Friday, May 29, 2015

Survey SAYS.... (Pew Research study on American religion)

Until the next travel/ outdoor adventure post drops next week, I'm sharing the front page article that I contributed to our June newsletter for Aloha Church of God.  My original piece was much longer.

Last month, I also shared the condensed version of my similarly-themed book review of The None Zone: Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest.  But normally, personal and faith-oriented posts like this week's would be featured on my other blog.

This past month, a Pew Research Center study found that the number of Americans who identified themselves as Christians declined by 8% from 2007-2014. Non-Christian religious groups saw a decline as well.  The only group who saw a significant increase was the nones, those who checked “none of the above” on the survey.

Some are rushing to defend the church from potentially misleading survey results, especially from the Evangelical camp.  After all, among the respondents who claimed to be Christians, the group who labeled themselves as Evangelicals actually saw an increase from 59.8 million to 62.2 million.  Though we as the Church of God (Anderson, IN) are not Evangelical, it is admittedly encouraging to read that any segment of the Christian church is experiencing an increase in numbers.  However, it’s still difficult to ignore the overall drop in respondents affiliated with Christianity.

Many people interpret these results as a clarification, rather than a decline, of Christian identity in America.  In this interpretation, “nominals” who have in the past been Christians “in name only” are finally being upfront and honest about their lack of Christian affiliation.  In other words, the number of Christians who are genuine and committed to following Christ has more or less remained steady.

However one reads these results, our mission as Aloha Church of God remains the same.  We are called to love, serve, and be a light in our local community.   We do not exist as the church to defend the institution of religion.  We do not exist to keep our numbers up, or to put a spin on the statistics.  And we certainly don’t exist to classify spiritual seekers with convenient labels such as “nominals” and “nones.”

We simply exist to love people, just as Christ loves us.

Posts about last month's Mount Hood climbs, recent hikes, overseas trips, and family happenings are all on the way!

On the summit of Mount Hood last month

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Netherlands: Zuid-Kennemerland hiking and Haarlem biking

This is Part 2 of 2 of my mini-mini-travelogue from Europe last month.  Check out the link to Part 1 of my story.

Stories and photos from other recent overseas trips and hiking/mountain climbing adventures are on the way!

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

From my new Instagram page: Bicycling from Haarlem to Zuid-Kennemerland, the nature reserve suggested by my Twitter friends Martijn and Antonette from we12travel travel/outdoor adventure blog.

The title of last month's on-location post (drafted on the plane ride over the ocean and uploaded in the  Amsterdam airport), The Netherlands: Bicycling to Haarlem, was a bit off the mark.  Turns out that "Bicycling FROM Haarlem" would've been more accurate.  Chalk that up to optimism and an unrealistically ambitious itinerary.

The bicycle rental didn't actually happen until Haarlem, where I began my ride.  This was because back in Amsterdam, a couple of delays had forced me to tweak my plans to maximize my daylight.  And nothing would deter me from bicycling to my destination: Nationaal Park de Zuid-Kennemerland.

To make up for lost time, I hopped a train from Amsterdam to Haarlem instead.  This quick European daytrip would be over before I knew it.

Jetlagged train ride from Amsterdam to Haarlem (I changed my mind after telling a friend I wouldn't share this photo-- You know who you are!)

Haarlem train station, inside and out

It didn't take long to spot a bicycle rental shop near the Haarlem train station.  Friendly owner Mustafo only spoke about 20 words of English, but he helpfully walked me through the quirks of his of his prized storefront model.

Mustafo draws up the paperwork

Navigating my bicycle across town to check in at the hostel was pretty easy once I got my bearings.  Learning to keep that fixed gear bike stable while balancing a luggage bag on my back... well, that wasn't exactly among my most graceful moments.

A new set of wheels

Two-wheeled rush hour traffic in Haarlem

The Gravestenbrug over the River Spaarne

The Corrie ten Boom Museum

Vine video of the Gravestenbrug:  Snipe the "unmute" button above to hear the sound of those church bells ringing out over the River Spaarne

The clean and stylish Local Botique Hostel was still, for a few more hours, a ghost town when I rode up and parked my bicycle.  There was already a full house booked for that night, but I had checked in too early in the day to round up new friends (my typical routine when I arrive at an overseas hostel) for the day's adventure.

The Local Botique Hostel-  Love the friendly staff!

