faith, News, Nonprofit

Prayers for Nebraska

Nebraska was on my mind a lot this month. I lived just outside of Fremont, Nebraska for two years. Even though my last visit there was in 2014, I still think about it.

Platte River, Camp Rivercrest, Fremont, Nebraska
The outdoor riverside chapel where I worked at Camp Rivercrest in Fremont, Nebraska.

At the beginning of the month, I was asked to write this blog post called Omaha After Five, part of a series for business travelers who want to explore the cities they’re visiting after work hours. I had to do a little research to freshen up and make sure my memories were accurate, but it seemed like time moves slower and nothing ever changes in the Midwest.

Then the flood hit.

Much of Fremont had to be evacuated, along with many other areas along the Platte River. Since I lived and worked on a property situated right above the Platte, it’s been crazy to see how what normally is a fairly calm river among the plains can cause so much damage.

Platte River Fremont Nebraska
The Platte River during my last visit to Fremont, September 2014

While there is danger of the flood returning, the water has mostly subsided. However, the damage has been done. Families have been displaced. Roads have ruts bigger than the cars that can’t drive on them. Structures have been swept away. Farms have been ruined. So what can we do to help?

There are two things that need to be done: help for the people and restoration for the state. I’ve made two donations to different organizations that are each helping with one of these aspects.

Help People

My heart really goes out to the people. That’s why I’m so glad so many people and organizations are stepping up to help those in need. I made a donation to the Salvation Army who has been doing a lot in Fremont, Nebraska, but other relief organizations and churches are involved as well.

I first signed up for the Operation Blessing’s volunteer alerts when I was living in Nebraska myself. I’d just heard about another flood, though this one was in New York. I wanted to be in the know in case any nearby disasters struck and I could get involved. This charity organizes work projects for disaster-affected areas. Although I no longer live in Nebraska and am unable to make it there at this time, I still get Operation Blessing alerts for all over the country, and they have one for Fremont right now! As with any relief effort, make sure you register ahead of time and follow all of the guidelines instead of just showing up at the worksite. You don’t want to contribute to creating more of a problem than they already have!

Restoring the State

When I first stepped foot in Nebraska, it was also a pretty stormy day! It was raining and thundering while I was still in the air. While the plane was landing, the guy in the window seat next to me told me to look at what he was pointing down to: a farm covered in water. When a coworker picked me up, before we even left the airport, we thought someone threw a baseball at her windshield. It turned out to be the first drop of a softball-sized hailstorm that ended up totaling her car. But the next day, all was clear. My northwestern upbringing left me in shock at the view of endless corn and soybean fields.

Since Nebraska provides much of the country with beef, corn, and soy, this flood could affect all of us. Obviously, helping the farmers will help restore the economy, which will ultimately help with the roads, buildings, and everything else that needs repair. That’s why I donated to Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Disaster Relief Assistance.

004Have you ever felt personally connected to a disaster? Share in the comments so we can support each other!

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hike, holiday

An Outdoor Retreat

Nearly two weeks ago, I attended a young adult Bible study for the first time. Since I was a newbie, and summer and European possibilities weren’t too far away, I didn’t expect much to come of it. But little did I know that the group was planning an outdoor retreat! I didn’t know anybody, but since I was invited I decided to go for it. So on Friday afternoon, I brought my over-packed backpack, sleeping bag, and pillow to a big white van where I met up with a few of the others. We hopped in and headed south to Klamath National Forest in Northern California.

Now, if you read this website as inspiration for your own travels, I must warn you that I can only sort of help you in this post. This retreat was done mostly on private property. However, if you can find a natural setting, you can still imitate a multitude of things that happened in the past couple of days.

Go Off-Grid

Our humble abode for two nights: no electricity, plumbing, or cell service!
Our humble abode for two nights: no electricity, plumbing, or cell service!

I do believe that the internet is a wonderful thing. But I think all of us can admit that, deep down inside, there is something missing from it. When we rely on instant connectivity, we tend to forget about connecting with the people and environment around us. Since everyone that went was in the same boat, we enjoyed some rare, uninterrupted face-to-face connection.

Have a Campfire

Fire was our only source of heat on this trip, so it brought us together on so many levels!
Fire was our only source of heat on this trip, so it brought us together on so many levels!

