Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Belgium, Pt 2 of 4: Bring out the Ghent

...Continued from

Belgium, Pt. 1: Australian Surfboard Upset (link)

Not to belabor an already archaic 90's reference with a GIF, but...

21 month old Levi pilots his very first Boeing 767 to Europe!  More adorable cockpit photos are below.

Previously, on Pt. 1:  Last month’s Australian surfing weekend was a bust for me, though my parents (and Mike and Summer, this month) enjoyed their visits Down Under.  After hanging out with my good buddy Joseph in Hollywood, I flew home to gather my family for another overseas trip.  Sadly, caring for our sick four-year-old daughter delayed that trip an additional week.

Once Lena’s fever broke, the Hamiltons flew standby from Portland to Atlanta to shop for some open international flights.

En route to Atlanta: “Hey Mommy, let’s watch ‘Frozen’ for the third time this week!”

Our late evening touchdown at the Atlanta airport dashed any hope of same-day overseas connections.

We checked into the Atlanta Sleep Inn, which conveniently had a Ruby Tuesday restaurant 75 feet away from the hotel lobby.  Weirdly, that Tuesday’s location was somehow out of every single menu item that poor lil’ Lena ordered.  After several unsuccessful return trips to the kitchen, the friendly waitress predicted that the manager would comp us a Tuesday's appetizer or drink for Lena's disappointment.

Nada.  Thanks, Ruby Tuesday.

This Ruby Tuesday location has a skimpier kid’s meal selection than a small town diner's during the zombie apocalypse.

Lena and Levi tag team Daddy in the Sleep Inn lobby

The next morning, Kathy and I debated the merits of various international destinations.  We finally settled on Belize for its exotic outdoor adventure potential:  hiking, volcano climbing, surfing, cave diving… But then I discovered the return flights to the States looked too full.

The Wi-Fi network crashed at the Sleep Inn, so we shuttled back to the Atlanta airport to continue the trip planning on our phones’ internet browsers.

ATL curbside check-in

Overseas flights from Atlanta with open seats were limited that day.  I boiled it down to two final choices:  Germany’s Cannstatter Volksfest (the world-famous family fair near Stuttgart) versus western Belgium.  After estimating a whopping savings of 250 Euros for passing on the Volksfest, the inexpensive hostels in Belgium won out.

I’d already visited Brussels a few times and was obviously looking to branch out (check out this link to my previous father-son Belgiumtravelogue).  I tweeted my Twitter friend Sofie from the Belgian-based Wonderful Wanderings travel blog, asking her #1 pick for Belgium.  We didn’t expect Sofie to have a chance to reply before our departure, so we checked in and hustled to the gate.

Levi and Lena requested multiple do-overs on the ATL people mover

Levi boards his first international flight, with veteran traveler Lena

Learning that this would be Levi’s first overseas trip, the Delta flight crew lets both L’s in on the cockpit action before takeoff.

A pilot group stole..., er, "regrammed," my Instagram photo below, and Levi's adorable photo got 4,700+ likes!!

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

15 hours later...

Though we got split up between Business Elite and Coach Cabin seats during our flight overseas, all of us landed safely together in Brussels.

A tweet from Sofie came through as we cleared Belgian Customs., She had a few ideas and an enthusiastic recommendation for our next stop.

Ghent it would be!

Coming up on Garth’s Blog…

Belgium, Pt. 3 of 4:  Going Medieval on Ghent

Monday, November 16, 2015

Just Read: Sons of Thunder

Part 2 of 4 from last month's Belgium travelogue (link) is coming next week!

Disclosure:  The novel reviewed below was a free selection from Amazon Kindle for Samsung’s monthly book deals.  That’s why I read it.  And this review will also be featured on my Goodreads page soon.

