Tag Archives: Eastern_Oregon

Western larch and the Mt Emily Recreation Area

As the fall colors fade in La Grande, as leaves fill yards and streets, the western larch (tamarack) are just beginning to radiate color. These trees are deciduous conifers that shed their needles after a late fall golden display.  In the springtime, the fresh needles are a bright pale green, offering a totally different sheen.  The grow straight and tall, like candles, up to a height of one hundred and eighty feet. I love to wander in and around them in the Mt Emily Recreation Area, as the bright sunlight bounces off their needles.

western larch, tamarack

Grande Ronde Valley

Mt Emily Recreation Area, MERA

MERA, Mt Emily Recreation Area

western larch

Sharing goodness

Certainly, as we read the domestic and international news, life seems to be spiraling into the abyss of chaos. We alone cannot redeem or purify the world. Yet we can pray to the One who can. We can confront our own dark side and adjust our thoughts, words, and actions to be ones of goodness and compassion, whether or not they are accepted by others. I now simply pray that the Lord’s love will fall like rain on all his Creation to quench the fires of hatred and bitterness.

This prayer was found in the clothes of a dead child at the Ravensbruk women’s concentration camp:

“O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will.  But do not remember only the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember too the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering–our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this.  And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.”

And, as I think of this prayer, I am reminded that the moon has risen and set for millennia, showing us eternal beauty and God’s constancy, regardless of our circumstances and willingness to really appreciate Him.

Morgan Lake OR

Morgan Lake, La Grande

Morgan Lake Fall full Moonrise

Meg and I enjoyed a serene late afternoon and early evening at Morgan Lake here in eastern Oregon.  Morgan Lake is a quiet retreat a fifteen minute drive from town at the top of the west hills above La Grande. Picnic tables and walking trails make it an ideal place to relax, and it is also regularly stocked with rainbow trout.  No motors are allowed on the lake, so paddling, either for recreation or for fishing,  is a soothing way to spend part of a day.

Indian summer produces colorful cottonwood and aspen leaves around the shore, which reflect off the lake as the wind dies down.  And, taking the time to watch a full moon silently rising is an excellent retreat for mind and soul.

Morgan Lake

Morgan Lake

Moon first appearing above Morgan Lake

Morgan Lake

Regardless of with whom or without whom we journey through life, our thought life is never mindless.

“At no time of day or night are we not thinking about something.  The only real question is, What is it? What do I choose to ruminate about in the interstices of the day, in the dark quiet of the night? Where does my mind go when there is nowhere specific for it to go?

The questions is an important one because its answer defines the kind of person we are choosing to become….The fact is, we become what we think about. What we seed in our souls grows in us, forms us, becomes what drives us from moment to moment.
Prayer intends to steep me in the thoughts of God….If I pray for my enemies, if I pray to a loving God to make me loving too, however many years it takes–it will happen. Then, like a drop of rain in the midst of the sea, I will become part of the heart of the world.  I must pray to become love.”
                               Joan Chittister, The Breath of the Soul
Eagle Cap Wilderness

Anthony Lake OR, Union County

Out of my comfort zone

My mid July trip consisted four wheel driving from high in the Steens Mt through Juntura and other back pockets of eastern Oregon, finishing in the high, remote gold mining mining sites in the Elkhorn Mts if Baker County.  It was led by David Zartman, a friend of Matt’s who graduated from La Grande High School a couple of years before Matt .  David received his degree from the University of Oregon and then went to LA.   While working for Land Rover magazine, he recognized that nothing existed for Toyota 4 Wheel Owners, and so, without borrowing money from either parents or bank, he pre sold subscriptions and started the magazine from his desktop.  

The circulation is now 31,000 and he still produces it from his desktop, now in Gig Harbor Washington state where he lives close to his parents.  He receives many offers to use and review products.  He recently imported a 1983 Toyota Trooper from Australia, which was part of this venture.  He and his friends are not happy unless they have to repair cars along the way, pull them out of tight situations, and use maps, not GPS.  Charlie’s Dad drove the Trooper; I was just along for the ride. We were on the road for five days, starting high in the Steens Mt of Oregon and ultimately visiting the high, remote gold mining sites of the Elkhorn Mts in Baker County. It was a great opportunity for me to move beyond my comfort zone!   

Map reading near Juntura


Someplace beyond Juntura

a budding mechanic under David’s supervision

Campsite at Fish Lake, Steens Mt

David outside of Malheur Cave

Kiger_Gorge, Steens_Mt

Eastern Oregon back road

Fish Lake

Steens Mt Indian paintbrush

Moon Hill Rd, Steens Mt

Alvord Desert overlook

Fish_Lake, Steens Mt

Great Pyranees watchdog


Fish_Lake, Steens Mt

The Trooper from Australia that Charlie drove

The space where we find freedom

Viktor Frankl, psychologist and Auschwitz survivor, writes in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

From my own journey with God, I would write that God did not create us as puppets to force us to love Him and glorify Him. He does not compel us to love and forgive each other with patience and kindness and mercy.  Instead, between the actions of others and our response to them, we have the choice, the freedom to love or to reject, to accept or to deny. Or as Richard Rohr would say, in any situation we have the power “to transform the pain or to transmit it.”
Steens_Mt, Kiger_Gorge

The Grande Ronde Valley from above and from below

The Grande Ronde Valley of La Grande, Union County is vast and verdant.  Whether view from above at Indian Rock, or from below, the fields spread out in the colors of early summer farmland.

Cove OR, canola

Canola, Cove OR


Indian Rock, La Grande

Indian Rock, Grande_Ronde_Valley



Mt Emily

Penstemon, Grande_Ronde_Valley, Indian_Rock_OR

Strawberry Lake and Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

The Strawberry Mountains are the eroded remnants of a volcanic explosion fifteen million years ago. Strawberry Lake is a small glacial lake, not very deep, with transparent water that shows off the bottom and reflects the mountains above. Its evocative name came from an early pioneer who named the creek that flows out of the lake for the abundance of wild strawberries that grew in the area. The lake is about a mile and half hike from the campground at the end of the road.  Beyond the lake, Strawberry Falls cascades down from a height of eighty feet.

This area lies in Grant County, Oregon, about half an hour from the town of Prairie City. The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is relatively small–70,000 acres, but the pines and firs are deep and the beauty intense.









The Source of our Joy

I often return to this wonderful statement by Henri Nouwen for reassurance when I get frustrated with the state of the world or the state of my life:

“Joy does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world.  It does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives.  Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world. Jesus says it loudly and clearly: ‘In the world you will have troubles, but rejoice, I have overcome the world.’

“The surprise is not that, unexpectedly, things turn out better than expected.  No, the real surprise is that God’s light is more real than all the darkness, that God’s truth is more powerful than all human lies, that God’s love is stronger than death.”  Henri Nouwen

Romans 8: 31: What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Powder River

Ladd Marsh

Sunset and snow

As winter draws to a close here in northeast Oregon, I enjoyed an opportunity at our local ski area in the Elkhorn Mountains to enjoy some snow scenes.  The evening before, La Grande had been blessed with a most incredible sunset.  These scenes are a reminder of the intense beauty that surrounds us if we are able to make time to see.