Celebrating the Gift of God’s Love

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Into The Wilderness, a Tradition

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

In 1970 our neighbor Bill Spaulding, took my Dad, brother Darrell and myself on a backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park. That trip hooked us on spending time backpacking in the wilderness and my brother David joined us when he was old enough. A common love of the mountains and solitude provided by being disconnected from the world provided fuel for many trips growing up. Here is a photo of the three of us from that first backpacking trip to Vogelsang Lake with our neighbor Doug Spaulding.  

For me personally, it was the incredible and awesome beauty of the mountains and wilderness that kept me from rejecting the idea of a creator God. To believe that all the beauty I was seeing was the result of random chance never resonated with me and that there had to be a master creator. It was in the wilderness that I most fully felt the presence of God during the turmoil of my teenage years. 

Once we boys had gone to college and were working we would organize a yearly trip to a wilderness area in the California Sierra Nevada. Some years it would be all 4 of us and some years one of us would have to skip the trip. After moving here to Minnesota I was able to participate in one final trip in 1990 to the John Muir Wilderness before having to stop being part of the trips. As it turned out, this trip would be the last time I would backpack with my dad in the wilderness. Here is a picture of the four of us on Selden Pass with Marie Lake in the background.

Five years ago when I was getting ready to retire from 3M my brother Darrell kept talking to me about joining him and others in hiking a section of the John Muir Trail. Although I was hesitant and concerned about venturing into the wilderness after such a long absence I agreed to join in on the trip. My son Steve decided to join us for 7 days of the 12-day hike and would head out early with some others. Once we started the trip, being the wilderness brought back so many great memories and feelings. Most prominent was the very strong connection to God who was the creator of the universe and all the beauty I was emersed in. Our route took us back to Selden Pass and the day we were to summit the pass was a very emotional one for me thinking of the time I had spent in the wilderness with my dad and his struggles later in life with Parkinson’s and Dementia. It was also a time of joy to be able to share this experience with my son Steve.

We have been able to keep this tradition alive these five years. It is a special thing to share this love of the wilderness with my brothers, and we hope to continue doing so into the future as long as we are able. I also find these trips into the wilderness a wonderful time of renewal for my spiritual life. This year we ventured to Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains for seven days of adventure joined by my son and nephew Brennan.

“God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” Genesis 1:31

Finally, some Native American Wisdom:

“To encounter the sacred is to be alive at the deepest center of human existence. Sacred places are the truest definitions of the earth; they stand for the earth immediately and forever; they are its flags and shields. If you would know the earth for what it really is, learn it through its sacred places. At Devil’s Tower or Canyon de Chelly or the Cahokia Mounds, you touch the pulse of the living planet; you feel its breath upon you. You become one with a spirit that pervades geologic time and space.” N. Scott Momaday

Peace, Love, and Blessings

Deacon Richard


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