Cotton Smith’s 1865 post-Civil War western novel, Sons of Thunder, juggles themes of faith, racial reform, redemption, self-sacrifice, racial bigotry, greed, child abuse, domestic abuse, and religious hypocrisy.  The plot involves Rule Cordell, a former Confederate soldier/outlaw (with a revisionist sense of racial tolerance, of course) who takes on a new identity as the peaceful Reverend James Rule Langford, a part-time, small town preacher.  An unscrupulous mayor, the captain of the Texas police force, and a large gang of baddies set out to intimidate and defraud the town members/churchgoers, and, you guessed it… Cordell steps up to put an end to their reign of violence and terror.

Besides being a free book, I was mainly drawn to this story by the internal religious conflicts of the protagonist.  There is a tension between Cordell’s call to be a peaceful Christ follower/preacher and his firebrand wife’s conviction that “turning the other cheek [isn’t] very effective in these turbulent times.”  His abusive father, a hypocritical former reverend himself, provides another contrast to Cordell’s struggles with faith.  And a wise, influential Comanche shaman named Moon of the self-named Noomah people adds yet ANOTHER layer to Cordell’s spiritual journey, although in a more vaguely religious sense.

“Sons of Thunder” is front loaded with both characterization and religious pondering, which are both later dispensed with as Cordell rounds up his old gang and goes after the bad guys.  The action is exciting, racism as personified by the KKK antagonists is adequately vilified, and there are a couple of surprising twists as the conclusion approaches.  With the exception of some annoyingly exaggerated Tex-Mex dialect and a hilariously ludicrous 11th hour cameo during the climax, the story is engaging and seems to historically credible.  Overall, it’s a quick, fun read.

My rating:  3 ½ out 5 stars.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Belgium, Pt. 1- Australian surfboard upset

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

A second round of Australian surfing just wasn't meant to be.  And to make it worse, Australian Surfboard Upset sounds more like a crowdbreaker game I'd devise for my church youth group than a respectable blog post title.  It can be hard for a youth pastor's brain to switch modes.  

Just prior to this month's Hamilton family European vacation, I had sent my parents to Australia for a few weeks.  My plan was to meet them in Sydney for a couple days, fly home to the U.S., and then bring Kathy and the kids to Europe the very next day.

In Sydney, I would do the tourist thing with my folks, visit some Aussie friends while I'm in town, and finally hit Bondi Beach for some surfing.  Australia boasts the BEST surfing I've had in my life, hands down.

Long story short, I screwed up my visa.  Everything got fixed... But after all that hassle, the flight from L.A. to Sydney was oversold anyway.  Ironically, a solid year of scoring a ton of Business Elite seats for my Delta buddy pass riders had lead to me getting stuck in L.A.

Thankfully, one of my favorite buddies Joseph saved me from an overnight stay in LAX airport by letting me crash in one of his rental houses in Hollywood. After a post-midnight nosh at In-N-Out Burger, Joseph set me up in a room so I could write my most recent blog post (see link to that previous "Salt Lake City- Delta Velvet 360" post) and get some sleep.

I'd make one last attempt to fly out to Australia the next evening.

Open air breakfast of paleo coconut pancakes and coffee in Hollywood, courtesy of Candace

None of my photos with Joseph are really worth sharing here, but my Instagram followers may remember this photo collage of my most recent Hollywood visit:

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

The next evening's L.A. flight to Sydney was also oversold, so I flew home to start our family European vacation a few days early.  Sadly, little Lena was ill when I got back.

Rather than flying to Europe early, we spent those extra few days waiting for Lena to get better.  I even stayed home on Sunday to take care of Lena, so Mommy could watch Levi in the church nursery.

Other than getting out to climb or seeing the occasional friend, most of my remaining week of Delta vacation was spent at home.

Climbing intro lesson for my friend Gwen, just to get her belay certified at Stoneworks Climbing Gym

A few days later, Mommy finally gave Lena a clean bill of health.  We scooped up Lena and Levi, hurried to PDX Airport, and loaded those little Ls on the very next departing plane.

