Friday, January 27, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Alligators

At the risk of turning my blog into a place to bore you with my latest vacation photos, I'm going to share a few more this week. Gary and I took a trip to Florida this week to visit my parents. We took a two-day road trip with my dad to see the Everglades and Key West (My poor mom had to stay home due to some health issues).

Shark Valley was the first part of the Everglades we visited. We wanted to see alligators and we were not disappointed.

We hadn't even made it to the entrance gate and we saw two alligators along the road. We jokingly speculated that maybe they put a couple of plastic ones near the entrance to get everyone excited, but a sign later said that everything we saw there was real.

(Here's the second one.)
My dad treated us to the two hour tram ride through the park. It was definitely worth it as "Tammy from Miami" told us so many interesting things about the alligators, birds, and plants we saw.

Many alligators were lying right along the road we took.

 One thing I can't stop thinking about is what she said about how the alligator often gets his prey. All along the way we could see paths in the water. Tammy explained that the gators would make these paths and then sit and wait patiently out of sight until some unsuspecting fish or other animal used the path. When the prey got close enough, the alligator could snap them up and get a good meal.

I didn't get a good shot of the alligator paths, but this gives you an idea of the paths left by the gators.
( Credit: )
I can't stop thinking about that, because I think that's how Satan works many times. Sometimes a little sin seems harmless so we keep doing it. Satan clears a path so we think we're going somewhere, but he lies in wait, ready to pounce and devour us because we haven't been diligent or vigilant.

We need to be careful as we go through life. We need to spend lots of time in God's word so we know which way He wants us to go instead of just taking the easy way. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment as we move ahead and we always need to be ready to run the other way when we realize we're heading for danger.

We saw about sixteen alligators in one place on one of the trails we took. 

I realize Gary and I actually went looking for alligators and we were really happy to see them, but in our daily lives we need to stay far away from sin and the dangerous situations it produces.

By the way, we went to the Circle B Reserve in Lakeland, Florida this morning, but we didn't see "Humpback," the enormous alligator spotted there recently and made famous on YouTube. 

"The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked....Hope in the LORD and keep his way." (Psalm 37:32-34a NIV)

Have you ever been "attacked" by some sin that you thought was harmless at first? How can focusing on God help you to be vigilant and ready to turn around when you realize you are heading in the wrong direction in life? 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Grand Canyon - Going Up

This week I'm concluding my series on our trip to the Grand Canyon. We hiked down the South Kaibab Trail, took a day trip to Ribbon Falls, and finally hiked out on the Bright Angel Trail.

Here's a nice little bridge we crossed as we left Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Campground area:

We crossed the Colorado on the Silver Bridge:

Here's a shot looking back at the Silver Bridge after we were on the trail for a little while:

Along the river, there was lots of beach sand on the trail. It seemed strange when we were so far above the river.

Another shot of the beautiful Colorado:

I accidentally photobombed Gary's shot of this scenic view:

(Here it is without me)
 We thought about riding this up to the top but decided to leave it where we found it:

Switchbacks, switchbacks, so many switchbacks!

You have to lift your feet pretty high on parts of the trail. 

Gary took most of our pictures while he waited for me to catch up. I love this one he got with the sun shining on the trail. If you click and look close you can see a mule train in the center of the photo.

A nice little waterfall we passed. There were several spots where we had to cross running water. Luckily it wasn't deep or else there were stones to walk on.

Indian Garden was a great place to rest. We caught back up with Dani and Lisa, two new friends from Phantom Ranch that had passed us earlier that morning.

I took this one. I think I was already getting pretty tired as you can see from the funky camera angle.

Looking back at more switchbacks. I think we could see our friends back there. Gary thought it would be fun to yell back "You're almost there!" when we could see them once in a while. "Promise?" Dani called back hopefully after about the fourth time. We had no idea. "We don't know, just keep going!" I yelled down with a laugh.

Closer to the top it got colder and we started seeing snow on the trail. 

 Here's a cool tunnel a little closer to the rim. (But we still weren't there)

More snow and ice, but we didn't stop to put on our crampons. Our hiking poles and boots seemed to be enough to make the climb.

We made it and we're still smiling! What a hike!

We didn't wait around for Dani and Lisa to reach the top. I was kind of afraid they might push us back over the edge after we teased them about being almost done when they really weren't.

That was one of the neat parts of the hike out of the Canyon. Toward the top we kept meeting people coming down from the rim and they gave us hope that we would make it. We asked some how far it was and they told us how long they had been hiking and we could try to figure out how much longer we had. 

One couple went by and then the guy called back up to me, "Do you know there's a lizard on your backpack?" I started laughing as he realized it was fake almost immediately. "You just made my day!" I called to him. That was fun.

The last part of the hike up was brutal. I felt like I was using my hiking poles like crutches sometimes as I hauled myself over the rocks maintaining the trail. Back and forth through the switchbacks we went, wondering if we would ever reach the top.

Isn't that how life goes sometimes? We keep plodding along, tired and not sure we can make it. 

We just have to keep going. Stop and rest when you need to, but don't give up. Get encouragement from people who have been where you are going. 

Don't forget to enjoy the view. You will make it!

