Saturday, February 27, 2021

RootsTech Connect

I've been aware of RootsTech for several years, but had never participated.  Always before, it was a convention in Salt Lake City.  That was prohibitive because of time, cost, need for accomodations, etc.  This year, however, because of COVID 19 Family Search, the sponsor, put it all in a vitural format and offered it for free!  How could I resist!

I have long been involved in Family History work and an quite accomplished at it within the realm of my own personal needs.  Because I have no ancestry in Scandanvia, though, I have no expertise in Scandanavian research, for example.  But, in the realms of my own research I'm really quite able, though self taught. I came to seek RootsTech hoping to find help with breaking through a "brick wall" in one of my genealogical lines.  I came away with something else entirely.

I became enthralled with the Keynote Speakers!  People from all walks of life who had so many wonderful stories to tell of their family history!  Despite the fact these were often people who's circumstances, culture and ethnicity were far different from my own, I came away every time feeling like they were telling the story of my own family.  I came away feeling like we were indeed all one big wonderful, amazing family!

Most of the Keynote Speakers were highly successful in their own personal lives and I loved the tales about their rise from obscurity to stardom, for lack of a better word, on the shoulders of their progenitors, but more importantly upon the boost the commonly got from kind benefactors who were mostly strangers.

Astrid Tuminez, for example, was living in a slum in Iloilo, Panay, Philippines.  Her home was a handmade nipa hut standing on stilts over the water.  When she was five, a Cathoic Nun came to their home and invited she and her siblings to attend an expensive school in the city for free.  Thus, began her quest for education.  Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found her family when she was ten.  That led to her being able to attend Brigham Young University and later MIT.  She is now President of Utah Valley University.

Erick Avari, known to me for his wonderful role as Nichodemus in the acclaimed television series The Chosen, grew up in a middle class Parsi family in a small town in India.  The Parsi, fled Persia in about the tenth century to escape persecution and found a new home in India.  They were accepted on the promise that they would not seek to share their Zoroastrian religion with their neighbors.  As a consequence, their community is growing ever smaller.  Through the kindness of strangers he was enabled to come to America and seek his dream of becoming an actor.  His humility and appreciation for so many kindness was very apparent!  Such a kind, unassuming man!

There were other important and inspiring speakers, like Nick Vujcic, Lorena Ochoa, Sharon Leslie Morgan, Sunetra Sarker, Diego Morena, Bruna Benitez and Ladysmith Black Mambazo who were all wonderfully inspirational!  

Sharon Leslie Morgan co-authored a book called Gather at the Table.  I bought it on Kindle and began reading it last night.  Wow!  She is descended from slaves and her co-author Thomas Norman DeWolf is descended from the largest slave holding dynasty in America.  They met at a conference and decided to travel together to rediscover their ancestry all while co-writing a book describing their journey.  She told of the frustration, anger, anguish, fear and ultimate healing that came of their e experience.  I'll report on the book here later.

Another fun and productive feature was that you could connect with your own relatives through the conference.  Over a half million people registered for the conference this year.  Based on FamilySearch I was related to over 11,000 of them.  I could search for individuals or just run through the list!  Then with one click you could connect with them.  With another you could see how we were related and who our common ancestor was!  Ten thousand cousins at my fingertips!  Totally amazing.  You can check that out here:               

I suspect that taking the convention online has been so successful that they'll continue to do it this way.  I sure hope so!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Summer in the High Uintas

My Summer was full of unexpected surprises.  I’ve driven bus for my employer for seven summers now.  Some of them have been spent hauling girls to Girl’s Camp.  Others have been spent hauling Chinese Tourists to Yellowstone.  Other’s have been spent shuttling river runners to the Put In and hauling them back from the Take Out.

This summer was different.  This summer I hauled backpackers from Hayden Pass near Mirror Lake in the Western reaches of the High Uinta Mountains, to one of four locations toward the East where they’d chosen to begin their trek.  Some started at McKee Park near Highway 191, having 106 miles to traverse along the Highline Trail to get back to their vehicles.  Other’s started at Leidy Peak, shortening the trek to 83 miles.  Still others began at Chepeta Lake making their distance closer to 65 miles.  And, most recently, I shuttle a couple to the trailhead at Henry’s Fork (the most popular approach to King’s Peak, Utah’s highest point). They’re intention to climb King’s Peak and then finish their journey by hiking on to Hayden Pass.  I haven’t calculated the distance, but this one is considerably shorter yet.

It has been fun to spend my days high in these locals, though all of my approaches have been by van, being forced to leave the hiking to my passengers.  I have backpacked a lot with the Boy Scouts and once with my good friend Randy Merrell, when we did 60 miles in six days in the Grand Canyon, but that is for another tale.  Having done so though, I at least had a bit on common with my guests and also was somewhat conversant with the lingo and more popular destinations among avid practitioners of the sport.  Also, my personal acquaintance with one of the founders of Merrell Boots was of interest to most who often were wearing a pair of Merrell's.  For me, though, the biggest delight of the summer was just getting acquainted with all of the wonderful people who trusted me to drive them over those roads to their long awaited trip!

The variety of folks was really quite stunning!  There were three women, who did the trek solo!  This was quite alarming to me, but each of them made the trek just fine and my worries were completely unfounded.  There were several men who soloed the trail as well.  We had one large group and several groups of just two or three.

Eric was the first of the season.  I had shuttled him last year as well.  Both times he started at MeKee Draw, thinking it cheating if one didn't do the whole thing.  Last year he twisted an ankle near Leidy Peak and decided it best to abort, rather than get into potential trouble.  This year he made it the whole way and proudly called to report his success!  He was from the midwest and worked as a school teacher.  An academically accomplished and curious fellow, we had some great conversation on both trips.

Another couple of fellows who did the whole trail, shared the ride.  They were not acquainted with each other at all, and were both quite shy.  It took a while to get them talking, but when I did, I discovered that they were both single, 30-somethings, they were both LDS and both returned from Spanish Speaking Missions.  One was a horticulturist who was running the greenhouse for Red Butte Gardens, who had also run greenhouses in Guam and Alaska and the other was an Arabic Interpreter in the National Guard who been deployed to Iraq a couple of times.  They both lived on the Wastach Front.  A great couple of guys, who invited each other to travel together on their 106 mile trek.  Our conversations were all over the place!  

One of the women did the whole distance.  To save money, she'd ridden the Greyhound bus to Vernal and I just took her up to McKee Draw.  She told of several amazing hikes she'd done mostly in Southern Utah and in so doing instilled in me, the confidence to leave her up there alone to wander off into the wilderness.  Something that was hard to do. 

I took a nice young couple to Chepeta.  They were from North Carolina.  They seemed ill prepared and I worried about the altitude.  Chepeta is the most expensive shuttle because of the road.  Just the dirt part takes an hour and a half each way.  It is pretty rough as well, with little road base and lots of rocks.  That trip had two inches of hail added to the mix as we climbed the face of the mountain.  The young people reassured and reassured one another all the way to the top.  Chepeta is set way back from the front of the fairly flat topped mountain, away behind the head of White Rocks Canyon.  By the time we got to the lake the road was dry and the sky was clear.  But, when he got out he immediately took a huff on his Asthma Inhaler, I got concerned.  I hung around for an hour after they started hiking, in case they changed their minds and came back.  Turns out they did just fine.

Another group I took to Chepeta started at one of their homes in Kamas.  They wanted to leave the house at 5:00 AM.  I stayed in Heber the night before, so I wouldn't have to leave Vernal at 1:00!  We went over Wolf Creek as that is certainly the shortest route.  It was very dark so I was taking it easy.  I heard someone complain that I was going so slow that they'd never get on the trail.  Just then I came around a bend and hit a moose!  Thankfully, I was going slow and had managed to nearly stop before I bumped him.  With only one small dent just below the headlight, we carried on, this time with no more complaining!  On that route, we go through Hanna, Tabiona, Utahn, Altamont, Bluebell, Neola and White Rocks before beginning the climb up the mountain.  They were an experienced crew, some young some old, who planned on doing it in four or five days.  Pretty ambitious if you ask me!

Early in the season I took a group of men from the Salt Lake Airport to McKee Draw.  There were seven of them, sponsored by Z-Pack. Joe Valesco, CEO was with them.  He's done the Triple Crown!  Pretty impressive to me to meet a man who has hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  These were all done in single expeditions, not peacemeal as some do.  The PCT is 2650 miles, the AT 2180 and the CDT is 3100 miles!  The other fellows were no slackers either.  Many of them were a film crew and the intent was to do a full length feature film of the trail.  A fellow named Red Beard was among them.  He's a pretty famous backpacker in his own right.  They even filmed a bit of me driving and telling a tale and have more recently asked if they might include that segment in the film.  15 seconds of fame for me!  Nah, they didn’t include it.

The Highline Trail is no joke!  Much of it is above 12,000 feet!  The Z-Pack group took ten days to make the trek.  During that time, one became incapacitated by blisters upon blisters, and Joe came down with Pulmonary Edema and both of them left the trail at Chepeta.  This is no disgrace to either of them.  Long experience and great conditioning are no guarantee that things won't occasionally go south in such remote, extreme and wild circumstances.

I also picked up this group at Hayden Pass to take them back to the airport.  Having read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, I knew that getting back to civilization meant only one thing to these guys - FOOD!  It was all they talked about and all they did once off the trail!  They were all tremendous guys that I am happy to have met.  I can't wait for the film to come out!

Here’s is a link to the movie they produced!  It is really quite wonderful.  They came back and premiered the movie here in Vernal.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review - As A Man Thinketh by James Allen

Here is a book I intend to re-read each year for the balance of my life, a routine I wish I had begun in my teens.  It is simple, concise, direct and worthwhile.

Unlike so many positive thinking-type books that are so prevalent these days, this one admonishes some personal responsibility in the process and is not based on a motivation of greed.  I loved it.  That's all!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Joke That Made Me Cry

This morning the following joke turned up on facebook:

A guy is driving around Oklahoma and he sees a sign in front of a house: "Talking Dog For Sale." He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard.The guy goes into the backyard and sees a Labrador Retriever sitting there.
"You talk?" he asks.
"Yep," the Lab replies.
"So, what's your story?"
The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA about my gift, and in no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running.
"But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security wandering near suspicious characters and listening in.
"I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."
The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.
"Ten dollars," the guy says.
"Ten dollars? This dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"
"Because he's a damned liar. He never did any of that stuff."
When I read it, I laughed 'til I cried.

I cried, because I have been the dog owner.  I have possessed friends and family whose mortal weakness blinded me to the miracle, the possibility and potential, the child of God they truly are.  I have undervalued them and have been willing to sell them for naught.  I have even condemned them for their mistakes, consigning them to a place of pain and sorrow.

I cried too, because I have been the dog.  I have often been unappreciated, undervalued, mistreated and condemned.  I have felt compelled to lie in the desperate hope of increasing my value and somehow, just maybe, gaining the approbation of another.  I have been judged and counted as unworthy of companionship because of my many sins and poor choices.  Sometimes, even, for just being me.

I also rejoiced!  Because I have been the shopper.  I have, now and then, been able to see past the flaws of another and been shown who he really is!  I have loved him and appreciated the miraculous child of God he truly is!  I have shown him that He has been purchased by a new owner who wouldn't insult him by paying a mere ten dollars for him, but who, willingly, joyfully, had paid the uttermost price for one as fine and precious as he.  And I have seen him respond with joyful obedience and love, to his new and perfect Master!

And then I wept, for joy!

Thank you for sharing a joke that for me has become a Parable.
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