Economy Comfort seats for all of us: That's airlinese for Fancy Coach

Coming next, after leading a NW Wilderness climb to the summit of the South Sister volcano and our thrilling scramble/ rappel down the Mystery Trail...

Belgium, Pt. 2- The story finally begins!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Just Read: I Saw the Church

Written during this week's overseas family vacation in Ghent, Belgium, this book review will also be featured on my Goodreads page soon.

Disclosure:  This book is on my required reading list for the ordination process in the Church of God.  I submitted a more in depth book report to my Credentials Advisory Committee.

Several books have been written about the history of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) reformation movement.  “I Saw the Church,” however, is the first book to organize our church’s history with an emphasis on development of theology and practice, rather than merely document a timeline of events and church leaders.  In other words, it’s not a chronological history.  The non-chronological layout was disorienting at times (flashing back and forward to various decades/centuries, church leaders dying or bowing out of the scene and then reappearing in the narrative later, etc.), but upon my second reading it made sense why author Merle Strege made this stylistic choice.

Regarding the content itself, I was impressed at how candid and thorough Strege was with researching this book.  Church history is placed within the context of then-current developments of the universal Christian church and society as a whole.  Before reaching the more love-oriented modern era depicted at the end of the book, I learned much about the earlier eras of my own church movement.

Many parts were inspiring, though I occasionally found myself scribbling exclamation points in the margins at some of the primitive ideas that somehow went unchallenged for so long.  I would’ve counted myself among the dissenters who revolted against the original tendencies towards legalism, exclusivism, and anti-intellectualism.  Strege offers an unflinching look at how the Church of God has wrestled through issues of doctrine (though we don’t officially have a creed other than the Bible), theology, practice, organization, and social issues.

Throughout my life, I’ve found myself taking pride in our church movement’s relatively liberal stance towards women in ministry, racial equality, government, and other issues.  This book helped me to understand that our movement’s earlier leaders had some rather eccentric views,  mistakes were made along the way, major disagreements occurred (as well as silly minor disputes), and that it’s unrealistic to expect a completely smooth evolution of thought and practice from a church that is comprised of imperfect people.  Regardless of the peripheral troubling spots in our church’s earlier history, it was inspiring to read an account of the men and women who have followed the call to pursue the vision of holiness and Christian unity.

“I Saw the Church” is written for anyone interested in a balanced, thoughtfully laid out examination of how the Church of God’s grass roots beginnings evolved into to our present era.  The non-chronological structure takes some getting used to, but in retrospect, it was well worth the effort.  This book is a wealth of information and insight into the heritage of our holiness movement.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Salt Lake City- Delta's Velvet 360

Posted from Hollywood, en route to hooking up with the fam in Australia…

After leading hikes and other outdoor adventures for NW Wilderness all summer, I would’ve normally already flown overseas a couple times this fall.  Being a Delta Airlines employee, quick international trips are a regular thing for our family.  In fact, I’m currently attempting 1 of 2 back-to-back overseas family trips, on three different continents.

The steep Devil’s Peak hike I led Saturday before I flew out was scaled back from my original 15 mile routing, but the roster was ANYTHING but scaled back.  I relaxed my usual limit of 10-12 hikers to allow a whopping 18 people attend my hike.  And over 30 people RSVP’d!

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

But the big event of last week was Delta’s Velvet 360 event in Salt Lake City.  I was very fortunate to be selected to represent our PDX station (see the two links to my posts about running in the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon in 2014, and also my latest from 2015).

After I worked late into the wee hours of Tuesday morning (we were short-staffed), Delta flew me to SLC on Tuesday and put me up in the AAA Five Diamond luxury hotel Grand America.  The swag bags were gone by the time I arrived, but I landed just in time to catch the opening night festivities.

Enthusiastic "Velveteers" greet us at the SLC airport with our motor coach

Grand America courtyard:  Before getting dressed up for the main event(s)

The courtyard was the setting for Tuesday night’s party:  Prizes, exquisitely prepared food and appetizers, drinks, music, and dancing.  D.J. Nunzio was on hand later that evening to get the dance floor hopping.