Mix a little bit of danger, a little bit of fellowship, and a little bit of visual stimulation, and you would get what’s known as a campfire. Now, campfire’s aren’t all fun. This weekend I ended up with a hole in my favorite pair of pajama pants due to a spark landing on them! But even after that incident, the fire ring was still the best place to circle up and participate in conversation.

Enjoy Solitude

My solo toes pointing to my view during my time away.
My solo toes pointing to my view during my time away.

For a couple hours on Saturday morning, each trip participant had the opportunity to go into a different part of the property for some time alone. Since there was no agenda during this time, we could read the Bible, nap, pray, snack, journal, sing, or just be still and become more aware of our surroundings. I did a bit of all that, except for sleeping. (The army of ants crawling up my shoes encouraged me to stay awake and alert!) My spot was next to the creek with cascading miniature waterfalls. While this activity was very simplistic, it actually turned out to be a unique and enjoyable activity. After all, how often do you get the opportunity be alone and away from anything man-made?

Enjoy Company

Although I only had had small talk with a few people before this trip, I got to know everyone better this weekend.
Although I only had had small talk with a few people before this trip, I got to know everyone better this weekend.

Whether it was taking the long drive to and from our destination, sharing a meal, setting things up, coexisting during downtime, or trying to figure out how to remove the head of a tick from someone’s skin without any tools, there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company. (Except when we were enjoying solitude as mentioned in the point above!) Funny, interesting, and embarrassing stories were shared. It may have been because it was a limited number of people with limitations on things we could do (being off-grid after all), but we got to know each other faster than people I’ve seen on a regular basis over a long period of time.

Take a Hike

Hiking through the woods
Hiking through the woods

Hikes are always fun. We took a hike that would have been fairly short, except the trail wasn’t always a trail. Sometimes vegetation made it hard to find the path. Sometimes we had to climb over or in-between rocks. For a few instances we balanced on a log as we crossed the creek. There were several points where we relied on the literal helping hand of others. A couple people got scrapes or bee stings. Twice I fell! But the unique situations made it all the more adventurous.

Find a Waterfall

There were several waterfalls along our hike, ending with this one.
There were several waterfalls along our hike, ending with this one.

You must know that I love waterfalls. There weren’t any waterfalls that we found notable enough to be named, but we found several tucked away deep into the woods. We were quite possibly among the few people who were able to witness this unknown waterfalls, which in and of itself was something pretty special.

Raft a River

One of our rafts on the Klamath River.
One of our rafts on the Klamath River.

This weekend marked my first time rafting in California. Actually, it was my first official time rafting anything other than the Rogue River. While I didn’t attain my goal of rafting over class five rapids, we did hit a few fun class threes. Plus, there was plenty of calmer water where we just got to talk, splash around, and find birds and turtles. Our group took two rafts out on the Klamath River on Sunday, and it was a beautiful day for doing so. Definitely a highlight!

Don’t Keep Time

Day and night are the best ways to tell time, anyway.
Day and night are the best ways to tell time, anyway.

A few years ago, I read a book where one chapter issued a challenge to spend some time without keeping time. It was a nice idea, but since I always need to be somewhere or do something at a certain time every day, I could never do this for a sufficient period. But as we pulled into our camp for the weekend, I decided to turn off my phone and not turn it back on until we were headed home. I didn’t bring a watch or any other way to tell time. In fact, the only electronic I used was my camera, and the time stamp on that isn’t even accurate! Other than overhearing a few people tell each other what time it was, I had no idea what time it was at any point in time. It didn’t matter if it was 10 am or 2 pm, lunch time was when I was hungry. Bed time was when it was dark and I was tired. I don’t know if I went to bed at 9:30 or midnight. You probably won’t understand how it feels until you try this yourself, but it is a very freeing experience.

I also used this weekend as a study on how I pack, in preparation for packing for three months of Europe in a carry-on. Coming up, you’ll see what I learned from this experiment.

Since today is Memorial Day in the United States, I’m sure plenty of you have also enjoyed some sort of outdoor experience this weekend. Share what you did in the comments!

day trip, hike, tour

Jackson County One-Day Road Trip

When I lived in the Midwest, I would have gone crazy if I stayed even one week in the same county! In fact, going to different counties was an almost-daily occurrence. In Ohio, I lived and worked in tiny Morrow County, which didn’t have much of anything. I would go to surrounding counties to attend church, go shopping, and basically live my entire life! In Nebraska, I lived across the river from Fremont, the county seat of Dodge County. However, the Platte River was the county border, so I actually lived in Saunders county. Every time I went to town, I switched counties, even though it was the same city!

