One Last Excursion

On June 5th of last year, we as a family set out on a great adventure only few get to experience.  Setting out with a 5th wheel and a dream, we visited thirteen of our country’s National Parks, venturing as far west as Yosemite and ending in our backyard at Shenandoah National Park.  It is something we will never forget and we talk about regularly.

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This morning we had a sad realization.  Our American The Beautiful Pass expires tomorrow May 31st.  So we thought, why not one more adventure on the pass that brought us so much excitement?!?  So off we went on one more hurrah!

With one more year under their belt, the boys are much faster hikers, yet still haven’t gotten the groaning under control.  But there is much more pep in their step.  And I did notice my elbow didn’t hurt as it used to.  In the past it felt as if I was hyperextending it dragging Weston along.

White Oak Canyon Falls was are adventure of choice, just across from the southern entrance to Skyland Campground between milepost 42 & 43.

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Fortunately the weather held and we enjoyed an amazing hike through the forest.  I absolutely love the smell, the coolness of the woods, and the sound of the waters.  More importantly, I love seeing the boys experience it as well.  I hope they choose the mountains over the tv or Xbox.

I am reminded how brief their childhood is and how fast they grow up.  I want to capture every moment I can.  Look at what a difference a year makes!

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Learnings from ARC

Last week several of our staff had the privilege of attending the ARC Conference at Church of the Highlands in Birgmingham, AL.  ARC stands for the Association of Related Churches.  Its primary goal is to plant healthy, life-giving churches.  They are one of the best, if not the best, organizations that equips, trains, funds, and launches new churches across America and even the globe.  That is why Lifepoint loves contributing to this amazing organization!  They say that the ARC Conference is the largest family reunion in the country.  It does feel like that.  I wanted to take a few posts that exceed 140 characters and let you in on what I learned during my 3 days.

During the day we had the opportunity to attend breakouts, smaller gatherings of people digging into a specific topic we face in the church.  It could be how to find a healthy rhythm as a Pastor.  How to plan a service.  How to better identify and develop leaders.  There were dozens to choose from.

My first breakout (APP sessions they were called) was “5 Weekly Habits to Build the Family You Want.”  I don’t know about you, but I want a healthy family.  I was ‘husband’ before I was an Executive Pastor.  I’ll be a dad after I retire.  So having a healthy family is super important to me.  One thing I learned was Healthy habits lead to legacy lives.  Kirby Anderson (http://kirbyandersen.com/) led the session with his wife Gail.  They have 5 children, one of which is going to ARC training to plant a church.  Not a bad legacy!

The things he said were simple.  Stupid simple as a matter of fact.  “I know this” kind of habits.  But why don’t we do them?  Why do we allow life to create complexity in our lives.  One thing we try to do as a church as we grow larger is stay simple.  We believe this leads to a more focused and healthier church.  Why not that for our families?  What would happen if we implemented SIMPLY habits each week – Habits like, talk with your spouse, eat together as a family, date your spouse.  It is a reminder that the most important things in our lives our not the glowing orbs in our hands – it is the relationships around us (Wow did I learn some amazing things about relationships I’ll share on a later post – MIND BLOWING).

Several of the habits we do well with.  A majority of the time we eat a meal together once a day.  We do fun stuff together as a family.  But some of the things I need to shore up.  I need to spend more one-on-one time with the boys.  If you have 6 kids just rotate once a week.  It is doable!  I need to spend more uninterrupted time with Jennifer.  I need to put the phone down more (don’t we all).  Overall it was a great reminder to focus on the simple things and create simple habits within our daily lives that create a routine of interaction.  I only have once chance to raise these boys and I want to get it right!

Guest Interview – Weston Liam Pickwell, Age 6

I’m interested to see how this interview goes.  If my hunch is correct, you’ll see a clear dichotomy between Wyatt, and my very verbose 6 year old.  Hope my fingers can keep up.

Weston, would you like to tell me a little bit about your trip?

Hmmmm….. well, I liked seeing the bears.  Um…. I liked seeing the sequoias, the tall trees, and the Grizzly Giant.  I liked Yellowstone because I liked the campground, and it was clean, and I liked the geysers, fumaroles, and mudpots.  Um…. I liked staying in a camper. Um… and…umm… well… I liked…. seeeeing the faces of Mt. Rushmore.

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What did you think about all of the driving we had to do?