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Day 2

After a very late night with some new friends, Wednesday morning breakfast arrived rather early
(7 a.m.!).

But Velvet 360 was just getting started.

An all-star lineup of Delta’s executive leadership team (including President Ed Bastian) took the stage throughout Wednesday to share with employees the Big Picture, a 360 degree view of Delta’s business.

Gil West, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, was one of many featured speakers from our Delta executive leadership team

At times, Velvet 360 was refreshingly less like a conference and more like an energetic, entertainingly-produced U2 concert.  Prize giveaways, cinematic short films, comedy skits, and the enthusiastic “Veveteers” kept the energy levels up during the transitions between speakers.

The jubilant Velveteer prize patrol whisks away yet another winner up to the stage

Lights, camera, action:  A 180 degree view of Velvet 360

Amidst the flashy production values, the message was clear:  Delta is actively involved in investing in the successful future of our customers, shareholders, and employees.

Props to Delta Airlines for a job well done at Velvet 360.  And thanks for sending me!

Bonus Vine video:

Hit the unmute button to hear audio of us getting our groove on to Bobby Brown the night before.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Upcoming overseas travels.. And more!

Photo: Goofing around on my birthday Mount Shasta climb last month-- Story and photos from our climb, and other recent outdoor expeditions, are coming soon!

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Baby Levi's U.S. passport should arrive any week now.  Now that the spring/summer hiking and climbing season is slowing down, it's time once again to get the Hamiltons out and about.  And of course, that includes our occasional quick trips overseas!

Studying for my "Big Church" sermons has kept me too occupied to update this blog recently (or participate in the annual Triple D hiking event with NW Wilderness last weekend!).  I'll be back after my preaching to blog about some about some of the recent outdoor events that I've lead.

But for now... not in any chronological order, here are just a few upcoming trips on the horizon for us in early fall:

1. Destination unknown: Europe, South America, or Asia

Lena's very first overseas trip, to Spain

Whenever Levi's passport gets here, his first international journey will be ready for him.  And lil' Lena is way past due for her next overseas jaunt.  Her 4th birthday is next week!

2.  Waterfall rappelling, Take 2  (Undisclosed location)

Both caution and a tight timeline got the best of Katya and me when we trekked out and geared up for this last month.  Once again, we'll need to commit to the entire canyoneering route after rappelling the first of the waterfalls... With no escape options until we complete the circuit, the first rappel will mark a point of no return.

If I can finish enough of my sermon prep this week, we may head out into the wilderness again on Friday for a second shot at this canyoneering thrill ride.  Rope and harnesses ready!

3.  Australia

Several years have passed since we last went Down Under for hiking, caving, and surfing.  And it just so happens that my parents will soon be exploring Australia for a few weeks.  Hmm, I wonder if I'll run into them?

4.  Banks Lake, WA- camping/boating


Was there any doubt we'd be making an appearance at our family's annual Banks Lake camping trip this month?  Wakeboarding, waterskiing, and tubing are much more enjoyable in those warmer waters.

5.  Salt Lake City- Delta Airline's Velvet 360 event

It was an honor to be asked to represent PDX at Delta's upcoming two-day event in Utah.  According to previous Velvet 360 guests, it looks to be quite a unique opportunity.

6.  Italy-France-- Mont Blanc climb

My recent daytrip to Italy was only long enough to visit a couple of friends.  I'm hoping to string together a few days soon for another, more extended weekend.  But like fall, Mont Blanc's weather conditions are a wild card so late in the climbing season.

If not a climb, then we'll just throw one of our usual Italian get-togethers.  This overseas trip will be another quickie, but those are always worth it!

