between pushing away with a shout and beckoning the lost by gently saying, “Jesus loves you.”

It’s an uphill climb, and I have miles to go, but my mother taught me well.

~J.A.P. Walton

Thanks for reading!

adventure, Adventure Tourism, Biking, Cycling, Perseverence, Uncategorized

A 3-Dutch Granny Day!

Last May, my husband Mark and I joined a small group of aging adventurers and bicycled 290 miles in 8 days around the old Zuider Zee in Holland. We spent 4 months training at home for this ride. I had never biked more than 18 miles in a day. So we started with spinning classes at the local college, and transitioned outdoors when winter abated. Our guide gave us a strict training schedule. By the middle of May we had to ride 90 miles in a week with at least one, preferably two rides of 40+ miles. Lest you stop reading here and call me crazy, I want to testify that the training was remarkably ENJOYABLE! Why?

  • I can’t remember a time when my husband and I spent so much concentrated time working together towards a shared goal
  • My middling February fitness blossomed into a can-do confidence by May-I lost weight, got lots of vitamin D, got stronger and happier with each passing mile
  • I got to buy really cool new raingear (I love a packing list of required gear-time to shop!)
  • Almost every ride went by an ice cream shop (no explanation needed)

In future posts, I will share much more about what a FANTASTIC trip this was for both of us. Many have asked us, “Why the Netherlands?” The answer is easy: low altitude, no hills! I love biking the straightaways, and the bike routes in Holland are atop or beside a dyke at or below sea level (insert smiley face). My kind of riding. (Of course, the wind is a story for another post…Holland should make you think “windmills”.)

One day, it was sunny and hot, and we had 42 miles to pedal. Our route took us through a lovely town called Giethoorn, the “Venice” of the Netherlands. There were many tourists that weekend day, so it took some patience to cycle the narrow paths along the myriad canals.

Now, I should explain that I prefer to bike at the back of any group, so that my casual 10-11 mph pace doesn’t hold anyone back, and so they won’t feel compelled to ride too close…I like my space. My friend Dan often road far behind me to bring up the rear. After leaving Giethoorn, I was hot and tired and thirsty, head down, concentrating on getting this ride DONE. While enjoying a small pity party in my head, Dan shouted forward,

Hey Julie, you are about to be passed by a granny!”

Just then, an elderly Dutch woman in a starched dress and with perfectly coiffed hair, riding stiffly upright and not giving me so much as a glance, went zipping by me. Not out of breath. Certainly not all sweaty like me. Assuredly older than I.

I slowed down a bit to let Dan catch up, and we decided that for every Dutch granny that passed us, we could have one Heineken beer at the end of the day. Only 15 minutes later, and Dan sang out, “Here comes another one!”   Then another one! It was a 3-Dutch granny, 3-Heineken day!

All to say that when an adventure becomes more physically challenging than you think you can handle, a little humor goes a long way to help you power through. And ice cream and beer at the end don’t hurt either.

~J.A.P. Walton

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