Back in May of 2016 Christine and I went on one of the most physically demanding adventures we have ever attempted: Hiking the Grand Canyon. This was no simple trot along the rim for an hour or 2 followed up by some fro-yo at the gift shop… this was a massive, grueling, difficult, stupid hike that neither of us really should have attempted.
But we did it.
And it was amazing.
Christine’s father has done this hike several times, and very luckily for us he took care of all the logistics and planning. We literally had to just show up at the lodge the night before with backpacks full of snacks and a can-do attitude. After a fantastic dinner at the local pizza joint where we did some carbo-loading, we returned to the Maswick lodge near the edge of the canyon for a fitful and short night’s sleep. There are several well-known stopping points along the trail we were planning to take, and one such place is known as “Ohh-Ahh Point”, so named because if you get an early enough start you can be there by the time the sun comes up.
So we awoke sometime around 4:15 as I recall, and headed out to meet a cab at the entrance to the lodge. The cab service there is apparently of the “we’ll get there when we are darn good and ready” variety, so after 20ish minutes of waiting we bailed and walked over to where a shuttle picked us up. This is where the first surprise hit me: There were more than just a few people crazy enough to be up before 5 am cramming themselves onto a bus headed for the most difficult hike I’d ever attempted in my life. Luckily, we got on the bus early enough in the crowd that we got seats – but I spent the bus ride to the trail head bobbing and weaving my head to avoid hitting either of the packs of the gentlemen standing in the row next to me or the pack of the woman seated directly to my right, who had decided against that all-important morning shower and was taking the opportunity the bus ride provided to dig around in her seemingly bottomless pack. Think “Mary Poppins after a year or 2 on meth” and you’ll get the picture.
Anyway, we eventually arrived at the trailhead, but by the time we got there the sun was nearly up, so in spite of a near jog down to Ohh Ahh point, we arrived several minutes after the sun did. However, the view was still stunning – sunrise or no:
After a VERY brief pause at Ohh Ahh point, we got cranking on down the trail at a good pace. The day had dawned cool, with a slight breeze – ideal for hiking. Rodney (Christine’s dad) warned us repeatedly about the heat that was to come, but at this point the day was cool and comfortable and we were still full of enthusiasm, ambition, and cheery attitudes.
Those of you who may be familiar with the trails in the Grand Canyon may recognize that Ohh Ahh point lies on the South Kaibab Trail, a little less than a mile from the trailhead. If you are not familiar with the Kaibab Trail, but would like to learn a little more, the National Park Service has provided this handy PDF chocked full of information. You may notice the warnings about hiking all the way down to the river and back up again in one day in that PDF: They’re not kidding. The whole way down Rodney regaled us with tales of hikers who had attempted that hike with poor preparation and wound up in serious trouble, with major injuries, or even losing their life.
This was, of course, the hike we were planning to do. If you are planning to hike the Grand Canyon, do yourself a favor and hike the South Kaibab Trail down to Cedar Ridge. Then, after enjoying the view and bolstering your confidence in your hiking prowess, turn around and hike right back out. Trust me.
Unless, of course, you have some sort of mental condition that makes you believe a) you know better than the National Park Service (they’ve been at this for a while now) and b) for some reason your body is not susceptible to the dangers of dehydration, exhaustion, or gravity. That appears to be the attitude we all adopted as we bravely and blithely continued meandering down the trail.
The views on the way down are spectacular:
We stopped frequently to photograph the canyon, have a snack and a drink, and rest briefly. Spirits stayed high, but by the time we were finally in view of the river, I was beginning to become very concerned about how much elevation we had lost and subsequently would have to gain to get back out that afternoon.
The bridge at the bottom was a welcome sight – but also appeared with a hefty weight of trepidation knowing that now we were down, and the only way out was back up. The entrance to the bridge is a tunnel cut right through the rock face – we are still smiling, so things can’t be all that bad yet….