Um…..  It was fun when we got to watch movies and play on our iPods.  And um… we liked um…. well I liked seeing a whole bunch of flags on Mount Rushmore.  About riding in the truck…  Oh yeah…. well I did like going to McDonalds one time, I think… and um… we got a toy Minion.

What was your least favorite part about riding in the truck?

I think it was waiting 15-20 minutes for iPods.  Why did you have to wait?  We were acting crazy.

Was there was there anything fun about driving that far?

I already told you!  The iPods!

Do you have any thoughts about the scenery you saw?

Um… it was pretty, but we have no idea if way out there there are more sequoias.  The scenery was high and pretty.  And um… I think I saw a canyon with a road in the middle with rocks in it that looked like they were from Lion King.  I think it was in Arches.

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What did you think about Yosemite?

It was interesting with all of the squirrels.  They wanted to get fed so they got just like one inch away.  Well, they walked up to a lady and she shot them with a water bottle.  Then another squirrel came.  We weren’t supposed to feed the squirrels or they could get relocated somewhere else or killed.  I think in the Badlands, what we saw was a chipmunk.

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Tell me about your experience in Zion NP.  How was that?

I think it was quite burning up in there but it was a little fun.  We stayed at Zion River Resort and it was clean and I think it had a pool.  We even had a ‘smores’agbord.  And we swam in the virgin river.  And we even hiked the narrows.  What was that like?  Well, it was a little tricky.  We went like 5 miles through water, like, kinda a current, like tiny water falls that made the current.  Well, there was patches of land that we could go on.  We ate cold pizza for lunch and cookies.

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What was your top 5 National Parks?

1. YosemiteIMG_5485

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2. YellowstoneFullSizeRender 124 FullSizeRender 104

3. ZionFullSizeRender 172 FullSizeRender 177

4. Rocky MountainIMG_6506 IMG_6508

5. SequoiaIMG_5541 IMG_5526

What were your 5 top experiences?

1. See the giant sequoias and the Grizzly Giant

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2. Seeing the geysers and hot springs

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3. Swimming in the Virgin River

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4. The Jeep Ride in Moab

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5. The ATV in the hail storm

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Why don’t you tell everyone what it is like to live in a camper for 6 weeks.

Well, when you live it in theres not much room.  For the kids, they can play in their beds with stuffed animals and they can come to life.  When you live in a camper on a trip, you have to drive like 100 miles or something to get to your campground.  And it is like 50 miles to get to a state.  And if you are going to skip a state, you have to drive 1000 miles, maybe.  I liked playing the Ranger game with Wyatt.

What was your favorite state?

Wyoming because we got to go to a cowboy thing.

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Anything you would like to add?

Yeah, there was this Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone and the highest it exploded was like 300 feet.  We didn’t get to see it, but it was the highest.  That’s all!

Guest Interview – Wyatt Lee Pickwell, Age 8

Wouldn’t it be a great idea to hear from someone else besides myself on how our West Coast Trip went?  Wouldn’t it be awesome to hear the perspective of a kid?  I thought you’d think so.  So here is Wyatt Pickwell, my oldest son, and his thoughts on our little adventure.

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Tell me about your trip.

Well it was really fun; it was really hot.  We went to 20 states, National Parks, and 9000 miles.

What did you think about all of the driving we had to do?

All of the driving was pretty much miserable.

Didn’t you get to watch movies?

Well, it was miserable for you guys.

What was your least favorite part about riding in the truck?

My least favorite part was when it rained really bad.

Was there was there anything fun about driving that far?

The fun part was watching movies and playing the iPods.

Do you have any thoughts about the scenery you saw?

It was really pretty; really exciting.  I think that’s about it.

What did you think about Yellowstone?



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We had to drive a long ways to get to each individual place.  Yellowstone, was actually the first National Park to ever be established.  In Yellowstone it’s actually a humungous active volcano.  I saw a lot of geysers, hot springs, a few mud pots, and a few fumaroles.  I saw a lot of wildlife.

What was your experience in Arches?

So in Arches, there is a bunch of arches… of course.  We actually went through a few canyons on a hike.  It actually took three hours.  And….um……what were we talking about?  Arches.  When we were in Arches and coming back from balanced rock, we saw so much rain pouring down in the distance it looked black.  And at that same time we saw a bunch of lightening hitting the ground.  It was really weird.

