Monday, April 20, 2015

Breaking overnight news: Videos of Levi's first steps, and more!!

We interrupt my 2-part biking/hiking European mini-travelogue (link) to bring you this important announcement...

Baby Levi took his first steps last night!

Vine video: Click "unmute" to hear Levi's (and Daddy's) screams of joy... or just enjoy the silence

Readers may remember Garth's Blog celebrating the day that Lena took her first steps a couple years ago, and this day is every bit as exciting!  At 15 months old, we expected that Levi would've been walking already.  But better late than never!  Levi was so proud of himself, right along with Daddy, Mommy, and big sister.

While Kathy and the grandparents keep shopping for Levi's baby clothes, I'll start tracking down deals on mountaineering crampons for his baby shoes.  There are some thrilling outdoor adventures in store for this one.

So what happened next?

Levi fell down...

... Then Levi got back up onto the step, and then he took another step or two.

There was plenty of cheering and applause...

...And then Levi finally psyched himself for his next trick:  Standing up on his own, without using the step!

Vine video: You'll definitely want to hit "unmute" for this clip.  For whatever reason, Lena is congratulating HERSELF for this accomplishment.  It's all just too adorable.

We have a baby hiker on our hands!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Netherlands: Bicycling to Haarlem

Updated pic from Haarlem this morning; I ended up bicycling FROM Haarlem instead

Seoul, South Korea was once again the goal for this overseas day trip (our kids had been out of town for a couple days). Had the Seoul flights been too full to fly standby on like last month--and they were-- the alternate plan was to visit a few friends in Singapore for the day.

But prior to yesterday morning, I hadn't even CONSIDERED coming back here to the Netherlands again until sometime next month. Yet here I am.

Plan C it is, and I'm solo on this one. My Dutch friends are currently scattered around visiting the coast, the U.K., and Germany. And a couple of my Twitter friends in Arnhem have work/travel schedules that keep them hopping.

Business Elite cabin view of the Netherlands this morning

If it's convenient to rent a bicycle here in Amsterdam, I'll soon be on my way to Haarlem to drop off my backpack at a hostel. From there, I'll ride to Nationaal Park de Zuid-Kennemerland in search of a bike lock and some hiking trails.

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

4/20- Thought I'd drop a pic from my new Instagram page that I created last week, too.

Thanks to Martijn and Antonette from the we12travel outdoor adventure blog (link also on the sidebar of Garth's Blog) for the suggestion for today's upcoming adventure!  I'll add links and maybe another photo or two to this post when I'm not limited to mobile phone blogging. [4/18- Links and pics added]

I plan to continue today's story from the Netherlands before featuring other recent travel/outdoor adventure outings on Garth's Blog.  But either way...

...More to come, when I get back to the States!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Just read: The Garden of Stones, by Mark T. Barnes

This book review will also be shared to my new Goodreads page.

Disclosure: This book was a free selection from the Samsung Book Deals monthly offerings for my Note 4 phone.

Consider this review the Conan O'Brien's Clueless Gamer segment of fantasy book reviews.  The sci-fi/fantasy literature genre is foreign to me.  My only exposure to this genre since high school has been limited to the Dune series and multiple rereads of the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and Chronicles of Narnia.  The Harry Potter series is still on my list.  With those exceptions, I'm a newbie.

Fantasy readers will presumably enjoy the “Echoes of Empires” trilogy, but opening book The Garden of Stones is not the best jumping off point for readers who are still trying to get into the genre.  Well written for what it is, author Mark T. Barnes drops you right in the middle of a complex, unfamiliar world with no introduction or context within reality.  In a recent interview, George Lucas described dropping this exact same tactic onto “Star Wars” audiences back in 1977 (and I use a sci-fi analogy only to the extent that Lucas’ universe building is reminiscent of that of fantasy literature).  In those films, or at least in the original trilogy, any viewer could enjoy the adventure regardless of the depth of their engagement with the Star Wars universe.

The difference is that the Star Wars universe was populated with characters who were both human and relatable to non-genre fans.   In contrast, while reading “The Garden of Stones” I found myself racing to the helpful Cast of Characters appendix quite frequently just to distinguish the names, races, political feuds, wars, and confusing historical eras that were essential to following the narrative.