We expected it would be significantly hotter at the bottom of the canyon – and it was. But the coolness of the river seemed to absorb some of the heat. By this time I was VERY ready for the anticipated rest stop at Phantom Ranch at the bottom, but I did take a few moments to get some shots on and around the bridge:
We planned to eat lunch there and rest for a little while before starting the trek up Bright Angel trail. Here is a shot of us finally entering Phantom Ranch – really ready for a break.
We started with soaking our hats and bandannas in water, taking off our packs and sitting down at a picnic table outside the little trading post they have there. I took out some water and started to take some drinks – and began eating. This is where things for me began to go from “hey, this is a fun hike!” to “That’s it, I’m going to die.” I was really surprised how quickly I went from feeling pretty good to feeling really terrible… Christine and I retreated into the trading post to sit where it was cooler, and to buy some lemonade. While trying to enjoy a glass of cold lemonade we filled out some postcards that would be delivered US Mail on the back of a mule out of the canyon to our kids. This is when I really began to realize not only the physical toll that the hike had taken on my body, but the mental one as well… I could not think of the right words. I could not remember our address. I could not remember where the stamp goes on the postcard (hint: in the box clearly labeled “Place Stamp Here”).
As I was working on trying to figure out how to fill out a postcard, a guy sitting across the table (who had been slumped over with his head down when we came in) perked up and casually asked if we were Canadians or something. We got to chatting and it turned out that he was doing a rim to rim to rim RUN that day – he’d started on the South rim that morning, had been down to the bottom and back up to the north rim already, and was now BACK down at the bottom getting ready to run (you read that correctly) back up to the south rim.
He had to explain this to me multiple times before I understood the madness that he was pursuing… And unfortunately he was in a similar mental and physical state that I was – i.e., not doing great. He had been doing this run with a friend, but when he started to feel sick at the bottom his friend decided that the best course of action was to ditch him and take off alone… so we invited him to join our party.
I figured I needed to just cool off and both rehydrate and eat more, so that’s what we did.. we rested at Phantom Ranch for as long as we could, but knowing that the hike out was up next, we knew we needed to get going or we’d never get out of the canyon. So after what I thought was way too short of a break we loaded up all our gear (I was starting to feel a little better) and started off.
There is not a lot that I can show you about the hike out because I didn’t actually take any pictures at all – I was no longer able to exert the mental energy… our goal was singular: get to the top. There were much more frequent stops for water and rest on the way up, and there were a few times we stopped to help other hikers in distress. Christine had a chance to practice her nursing skills on a young woman who had badly banged up her knee, etc.
Now during all the planning stages of this hike and even all the morning down the Kaibab trail Rodney had been warning us about how HOT and miserable the hike out would be up Bright Angel. I’m sure that for most people stupid enough to try this hike that is the reality – but for us on this particular day we got to enjoy a small meteorological miracle: rain. During the afternoon while we were on what had historically been the hottest part of the trail, the skies clouded over and a very light rain fell. It was enough rain to keep you cool but not so much to soak through your clothes. Christine is especially prone to heat-related problems (heat stroke, etc) and for her this was possibly the most wonderful thing that could have happened. As a result of this rain, the hike up was mostly very cool and nice, though difficult given how tired we were.
Even with the rain and a reduced pace, I started to feel ill again. I didn’t know it at the time, but I now realize that while I had been drinking plenty of water, I had not been getting enough electrolytes. On the lower part of the trail we were really only stopping at the more-or-less designated stopping points. The further up we got, the more I had to stop and find a rock to sit on to fight off a mix of nausea, dizziness, and overall fatigue. During one of these stops Tony pulled out what I can only describe as the most magical dried pineapple I’ve ever seen. He offered a few bites to me, and I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted anything quite so perfect for what I needed at the time. That stuff was magical – after a few minutes I was feeling much better and we were able to pick up the pace a bit.
Each time we stopped from then on, I asked for some more pineapple and tried to eat something salty as well. Eventually we neared the top as the sun fell over the far horizon. We stopped several hundred yards from the top as a group and sang “Nearer My God, To Thee”. If you have ever wanted to have a chance at some real introspection, try hiking this canyon and then singing a hymn. Try not to pass out on the long notes.