But since I’ve moved to Southern Oregon back in September, I have not stepped foot outside of Jackson County. Fortunately, it’s not the same as the Midwestern counties I lived in. It’s really huge, and there are a ton of things to do! I recently decided to take a day trip around just a section of Jackson County, and I realized that there is so much I still have not seen! (And I’ve lived here nearly 20 years!) So without further ado, here is my one-day road trip in Jackson County, Oregon.

The first stop was not a planned stop. But after going through Eagle Point, this house was on the side of the road and I just had to stop for some snapshots.

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You may have seen this house before. Do a Google Image Search for “retiring on a budget postcard”, and the first thing that will pop up will likely be a popular postcard picturing this house.

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It’s actually called The Wood House. Although the house is certainly made from wood, it’s actually named that because of the name of the family who built and lived in it.

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Everything except for a picnic and parking area is fenced off to visitors, but it is interesting to look at this longstanding house, as well as all the other old artifacts decorating the yard.

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The second stop also wasn’t planned, but I had considered stopping at Lost Creek Lake. I ended up going to Joseph Stewart State Park’s day use area, just to walk around and behold the scenery.

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The next stop was the highlight of the trip, and what I had planned the entire trip around. After driving to the little mountain town of Prospect and realizing that I had perhaps driven a mile too far, I turned around and ended up at the parking lot for Mill Creek Falls Scenic Area.

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After a decent-length hike through the hilly woods, I arrived at a lookout point for the 173-foot Mill Creek Falls!

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But after hiking a little bit further, I came to an even better site: Barr Creek Falls is 242 feet high, and the lookout for it was situated at a nice pile of rocks where I could sit and eat my lunch.

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The area also had a good view of the river below, and nearby were some spots where I could hang my feet over what looks like a death-defying ledge!

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When I had my fill of the falls, I took the trail over to another path that took me through an area filled with giant boulders and down to the bottom of this canyon. I saw what remained of the area’s first power plant, climbed rocks, and even did a TINY bit of splashing in the water! (Too cold to actually play in it!)

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My final stop before heading home was back at Eagle Point. The Butte Creek Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is part mill, part free museum! A video near the entrance pointed all many fascinating facts about the mill, the surrounding area, and the items inside.

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After touring the mill, I walked along the path behind it downstream until I got to a covered bridge!

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Now I have been to half of the Jackson County covered bridges this year, and I hope to see the others soon!

This was a ton of sights to cram into one day, but oh so very worth it! And I still haven’t seen everything in Jackson County! Of course, my traveler’s heart will likely lead me out of this county very soon!

#ThrowbackThursday, Bucket List

Travel I Can Cross Off My Bucket List

Yesterday, I posted my current Travel Bucket List. However, while I’m looking forward to hopefully accomplishing all those things in the future, I think it’s important to also look back on previous accomplishments. While I don’t plan every single trip around my goals, once I have a trip planned, I try to take advantage of any opportunities available to apply that trip to working towards a goal. I often accomplish several goals in one trip, which is why you’ll see that I have often done several goals at the same time. Here are some things that are no longer on my bucket list, because I actually did them!

1. Go to Chicago. (September 2014)

2. Eat pizza in Chicago. (September 2014)

3. Go up the Willis Tower and stand on the Skydeck. (September 2014- Okay, I’m done with the Chicago goals!)

On the Willis Tower Skydeck...before eating pizza...in Chicago.
On the Willis Tower Skydeck…before eating pizza…in Chicago.

4. Live away from the Pacific states. (August 2011)

5. Visit Amish Country. (October 2013 in Holmes County, plus two other trips within the following year)

6. Go to the Creation Museum. (March 2014)

Hanging out in the ark room of the Creation Musuem
Hanging out in the ark room of the Creation Musuem

7. Vacation in Hawaii. (April 2001, Oahu)

8. Go to Walt Disney World. (May 1999, plus three more times, all in May during my birthday!)

9. Bike around a major city. (May 2014, Columbus)

Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World's Largest Gavel!
Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World’s Largest Gavel!

