Sometimes, Time Alone and Away is Needed

I went to Lake Brownwood State Park for 4 days. I rented one of their rustic cabins. I stayed there spending time alone with God, nature and “myself.” I needed the break, the withdrawal, the rest. However, I didn’t just need a “retreat,” but a retreat with a purpose. A retreat without a purpose is just that, a retreat with no intentional desired result, just a rest. With a purpose, one is able to reorient, reprioritize, and renew. A purposeful retreat helps move forward with a new vigor, a new drive, a new energy for life. Without a purpose, nothing is gained, not even real rest. My method, retreat with a Bible, 2 books focused on my present challenges, plenty of water, a secluded site and no food. Yes I fasted for 4 days. I’ll explain fasting fuller in a future blog, but suffice it to say, fasting intensifies one’s experience.

After my purposeful retreat, I came back with clarity–having recommitted to my spiritual, emotional and physical priorities,goals and needs. My goal was to clearly understand the direction my ministry needed to go, how to improve my relationships, and how to be healthy in every aspect as I live day-to-day.

I went to Lake Brownwood State Park, because during mid-December, mid-week, no one is at the park. The cabins are empty, the park is empty and the campgrounds are empty. I am able to spend 4-days walking all over the park, by the lake, through the walking trails and down the roads, without coming in contact with anyone, but an occasional Park Ranger driving by.

Everyone needs some time alone and away from his or her normal environment. But it is only a “rest,” without having a specific purpose and desired result. General purposes are clarity, new energy, and reorientation. My purpose this time had to do with my stage in life and the new launch of a ministry I am involved in, Heart to Heart Christian Fellowship. I needed clarity as to what kind of church God wants Heart to Heart to be, on upcoming decisions concerning Heart to Heart and to let go of feelings and emotions that are hindering my progress in life. All this happened!!

Here are some pointers on taking a “retreat” with a purpose:

1. Find a place you are able to go where you will be away from people and your normal environment. Plan to be gone 4 full days, so make all the arrangements before hand letting people know you will not be using your phone or answering any communication for 4 days. Turn off your phone!! I call my wife each evening, but leave it off before and turn it off after the call.
2. Begin your fast the day you leave by eating a large healthy breakfast. I fast completely except I drink water and coffee. If you are not use to fasting, prepare yourself in advance by fasting 24 hours to 48 hours several times before your fasting retreat.
3. Take plenty of bottled water, because you do not know how the water will be wherever you go. I took a case so I could drink at least 8 cups per day. Do not take food! You will be tempted to cheat. Plan where you will eat breakfast when you are finished.
4. Answer, why do you need a retreat and what area of life do you want to improve. Answer what major decisions, challenges and changes you have ahead. Decide what focus you want to make, before you leave.
5. Take reading material based on the focus you want to have. Example: I wanted to focus on the upcoming ministry decisions, my relationships, and letting go of hindering feelings. I took my Bible (I always take my Bible). I took two books recommended to me, Circle Maker, and Beginners Guide to the Gift of Prophecy. I took another but didn’t read it, feeling I had come to clarity and needed to read the last book at a later date. I also took a blank spiral notebook for note taking and several writing instruments, pens and pencils.
6. Spend each day praying, reading, note-taking, walking, contemplating and meditating on what you have read. I do not follow any “daily” plan. I read as I want to, pray at the beginning of the day and through the day as well as take notes about my thoughts, dreams, visions and my readings. I do not start planning or writing down my strategy for the future until I have had time for reflecting. I usually start writing down my future plans, strategies and actions on my 3rd day.
7. Turn off your phone! I did already say this, but it needed to be said again.
8. Talk out loud to yourself, you are not crazy, that helps work things out.
9. Be open.
10. I usually leave on Sunday afternoon (having eaten a large breakfast that morning). I head back on Thursday morning, finding a great restaurant to eat breakfast on the way home.

I am going to do this 2 times per year. I use to do it 1 time per year, but this purposeful retreat is so beneficial, I am increasing it for 2018. I’ll go in June or July then again in December. I will look for a different place for my summer retreat.

Backpacking, Equipment Reviews, WOW! What 10 Days in the Wilderness Will Do.

My annual backpacking trip took on a new and deeper meaning this year. I pay much closer attention to my equipment, wanting to provide reviews of the products, and I am much more aware of my spiritual, emotional and psychological experiences than before. I have always been acutely aware of the physical, which have become increasingly noticeable. I have become much more reflective. For example: We were experiencing an amazing sunset by Harriet Lake, about 9600 feet above sea level, when a profound realization came over me. My nephew took a picture of the sunset, as we stood, staring into the West. Oranges, pinks, purples, sun rays, blue sky, all making for a beautiful site. But when we looked at the picture, it came to me, if a picture is worth 1000 words, the experience is priceless.

Whole living at any age includes common experiences with others. Looking at that picture of that particular sunrise on that particular day at that particular place will bring back memories of the experience for those of us who stood there together, seeing it, experiencing it, sharing it. Someone else looking at that picture might think it is a beautiful sunset, but that’s it. We will remember the scent of the campfire, the feel of the cool breeze from the snow banks, the sound of the water lapping on the banks of the lake, and the site of the colors that cannot be described or captured in a digital picture. We will recall the hike that brought us to that place, the meal we ate as we laughed together. We will smile, look at each other with feelings no-one else will have.

This made me reconsider my desire to do a through hike on the Appalachian Trail. Do I really want to do that? Some, if not a major portion, will be by myself. What kind of experience is that? No one to share it with, no one to remember it with, no one to laugh or smile with who shared the experience with me.