Before I knew it, we were out of the canyon and stumbling back to the lodge. Christine and I grabbed a late dinner and almost immediately passed out in our room, thankful for the journey we had made and that we returned safely.
The Grand Canyon is a surreal, magical, amazing place. If you ever have a chance to do more than peer over the rim, I highly recommend exploring its depths yourself.
Last year Christine and I decided it was time to sell our house on Cassidy Drive and move on to something that would fit our family better. After walking through too many houses to count, we ultimately decided to build instead of buying something existing. This post will serve as a photo album of the progress of the build process.
When I started really getting serious about my photography habit I spent a considerable amount of time looking at really fantastic images that other photographers had captured. I did this for inspiration as well as to learn the techniques they used and the locations where they shot. One such location that has always stood out to me is a small little slot canyon in northern Arizona known as Antelope Canyon. Located on Navajo land a little ways to the east of the city of Page, the canyon is broken into 2 main sections known as the lower and upper canyons.
For several years I’ve admired shots from other photographers from both the upper and lower sections of this canyon, and have wanted to visit it myself for quite some time. I finally had the chance as Christine and I took an extra day to drive down to the Grand Canyon and stopped in Page to photograph Horseshoe Bend as well as Antelope Canyon.
There are several companies that run tours through both sections of the canyon, and we opted to visit the lower canyon. There are 2 types of tours: walking tour and photographer’s tour. If you are there to photograph the canyon, I strongly recommend you take advantage of the photographer’s tour. You’ll need a tripod and to know how to use your camera’s manual settings to make the most of the tour. The canyon is a very popular destination, and is going to be full of people but the photo tours are kept to relatively small groups of people and the guides will clear all the other tourists out each chamber or area of the canyon so you can avoid shots full of tourists. Christine opted for the walking tour, and I set off on the photographer’s tour. Our guide did a great job with knowing where the light would be best, and pointing out specific items to photograph along the way. Several of the other people in my group had been on this tour multiple times, and reported that they always find something new and interesting to shoot in the canyon.
This canyon is formed from petrified sandstone that is very red in appearance and full of undulating layers of slightly different shades. The rock structures truly look like something from another planet, and once you are in the deep end of the canyon there is only very diffuse, reflected sunlight that penetrates the depths. Along the way, the light is colored more and more red, as it reflects off the red rocks. The result is that it is very easy to find areas of the canyon that literally look like they are glowing hot coals.
Many many people have waxed poetic about this canyon, and my weakness in writing lends me to believe I should leave the attempts to convey the beauty and awe of this place to someone more capable, but I will say this: Being in this canyon moved me. It is magnificent.
I shot more than a thousand frames in the canyon. Here are just a few of my favorites:
The Colorado River runs nearly 1500 miles from the northern part of Colorado down to Baja California, and is one of the major rivers on the western half of the US. Near the northern border of Arizona just outside the city of Page, the river makes a 270º meander that will eventually form an oxbow lake at a place known as Horseshoe Bend. This particular meander is very well known amongst photographers as it is one of the few bends that provides an overlook that is readily accessible, and it is very deep (1,000 feet straight down from the overlook to the surface of the water below). Ever since I first saw other people’s pictures of Horseshoe Bend, it’s been on my bucket list of photography destinations.
This past weekend Christine and I were headed down to hike the Grand Canyon with her father and brothers-in-law, and we took the time to stop by Horseshoe Bend to see it in person. We arrived about 40 minutes before sunset, and made the short hike down to the edge of the overlook quickly. I’ll be honest, the pictures you can find all over the internet of this thing really don’t do it justice: There is no guard railing, the ground is rocky and very uneven, and the vertigo I experienced standing at the edge and looking down was so strong my palms and feet are beginning to sweat and I’m feeling a little light-headed just thinking about it.
