I’m back from my 6th Yosemite Summit – and what a fantastic year it was. We had beautiful weather and did some fantastic hikes in Yosemite National Park.
These guys joined the elite group known as Summiteers! Tom was a four time repeater. Dave, Patrick, and Chris were there for the first time. (No, that is not our cabin; that is an old trading outpost found along the trail to McGurk Meadow.)
I will soon be putting together the annual report and highlight video, but I’m also back into the midst of the busy work schedule I unplugged from, so going though the 2,407 photos, plus editing and creating the video always takes me a few weeks. But I’m also working on a new surprise for this year’s Yosemite Summit Report, so be sure to watch your e-mail for the news when it breaks. (Be sure you are subscribed to the Kidology Newsletter.)
What can I say about this year now?
Well, we did a lot of hiking along with just spending time enjoying the Creator and His creation. This year, I decided to wear a pedometer for fun, starting out with my shopping day:
Friday (the day Dave and I arrived), I walked 4371 steps for 1.63 miles. That was just a little more than an average day for me based on the week before. Saturday saw a lot more action with 10,456 steps for 3.89 miles. There was a lot of prep to do! We left on Sunday, and that included our first short hike and introduction to Yosemite, bumping me up 14,856 steps for 5.64 miles for the day. But then came the real hikes. The day that included the trail to Dewey Point racked up 29,199 steps for 10.98 miles followed on Tuesday with 19,203 for 7.32 miles (Murphy Creek to the Poly Dome Lakes.) Then two of the guys really wanted to hike the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point around the rim and down to the Valley passing Illilouette, Nevada, and Vernal falls – what is typically a Day One hike. The other two opted to have some solitude time in the Valley with less than the 27,267 steps I put down to conquer that 10.09 mile day. (Remember, this is all day, not just the hikes themselves.) On our last day, we went down to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, but I took it easy and only logged 10,095 steps for 3.76 miles. Friday I flew home, so I returned to my average day clocking 4,587 steps or 1.68 miles.
Of course, this may not interest many, but I had fun logging my total of 100,831 steps, or walking 44.99 miles. (Wow!) We don’t typically hike that much, but it was such a beautiful year, and adding on the Panorama Trail was just plain fun.
My feet may have been a bit sore for a day, but my soul was refreshed and renewed! I’m posting from my iPad mini at the airport, so I’ll add more pics later when I am at a computer.
While I am glad to be back, there is a part of me that never leaves Yosemite. But right now, I have some catching up to do!!
As I reflect on the upcoming 6th annualYosemite Summit, I am amazed at all that God has done in my life and in the lives of so many men who have traveled with me to this amazing place over the past five years.
Many have asked me, “How long will you keep doing this?” I usually answer, “at least until next year,” because I don’t ever want to assume to plan ahead of the Lord (James 4:13-15).
But I know this: I need this time away, and I have seen the incredible impact it has had on other men.
Let me just share a few of the things the guys last year shared with me:
The greatest impact was hearing God’s voice and calling me to a personal mountain top experience. This experience allowed God to change my life there at that moment. He drew me close to Him, and there He freed me from the bondage that filled my soul. This spiritual impact has allowed me to continue on a journey daily to be in complete oneness with God.
The biggest “take away” is there are 7 guys that love me for who I am. We all came with different things going on in our lives personally and spiritually. God changed us together and because of that has made each of us stronger and what I would call a “band of Christian brothers” forever.
My highlight was the morning at North Olmstead Point when I heard God’s voice calling me to the top of a mountain. It was a place that God brought me as close to Him as possible and broke me. He drew me to this highest point to share His love with me and then freed me from all the bondage that was weighing me down and quenching my Spirit.
I really needed this Summit. I came home with a greater sense of peace and hope than I’d ever had before. I have a greater sense of who I am as a follower of Christ and what my personal mission is. I realize that the “trail” I’m on is one that God has designed for me and I need to continue to learn and enjoy it. (Even the hard stuff) He opened my eyes to some things right before me that I need to focus on in a better way.
To those considering Yosemite Summit, one guy wrote:
You need this time more than you’ll ever know. Taking time to unplug and get away with a group of guys that God brings together is priceless. Experiencing the beauty of God’s creation, spending time in his Word are times that prepare you for eternity. I believe in Yosemite Summit and it’s opportunity to really re-create someone and allow them a fresh start in life and ministry.
Since I started Yosemite Summit in 2008, men who hiked with me have gone on to create their own Summits, inviting other men to join them on similar retreats. Two of them do a similar retreat in Yosemite, in lodges right near “mine” during the same month. This Summit is reproducing itself.
WHY? Because those who come are changed, and they want others to experience it as well.
YosemiteSummit.org is filled with REPORTS linked at the top of the site from 2008 to 2012 with pictures and a highlight video. If you go through the blog, hitting “Previous Posts” at the bottom, you can travel back through time and read stories of guys whose lives have been changed, why they went, and other encouraging posts.
This is a small “band of brothers” – I only take five guys, and one spot is already taken, so that leaves only four spots left.
There are many amazing conferences that fill banquet rooms and auditoriums with hundreds, some thousands, of children’s ministry leaders singing, listening, learning, and enjoying wonderful fellowship – there is a place for that.
But imagine spending a week with just five other guys, hiking, sitting under some of the highest granite cliffs in the world, at the foot of the tallest water falls in the world, seeing the sun rise and a vista appear that literally takes your breath away, live animals – we’ve seen a bear every year! (and let me mention GOOD home cooked food, including NY Strip Steak!) and through it all experiencing God through prayer, some manly hymn singing, and awesome fellowship in a trusting setting like you may have never experienced before.
We are back from Yosemite Summit 2012! I’ll be posting pictures and a full report soon. Thank you everyone who prayed for us while we were were away, God showed up in many big and little ways and I’m eager to share the stories!
No worries, this isn’t some final post as I depart to my final destination… just as I head off to Yosemite Summit for a week of 100% complete and total disconnect from work, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and anything that distracts me from my relationship with God.
The 5th Annual Summit is Complete:
Meet: Tom, Travis, Alan, Johnny and Tim. The gang has met up in Sacramento and fellowshiped at the Official California #Kidmin Hangout:
The super observant notice my Panda Express, I already had In-N-Out twice as guys arrived, and the Holy Spirit (or my cardiologist) would not allow me to eat it three meals in a row!
Yosemite Summit is not a conference. It is the UNconference for men in ministry because it is a break from ministry. As it’s description says, there is:
No Workshops – Just Worship
No Resources – Just Relationships
No Networking – Just God Working
My inbox is still full. My voice mail is still full. And I have lots of stuff still unchecked on my to-do lists. But Yosemite Summit is my annual time to just walk away from it all, and simply Walk with God. (literally and figuratively.)
It is when I show Him tangibly that He is more important than all the “stuff” I do for Him and I spend time just being with Him. It is when I show that I mean it when I say He is more important than anything or anyone else. It is how I show that I’d walk away from it all for Him – by doing just that once a year, for an entire week. Just dropping it all… as it is. Undone, uncompleted, unneat and untiddy and just let it lie… as it is. My office is just as thought I got up and walked out, because I did. I just go. I’m never ready for the Summit. It just finally comes, and I just go. Just like that. If I waited until I was ready, it would never happen.
If you e-mail me, you’ll get a polite auto-reply. I will DELETE all e-mail accounts from my iPhone and MacBook Air. They won’t even exist here in CA a few minutes after I post this. I only have my Air for downloading pictures each evening. That’s it.
I’m firing myself from my job. I won’t think about it for an entire week. I’ve had people say that must be hard for me. There was a time when it would have been. It’s actually quite easy for me now. Because my identity is no longer my work. There was a time when it was. But I’ve gotten over that. So I can turn it off and on as needed. And as soon as I hit publish on this post… it’s off.
And I’ll just be Karl: Child of God. Sara’s husband and Luke’s dad. Nothing more.
The rest that I am and do will be back in a week. Until then…
CHECK OUT THE GUYS I’VE SHARED THIS EXPERIENCE WITH THE PAST FOUR YEARS AND CLICK ON THE PICTURE FOR A REPORT, HIGHLIGHT PHOTOS AND VIDEO: (I’ll update this post with the sign pic from this year when I return.)
I am not one to toss around the words “favorite” or “best” lightly or often, so when I say that W. Bruce Cameron’s novel Emory’s Gift is my favorite novel, I mean it quite sincerely.
It is TRULY the best novel I have ever read. Never before have I laughed out loud reading a book, turned away from others lest they see my tears, or just cried boldly on a plane because I no longer cared if anyone saw my tears. I have read lines to strangers who had no idea what I was trying to express because they lacked the context, but I didn’t really care, because I just couldn’t keep that line or paragraph to myself. Cameron’s writing style and insight into the mind of a young boy is truly amazing, insightful, and downright hysterical at times.
Truly, I am Charlie Hall, the main character – a middle schooler, around whom the book revolves. And I miss him now like I lost a childhood friend I’ll never get to see again. So real did the author make him, and so vivid did he paint his memories, his experiences, his deep loves, such as Kate, a teacher he was convinced returned his love. (What boy hasn’t fallen head over heels for a teacher and pretended in his mind that it was mutual, even while he knew he was only kidding himself?) But eventually he found “true love” in Beth, a girl much closer to his age, who both befuddled and enchanted him with her spunk and charm.
Indeed, Cameron has written one of those rare novels where the greatest agony is not that the bear aspect of the story may or not be true, but rather the agony that Charlie Hall isn’t real. In the end, he hints at a conclusion the reader is perhaps to come to without directly telling it to him. It’s genius. I’ve never read a novel twice, but I will put this away only long enough to forget the details so that I can relive it. It might take several years, though, since I remember it as though I lived it. But when the time comes, I will journey with Charlie Hall again down memory lane.
Charlie is a boy who lost his mother to cancer and lives in a home with a nearly silent father who, while not a bad father, is withdrawn and dealing with his own grief while leaving Charlie to cope in his own way. An encounter with a wild grizzly bear in the woods that ends up becoming his best friend becomes central to the story – especially when the bear turns out to be perhaps more than just any bear. But I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I’ll leave the mystery of “Emory’s Gift” to those who are lucky enough to pick up a copy of the book.
Part of my connection to the book is that, like Charlie, I also lost my mother to cancer in 1996. It was also slow and painful. While I was a young adult at the time, my much younger brother was Charlie’s age, and he was still at home with an agonizing father. I saw a lot of my dad and brother in this story and in their journey toward moving on without the most loving mother this world has ever known. I am giving a copy of the book to my brother, an MLB reporter and writer who I think will greatly appreciate Cameron’s gift for storytelling. I believe it might bring some healing to his heart regarding the loss of his mom at that tender age and perhaps help him understand his dad a little better, who is now remarried and happy again. This book helped me heal some too.
I may have read somewhere that this is a book for children; however, I certainly would not recommend it for kids.* I do recommend it for the child in each of us, especially for grown men who remember the struggles of transitioning from childhood to manhood and the awkward inner (and literal!) battles they caused. Charlie’s former best friend Dan becomes a bit of an ‘enemy,’ even culminating in a classic school fight that is described both with heart and humor. It is certain to bring back many memories for men who faced the same coming of age battles in their younger years.
But it was the story of the bear that drew me to the book initially, for I encountered a bear at the age of ten, as well.
My First Yosemite Black Bear as an Adult, 2008
I was camping in Yosemite National Park at the time. I love to sleep outside, and since my nylon sleeping bag kept slipping off the plastic folding cot in the night and I’d awake in the dirt, one night my dad devised a plan to bungee cord my sleeping bag to the cot. I awoke in the middle of the night to gentle nudging in my side. Thinking someone was trying to awaken me, I peeked and discovered a large black bear sniffing me! Terrified, I only stared at my “Emory,” wondering if I was a midnight snack. Unable to speak or move, I just froze and watched (and felt) as he continued to sniff me, gently nudging into me. I remembered Forest Ranger Nina (my Kate of the week) telling us that bears never attacked campers, but that they had mauled people just trying to get food. With that thought came the realization that I had some jolly ranchers in my pocket.
The bear’s nose went under my cot, and as its massive head vanished, so did my hope of survival. I figured my final memory would be the shadow of its body without the head, when suddenly the bear lurched up, flipping my cot. At that point I figured it was “flip and slash” so I broke my silence and screamed like a girl. No offense to girls, I mean it actually as a compliment! (Did I mention I was bungee corded to the cot?) As I landed face down in the dirt, the cot on my back, my dad came out of the Winnebago Camper to save some screaming girl and saw the bear lumbering back into the woods, jolly-rancher-less, and discovered the screaming girl was actually his ten-year-old son.
Like a grown Charlie Hall, I have become a bear hunter in Yosemite ever since. You can read of my first bear discovery here: A Prayer BEARly Answered (Bear pictured above.)
The Black Bear I spotted last year, 2011
There are only 400 bears in Yosemite and over 5 million visitors annually, and every year God has blessed me with a bear sighting and the opportunity to photograph them. I have a series of photos now. I wonder, like grown Charlie Hall, if one of them is “my bear.” Of course, thirty years later, they can’t be…but its fun to wonder.
The Black Bear I spotted in 2010
So you can imagine the special connection I had to Charlie Hall reading Cameron’s novel.
Yosemite Black Bear from 2009
I hope Emory’s Gift causes many to pause and consider ‘mystery’ (for the book allows for mystery) and that the message that the book delivers (that I’m keeping from you to not spoil it) will open hearts to God. For parents, I hope that it will help them to connect better with their kids in difficult times, and for others, that it will encourage them to seize life and not allow hurt and pain to hold them back from enjoying what is next in life, to not let their Beth get away, because there may not be a second chance for everyone. (slight spoiler, but it ends well!)
WANT A FREE COPY?
The author mailed me a stack of hard cover copies to sponsor my podcast where I talk about the book, and I’ll be giving several copies away there, but I’ll give away a THREE FREE COPIES here on my blog as well! All you have to do is COMMENT ON THIS REVIEW and tell me a story about YOU and an ANIMAL. I will choose three people at random and contact you for your address!
It doesn’t have to be as dangerous or exciting as mine – you fed your cat this morning is fine! Just tell me a true animal story and you will be entered to win!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you pick up a copy of Emory’s Gift as a gift for someone you love, especially men, for birthdays, Christmas and this upcoming Father’s Day! They will thoroughly enjoy it!
*Why don’t I recommend the book for children? While I found nothing offensive in the book at all, as an adult, it is a book that reflects on life as a young boy becoming a man. Therefore, there are a few references to girls and women in that context from the perspective of a grown man reflecting back on his discovery of girls, their development, the beauty of women, and relating to both. There is one mild reference to sex that while a child might miss it, is there nonetheless. It is a reference to his dad having sex with a woman that he didn’t figure out until ‘years later’ but the reader puts it together because the reader is assumed to also now be older than Charlie and also reflecting on the situation. (The whispering and giggling in the other room when the women spends the night. They eventually marry.) I’m curious how a child reading a few of these passages would process them, being in the middle of those life changes and discoveries. It was delightful and fun, never really offensive, but read like a book for adults reminiscing over those difficult years of discovery.
This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #1: Yosemite
The place where God showed off. The place that without I’d be insane by now because it is where I go to STOP. It is the most amazing place on earth. It is the location of Yosemite Summit and where I hide from work, from people, and in many ways from myself. When I’m there, I never want to leave. I pretend heaven will be just like it, only bigger, wilder and without trails, stores or automobiles. (and maybe some Indians hootin’ in the distance!)
My iMac screen saver off to the side of my laptop is just random photos from all my trips to Yosemite dropping all day on to the screen, and often I get lost in thought just watching them… until I snap back to the tasks at hand demanding my time and attention. I am so thankful that God chose to create a place like that for people to escape to and marvel in Him and the wonder of His creative ability, and that He still cares for us in the midst of all that timeless beauty!
It’s really just something I need to DO MYSELF – but I thought maybe others might want to join me, and I’d enjoy reading/seeing what others are thankful for. So you are welcome to use the Word doc, or just post in the forum what YOU are thankful for! So let me begin today, with my first post. These are NOT going to be in priority order, otherwise I’d have to go God, Family, etc. and then later on, people might judge me for putting one thing “above” or “before” another – so right out of the gate let me say, these posts will be in RANDOM ORDER of things I am THANKFUL FOR!
The fact that I am writing my Yosemite Summit 2011 Report at the end of August that took place in May should tell you exactly WHY I do Yosemite Summit in the first place, though I’ve blogged here about that several times already:
Others have written as well about why they went to Yosemite Summit. I’ll link those another time perhaps, but you can just click through the archives. But the reality is, my life is BUSY. Don’t get me wrong – I’m doing things I love pursuing my life Mission, but if I didn’t schedule Yosemite Summit, I’d never STOP and GET AWAY and enjoy time with some guys who love God like me and just UNPLUG and enjoy nature and fellowship like you just can’t get in the hectic pace of normal life. I’m never “ready” for Yosemite Summit – it just comes, and I have to just GO. And when I get back, I have to dive in and pick up where I left off and getting this report done and a highlight video done can be a real challenge with Kidology.org to run, DiscipleTown to write and other responsibilities all while keeping my family first. (And some new and exciting things in development!)
It’s truly a gift I give myself every year that I plan to give myself for the rest of my life. AND a gift I am excited to ANNOUNCE that I am going to extend starting in 2012 to ANY MAN IN MINISTRY. No longer will Yosemite Summit be limited to children’s pastors. God has laid it on my heart that I shouldn’t be limiting this event to children’s pastors. I will explain this in more detail in a future post when registration opens and how the application process will work. But I have heard and listened and responded and God has answered your prayers, guys! On to the report.
Yosemite Summit 2011
This was the fourth Summit – and since 4 has been my favorite number since I was a kid, I anticipated it being my favorite Summit so far. I also had the advantage of three past Summits under my belt, so I am able to enjoy them even more now as I am less figuring them out and more just repeating what I’ve done in the past, though every year is unique and has aspects that make it special. This year was no exception. I especially enjoyed that this year we didn’t have to alter plans at all due to weather, which was a treat.
The newest thing this year was I made a photo journal for the guys for them to use throughout the week with color photos from past years, space to journal in and scripture to read and reflect on according to the theme of the day. Our reflective theme this year was P.A.T.H. which provided our focus for each day:
P = Peace
A = Abiding
T = Thankfulness
H = Holiness
We had a wonderful time hiking, enjoying fellowship with each other, and spending some quality time with God, the Creator of this incredible place. If you have never been to Yosemite National Park – you are truly robbing yourself of one of America’s hidden treasures. It remained hidden from the “white man” long after San Fransisco had been founded and the Ahwahnee Indians managed to divert (or at times kill) travelers over the Sierra Nevada mountains away from this this incredible valley in order to keep it a secret. It was not until the time of President Abraham Lincoln that it was finally discovered, and while Yellowstone was the first “official” National Park, Yosemite was the first land protected by a President when Abe himself declared it protected land for the people forever!
Millions travel from all over the world to behold the wonders of this relatively small valley (only seven miles in length) but only mere thousands experience the hikes that take visitors to the truly beautiful locations hidden in this gordeous place, and only Yosemite Summiteers (who stick with me on the hikes) get to see the truly hidden wonders of this magnificent park. I know the trails that many neglect and that the masses miss, and the hidden spots off the trails where one can find solitude and solace and spectacular views of God’s Creation. (I took my family to Yosemite in July and enjoyed showing my son some of “Daddy’s Spots” and Luke created a few spots of his own that we will visit again in future years!)
In case you are wondering what can be experienced on Yosemite Summit, instead of a long detailed report, as I have done in 2008, and 2009, and 2010. This year, I offer simply one word summaries of what can be experienced at Yosemite Summit and suggest if you are not one of the eight men who join me. You are truly missing out. I have no need to twist your arm. Those who join me, are the lucky ones. I already have next year almost full from the e-mails I have been getting already. So if you want to join me, you’d better sign up as soon as registration opens. It’s THAT good. I expect a waiting list in 2012. It can change your life.
Yosemite 2011: In photos and one word summaries: (Don’t Miss the Video at the End!)
DEEP THINKING ;)
Do these images whet you appetite for Yosemite Summit? It is truly an event that is difficult to describe, even with words or images – or even with video, but I’ll try yet again…
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
~ Stephen R. Covey