I still may do the Appalachian Trail, but we will see. I really enjoy these hikes with people with whom I am able to reminisce.

Our hike was great! We entered Hoover Wilderness through the Leavitt Meadows Trailhead. We parked our truck at the free parking area provided by the National Park. Our trip was planned for 11 days, but because we were not able to cross the river farther up the trail around 9600 ft, our trip was 9 days. We weren’t able to get to two lakes we intended to visit, Dorothy and Bonnie. There was still a lot of snow and mud at Dorothy Pass and the snow melt caused the river to be too high and swift for us to cross safely. Our trip can be mapped on National Geographic’s #807 map. We hiked about 5 miles in and camped by the Walker River. The next day we hiked to Fremont Lake, staying there for 2 nights. We caught several trout and believe it or not, 5 traps full of crawdads. We met a 15-year-old guide who was setting up for a group coming in by mules and horses. He loaned us a trap. We ate very well at Fremont Lake.

When we left we camped at Upper Long Lake for 1 night and ate trout there as well. Our plan was to go to Bonnie Lake, but we weren’t able to cross the river and ended up camping at Lake Harriet. Snow came down to the banks of the lake, and the mosquitoes were terrible. We ate trout there as well, though. We stayed only one night and hiked down a different trail by Cascade Falls stopping to camp at the Walker River again, just up river from the hiker crossing to get to Fremont Lake. The fishing was not good in the river our whole trip. It was just running too swift and was too high.

Now for the reviews: For clothes, I wore REI Silk One Liners, REI Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Socks Crew, REI Classic Sahara Convertible Pants and Oboz Bridger boots. For sleeping, I used an Osprey Aether 70 pack, a Mountain Hardware Sprite 1 tent, a Thermarest self-inflating full mat, and a Teton Trailhead +20F sleeping bag. For cooking, I used an Etekcity Ultralight stove with Piezo Ignition, MSR fuel, a Primus Pot & Pan set that isn’t available anymore, a Sea to Summit collapsible coffee mug, a Sea to Summit 5 Liter Kitchen sink, and an REI long handled spoon. I ate mostly Mountain House meals, single tuna packets and single Spam packets. I use REI Traverse Trekking Poles, a Counter Assault Bear Can, a Katadyn Hiker Pro Filter, and a Spot GPS system with subscription. I also took a Helinox Ground Chair, which is a vital addition to my packing.

There are other equipment that I take, but that is a list of the items I’ll take time to give a quick review. REI socks and liners were terrific!! I had no blisters. I do change my socks and liners daily. Having no blisters might be due to the boots as well. I cannot say enough good about the Oboz boots. Great grip, comfort, fit. We had a mixture of trails, sand, dirt, granite, solid rock, snow, and sharp granite rock due to the horse traffic. The boots came out strong, no deep cuts, no separation of soul or rubber from shoe. I found my boots!!!

The REI pants were great. Much better than the Columbias I had the previous year. Those ended up with a rip in the seat. The REI are much more durable, comfortable and do not make noise when I walk in them. I will get more of these.

I have been using my Sprite 1 tent for 5 years, great easy to set up, very little condensation, plenty of room for me. Lightweight, durable, no holes or leaks over the years.

The Teton Trailhead sleeping bag also has been going for 5 years, keeps me comfortable even when we experienced temps in the 20’s. Does get warm, though in temps above the 70’s. Lightweight and easy to pack in compartment in my backpack.

The jury is still out on the Thermarest self-inflating mat. It is better than the inflatable I had 2 years ago. That one was noisy when I rolled around. This one isn’t and gives me some comfort on the ground.

The ultralight stove I use…I have had it for 5 years. I spent about $10 on it. I bought 2 more this year for $18 total, thinking that this inexpensive (cheap) stove might quit on me this year. NOPE!! I packed an extra stove for nothing. These are the best, most reliable, best packing away stoves on the market. I can pack my stove, medium size MSR fuel cylinder, and collapsible coffee cup in my Primus camping set, and put it in the sack provided for the Primus. Compact, lightweight and durable. You cannot go wrong with this.

The Osprey Aether 70 is a great pack. I am not sold on the way the top section is attached so you can detach it as a day pack, but it did well. I like the bladder compartment being on the outside. It held all my gear and packed well. My bear can is big, so it is a tight fit, but does go down in the pack. If I ever buy another bear can it will be slightly smaller.

I love my Sea to Summit kitchen sink. I used it multiple times for multiple reasons. You are able to get water to wash dishes, your body (body parts like feet), put out the fire and other uses. My tent is big enough, I have a towel and wash rag, that I was able to wash each morning in my tent using bio soap, staying away from mosquitos and the cold. The water was cold though. You are able to dump the water on the ground or in the fire ring instead of the stream or lake.

My poles are also 5 years old and going strong. They are the twist to lock style. Never any problems. Easy to adjust. And my Katadyn filter, no need to review it, plenty has already been said about how great they are.

The only piece of equipment I was total disappointed in and only used it once, because of its total ineffectiveness was my Thermacell. I was so excited when the backpacking version came out. I ran and bought one at REI. I used it and got eaten up by mosquitos. I had to bath in Deet, just like any other time. I would not waste my money on the new backpacking version of the Thermocell Mosquito repelling apparatus.

Well, that’s it. I will include my own backpacking equipment and food checklist for those of you who want it. I will do that in the next few days.

Remember, whole living must have shared experiences.