It’s an amazing place, with a wonderful view – and LOTS of other people there to enjoy the vista:
Most everyone was friendly, and I chatted with a couple from the Seattle area on my left and another couple from Zürich, Switzerland on my right. While I got all set up to shoot, Christine made herself comfortable and took this shot of me at the edge – it’s one of my favorite pictures of me shooting anything, ever:
I shot a time-lapse of the sunset:
From which I pulled this single shot as my favorite sunset view of the bend:
We decided to come back the next morning when the light would be different to shoot a wider panorama from a slightly different viewpoint. I created this image by attaching my camera to a monopod, then walking as close to the edge as I dare and lifting the monopod as high over my head as I could. With the camera elevated more than 10′ off the edge, I then shot around 30 images while rotating the camera left, right, up and down. The shot at the beginning of this article is the result, and while it is not terribly unique amongst shots of this famous location, it is mine.
If you ever find yourself near the small town of Page, AZ, do yourself a favor and pull into the small parking lot at the trailhead for Horseshoe Bend. Hike out to see the view, and you’ll be amazed.
This past weekend I loaded the kids into the car and drove down to Arches National Park, where we met up with Christine’s family to spend the day playing under the arches. Sadly, Christine could not make this trip with us due to her school schedule and finals (but she’s absolutely KILLING her studies so far!) but we made the best of things without her and had a pretty good time. Here are a few shots of the kids, grandpa and I playing at Delicate Arch.
And a panorama I shot of Delicate Arch as well:
Recently Christine and I took the opportunity to drive from Boise to Las Vegas so we could cheer Erica on at a gymnastics meet there. Here is what my dashcam saw during the trip, condensed from a drive that took all day to just over 20 minutes.
6:00 – I stop to take some pictures of the mountains
8:10 – Stop for lunch
9:25 – More pictures
12:15 – Passing some picturesque mountains
13:00 – Gas Stop
16:40 – Sunset starts
18:25 – Darkness really sets in
21:15 – Vegas metro area comes into view
21:05 – Passing In-N-Out burger at south end of the strip
I don’t know about you, but my life is busy. Between work, running errands, taking kids to and from where they need to be, trying to spend time with my family, and squeezing in some sleep now and then, I’m swamped. Lately, especially, I’ve felt like little more than a robot or automaton that is constantly checking off lists of things to get done.
Thankfully, this summer has provided a number of ways to break up the monotony, and in so doing I’ve been able to get my concentration off my to-do list and look at the world around me just a little bit. What I found was (to me) awe-inspiring and also had the effect of making me feel small. Really small. For instance, here is a time-lapse I shot of the milky way a few nights ago while I was on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, ID:
For 45 minutes my camera sat out on a tripod and captured light photons that were emitted from stuff out in space that is so far away from our little blue-green planet it boggles the mind. Other planets, stars, galaxies… the immensity of space that continues on in all directions for infinity… it’s a big place. So big I cannot even comprehend with my puny little human brain.
And yet, it is beautiful – at least to me.
Later, while driving down a mountain I came upon this view:
Again, I’m massively humbled by the incredible beauty of this earth. I’m also grateful I took the time to pause from my busy life to reflect on my place in this universe. Doing so has brought a clarity to my life about what is really important to me. Sure, my to-do list is long and ever-growing, but I think that I’ll spend a lot less time worrying about things I need to do and spend more time with my family and friends enjoying this amazing world.
I was raised in a very musical household. As an accomplished organist and a gifted pianist, my father was capable of transposing from one key to another on-the-fly while sight reading. Nearly all of my brothers and sisters play at least one instrument, and some are very accomplished musicians in their own right as well.
Growing up in such environment naturally helped me learn to appreciate music and to enjoy listening to and performing many different types of musical pieces. At an early age I started piano lessons which, while I hated at the time, did teach me to read music. In high school I sang in the concert choir which give me some more formalized training in singing harmonies rather than just melodies, better dynamic control of my voice, and great experience performing. Once I made my way to college I discovered that girls like guitars so I picked one up, learned how to play, and still enjoy using the guitar as a way to relax today.
