high adventure

Once we were down from Snowmass, Craig and I had a day to clean up, rest up, and gear up for our next adventure with our college friends from back home. Monday morning, they pulled up in not one but two church vans and start spilling out into the streets of the small town of Dolores in southwestern Colorado.

I’ve shared some before about the significance of a week together in the mountains. And my friend Tyler spent some time describing what impacted him about this specific trip. But there were a couple things about this week that made it unique for me.

First, the group was huge. In fact so large that we had to divide our group in half to fulfill the wilderness area imposed restrictions. Craig took the college students who already had at least a year under their belt, and I had the group who had freshly graduated from high school plus a handful of adults.

Which brings me to the other thing that made this trip so special. It maybe should come as no surprise that I ended up with the class of 2012. These guys belong to me (well, me and Rob). For about three years now, we have had the privilege of being the small group leaders for the male half of this group. We have watched them (and at times helped them) navigate the challenges of adolescence. Week after week, they would show up in our homes and we would break bread together. Laugh together. Get upset with each other. Learn together. Pray together. Year after year, we would take them on various camps, retreats, and trips. We poured into them. And whether they realize it or not, they poured into us as well.

Of course, there is the actual mountain itself. We climbed Wilson Peak, which like Snowmass is another Class 3 mountain. That means it looks sort of scary, but it isn’t super dangerous. These guys and gals climbed like champs and through perseverance, team work, and the grace of God we made it to the top. The last pitch is especially intimidating, so it makes for a rewarding and emotional payoff on the summit. Of course, once you’re standing on top, you are really only half way there. The return trip, while not quite as strenuous, is no piece of cake either. While we got a little wet and were a lot exhausted, we did manage to all make it back to camp safe and sound. That evening we huddled underneath the “magic tarp” and delighted in the gift of being dry and warm. But mostly we enjoyed simply being together.

While our trip to the high-country brought this leg of our journey together to an end, it also marked the beginning of a new chapter in which they would discover just how high they can climb on their own.

Crested Butte

During our stay in Moab, we mustered the troops for a visit to Canyonlands National Park. I had always heard great things about it, and so we made the short drive to go take a look. I can’t tell you what a great decision that was. Truly amazing. I’ll let Alison tell you THE REST.

I should mention that while we were in Moab we were joined by another longtime Seattle friend, Jermaine. These days, she lives in Turkey where she is pursing her doctorate, so a visit with her – no matter how brief – was a real gift.

So with Jermaine in tow, we woke up one morning, said our goodbyes to the Peterson’s and headed back across the border to Colorado to meet up with Alison’s parents. But we weren’t just returning to Colorado. In route, we figured out that due to circumstances outside our control, we were going to be headed back to Crested Butte. This news was met with joyful ‘whoops’ by every Chino, because you see, Crested Butte is our very favorite. I anticipate that Alison will do more of the sharing here as well, but I leave you with just a couple photos.

This is taken from the Oh-Be-Joyful Campground and over the years I have had the pleasure of staring up this valley repeatedly. Coming to Crested Butte in many ways feels like coming home. We camp. We hike. We bike. We visit town. We go to Camp 4 Coffee. We go to The Alpineer. We go to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (yes, another one). We go to Teocalli Tamale. We go to the park. We ride the “bus that costs no money.” It always very familiar, very good, and we never get tired of going back – again and again.Who knows? Maybe sometime we could show you around.


vacation in Aspen for less than $50 per day

The recap of Chino summer adventures continues. Since Alison has already shared some about our time there, I’m going to try to come at this from a different angle.

There is so much that I appreciate about camping vacations. The cool clean mountain air. Drinking in the beauty of our surroundings. Being outside. Time with people I care about. Fires (when they haven’t been banned). Quiet. Good food. Hiking. Morning coffee. But there is a benefit to camping that sometimes doesn’t get near the recognition it should…

It’s cheap.

Aspen is possibly the most pretentious (and expensive) resort town in Colorado. If you need to be reminded of this, let me recommend seeing the time-honored classic, Dumb and Dumber. Most of Aspen’s vacationers are burning money in the streets and are proud of it. I haven’t a clue what four days of room and board for six people in Aspen would cost, but my guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000.

Contrast that with the $21 a night scenic campground located 6 miles outside of town. It was far enough from town to make you feel like you were really away from it all, but close enough for daily forays into town to shop for groceries, use the internet, play on the playground, visit the library, and people watch. And did I mention… it was $21 a night.

Likewise on the food. Saving so much money on accommodations easily could have justified eating a couple meals in town, but  we didn’t.  And we really didn’t have much desire to. We were usually on the go around lunchtime and so picnic fare just seemed to make sense. Plus, our breakfasts and dinners back at camp were meals fit for royalty. I can’t imagine that food cost us more than $15-20 per day for our family.

While there are any number of places to part with your hard earned dollars in Aspen, there are only three establishments that will repeatedly suck us in.

1) Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory // This isn’t true only in Aspen. Any mountain town that has one (and they all seem to have one) is sure to get another $10-15 from us. Worth every penny.

2) Ute Mountaineer // This particular store caters to an addiction of mine that I am neither proud of – nor ashamed of.

3) The Thrift Shop of Aspen // The name itself seems like a oxymoron. And yet, there truly are bargains to be had in this funny little store.

So there it is. A four day stay in Aspen that ends up costing a couple Benjamins. Hard to believe… but true.

Next stop – Moab, Utah.


Four (Weeks) for Friday

It has been a month to the day since my last post. Just over four weeks. And since it is Friday… well you’ve read the title. Here is what’s been up with me over the last four weeks.