After dropping off my bag in my dorm room, I climbed back onto my bicycle for the ride out of town.  Some residential navigation was necessary to locate the highway.  Curse those confusing roundabouts!

Once on the highway, the route to Nationaal Park de Zuid-Kennemerland was an easy ride.  And as Anto had told me the day before, the park itself was wonderful.  The wild animals were out playing, though I missed the "Scottish cattle with the big horns" that she said I should've been watching out for.

From my new Instagram:
A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Alarmingly, time quickly got away from me.  I'd been frequently hopping off my bicycle to hike trails that were too rough for my tires.  All of that extra hiking time added up, and I found myself at the far end of Kennemerland park with less than an hour before the bike rental shop closed.

I raced down the highway, back to Haarlem, and returned my rental bicycle just as Mustafo was closing up shop at the dinner hour.  We bid each other "vaarwel" as I walked outside to continue my sightseeing on foot.

Later that evening, I met some friends who were in town at Tapas Bar El Pincho to wind down for the day.  The staff was kind enough to let us enjoy their cushy, open-air patio seating until long after the sun went down.


The following morning's sunrise was beautiful as I checked out of the Local Boutique Hostel.  I took time to enjoy the quiet walk back to the Haarlem train station.  For once, there would be no rushing to catch my mid-morning plane back to the States.

A photo posted by Garth Hamilton (@garth_hamilton) on

Back at the Amsterdam airport, a single Business Elite seat remained open for the flight home to Portland.  I was flying standby.  Despite a couple of extraordinary circumstances that should've sent me to the back of the plane (but hopefully not stranded in Europe), I was awarded that seat up front.

Variations of "You're extremely lucky" were echoed by several of the flight attendants and one of the gate agents as I was assigned my seat.

Alternately, the head purser serving my side of the cabin walked past my seat and whispered, "It's a miracle,"

I prefer to think that it was the latter.

Beginning next weekend on Garth's Blog...

Recent hikes in the U.S. and abroad...

Visiting family and climbing in Bend this weekend...

...And last month's climbs on Mount Hood!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Just read: Mount Hood- South Side Route

Since climbing Mount Hood myself a few days ago (photos and stories from recent hikes/climbs are coming soon), I decided to finally review "Mount Hood- South Side Route" on my flight home from the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon.

Katya and I on the summit of Mount Hood a few days ago, squinting into the sun.

This book review will also be posted on my Goodreads page.

This first entry in the “Cascade Climbs” series was written by Paul Wellner, a Northwest local who has climbed Hood several times.  Wellner shares his mountaineering preferences and experience based on his previous climbs.

A good portion of this book is dedicated to basic preparedness for climbing, information which most climbers would either already know from experience or from books which serve this purpose.  For example, “Mountaineering:  Freedom of the Hills” is an excellent resource that I’m reading right now for general instruction on preparation and climbing techniques.

Wellner’s advice runs the gamut from the helpful (“pay attention to the debris on the slopes which indicate that you are in the fall line of Crater Rock”) to the occasionally comical (his list of essential climbing items includes a candle... perhaps so we can gear up for the night cap/Charles Dickens summit approach?).

As much as I appreciated the detail and effort put into the first volume of this “Cascade Climbs” series, there was one concern as I read this Kindle edition:  Based on some of Wellner’s wording, it’s unclear whether he has personally climbed anywhere other than the Old Chute route.  For example, he recommends the Old Chute route instead of the Pearly Gates seemingly based on a single third-party trail report.  He also determines that the Pearly Gates route “doesn’t get much use these days,” although many of my friends prefer that route (and my good friend Katya and I rather enjoyed climbing through the Pearly Gates a few days ago).  His descriptions of the Pearly Gates passage are accurate, however, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s speaking firsthand.  Either way, he has vastly more mountaineering experience than I.

Helmets off to Wellner for providing this brief resource for those unfamiliar with the terrain of Mount Hood’s south climbing routes.  I read it twice.  It’s opinionated, and not all climbers will agree with his opinions.  Such is the nature of any sport instructional book.

Most peculiar (though entertaining) were Wellner’s repeated recommendations to shell out the cash to rent a snow cat and ride to the top of the Palmer snowfield.  Apparently, skipping this part of the hike “can make the difference between a successful climb versus an attempt” and “adds a bit more to the experience” of climbing Hood for him, personally.  To each his own.

But what if there is a catastrophic dome-light failure inside the snow cat?  You’ll be glad you packed that candle.