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October PSA results are in: No detectable PSA. :)

I'm a little nervous this weekend because I let Candice drive out to California with two girlfriends. I trust her and know that she is a very good driver, but still a little nervous.

Last Friday John and his dog Rich and I backpacked into the Tony Ranch and Tony Cabin area via Haunted Canyon and Pinto Creek. Very beautiful fall colors were everywhere. Others from Arizona Hikers group came in on Saturday and everyone had a great time. While we were around the campfire Saturday night a sudden erie feline gutteral-growl-into-a-yowllllll shattered the forest silence. Kent said it was a mountain lion and that he and Sande had seen fresh tracks that morning. One thing is for sure, that was no small kitty cat. First time I have heard anything like that and I've been getting out in this state all my life, gave me small shot of adrenaline. Also there was more bear scat around than I've ever seen. Saw no bears though. Also Todd, Kent and Jim found a really cool cave in Haunted Canyon and we went back in it a couple hundred feet. They decided to go any further would require some climbing gear and a future date to explore would be determined.


Sarah is performing with Ballet Arizona in The Nutcracker with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum theatre in downtown Phoenix. She is an Angel in the gold cast will be performing ten times on various days. Yersterday was her first performance and she said it went very well. I was doing a rather rigorous hike, the Superstition Ridgeline and did not get to take her so Briana did. While they were downtown a local tv news crew was filming people out and about on that cold day and Briana and Sarah happened by. I saw them on the new and exclaimed to Janet, " that's Briana". I asked Briana if someone had pointed the camera at them and sure enough they had. All of the family are attending the performance today. Should be a fun time.

Did the Superstition Ridgeline in the cold snow, sleet and rain yesterday and still did it in better time than last year. Had a great post hike get together at Kent's house and he even dried my wet clothes for my ride home. It sure was nice to get a hot shower and under the covers.

Well another year has come to an end and I have much to be thankful for. 2004 seems to have been busier than 2003, but maybe that's just me. The older I get the busier I am and I thought the opposite was supposed to be true. Oh well, the year was filled with some great events and some major challenges. When I think about some of the decisions I made, it's easy to see now that some were obviously wrong. Hopefully I have learned from them and won't make the same or similar mistakes again. Overall the year was a good one and I've made some life decisions that will be focal points in 2005. I've done a lot of memorable backpacks and hikes with good friends over the year and I believe I've generated some interest for the activity in the hearts of Sarah and Emily. I'm hoping that Candice will hike with me more in the new year as well. Right now she is boyfriend free and besides work that seems to be one obstacle keeping her from hiking with dad. I've trained for and lead a small group Bible study for Christ's Church of the Valley, although I'm having some second thoughts on whether or not I'm suited for such. I think the major event of the year was the decision to start painting again. I've thought about it a lot and there is no question in my mind that fine art is what I've wanted to do all my life since I was a very small child and why I quit doing it back in the 80's is beyond me. How did I get off track? Don't get me wrong, I don't place any goal or interest above God and I truly believe that had I not quit my pursuit of painting I would have accomplished more for and in the name of the Kingdom of God than if I had not. Who can say? I believe God gave me talent and desire to accomplish his purpose and I failed to use it for that in many ways. But it's not too late and I intend to pursue it with great fervor and zeal in the years to follow. Every single time I have done that in the past it has lead to good things. It is why I have the job I do. It is why I met my wife and have the children I do. My goal is to paint for the reason I was born to paint. Having cancer can't help but make you think and rethink a lot of direction in your life. It has in mine! I very much appreciate the efforts of Janet and Briana to convince me that I ought to paint again and Ron Jenkins for giving me encouragement and direction once I had made the decision to paint. I was kind of stubborn and against it in the beginning. I guess I was afraid of not "having it" anymore. How idiotic of me to think that when in reality it has more to do with a calling, an attachment to the soul that never relinquishes it's divine grip on my life. That is how deep my thoughts and feelings are on this subject. My desire to paint goes beyond mere compulsion or addiction, it is a desire born in eternity outside of the definitions and dimensions of time. Does that sound a bit pretentious? Suffice it to say I was born to be an artist. Hopefully in the end my endeavors will have given glory to the Kingdom.

The pictures here are of more December events. During the time I was taking Sarah downtown to the Orpheum for her performances in the Nutcracker I did a lot of photos of the downtown area. Phoenix downtown has changed a lot over the years since I first got to know it back in the 50's when I would go there with my folks for various reasons including Christmas shopping (all the major department stores were there). Also when I get the pictures back of Sarah in her Angel costume I will post a couple of them.
2005-02-17 Well it has been some time again since I have made an entry and it seems as though this is becoming a habit I must break. Much has happened since the last entry but I'm not going to record it all. In all, the new year has been good outside of a few broken resolutions and a slight struggle with what to do about some issues in my life that just won't get better. I wonder about my walk with the Lord and if I'm doing what is right. Life is tough and I know what it takes to be courageous, but sometimes I just don't want to (I get spiritually lazy). I'm tired and wonder if I've taken on too much. I struggle with want.

Lord, here is my prayer. Search me Lord and reveal my ways, that I would be content with what you give me and that you would give me understanding of your ways. Lord, let me introduce you to my friends. Thank you for all you give me, even the stuff that I don't notice, may I notice more. Life is a vapor, here and gone. Let me do the right things while I have a life(and I do have a life and a purpose in You). Amen

Some positive notes: My latest PSA was undetectable. My good friends Todd and Hooli have treated me to some special events: Todd, a performance by Laurie Anderson at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and Hooli, The Lion King at Grady Gamage and dinner at PF Changs. Russ has invited me to go to the NHRA Winter Nationals next Sunday. Ron continues to encourage me as an artist in my walk with the Lord. God is good. He gives me friendships that are meaningful. The girls and my mom and myself had an excellent valentines day dinner. I gave Janet a card with some words that really expressed my love for her. Also gave her some flowers that Briana picked out and some chocolate. Also went to the VNSA book sale at the fairgrounds in the pouring rain. Briana, Sarah, Emma, Emily and myself all huddled under a tarp as we waited for the opening. I had a good time looking for watercolor books and found quite a few. I will probably sell some on eBay to cover costs.

Just did an overnighter with Arizona Hikers on the Ballantine trail which stretches from the Cline Cabin (no longer there) to the Beeline Highway, a distance of twelve miles that turned out to be near-bushwhack conditions. Outside of numerous cairns and one set of occasionally-spotted footprints, the trail was almost nonexistent in some areas and in others so overgrown that one had to choose between fighting the catclaw and manzanita grabbing you from the sides or watching every precarious step on the steeper decomposed granite downgrades, or both.

The first two miles of the trek started off with an 1800 ft. elevation gain in two miles with beautiful views of Four Peaks to the East and Weavers Needle and the Superstition Ridge Line to the South. Hooli, Rich and I took our time getting to the saddle. There was plenty of sunshine and just the right amount of breeze to cool us off. Rich was sportin' the brand new booties that Hooli bought for him. Good thing because the miles of granite we traversed would have been like sandpaper on his pads. Quite often we were hiking in run-off from rain a couple days before and at times it made negotiating a bit cumbersome. After reaching the saddle, we figured from all accounts we had read or heard, the rest of the hike would be a walk in the park since it was all downhill. How wrong we were!

The first stretch down was a nice stand of ponderosas and an easy-to-follow trail, but still a few trees have fallen over it and there was moderate overgrowth. Some distance below when we crossed the drainage and got into an area of previously burned and subsequent growth of manzanita and catclaw, is when we realized that downhill does not always equate to "easy". It seems we fought these conditions for a good three to three and a half miles. After the major downhill the challenge became crossing the same drainage again and again where cairns were no longer existent and many of the creek crossing stones were under water. Shortly before this part of the hike, Doug, Mike and HIG caught up with us.

By late afternoon we had reached the corral and made camp, cooked dinner, had some after-dinner cigars (Self, Hooli and HIG) and listened to a couple of jokes from Hooli when suddenly the first rain drop hit about 8:30. Within a few minutes the rain was light but steady and we retired for the evening and enjoyed rain on the tent and a thunder storm. The thunder seemed to go on forever echoing off the canyon walls into slumber land. Sleep was good.

The rain let up around five Saturday morning and by sunup blue sky could be seen in the west. A short while later the sun emerged over the ridge line and by the time it had dried off our tents and we had some breakfast we decided we better get moving because a new band of clouds was approaching from the southwest.

The rain from the night before made the loose granite a little easier to negotiate but other areas were now slick. In all the hiking was not as difficult as the previous day. About halfway to the Beeline we met Daryl and friends coming up and shortly thereafter PaintingAZ, Roger and WanderingSoul. This last group decided to turn around and head out with us. Somewhat further down the trail we met up with CatValet and CatValet2 and at this point it started to rain again. The good news was we could see the highway below, albeit a couple miles below. At last we reached the trailhead, refreshment and some brief socializing. The CatValets gave us a ride back to Hooli's Jeep.

In all this twelve-miler generated a lot of effort and seemed more like eighteen miles. It was much more difficult than I had anticipated, but then that makes it all the more memorable and fun, at least in retrospect. If I ever do this hike again I'll bring a machete.

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