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

Do you ever feel like you are never going to get where you want to go in life? How can focusing on God help you to keep going and not give up, trusting that He will get you where He wants you to go?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Grand Canyon - Looking Around

Last week I told you about hiking down the South Kaibab trail at the Grand Canyon.

After we reached the bottom and got settled in at Phantom Ranch, we decided to go for another little hike up Clear Creek trail to the "Stone Bench" overlooking Phantom Ranch.

It was only about 3 miles round trip, but the hike down was so painful. Both knees were bothering me, but I made it.

The next day we headed out on the North Kaibab trail with Ribbon Falls as our goal. We were told that there were four bridges that crossed the creek and then a fifth bridge closer to the falls.

Here's the first one:

At one point we saw a deer on the trail ahead of us. We moved slowly and got so close before it finally jumped down and moved along the creek below us.

Another bridge let us know we were on the right trail:

The scenery around us was so beautiful.

We saw a waterfall in the distance, but it was so small we thought it couldn't be the falls we were looking for.

(The falls are that little strip of white on the right side of this picture)
When we reached this sign we were tempted to shave a mile or so off our hike and cross the river instead of going to the bridge, but some guys at Phantom had warned us that the river was too high to cross safely right now. We trudged on...

The men had said something about going up and back down, but we were dismayed to see how far up we had to go. When we looked down and saw the bridge way below, we were tempted to turn around and go back. We had come this far, we decided to keep going.

It's so hard to show depth in pictures. This was a pretty scary descent over some slippery rocks (with protesting knees). So glad I had hiking poles to help steady myself.

The last bridge we crossed on the way to the falls. (I held onto the railings because the plywood didn't feel too strong!)

We ditched our backpacks behind a rock and traveled a little lighter the last twenty minutes or so. It was kind of exciting to walk along a narrow ledge on this big rock and then hop down a few feet to the ground on the other side.

We were glad we didn't have our packs as we ducked under tree branches and crossed a little stream.

I bet lots of people stop in the summer and take a swim in this nice pool, but it was a little too cold for us that day.

Around some more rocks and we finally saw it. Yes, it was that pitiful little waterfall we saw from the trail before, but we had been told that we could get up behind the falls if we kept going up and around.

A little more climbing and we were there:

The view was worth the hike. 

The ribbon of water fell into a big rock and then rushed over the side.

It continued to splash down the hill over the mossy rocks:

Some of the water fell and then continued directly down the face of the huge rock to the stream below:

We headed back to Phantom Ranch, tired but glad we had seen another part of the Canyon.


Don't we do that in life sometimes? We look ahead and think...that's it? We're going there? We feel let down because we thought the future would be bigger and better, more exciting. 

If we keep going, we often find that the future is even better than we expected. Not bigger, but more beautiful and satisfying than we had hoped. 

The journey may be more difficult than we expected and we may be tempted to take shortcuts, but even the ups and downs make the trip mean more somehow. 

When we finally arrive, we look around and we know that God is there. He's been with us every step of the way. 

"Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate." (Psalm 111:3-4 NIV)

Do you sometimes forget to look around and realize that God is with you and He is leading you where He wants you to go? How can focusing on God help you to see the beauty even in the difficult  and seemingly worthless times in your life?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Grand Canyon - Going Down

I've been promising to tell you more about the Grand Canyon, but with the holidays the last couple of weeks I put it off. It's time to keep that promise and show you some pictures and tell you more about our trip.

Between Gary and I, we have 583 pictures of our trip. Would you like to see them all? No? I didn't think so. How about 25?

Here we are at the top soon after we arrived at the Grand Canyon:

It looks beautiful from the top, but it's even better when you get off the rim and descend into the depths of the Canyon. Here we are at the top of the South Kaibab trail:

You can't go in a straight line because it's just too steep. Switchbacks are everywhere!

You have to keep your eyes on the trail, but it's good to look up often so you don't miss the great views.
 I attached "Lizzie" to my backpack, hoping to alarm some fellow hikers. No one mentioned it on the way down, but some women in the bunkhouse commented on it and said it was cute.

 Ooh Aah Point:

Ooh Aah!
 It was pretty cold and windy at times on the way down, but I was prepared.
 We're still not at the bottom.
 It's hard to really capture the trail in pictures, but I hope you can envision the trail descending in switchbacks to the right in the next picture:
 A couple of times we had a group of mules go by. We stood to the side while they passed. Such hard-working animals!
 Stopped for a sec to make sure this rock didn't fall on Gary. I saved him! :-)
 We knew we were getting close when we could see the Colorado River.
 Here's the Black Bridge...and you can see a group of rafts at the beach on the left side of the picture:

A better view of the Black Bridge
 Here we are before going through the tunnel. We're almost there!
 Crossing the Black Bridge:
 A beautiful view of the Colorado as we cross it:
 We made it! There was no one around to take our picture together, so here are two pictures of us arriving at Phantom Ranch.

It was a great day of hiking, even though our knees gave us much more trouble than we thought they would. 

More next week about what we saw in the Canyon.

"Through him [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3 NIV)

Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? How about some other beautiful natural wonder? How can focusing on God help you to appreciate the things He has made?