I bring up all of this background as an introduction to help you understand that I believe music has power. Whether it is secular, sacred, instrumental only, or includes many different vocal tracks all blended together, music has a way of conveying emotion and meaning that is unparalleled in any other medium.
Do Hymns Reflect Theology?
Earlier this week I heard that the LDS church has digitized and made available the original hymnal that was put together by Emma Smith and published first in 1835. Given my interest in music, I naturally was drawn to go look at the digitized pages of this early hymnal to see what the music was like back then. To my surprise, I did not recognize hardly any of the hymns that were sung by the early members of the LDS church. I was also surprised to learn that there was no music included in this hymnal; instead, it was essentially a collection of poems. It was expected that each one would be sung with a well-known tune, and a single tune was reused many times with different hymns.
As I was reading through these hymns I did find one that was familiar. The first verse starts like this:
Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight.
On whom for a blessing we call;
This happens to be one of my very favorites, and I have performed it in multiple ways and in different venues. It was featured in the city of Joseph pageant that my family participated in every summer as I was growing up. I performed it with the Men’s Chorus at BYU. I believe I even sang a version of this at an LDS General Conference during my time with BYU Men’s Chorus. I love the message of this hymn and it makes me feel closer to Christ whenever I sing it. To my surprise, the words in this early hymnbook were… well… wrong!
Our shadow by day,
And our pillar by night,
Our king, our companion, our all.
The word companion in the last line of the first verse is not how this hymn reads today. To someone very familiar with this him, that word sticks out like a sore thumb. The correct word is supposed to be deliverer. I wondered to myself: “How come it’s wrong?”
In reality, I discovered that I had been asking this question backwards; I should have been asking why the modern words are wrong. I began pondering how, why, and by whom the words were altered from the original, which led quickly to a study of the early history of music in the LDS church. Where this hymn came from, how it was written, how it came to be included in the very first edition of the LDS hymnbook, and how it came to be in the modern LDS hymnal in its current form is fascinating. As it turns out, this is the original wording as penned by William W. Phelps in the early 1830’s. In fact, the original second verse is also different from the version that we know and sing today.
We know he is coming
To gather his sheep,
And plant them in Zion, in love,
For why in the valley
Of death should they weep,
Or alone in the wilderness rove?
Anyone familiar with today’s version will recognize immediately that in verse two today we sing “and lead them to Zion” not “and plant them in Zion.” Additionally the last line of this verse today reads “Or in the lone wilderness rove,” not “Or alone in the wilderness rove.”
So the words were changed… so what?
To me, these text changes are significant. Recently in my personal religious studies, I have been learning more and more about the theology of the early LDS church, particularly as taught directly by Joseph Smith, the first LDS prophet. This early theology stressed our ability to develop a very personal relationship with Christ, and have the opportunity for personal interaction with Him. Modern LDS theology seems to want to try to replace this personal interaction with God with a much stronger reliance upon a prophet to tell us what God wants us to do. Today’s message is VERY strongly: “Follow the prophet” rather than “Find and follow Christ.”
The original text of this hymn refers to Christ as our companion, who will firmly plant us in Zion and not leave us alone to wander in the wilderness. The modern lyrics remove the implication that Christ can literally be with us in the flesh, and instead focus on the power of his atonement to save our souls. Now, don’t get me wrong: The atonement is incredibly important, but this song originally was about meeting with Christ in the flesh as Joseph, Mormon, Moroni, Alma, and countless others have done.
My understanding of ancient and modern scripture indicates that God expects us to come directly to Him, to seek after and develop a relationship with Christ, and live our lives in such a way that we literally invite a visit from the Savior and receive personal revelation straight from God. In fact, all the scriptures are is a collection of the journals of people who have done exactly this – they were not prophets or somehow holy before they sought the Lord, and only became so after being in His presence.
Hymns have always reflected the theology of their time, and I believe this specific hymn is an excellent example of how we can trace the change in a specific theology: That the belief that we can expect personal interaction with Jesus Christ has changed into a description of Christ as a deliverer, but not a companion.
When did the text change?
In an effort to better understand when and why this text was changed, I started looking for information on where this hymn came from in the first place, as well as copies of all the editions of early LDS hymn books I could find to compare the text of this hymn.
The history of where this hymn came from starts with a British Baptist minister named Joseph Swain. He penned a poem titled “O Thou In Whose Presence My Soul Takes Delight.” William W. Phelps re-worked this poem into one he titled “Redeemer of Israel” which first appears in print in the first edition of “The Evening and Morning Star,” published in June of 1832 in Independence, MO.
It is well known in the church that Emma Smith (Joseph’s wife) was asked by the Lord via revelation found in the Doctrine and Covenants to put together a collection of hymns for the church in July of 1830. This collection was not formalized into a published hymnal until the first edition of “A Collection of Sacred Hymns For The Church Of The Latter Day Saints,” published in Kirtland, OH in 1835. “Redeemer of Israel” was then included in Emma’s first Hymnal in 1835 as hymn #6, using Phelps’ original wording.
By the late 1830’s, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, and John Taylor found themselves in Manchester, England as missionaries for the church. The first printing run of hymnals produced only a very limited number of copies, and they did not have enough to distribute to the new converts in England. So they decided that they needed a new hymnal put together and published specifically for use by the saints in England. Rather than simply re-print Emma’s original hymnal, they (somewhat behind Joseph’s back, forgiveness being easier to obtain than permission) made a selection of hymns and published what would come to be known as the Manchester Hymnal in 1840, including “Redeemer of Israel” as #212.
Around this time, back in the US the first printing of the 1835 hymnals had long since gone out of print, and a new hymnal was begged for by the members of the church. In fact, several individual members took it upon themselves to publish hymnals, none of which were authorized by Emma or Joseph. In 1841, a new hymnal was put together by Emma and published in Nauvoo, IL, in something of a response to the Manchester Hymnal. “Redeemer of Israel” is included in its original form in this hymnal as #119 (though curiously it was the only hymn in the book left out of the index at the back… so it was not easily located by those just looking for hymns in the index by first line).
Joseph died in June of 1844, and it was not long before Brigham’s Manchester Hymnal became the standard hymnal for the church, following his rise to the presidency. Many editions were printed over the years, and it served as the authorized hymnal for the church all the way until 1891 when the first hymnal to include music was published as the “Latter Day Saint Psalmody” in Salt Lake City. “Redeemer of Israel” was included as hymn #319, but by 1891 (and perhaps starting with the 1891 hymnal) the wording had been changed to match what we have today.
So, sometime between the 1841 publication of Emma’s second hymnal and the 1891 publication of the Hymnody the wording was changed. I still don’t know by whom or why. Michael Hicks (a professor of music composition and theory) has written extensively about the history of music in the church. In his essay titled “How to Make (and Unmake) a Mormon Hymnbook” he discusses how the latest edition of the hymnal was put together. The process was done by a committee, took many years, and produced a lot of discussion about which hymns should be included, which ones should be excluded, and which ones should be altered. I still recall the disdain in my father’s voice when discussing the latest hymnbook when it came out in the 1980’s. He described how watered down music had become in order to make the hymns more “accessible”. It seems that in the attempt of this committee to make the hymnal easier for everyone to use, they wound up watering down what it contained. I am left to assume that is what happened in 1891 with the first committee that was formed to put together the Psalmody, and find it likely that they are where the modern text for this hymn originated.
But I really like the words of Brother Phelps a lot more.
During my research into this topic, these 2 publications I found fascinating about the history of hymns in the LDS church. The first one is about how the current (1985 edition) hymnal came to be created. The second is focused more about the earliest hymnals from the 1830’s and 1840’s.
Last night the sunset put on quite a show. I was lucky enough to be on Bogus Basin road, and captured the following:
Oh, and a little timelapse: