He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.
As I read this passage a couple days ago, once again I was awed by the knowledge of God’s love. Despite the unhappy struggles we all go through during our lifetime, God prevails. He does give us life after death; He does know our sufferings, and WILL wipe away our tears.
A couple of weeks ago, as Meg and I were camped above the Snake River in Hells Canyon, a hummingbird whizzed back and forth in the early evening light. I clicked quickly, hoping I might come close to capturing the moment on camera. This hummer is obviously not in focus, but its glow is mystical. God’s presence is mystical; it is quiet; it is “be still land know I am God.” And, it is His gift to us that He will “wipe every tear from our eyes!”
Besides the “birds and the beasts,” Meg and I enjoyed the never ending vistas above Hells Canyon at the Saddle Creek Campground near Hat Point in Wallowa county. You could not find a five star hotel with any better views than we enjoyed from our campsite. We read and relaxed and enjoyed the changing shadows and highlights as the sun moved across the sky.
Fr. Keating offers some challenging thoughts about God’s goodness. However, the starting point, is the first chapter of Genesis, when God saw that it was “all good.” I have added the italics below.
“The seventh Fruit of the Spirit is Goodness. Goodness is the affirmation of the creation as good, together with a sense of oneness with the universe and everything God created. It recognizes the beauty of all creation in spite of the damage that human selfishness has imposed upon it. As a result gratitude toward God abounds in our hearts and a positive attitude characterizes our relationship with others and with the wear and tear of daily life.” Fr. Thomas Keating
Saddle Creek is one of many drainages that flow down steep basalt canyons into the Snake River. Often times, Meg and I stay at a Forest Service campground above Saddle Creek that looks into the majesty side cliffs and benches that form Hells Canyon. Bird and mammal life is busy, as these pictures show. A pair of blue birds were nesting in a dead tree close to our campsite, providing us with fun sightings of their constant search for insects.
Once again, Henri Nouwen provides his challenging insights into how even small steps of loving moves us into God’s light.
“How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit … all these are little steps toward love.
Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.” Henri Nouwen
A “must see” place in the Northwest, Hat Point lies opposite the Seven Devils mountains of Idaho, high above the Snake River. The mountains and the river form the deepest canyon in the United States. The road to the top is a sinuous gravel road, with the stretch of acrophobic drop offs. But the views are spectacular, and make the driving challenge more than worthwhile.
The road crosses the Imnaha river and climbs quickly to a canyon overlook filled with wildflowers and basalt layered cliffs. Then, as one climbs and curves higher, the view moves from the south to the east, and the deeper Hells Canyon and the Seven Devils come into view.
Usually snow blocks the road until late June. With this year’s drought, however, Bob Coulter and I were able to make the trip in mid May. The wildflower progression was just starting, and we enjoyed the yellow glacier lilies, as well as the mountain goats that had not yet dispersed to parts unknown.
Imnaha river overlook on road to Hat Point
Imnaha river overlook on road to Hat Point
Balsam root and Imnaha canyon
Glacier lilies, Seven Devils Mts near Hat Point, Hells Canyon
Mountain blue bird
Mountain goats close to the Hat Point fire lookout
I arose early Wednesday morning for the dawning light and returned to an area of colorful wildflowers. It was a cloudy morning, but the filtered sunlight intensified the colors. I was struck how these pockets of wildflowers could still thrive despite the drought conditions that had limited blossoming in other areas of the canyon. May each of us find our own micro climates to continue to grow in!
And, so after breakfast, we packed up and returned down to the river and out to the trailhead. Flowers may fade, but memories endure! And more adventures will Raz and Wallowa llamas await in this Hells Canyon Wilderness.
Hells Canyon Wilderness
The Spring Creek drainage in the Hells Canyon Wilderness
One of my goals of hiking and camping in this Hells Canyon area was to visit the McGraw Creek cabin. This name and location has resonated in my mind for many years. I had only seen it on a map, and had read nothing about it. Still, its utter loneliness and inaccessibility had drawn my interest. How did one live such an isolated life and survive? Certainly, were I a writer, I would enjoy writing a tale about the motivations and strengths and challenges of those who survived here.
So on Tuesday, a two mile hike took us there. The cabin had fallen down, but the creek sang and the wildflowers, once again, were gorgeous.
Meg enjoying the tranquility of our campsite in Hells Canyon
looking into the McGraw creek drainage
Meg on the trail to McGraw Creek
How did they get this farm implement here, miles above the Snake river?
The McGraw Creek cabin, Hells Canyon
remarkable that this saw is still here
Obviously, I loved photographing these Indian paintbrush
Monday, the first full day high on a bench above the Snake river, began with Raz, our outfitter, preparing Swedish pancakes for us. After breakfast, he led us north on a trail that crossed many of the small streams and ravines that make up the Spring Creek drainage. Although the wildflowers were not as thick and lush as last year, nonetheless we hiked through many pockets of intense color. After three miles we reached the far ridge of the Creek basin and enjoyed lunch looking over the vastness of canyon.
balsam root, Hells Canyon
Lupine and balsam root, Spring Creek drainage, Hells Canyon
Last year, on the last Sunday of April, Meg and I took a beautiful wildflower day hike in the Snake river canyon country, east of Halfway, Oregon. While on a a vast bench high above the river, we encountered a train of pack llamas and hikers. Raz Rasmussen, of Halfway, has operated Wallowa Llamas since 1983. We decided we would take this trip in 2015. We invited good friends, the Gleesons, to join us. And so, starting on the last Sunday of this April, we spent four days and three nights in this overwhelming, breath taking canyon country.
I am posting these pictures on a day to day basis, so there will be four parts. Here are the pictures from Sunday.
Our ponderosa pine campsite, below these balsam root wildflowers. Hells Canyon Wilderness
Hells Canyon Wilderness
Phlox along the Snake river before the trail begins to climb