Exit 38 again

August 6th, 2008

It was 88 deg F yesterday. That’s hot. I miss winter. But rock climbing helps get me through. Here are a couple of pics from yesterday’s excursion.

Eric climbs under the enormous chock stone towards the “Tunnel of Love”

The Tunnel of Love

Matt enjoying a mountain sunset

Sunset on Rock

Something Missing

August 5th, 2008

I’m pretty lucky. I have a wonderful wife who loves me, a great job, a dog, a house, a car, a good family that lives close enough that I can see them more than once a year, good friends, a fantastic church…. But there’s something missing. You see, it’s summer and there’s not much snow around in the summer.

Someone posted this on an internet forum that I read:

How do “YOU” deal with ski depression?

I don’t deal with it very well. I get extremely bored, but don’t want to do anything, except look at ski gear or watch videos. Mountain biking and drinking helps………..a little..Been trying to deal with it for over half my live, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now.

Is this my problem? Is it ski depression? We’ll find out. In a couple of weeks I’m planning on climbing to the top of a snowy mountain with my lightweight ski kit and carving some turns. I don’t care if the snow is mushy suncupped garbage. At least it will be turns.

My coworkers think I’m crazy.  It’s the middle of summer and when we have a drizzly cool summer day I start checking the freezing level and calculating the odds of fresh snow at camp muir.  This might be madness but they always say, “follow your dreams” and my dream is to ski!

So I pose the question to you.  What gets you through the dog days of summer?

Family Camp

July 30th, 2008

We spent last weekend at our family cabin. Mostly it was my mom’s family but a few folks from my dad’s side made it, too. All in all it was exactly what a family camp should be. Two nights at a “rustic” cabin, as many dogs as people, lots of food, and fishing. Here is the story in pictures (photos taken by my wife).

The Cabin

The Cabin

Most of the family

Most of the family


Fish like to eat worms


Maybe a red fly will work better

Taylor with a fish

Somebody caught a fish

Chase with a fish

Chase caught a trout

After Work Climbing

July 24th, 2008

One of the best things about living in Seattle is it’s proximity to some fantastic outdoors.  We have all of the benefits of a big city (except for decent mass transit) with the wilds of the countryside just a short drive away.  In that spirit Eric and I drove out to exit 38 after work to do a little rock climbing.

It has been quite a while since I’ve done any climbing so I was, shall I say, rusty.  It was great fun anyway.  We hiked up the Mt. Washington trail to the Peannacle wall.  The views are phenomenal.  It’s worth the hike just for the views.  We saw a fantastic sunset and then hiked out in the dark.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me to capture the way that the sunset cast its beautiful hue on the rock.  I guess I’ll have to go back.

Early Bird Gets The Worm

July 19th, 2008

I love big excursions that require lots of planning and preparation but sometimes the weekend is just too busy for that. Luckily, we live close to some amazing mountains so it’s possible to get out and enjoy them even when we have lots of stuff planned. This morning Jennifer and I got an early start and went on a short hike. Actually we didn’t start that early, it was 8:10 when we left the trailhead but it paid off. We hiked up to Snow Lake and made it back to the car before noon. On our way out we passed over 100 people (131 to be exact) who where on their hike in. Not quite the wilderness experience that I normally look for in a hike but considering how close we were to the city it’s ok.

The Flowers are coming out.


The sky was nice.

Mountains and Clouds

Why is it called Snow Lake? I don’t get it.

Snow Lake

A Few Pics From Uganda

June 29th, 2008

The connection is too slow to take the time to comment on these but enjoy.

Quick Note from Uganda

June 25th, 2008

Uganda is great.  The internet has been down for the last few days but it’s back so I’m catching up.  We are having a great time and seeing some pretty amazing things.  We put on a field day at the orphanage.  It was really fantastic in the most chaotic way imaginable.  Picture 900 kids running around and playing games.  Crazy!  Jennifer has been spending her days at the orphanage helping the teachers.  They are very grateful for her help.  She presented a couple of globes to the teachers in the older classrooms.  It was a big hit.  The orphanage houses, feeds, clothes and teaches all of those kids and when they get extra money they use it to help more children rather than buy classroom props so it is a real blessing to get things like globes and posters and what not. 

I’ll try to get a couple of pictures up later…

Packed, checked, ready to go…

June 21st, 2008

What a stressful morning.  We ran around like mad people doing errands, making last minute arrangements and then we packed.  But all is well that ends well.  We are all checked in, and now we just have to go back to the airport with our carry-ons and walk onto the plane.  Africa here we come.

Why Blog?

June 14th, 2008

I used to hate writing. I dreaded it. The thought of it made my heart pound; it was a struggle. That made college tough because you’re expected to write quite a bit in an academic setting.

I’ve always admired people that could write fiction. The creativity that goes into imagining a story followed by the attention to detail required to build characters that are believable. You must have an incredible understanding of people in order to do that. I don’t!

I’ve usually been more drawn to non-fiction. I like to read incredible stories that are real. They say “truth is stranger than fiction” and I believe it. Kerouac proved it in Dharma Bums (I think that was non-fiction). Anyone who could live through all that craziness is stranger than anything I could imagine. That book had me looking at the option of dropping out of college and “hitting the road”: pure inspiration in all the wrong ways. Well written mountaineering literature is like that too. Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer fits the category. So does Everest: The West Ridge by Thomas Hornbein. How could fiction compare to words from the heart like these?

Evenings were peaceful, smoke settling in the quiet air to soften the dusk, lights twinkling on the ridge we would camp on tomorrow, clouds dimming the outline of our pass for the day after. Growing excitement lured my thoughts again and again to the West Ridge.

There was loneliness, too as the sun set, but only rarely now did doubts return. Then I felt sinkingly as if my whole life lay behind me. Once on the mountain I knew (or trusted) that this would give way to total absorption with the task at hand. But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.

I remember being 16 and reading that for the first time in the library at Centrailia Community College. Hornbein and Unsoeld were about to accomplish one of the most pivotal feats in mountaineering history. They were about to set the bar for all high altitude mountaineering to come. People have done bigger and harder things since. But with the exception of Messner’s solo of the north ridge of everest without oxygen, you would be hard pressed to find a climb in the annals of mountaineering history as ground breaking as the first ascent of the west ridge. And yet, Tom was haunted by the idea that he had gone all the way to Nepal “only to find that what (he) really sought was something (he) had left behind”. 12 years later I still remember that and I read it over and over. I guess I read it just to see if he was right.

What does all of this have to do with blogging? I’m getting there….

It’s amazing how much of an engineers job is writing. Writing proposals, writing emails, writing memos, extra service proposals…. I have been lucky enough to be forced to write. I’ve learned that writing is a problem that requires a problem solver just like an engineering project. First there is the problem of organizing your thoughts into the ones that matter and the ones that are extra. Second is the problem of figuring out how to convey those thoughts clearly. Third is the choice of words to pass the subtlety of the meaning. Fourth is the pruning and revising process, the elimination of the excess and the reordering to obtain the goal of conveyance. I still dread writing and will often put it off as long as possible but I’ve learned to enjoy its nuance.

I’ve also learned that some people come by the process more naturally than others but good writing is a byproduct of hard work and practice, nothing else. I can do it, if I practice enough and try. I will improve!

Also, I have realized that it is good to document the trivial things in life because in the end they aren’t trivial. They make up who we are, they are the substance of our existence.

It’s hard work to journal, and a journal is a little too private to be of much value to anyone but the journalist. That brings me to the blog. The blog is a place where it is easy to document and archive my thoughts. The format is informal enough that I don’t have to worry about if I’ve chosen the perfect word or kept the right tense or punctuated correctly but it still gives me a venue to practice the craft of writing. Also, a blog is private in that there probably won’t be enough there of interest to draw anybody in. On the other hand it’s public enough that anyone can see it allowing me to share anything I want to the world.

Graduation Ceremony

June 14th, 2008

Last night we went to my sister-in-law’s high school graduation.  We struggled through the speeches of five valedictorians, the class president, the student choice speaker, the vice principal and finally the superintendent.  Then the reading of the names….  The pitiful sound system kept us hanging on every word (just to understand what was being said).  All of the speeches had the same theme: go out, do good, follow your dreams….  As we left, our discussion turned to what we would have said as the guest speaker at the graduation.  None of us could come up with anything.  Madeleine Albright spoke at my University graduation; all I remember is how parched I was from sitting in the sun wearing polyester and how badly I was sunburned.  Fact is, we’ve all been through a number of graduations so we’ve seen our fair share of motivational speeches.  One would think that we could cull the best pieces of the speeches we’ve heard and combine them with one or two lessons that are worth sharing with a bunch of high school graduates.  Nope, we were clueless.

After more thought, here is my list:

  1. Don’t worry – things usually aren’t as big in hindsight as they seem in the present.
  2. Figure it out – gather the opinions of many but in the end remember that your actions are your own and you own them.  It’s up to you, good luck.
  3. Happiness – Happiness is great but if you spend all of your time searching for it you may never find it.  It’s better to be happy than to try to find and do things that make you happy.

In conclusion, if I could grasp those things I’d be better off.  I guess that you rarely give advice that you don’t need yourself.

That’s all I’ve got.