Week 1 // KAA – Fortunately, my pardner in crime has done a pretty extensive write-up of the week. So, I’ll leave you with a song and a picture.

Tedashii – Dum Dum (feat. Lecrae)

That’s Lauren Foster (one of our 9th grade students) about to launch herself from the top of a thirty-foot telephone pole. This photograph is a snap-shot of what the whole week was about… risk, facing fears, trust, and leaps of faith.

Week 2 // The family loads up and heads west. It is no secret that I love the mountains and that they regularly provide the backdrop for our family’s adventures. Alison has shared some here.

Josh Garrels – Pilot Me

Week 3 // We are joined by more family and friends and bikes… and games. There was easily a game of Settlers a day. Many days, more than one.

Leagues – Mind Games

Hiking to Judd Falls

Taking “5”

One of the “floats” at the 4th Parade

Week 4 // The infamous Senior Backpacking Trip.

Mumford & Sons – Home (possible title live)

This one started off this way…

and ended like this…

It has been a very good four weeks.

Four (not songs) for Friday

Sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be delivering the expected goods today.

And yet, I feel the need to share four of something. So here it is.


1) Crazy Snow.

Arkansas had some snow last week, but nothing like this. Click HERE to see 40 crazy snow storm pics. Some of the better ones are down towards the bottom.


2) The Bible

Regardless of your feelings about the King James Version of the Bible, it has stood as something of a cultural landmark for centuries. Four to be exact. This year marks the 400 year anniversary of its original production and there are some interesting things going on to commemorate it.


3) Senior Backpacking

My beloved put together some thoughts and pics on a trip that our student ministry does with graduating seniors every year. Which was good timing, because it is right about this time of year that I start fantasizing thinking about being in the mountains. Seniors… get pumped. Non-seniors… sorry.

Actually, if you are interested in a trip of this kind, talk to me. I’ve got some ideas about other trips for the strong of heart and limb.


4) The Very Best

I know that this picture probably doesn’t do much for you, but the odds of me sitting in this establishment sometime this weekend is somewhere right around 100 percent. I’ll be in Seattle with a friend for a quick visit, and Zeitgeist Coffee has and always will hold a special place in my heart. Seattleites… HMU.


odds and ends

I’m hoping that this will be the last time I bring up Colorado this month, but there were a few notable pictures that I left out.

These are the world-famous Maroon Bells.  Their beauty, symmetry, and accessibility are reasons for these being among the most photographed mountains in Colorado.  More specifically, they are North (the one in front) and South (the one in back) Maroon.  They are both fourteeners, and yes…  I’ve climbed them.  In fact, when you do the traverse from one peak to the next, it is called “Ringing the Bells.”

This is the Crested Butte-famous Camp 4 Coffee.  I haven’t tried all the coffee spots in town, but I would be surprised if any were better than this.  Whenever we stay in the Butte, a trip here is mandatory.  Usually, several.

This should-be-famous puzzle provided a distraction and respite when the Chino kids had gotten their fill of outside for the day.  The pieces were annoyingly uniform.  As often happens with puzzle-making in our family, there comes a time when most everyone loses interest, save one.  And that One labors long into the night becoming increasingly frustrated as each hour passes.  Eventually though, I… I mean, the One utters, “It is finished!”

Posing with the moose are the someday-famous Ben and Simon.

I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this

As you can see, I’ve officially sunk to a new low.  Two days running of Dumb and Dumber quotes for blog titles.  Anyway, no summer would be complete without the Senior Backpacking Trip.  In our student ministry, we take graduating seniors away for a week in the high country of Colorado for a week they will never forget.

The trip is significant on so many different levels that it is hard to really explain, but I’ll give it a shot.

First, it marks this significant transition from high school to whatever is next.  They have generally got eighteen years under their belt and are anticipating the next four (or so).  It gives them a chance to reflect on how life has been so far and what lies ahead.  It is a rite of passage of sorts.

But it also stretches people in ways they didn’t know they could be.  For some, it will be the first time camping.  For many, it will be the first time backpacking.  And for nearly all, it will be their first attempt to summit the mythic fourteener.

However, the challenges aren’t all physical.  Pulling away from civilization, comfort, and convenience can have a disorienting effect that makes room in the heart and soul for God to work and for certain aspects of life to become profoundly clear.  Maybe more so than one has ever experienced before.

But perhaps the most significant thing any of us walk away with is a sense of deep connectedness to one another that can only come from a shared experience that is so powerful that your relationships with one another will never be the same.

I’m talkin’ bout a little place called…


During our Colorado tour, we got to spend several days in this pretentious (yet lovely) mountain town.  I’ve been to Aspen four times now, and every trip has left a lasting impression.  My first time was nearly twenty years ago during a winter trip for a couple days of skiing.  It happened to be Gay Pride Week which meant that my traveling companion and I sat as far apart as a ski lift chair will allow.

Time two was with half a dozen or so would be mountain climbers.  The trip was in mid-September which apparently is a fairly unpredictable time as far as weather is concerned.  I can’t do justice to the catastrophe that followed, so if you are curious ask my friend Josh all about it.

My third time there was another climbing trip.  This time with a far more positive outcome.  There were four of us, and we tackled some of the most challenging 14er climbs Colorado has to offer.

This latest trip there was far more laid back, but equally enjoyable.  Here are the photos to prove it.

Aspen is notoriously expensive, but with a little meal planning and some the help of Difficult Campground, it can be done on the cheap.

Snowcamp 2010

So a week ago today, I returned (along with about 100 friends) from a trip to Colorado known as Snowcamp.  I’m not sure that these images set to music give the full sense of how jam-packed a week it was, but here goes…