Riding the Rails Through the Cascades




My Annual Palm Sunday weekend trip to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Felton, California is usually made by train. Convenience compels me to catch the Coast Starlight in my home city and enjoy the ride south.

Most years there is little to see out the train windows because Standard Time and huge deposits of snow both darken and cover the magnificent forests through which I must travel. Not so this year. Palm Sunday landed in April and both Daylight Savings Time and a light snow pack played in my favor.

Going south, other passengers and I delighted in a glorious sunset warming the mountains with a spattering of orange as the sun dipped behind the hills. A pair of German students rode beside me and they photographed every turn as we passed through a multitude of virgin forests.  They were awed by the expanse and the height of the mountains, wanting to discover Lookout Point and other spots of interest as we passed out of Oregon into California, leaving the day behind. 

Coming home proved even more spectacular as the sun rose to meet us at the base of Mount Shasta. In years past the mountain had hidden in darkness because the time change had not yet occurred.  This year I sat and shot picture after picture out the train window, trying to capture the magnificent peak.  Acres of forests spread a green carpet of fir and pine before me. Dips and valleys stole my breath as the hillsides plunged below the train track, exposing cavernous depths of virgin timber. 

My mind wondered at the grandeur of it all. I was reminded of the passage in Psalm 98:7-9 (ESV) which reads: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.  He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”

Truly these mountains were singing for joy.


























Bleeding Heart–A Bloom in Time for Easter

When I returned from Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Felton, California earlier this week, I was greeted by several blooms of my bleeding heart plant which grows by our garden fountain. I thought it fitting that a heart-shaped flower should emerge the week before Easter, representing the love Christ showed for me when He died on the cross at Calvary.

In a culture which commercializes everything, including dressing grown men like white rabbits who now sit in malls and give candy to children, it is difficult to remember that the Easter season is a commemoration of sacrifice.  Jesus, a sinless man, sent by the heavenly Father, was brutalized by jealous religious leaders, condemned before a Roman governor, and forced to carry his own cross to a hill above Jerusalem where he was hung to die. No rabbit ever entered the story.

Crucifixion is considered by many the most heinous way to die. The victim is nailed to a wooden stake, hoisted into the air, and left to slowly bleed to death. The weight of his body compresses his heart and lungs, suffocating him.

Suppose for a moment they’d crucified a rabbit.  Nailed his paws to a tree. Can you imagine what would happen in our society? The Humane Society would appear in force, demanding restitution for the poor little bunny. Activists would lobby Congress to forever end any killing of rabbits by torture. The public outcry would rival the noise of an atomic bomb blast.

Instead, a man was tortured to death, and we celebrate with candy eggs and chocolate chicks, unaware that His sacrifice was made to cover the sins of the world. The shedding of his blood would wash away the unforgiveable, leaving in its place a restored human soul. All we need to do is ask.

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” God cared so much for you that He sent the one thing most precious to him—His only Son—to die a criminal’s death on a cross. His gift of love assures you of eternal life in heaven with God. It’s so simple, many people miss it.

Happy Easter. Be joyful that Jesus has risen from the dead and waits in heaven for you.

Tulips, Tractors and Trains–Recipe for Fun

French impressionist painter Claude Monet is known for his depictions of nature, especially fields of flowers. If he could have visited the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon this week with my family, we would have lost him somewhere in the middle of the forty acres, easel upright, brush in hand. The multitude of colors, varieties, and sizes of tulips overwhelmed all of us.

The festival, begun in 1985, is an annual event hosted by three generations of the Ross and Dorothy Iverson family.  The Iversons, who purchased the property in 1950, raised six children there and now Iverson Family Farms is run by siblings Barb, Ken, and Nels, and Ken’s son Jon.

Visitors enter by a main gate after paying a one-time vehicle fee of $10 ($5 for bikes and motorcycles and $20 for buses)  and park near the Tulip Café and Gift Shop. Food choices range from all-American hamburgers and submarine sandwiches, to hot dogs with Sauerkraut and authentic Mexican dishes. Elephant ears, caramel corn, and ice cream are also on the menu.

Vendors occupy crafter tents at the edge of the children’s play area and offer an assortment of goods including blown glass and handmade wooden shoes. Visitors may purchase tulip bulbs at several venue outlets. Fresh flowers are also available for sale.

The main attraction, acres and acres of blooming tulips, is a vigorous walk down a sawdust strewn path. A main display area, complete with a replica of a Dutch windmill, welcomes visitors to the fields which are another walk a bit further away. To assist those who’d rather not hike, a steam tractor-drawn tram runs to and fro from the main exhibition area to the field. Children may ride in the cow train, another tractor-drawn row of small conveyances painted in the colors of a black and white Holstein cow, and which takes the children down the rows of tulips. Adults can ride a larger train along the rows of flowers.

The festival runs from March 28-May 4. All activities are outdoors and vary by the day. Please check the online daily field report for weather conditions, bloom status of the fields, and a schedule of events at www.woodenshoe.com before you come.