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What was your top 5 National Parks?

1. Yosemite
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2. Rocky Mountain
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3. Arches
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4. Bryce Canyon
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5. Shenandoah
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Why do you say Shenandoah?

Because we got to drive through clouds.

What were your top 5 experiences of the trip?

1. Fishing
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2. The Jeep ride
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3. Playing in the pool
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4. Hanging out with my family the whole way
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5. When me and you were unhooking and I unhooked the water and it splattered all over me.

What was it like to live in a camper for six weeks?

Once you get used to it, it’s pretty much like your house.  It’s like driving around with a house on your back.

End of the Road

Saturday – July 18

Day 44

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Today we rolled into KOA in Fredericksburg.  What in the world is up with this humidity!!!!  Thought for a second to turn around a drive to dryer air, but held back.  It has been an absolutely amazing trip.  I want to thank you all for following along, enjoying the adventure with us, praying for us, and living vicariously!  But it isn’t over.  Stay tuned.  Hopefully in the next day or so I’m going to share a ton of what we experienced, learned, and even give Jennifer and the boys some room to comment on what their favorites were.

Route: Milton, WV to Luray, VA

Campground: Fredericksburg KOA

Time: Left 8:00AM ET, Arrived 9:45AM ET – 1Hrs45Mins

One Last Hurrah

Thursday – July 16

Day 42

Sometimes things don’t turn out like you imagined.  We thought we’d leave Colorado early and roll into Fredericksburg today.  However, every campground is booked over the weekend.  So we find ourselves in Luray for the next few nights.  Our lease on our apartment doesn’t start until Monday.  At least we have a home on 4 wheels.

Route: Milton, WV to Luray, VA

Campground: Outlanders River Camp

Time: Left 8:15AM ET, Arrived 1:45AM ET – 5Hrs45Mins

Friday – July 17

Day 43

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IMG_6525IMG_6547IMG_6548IMG_6559IMG_6568If you are stuck next to national park, go visit.  Why not make it 13 national parks in 42 days?  We ventured up into Big Meadows and got the boys books stamped and devoured some blackberry ice cream.  The campground we are staying at is amazing.  It is only 5 years old and sits on the Shenandoah River.  After 42 days of camping and fishing, we finally caught 3 small mouth bass.  Nothing like a little patience.

Itinerary: Shenendoah National Park, Big Meadows, Shenandoah River

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunday – July 12

Day 38

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I might have found another favorite national park.  First its cold.  At least it was cold when we were there.  We had our heaters running overnight.  Second, its absolutely beautiful.  Third, its crowded – very crowded.   But there are still spots you can find solitude and solace.  It reminded me a bit of the Smoky Mountains and Yosemite wrapped into one.  Unfortunately, we ended our stay a day early to get home and possibly cut down some of our drive time.  It certainly is a place I’d like to return to.  Not to mention, the top of Rocky Mountain NP was BLUSTERY and FREEZING!  There are spots you can find snow still on the ground.  There are animals everywhere.  We saw lots of elk, and two huge bull moose right in our campground.

Itinerary: Adams Falls, Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Holtzwart Historic Site

Monday – July 13

Day 39

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We found hell on earth, and its in Oakley, KS.  Some parts are ‘amber waves of grain.’  But where we stayed was awful.  HOT HOT HOT.  The grass is crunchy.  And you track in these burrs that you constantly end up stepping on the rest of the day.  Poor Dorothy.

Route: Grand Lake, CO to Oakley, KS

Campground: High Plains Camping

Time: Left 8:00 MT.  Arrived 4:10 CT 7hrs 10 Mins

Tuesday – July 14

Day 40

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You can’t pass through Kansas City without hitting some BBQ – especially when the BBQ is in a gas station.  Can we say burnt ends and ribs?

Route: Oakley, KS to Danville, MO (VIA Joe’s Kansas City BBQ)

Campground: Lazy Day Campground – One of the nicest we’ve stayed at.

Time: Left 6:45 CT.  Arrived 3:45 CT 9hrs.

Wednesday – July 15

Day 41

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You can’t pass Culver’s without getting custard.  It is absolutely the BEST!

Route: Danville, MO to Milton, WV

Campground: Huntington/Fox Fire KOA

Time: Left 7:45 CT.  Arrived 6:20 ET 9hrs 35mins.