7.  Middle Sister climb [New! Added 9-15]

Some of our mountaineering crew from last month's Mount Shasta climb are headed south again, this time to the relatively local Central Oregon.  The date is set.  We're still working out the details, but it's looking like a drive-camp-climb-summit-descent... all squeezed into two days.  Only Sam.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mexico mission, Day 7 (previously unpublished)

My birthday Mount Shasta climb over the weekend was a great way to cap off an exciting week of birthday adventures with family and friends!  As usual, I'll try to blog photos and stories from a few of those recent hiking and climbing outings when I get a chance.  There have been so many recent outdoor adventures! 

This previously unpublished post from Mexico was a snapshot of our mission trip earlier this month, from the morning of Day 7.  WiFi was down on the Thursday morning when I originally attempted to upload this post from Vicente Guerrero for our home Churches of God in the U.S.  Since this post has been stuck on my PC until now, I've also added some more recent Mexico photos for this release.

For a throwback, last year's blog update from Mexico is here.  Check back here later for an upcoming look at this month's entire Mexico trip, from guest blogger Kathy!

Garth, Kathy, Tim, Patricia, Vi, and Harry outside Welcome Home Outreach Ministries headquarters in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico 

Hello, loving church families and supporters in the U.S.!   It's Day 7 of our mission trip here in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico. Working with Welcome Home Outreach Ministries, God has allowed our combined group from Aloha, Fresno, and Tigard Churches of God to accomplish much so far.

At the beginning of this week, we completed rebuilding a roof for our new friend Victor and his family.

Worshiping en español at the local Calvary Chapel church on Sunday, before beginning the week's projects

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Victor and the boys standing on the finished roof

The second roof we had hoped to rebuild was far too deteriorated for us to work on.  Rather than miss an opportunity to help that family, we decided to finance the materials for an upcoming group to build with.

Project 2: Neri points out the structural damage and unsafe deterioration of the second roof.

Our third and current project, pictured below, was brought to our attention completely unexpectedly. Eternal Anchor, an orphanage organization for disabled/special needs children, has been in need of a temporary structure to store some medical equipment for the upcoming school year. Thanks to some previously donated building materials, the only things missing were some willing and available laborers!

Since we were looking for a replacement followup project anyway, we started building a shed for Eternal Anchor on Wednesday.

Project 2, Day 1: Mixing mortar and cement, and laying the foundation

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Project 3, Day 3 (Day 7 in Mexico)

Almost done!  Breaking for lunch on Day 7, with only some final roofing and a coat of paint remaining

Finally, here are some shots of the children served by the ministries we support here in Mexico:

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Austin introduces a few of the special needs children that he, Deborah, and others care for at the Eternal Anchor orphanage

We expect to finish construction of the shed for Eternal Anchor by this afternoon, allowing us to drive back up to the U.S. border tomorrow morning. Thank you for your support and continued prayers!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, Take 2

Posted from Vicente Guerrero, Mexico... I hope to blog some of our church's current work projects down here in Mexico soon!

"I love the tutu!" Vine video:  Click the unmute button to unleash the full craziness of this clip, filmed as I neared the "Finish Swine" of this year's Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

The last time we tried this...

Before we get to this year's race, let's face it... Last year, a couple of us PDX Delta Airlines employees showed the world how NOT to run the Flying Pig Marathon.  Jackie and I (along with plenty of other runners) missed a crucial turn-off, unknowingly bypassed our baton hand-off point, and accidentally followed the marathon runners all the way to the "Finish Swine."  Fortunately, the remainder of our PDX runners performed wonderfully.

Before reading about our 2015 race below, feel free to re-live last year's hilariously embarrassing (and well publicized) debacle in my earlier 2014 blog post here.

Moving on to this year's race... I'm happy to report that there were no mass diversions this year.  The event organizers who did such a fantastic job last year worked even harder to work out the kinks for 2015.

I had just climbed Mount Hood with Katya three days earlier, and my toes and feet were in really bad shape.  My podiatrist had forbidden me from ice climbing for eight months, and I was banned from running forever.  In other words, I didn't exactly have a doctor's note for this one.

The day before the race

Since I was the sole runner selected to represent PDX airport this year, I flew to Cincinnati without any local teammates this time.  I was looking forward to meeting the rest of my Region West team for the pre-race festivities.

Studying this year's race route on the plane ride, avoiding last year's mishap

Checking in at the Millennium Hotel, registering, and picking up our team's race swag from the Flying Pig Expo 

Pre-race party at the Via Vite Italian Bistro:  My teammate Ingunn (on the right) and I (before I cut off my wild curls) mix it up with the other relay teams, and indulge in Delta's generous hospitality.  Ingunn was an Elite-status runner in the Boston Marathon! 

Race Day

Long, early morning walk from the Millennium to the relay shuttle bus

Pumped and waiting for my baton hand-off for the final leg of the relay 

Vine video: Hit the unmmute button to hear the crowd cheer for the lead marathon runner as he races past the final baton hand-off point.

More runners ran past as I anxiously waited, stretched, and bounced to the rock music on my running song playlist.

Finally, I spotted Ingunn running down the hill towards me.  She yelped and enthusiastically thrust the baton towards me, as though running past. I grabbed the baton from her and started thundering down the final leg.

The cheering crowds provided course-side refreshments and encouraging shouts.
"Looking good, Delta!"
"Love the tutu!"

Considering my pain and soreness from that week's Mount Hood climb, it was satisfying to pass so many runners as I ran my segment.  My feet were already injured, but a preexisting numbness in my toes (from a previous Mount Hood climb) strangely offset the pain.

Though the pain began to lag my pace, I decided to pull out all stops for the final mile.  Check out the Vine video at the top of this post to get a feel for the moments as I was about to enter the final stretch.  The crowds got much louder and even more intense as I neared the Finish Swine.

An all out sprint to the Finish Swine brought my overall pace up to a 7:54 minute mile.  Not anywhere near as fast as I expected, but respectable.  According to an infograph texted me by a teammate, I ranked 22nd (In my leg? I'm not sure how that works) and 20th overall, and our Region West team took 5th place among all the Delta teams!

After crossing the Finish Swine


Post-race festivities, refreshments, and freebies

Live music and dancing at the after party

And finally, I'll throw in one more flashback from last year's Flying Pig Marathon.  Delta's running teams are unforgettable, year after year!

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Just read: The Adversary, by Reece Hirsch

P.S.A. -- Today is the long-awaited release date for Go Set a Watchman, a newly discovered earlier novel from Pulitzer prize winning author Harper Lee!

I was excited to buy this "new" book on opening day this morning, but our book budget is a little short this week.  Instead, I'll be binge re-reading Lee's unforgettable American classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" (purchased Sunday at Powell's City of Books with one of my favorite people) in honor of this historic literary event.

Disclosure:  The book reviewed below was a free selection from Amazon Kindle for Samsung's monthly book deals.  That's why I read it.  And this review will soon also be featured on my Goodreads page.

The Adversary (A Chris Bruen novel, Book 1) is a knowledgeably written tech thriller about a lawyer/ former D.O.J. cybercrimes prosecutor trying to thwart a massive cyberterrorist attack that could cost thousands or even millions of lives.

The good:  The trace bit of tech geek inside me enjoyed author Reece Hirsch's attention to credibility as the master plan of sinister cyberhacker Enigma is slowly uncovered by protagonist Chris Bruen. Cliches and gaps in logic are to be expected in novels such as these, but at least the technological aspects of the story seemed reasonably plausible.  And there was enough non-digital world action to balance it all out.

The okay:  The Adversary's engrossing plot makes up for protagonists Chris and Zoey occasionally feeling more like functional than sympathetic characters (though Chris eventually gets more fleshed out as his deeper backstory explains his quest for redemption). And author Hirsch has a tendency to repeat information in dialog at length that's already recently been revealed, as though spoon feeding it to readers who weren't paying attention the first time.