On that note, it IS possible to enjoy this book without a full grasp of its complex backstory, political intrigue, and small army of oddly-named characters.  The action is thrilling (if a bit gory), the pacing is reasonably brisk, and… as morbid as this sounds… it eventually becomes easier to keep everything straight when major characters begin to get killed off to simplify the “cast.”

Barnes is a talented and creative story teller for fantasy genre fans to enjoy.  But I will probably not be continuing the “Echoes of Empire” saga with Book 2: The Obsidian Heart.  If I DO decide in the future to download Books 2 and 3 for Kindle, it would only be because of the hard work I put into sorting out many of the saga’s complexities.   Some payoff for my efforts is at least little tempting.

Although, if I EVER read another one of those endless references to a fantasy character taking a drink from his or her “bowl of wine...”

Bonus for Garth's Blog readers:

Kathy encouraged me to reveal the real reason that I picked out "Garden of Stones":  As a sleep aid, to incorporate into my bedtime routine.  I didn't have the heart to mention this in my Goodreads review, for fear of crushing Mark T. Barnes' spirit.  But it worked.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hiking- South Mollala River Loop

With our Mount Hood climb tonight after church and another overseas trip next week, it occurred to me that I haven't shared any of this year's crazy adventures here.  And we've done some INSANE things recently... some probably too irresponsible to share with impressionable readers.

But let's start with this uncharacteristically mellow hike I led for NW Wilderness last weekend:

The 10 mile loop I had planned for the South Mollala River area was already the second easiest hike I've ever led, and already more relaxed than the typical hike for NW Wilderness or any of the other expedition groups I'm involved with.  But trail closures and also being forced off-trail by obstacles shaved off 1.4 miles from my intended loop, unfortunately making it even quicker.

As I mentioned in my trip report, our group was game to venture off-trail and switch up the route at various points... whenever we ran out of options to "legally" complete the loop that I had originally intended.  As long as everyone is flexible and trusting, I'm eager to modify the route instead of backtracking when conditions surprise us.

A stretch of log hopping

Pushing through a series of trails to form a loop

Maynard waits for the group to catch up at the first creek crossing.

Lou takes a stab at the next creek crossing.

Rachael and Maynard carefully make their way down a steep embankment during an off-trail segment.

Lunch break at Annie's Cabin.

One of the closed trails we encountered while trying to continue our loop after lunch

A tranquil forest mini-lagoon was tucked away alongside our modified return route.

Distance: 8.6 miles (As mentioned, trail closures and being forced off-trail by obstacles shaved off 1.4 miles from my intended loop)
Total time: 3:03 (incl. all breaks except lunch)
Moving time: 2:19
Avg speed: 3.12 mph
Max speed: 7.76 mph
Elevation gain: 1,683 feet

Coming next week...

More hiking in Asia!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Just read: Religion & Public Life in the Pacific Northwest

You outdoor adventure and travel readers may only be interested in the closing paragraphs of this book review, but I’m including it here anyway.  It was a pretty interesting book for anyone curious about the religious breakdown of our Pacific Northwest region, and you can buy it from Amazon here or download it for Kindle.

This review will also be posted to my new Goodreads page:

This Pacific Northwest entry in the “Religion by Region” series is subtitled "The None Zone" and was edited by Patricia O’Connell Killen and Mark Silk.  It was required reading for me, and I already submitted my detailed report of this book to my Credentials Advisory Board.  In my report, I noted that this book would be very helpful for someone serving in ministry here in the Pac NW, as well as anyone interested in the history, evolution, and current trends in religious thought here in my neck of the woods.

The authors’ research stresses that people of the Pac NW are spiritually-minded but religiously unaffiliated, overwhelmingly so.  I appreciated that this book lays the groundwork for various religious and non-religious groups of the Pac NW to work together to “address the region’s pressing economic, environmental, and social issues."  And I was thrilled to find familiar references to the Church of God reformation movement, TomFest alternative music festival, Beaverton Foursquare Church, Lois Palau festivals at the Portland waterfront, Powell’s Books, Mazamas, etc..

As an outdoor adventure leader myself, one thing that surprised me was the authors’ take on what they referred to as “Northwest Nature Religion.”  Despite my Wesleyan Holiness leanings, by their definition I seem to be lumped in with nature worshipping religious groups.  I recognize our common passions: outdoor recreation and leadership, concern for the environment, a simple and sustainable lifestyle, and enhancement of faith in God while being out in nature.

Does that mean I worship the creation rather than the Creator?  Nope.  But I sure do enjoy the creation.