10. Be in two places at once a la A Walk to Remember. (March 2013, Nebraska/Iowa, also internationally in July 2014 at New York/Ontario)

11. Visit a different country. (December 2005, Mexico; July 2007 in Peru was the first time I stayed the night inside the country)

12. Visit a different continent. (July 2007 and August 2009, Peru, South America)

Playing with kids at the Posada de Amor orphanage in Cieneguilla, Peru
Playing with kids at the Posada de Amor orphanage in Cieneguilla, Peru

13. Visit Canada. (July 2014, Niagara Falls)

14. Go on a mission trip. (July 2007, Posada de Amor in Peru, plus several other trips after)

15. Go to Seattle. (March 2004 was my first trip)

16. Go to Nashville. (September/October 2012)

In front of the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville
In front of the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

17. Go to Niagara Falls. (July 2014)

18. Take an overnight train trip. (December 2011, from Nebraska to Oregon)

19. Go on a cruise. (December 2005, California and Baja)

20. Support overseas orphans. (Not including Latin American mission trips, I’ve sponsored Nelly in Zambia since 2013.)

Nelly, the teenager I sponsor through Every Orphan’s Hope

21. Fly first class. (January 2013, from Denver to Omaha)

22. See Mount Rushmore. (August 2011)

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

23. Be in the nation’s Capitol. (June 2007 in Washington DC, also in Peru’s capitol of Lima in July 2007 and August 2009)

24. Go to New York, New York. (June 2007)

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On a class trip to the East Coast

25. See historic Philadelphia. (June 2007)

26. Travel out-of-state without my parents. (March 2003 to Washington, and many, many, many trips since!)

27. Travel by myself. (This one’s ambiguous: in 2001 I flew by myself but was picked up by family at my destination, in August 2011 I moved to Nebraska for an internship, in September 2012 I went to Tennessee for two weeks but one week was spent with a friend, in August 2013 I took a solo road trip to get to Ohio for my new job… if none of the previous count to you has having traveled by myself, then I definitely took several trips over the past year that would certainly count!)

In the airport at the beginning of my move to Nebraska
In the airport at the beginning of my move to Nebraska

28. Drive more than an hour. (First time was February 2013 from Twin City area in Minnesota to somewhere in Iowa)

29. Drive the entire way on a road trip. (First time was August 2013 from Fremont, NE to Marengo, OH)

30. See a Great Lake. (First saw Lake Erie November 2013, within the next several months also saw Ontario and Michigan)

Walking alongside Lake Michigan in Chicago
Walking alongside Lake Michigan in Chicago

31. See the Atlantic Ocean. (June 2007)

32. Go to Colorado, but not just inside an airport. (October 2011, Estes Park, visited twice later on)

33. Buy a car (August 2012, bought a y2k red Ford Explorer, sadly sold August 2014)

My SUV Dora (named so because she was an Explorer)
My SUV Dora (named so because she was an Explorer)

34. Go to Yellowstone National Park to watch Old Faithful, see large wild animals, and stand on the Continental Divide. (July-ish 2002?)

35. Take a tethered balloon ride. (July 2010)

36. Sleep (inside a car) in a Walmart parking lot. (September 2013)

37. See Multnomah Falls. (September 2014)

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls in Northern Oregon

38. Go on an extended whitewater rafting trip. (May 2011, Rogue River)

39. Take a trip with only carry-on luggage. (September/October 2011, Tennessee, and nearly every trip ever since!)

40. Ride the Greyhound. (July 2014, and again in August/September 2014)

Good Ol' Greyhound
Good Ol’ Greyhound

41. Go waterskiing/wakeboarding. (July 2004 was my first waterski attempt, July 2006 proved more successful and was also my wakeboard introduction)

42. Sleep all night in a hammock. (July 2012, at the top of a 60-foot tower overlooking the Platte River)

43. Stay in a hostel. (September 2012, Music City Hostel in Nashville; hostels are now my favorite accommodation!)

44. Attend a Christian music festival. (September 2011, Lifelight South Dakota)

Among over 10,000 fans at a Lifelight concert
Among over 10,000 fans at a Lifelight concert

45. See The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. (June 2007)

46. Visit the three main countries that make up North America. (Started at birth in the U.S., ended in Canada July 2014)

47. Hike from base to summit of a mountain. (The tallest so far was Harney Peak in South Dakota August 2011, but was preceded by Mount Humbug and both Table Rocks in Oregon)

This building is at the very top of Harney's Peak and it was a strenuous four-mile journey to get there
This building is at the very top of Harney’s Peak and it was a strenuous four-mile journey to get there

48. Ride a roller coaster that goes upside-down. (May 2003, Disney’s Rock n Roller Coaster, and of course with visits to more “adventurous” theme parks like Six Flags Marine World, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Adventureland, I’ve been on dozens more)

49. Be invited to a movie screening before it comes to theaters. (July 2011 for Courageous; I’ve also gone to Grace Unplugged, Moms’ Night Out, and When the Game Stands Tall)

50. Become a travel writer (started professionally writing November 2008!)

So there you have it: my top 50 travel accomplishments! I’m looking forward to adding more to this list!

#ThrowbackThursday, Accommodations, destinations, tour

Throwback Thursday: Rafting the Rogue River

In honor of the ever-popular hashtag, this website will now celebrate Throwback Thursdays by featuring trips I’ve taken anytime in the past- from a couple years ago, all the way back to when I was a couple years old! It may be every Thursday, or it may just be on Thursdays that I feel like searching through my archives- I don’t know yet. 

School recently started for many colleges. That means an official end to all summer activities. No more summer camps, no more walking the beach in flip-flops… and no more rafting. The Rogue River in Southern Oregon closed to all rafters around the same time that the local colleges kicked off. But a few years ago, I found out I could go to college AND go rafting at the same time!

In order to get my college degree, I needed to get three health credits. These could come from traditional health classes, such as First Aid and Nutrition, or they could come from Physical Education classes. I decided that Phys Ed would be a stress-releasing way to break up the more rigorous classes. When signing up for classes for my final quarter, I still needed to get one more health credit. When I saw a whitewater rafting class among the course listings, I immediately wanted to go. Instead of a standard twice-per-week class, I could go on a three-day rafting trip down the Rogue River. It cost an extra $400 fee, but knowing I may never have this opportunity again, I decided it was worth the money. (I later learned that this was an incredibly good deal since the trip was comped by the school and volunteer guides. So if you’re looking for a less-expensive rafting trip, call your community college and see if you can join them on a trip!)

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The trip was in early May in order to align with the school’s schedule, and also so we could go during a legal rafting time without having to get a summer permit. That meant, in order to stay dry and warm, I had to bring the right clothes! I hardly ever shop for new clothes, but I spent an entire day buying under armor, a rainsuit, wool socks, water shoes, sunglasses, and a special poly-spandex fabric blend of pants to go with a rash guard suit I already owned. I never would have thought I’d spend so much money on such a ridiculous-looking outfit, but it was definitely worth it!

00000005  0000000800000007Cabin by Rogue River

Three days is a long time to be on the river, but fortunately the Rogue River is so unique, there are a lot of unique stops along the way. We stopped every day for lunch and a couple of other attraction/bathroom breaks. We stopped at a few hiking trails, historic buildings, and even farms! I never realized how much was along the Rogue, and so much of it is difficult to get to by car!

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One of the best parts of the trip was that we got to stay in beautiful lodges each night! The fed us such large meals and offered fun activities to wind down the day. At the lodge we stayed in the first night, I looked through a scrapbook they had, and learned that many celebrities had come to Southern Oregon to go rafting and stay at this lodge. Today I don’t recall any of the celebrities except for Laura Bush. The second lodge was so remote that it was only accessible by river! Some of us had a campfire that night, and the staff made sure we knew to put the fire completely out when we were done, because if a fire did start, there would be no way for a firetruck to get there!

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With so many people taking this class, we had quite a few rafts, each one owned by an experienced guide. I was in a small raft with two other students and our fearless leader Jen. She did an excellent job at getting us through the rapids, and when the water was calmer, she captivated us with interesting stories about her rafting experience.

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Jen rowed the raft most of the way, but she was nice enough to let us get some hands-on learning in the lower-class water. I was actually surprised at how little we were required to do, especially since this was a physical education class! Rowing was completely optional, and we were only required to take a short walk around some class 5 rapids, since our school’s policy would not let students raft over those. At the end of the trip, we did have to take a one-page test about rafting vocabulary and operations. Since I got an A in the class, I guess that proves I learned something!

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Even though we weren’t allowed to raft through the class 5 rapids, we were allowed to go on all the lower classes of rapids, including some pretty intense class fours. Looking back at these pictures, I realized I only took pictures in the calm water. That’s probably because high-class rapids require everyone’s attention in case something goes wrong. Plus, they’re just fun to ride over!

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While whitewater rafting was a fun, educational, new experience, the most memorable part of this trip for me was the scenery. I can’t think of a better way to end this post than with some snapshots of these gorgeous (not to mention completely unedited!) views.

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