My take:  Ultimately, I enjoyed this story. A significant (and underused, in my opinion) twist at around the halfway point turns the plot on it's head, and the novel picks up plenty of steam as Enigma's villainous scheme sees its execution.  But reader be warned, a fondness for techno jargon may be required to enjoy this mystery-thriller.  I was all over it.

Throughout the final chapter, Kindle for Samsung kept reminding me that Book 2 in the Chris Bruen novel series has already been released.  Should I ever discover an opening in my reading list, I'd be game for checking that one out as well.

Coming this weekend on Garth's Blog, after our youth group camping/ rafting trip...

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

...The 2015 follow-up to last year's Cincinatti Flying Pig Marathon!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hiking Nesmith Point

Note:  Updates to the previous "Upcoming Climbs" (link) entry are at the end of this post, including a catch-up on some other recent hikes/events I've organized.

The Nesmith Point hike I led a few weeks ago for NW Wilderness was originally suggested by my friend Kaitlin as we hiked Katya's Rudolph Spur loop (itself a descendant of an earlier, hilariously disastrous scouting session with Katya) a couple weeks earlier.

Kaitlin's suggestion paid off!

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

When I originally posted the invite for this Nesmith Point hike... which was reportedly pretty steep on its own... I mapped out some options to extend the adventure in the event that those who signed up would want a little more.  Those extra optional miles, waterfalls, and off-trail viewpoints I offered weren't even necessary.

Our group of nine carpooled to John B. Yeon state park in the Columbia River Gorge, and made our way to the junction of Nesmith Point Trail #428.  The adventure was on!

Mylenka, Kirsty, Saurubh, Jodi, Steve, Darren, me, and Li setting out from John B. Leon state park; Amarilis took this photo

Heading uphill, way uphill...

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

...occasionally stopping to enjoy the views

Photo by Mylenka

A brief flat stretch, through the lush forest

Messing around at the summit

View from the top, high above the Columbia River Gorge

After Saurubh and I ran downhill for an alternate summit view, Kirsty and I found the "true summit" (Photo by Kirsty)

Kirsty and I break away from the group for the true summit, obscured in trees

Finding something higher to climb for the TRUE true summit?  Because we're ridiculous.  (Photo by Kirsty)

Lunch break (Photo by Mylenka)

Steve helps Mylenka perform one of his signature summit headstands

Deciding to not make it a longer loop, the group is MORE than content to head back down to the trail head

Here is my brief trip report, as posted on my NW Wilderness event page (that link also has members' post-hike comments and complete photo set):

Great job on Saturday, everyone! Thanks for coming out. You guys were a blast, and we knocked out that somewhat steep trail at a comfortable pace with plenty of time to spare. I'll try to upload my pictures soon (I currently have a bit of a photo backup). Using the GPS unit data I salvaged, I did the best I could to estimate our stats:
Total distance: 11.05 miles
Total time: 6 hours
Moving time: 5:05
Avg moving speed: 2.2 mph
Max speed: 6.73 mph
Elevation gain 3815 feet

And finally, as promised, here are a couple of updates to last month's "Upcoming Climbs" blog post:

1. Our grueling 33.8 mile Mount St Helens circumnavigation went ahead without me. My orthotic inserts badly needed re-repairing, as terrible as the timing was. Organizer Craig and I decided it would be too risky to discover my pain tolerance while trekking off-trail along a remote side of the mountain, with no feasible escape route.

2. We called off our recent post-season Mount Hood climb. Too dangerous, apparently.  But since my podiatrist was able to repair my orthotics in-house, I instead did a family hike with Lena and Levi... and then I organized an easy 10-person foot break-in hike up Old Baldy Mountain for NW Wilderness that weekend. The next day, nine of us hiked up to Copper Spur on Mount Hood.  And then I led 13 people on an exciting hike from Tooth Rock trailhead to Wauna Point on Fourth of July weekend.

Until I blog those trip reports here, check out those various links from NW Wilderness above for photos and post-hike comments from last Saturday.

Coming up on Garth's Blog...

Running again in this year's Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon!