26 September 2007

This Is Where I Was At Right Before Now

by Dan Phillips

Last Friday I left for the Sierra with my eleven-year-old son Josiah, and stayed until Tuesday morning in friends' guest house in Bishop. The occasion was my 497th birthday (52 in calendar years).

The Bishop-Mammoth Lakes area has been a vacation spot for the Phillipses since long before I was born. I've probably gone up there since I was around 5. I remember when coffee at Schat's Bakkery was 5 cents a cup. Don't even ask me what gas used to cost!

There is family film of little-bitty me, roped to a pole they'd stuck in a pond's bank, fishing. The rope was to keep me onshore, in case I caught a big one. (I have fallen in two Sierra lakes since then, but never for that reason.)

I've come back since over the years -- soloed many times, honeymooned in the area, have brought all my children. Try to get there at least once a year, more if possible.

So this is really a photo essay, and a brief one.

The trip over was through increasing cloudiness, and rain. The next day, since Josiah had never seen falling snow, we hunted for some.

Up the trail by McGee Creek, I thought I'd find some. What we found was sort of light and fluffy hail — less solid than your usual hail, a bit heavier than your standard snow. It was a good start, anyway. (Click on each image below, to see the larger version.)

Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!
(Psalm 148:7-8)

I told Josiah that this wasn't the big, fluffy flakes that I've more often seen fall. We went looking for them; saw one very brief flurry, but it was over as soon as I pulled off the road!

Then at the lower Twin Lake we hit "pay-dirt," as fluffy snowflakes began to float gently down.

As it turns out, the Mammoth Lakes were just warming up (or cooling down). We went to Horseshoe Lake, and the weather turned to this:
...and then this:
"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...?"
(Job 38:22a)

(BTW, we were careful not to get too close to the lake. Thus we were able to avoid experiencing either dizziness, unconsciousness, or death. We did note the dead trees. The volcano [?] continued to slumber.)

On the way back down, we saw a brilliant rainbow, all the way down to the ground — but in the mercurial Sierrra weather, it had faded as soon as we pulled over to capture it.
"When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."
(Genesis 9:16)

And on the way down, we saw both rain and clouds...

...after which, we enjoyed a delicious barbecued dinner.
"...foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving
by those who believe and know the truth."

(1 Timothy 4:3b)

And that was just our first full day!

It was a great trip. The only really depressing event there was... Sunday, when I went to church.

Maybe more on that, later.

With no pictures.

Dan Phillips's signature


Anonymous said...

Being a native flatlander from the plains of Nebraska, I really am awestruck when I get to see mountains. They are a great reminder of the majesty and power of God, and of His creative nature. The same can be said of things we encounter here regularly - like thunderstorms and yes, snowstorms.

Great pictures and story, thanks!

Marcian said...

I second the thunderstorm comment. I take an entire week off work just to go look for them. Some call it crazy... I call it a vacation.

James Scott Bell said...

"It was a great trip. The only really depressing event there was... Sunday, when I went to church."

Nice cliffhanger, you sly dog! Maybe this was the major reason you posted this...in any event, it shows you have a true writer within you. Maybe you should write that book after all.

Now, give...the readers are waiting!

donsands said...

Nice photos. What agreat place!
Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...


The Sierras are really unreal. They're like normal mountains on crack. I grew up in Denver and saw the rockies every morning, but nothing compares to the 0-->14000ft. elevation change. Unreal. The rock faces you can see on the McGee creek trail alone are breathtaking.

Anyway, thanks for the reminder of why we love it up there and thanks for the Godly reminders of the Lord's glory being on display!


beachbirdie said...

Thanks for the story and the pictures, enriched by accompanying Scriptures. I spent much time in the Sierras in my youth and miss the ready access to their glorious beauty!

I await with anticipatory curiosity the next installment in which you WILL describe your church visit!

DJP said...

Don't tempt me, jbuck21. I've got lots more pictures! And they're really quite glorious.

I'm just waiting for someone to throw out the first "no substance" gripe....

Hanani Hindsfeet said...

Lol just watched the first nooma dvd last night Dan (the only one I intend on seeing in the near future...) and I couldn't help but think you were doing your own version with a trip round the lake with your son in the pouring rain lol.

Only I think your Scriptural reference ratio was considerably higher than Mr. Bell's...

candy said...

I learned something new about Mammoth. I didn't know about the CO2 emissions. I knew about the quakes. I don't know what church you attended but we have people who drive two hours from the Bishop area to attend our church which is Reformed Baptist. We drive an hour to go there. We just don't have that many good churches in our area that are reformed in nature.

For those of you who comment on the Sierra range. I get to live next to them! Nanananana!

Thanks for sharing the pics. Looking forward to more.

DJP said...

Wellsir, now I've got my life-motto:

"More Bible than Rob Bell!"

Mike Riccardi said...

::No substance gripe::

Mike Riccardi said...


DJP said...

...and like the good Calvinist said after he and his fancy Sunday-go-to-meeting suit had fallen in the mud, "There, now that's over with!"


Jake said...

Oh, I'm so jealous! I lived in Bridgeport for 10 years, and now I'm stuck in St. Louis at seminary! Gaaa! Dear, dear McGee Creek, how I long to see thee again.

Do please post more pictures; I long to see that fair land again.

VcdeChagn said...

Nice pictures. Nice name for your son. Our youngest (of four, so far) is Josiah as well. Snow is one of my favorite things, and we don't get enough here in Kansas City.

And yes, I'd like to see more pictures...either here or on your other blog.

DJP said...

Mm, requests for more pix. In politics, this would be like a "groundswell."

Al said...

Being a Florida family we don't get snow much... ever. Of course one of the great things about this country is that even down here snow is just a few hours away (in the winter).

As far as this post lacking substance goes... You contextualized the biblical passages wonderfully... hippies need the gospel too.

al sends

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! The calm before the storm...

James Scott Bell said...

"...and like the good Calvinist said after he and his fancy Sunday-go-to-meeting suit had fallen in the mud, "There, now that's over with!"

Glad you chose to tell that one.

DJP said...

I was chosen to tell that one.

LeeC said...

Someday I'll get there.

As you are with the Sierras I am with the coastal redwoods. I usually spent my time hiking around the big trees near Crescent City on the Smith river.

But now I have all this time to explore the Sierras for the first time with my kids, so that aint so bad.

Unless the Lord returns first, and that better!

Leberwurst said...

Going to Yosemite every year from as young as I can remember till Grandpa passed on forms the highlight reel of my early memories!

Your boy will have a great reel to look back on now as well.

BTW I didn't see falling snow until I was about 12 or 13, magical...

Stefan Ewing said...

So Dan, you're a Californian born and bred?

We have the same mountains up here, in a manner of speaking: the Cascades that run up the BC coast are an extension of the Sierras. I love getting up into the mountains to hike, and a drive into the Interior is always a treat as we drive through the semi-arid river valleys and mountain plateaus. Now that I've learned how to ski, I can enjoy God's storehouses of snow in the winter as well.

Occasional commenter Cindy has (had?) a series of gorgeous pictures of nature on her blog, together with suitable OT quotes from Psalms and Job. This reminds me of that. It also reminds me that the Lord's speech to Job out of the whirlwind is my favourite portion of verse in all of Scripture.

Thanks for lifting our minds off the nitty-gritty of doctrine and discernment!

Anonymous said...

In the profound words of Doug Pagitt:

Wow. Wow. Wow.


Erik said...


Thanks for the reminder! Since moving to the flat Midwest, I have missed trips to the Sierras.

I used to go to Mono at least very year to take pics. I kissed my wife for the first time at Convict lake. I had my truck's radiator blow coming down to Bishop another time. Using Mammoth as a base camp, one summer day I had a cold water bottle(frozen from the night before) at Bodie one hot afternoon.

I forget the name of the spot outside of Lonepine that I used to go to -with the waterfall?

Solameanie said...

Cool photos.

One of these days, you'll have to vacation in Hawaii, charter a plane, and take photographs of Kilauea Crater with its bubbling lava and fiery fountains. Then you could do a post on the peril of Gehenna just to tweak universalists.

See, there are benefits to sightseeing. ;)

DJP said...

PapiasI kissed my wife for the first time at Convict lake. I had my truck's radiator blow coming down to Bishop another time. Using Mammoth as a base camp, one summer day I had a cold water bottle(frozen from the night before) at Bodie one hot afternoon.

I love those vignettes. What a gorgeous lake Convict is; what a great place for a first kiss. I first saw it from the backside, hiking down with my dad from a hike that we had to re-route. We were supposed to come out an entirely different place; had to call my mom at Lake Mamie to come get us.

And so your car blew up on the Sherwin Grade? Was that new-highway Sherwin Grade, or old windy road Sherwin Grade?

As to Bodie, is there more to say than "Goodbye, God, I'm going to Bodie"?

I forget the name of the spot outside of Lonepine that I used to go to -with the waterfall?

Hm, don't know. Up in the Alabama Hills, where so many movies were filmed?

I took my son to see what I used to call "the water-fall-down," near Bishop Creek Lodge. A family friend did a charcoal sketch of my dad sitting atop it, with me. He actually put me in his back-pack, and hiked up there.

Surely not what you meant, though.

Erik said...


Just remembered: Whitney Portal is the spot. Take the road toward the mountains out of Lonepine and you cannot miss it.

Yeah, I miss the area.

Erik said...

And so your car blew up on the Sherwin Grade?

It was the new grade. My buddy and I were just coming down from Mammoth, and the radiator fluid starts spurting, and the temp gets hotter. So we stopped at a garage in Bishop(I think) right along 395. It was a scene out of the movies; two guys in greasy, oily overalls looking at my engine saying, "Yep, you got a problem. Its gonna take a little time to get this fixed."

My Scripture reading for the day was in Psalms: "Some trust in chariots, others trust in horses, but we will trust in the Lord our God."

For Bodie, it's unbelievable how hot that place can get in the summer!

One October I stayed the night in Mono, and had reservations in Yosemite for the next day. What happens that night? It snows and they closed Toulame pass! And the next pass north was also closed. I had to drive all day to get into the valley before the sun set.

Thaks for sharing your vacation! And hppy BDay!

FX Turk said...

Yeah, but where's the Gospel?

... sheesh ...

Anonymous said...

Hey, Cent & I have better things to do than look at your pictures...

Like ministry...


FX Turk said...


Cubby's gonna be mad you robbed him of that one, dude. That was classic ...

candy said...

Papias..do you mean Tioga Pass?

Jake...how cool that you lived in Bridgeport! I have been to some nice hotsprings around there. Bridgeport can also have the coldest weather in the USA. But you probably already know that.

Dan. More pics please, and your church story.

Gilbert said...


LOL! Your timing was impeccable. :-)

Last week I was on a video shoot in Harrisonburg, VA. Although we hadn't expected major downtime, our schedule at one point was good enough to head to Shenandoah National Park. This was my first time seeing the mountains there. Granted, 3,800' isn't the Sierras or Rockies, but with the sunshine,
we could see the Smokies 60+ miles away, through a bit of haze (which is why it's called the Smokies!). Our God is awesome, and when he was done with the Appalachians, he got serious and made the Rockies and Sierra! ;-)

By the way, as a meteorologist by trade: the soft hail is technically called "graupel" by us met folk. It's almost like sleet on steroids; here in the Chicago area, we were treated to it a few times last winter.

Will Rogers said...

Looks like a great time! Hope you enjoyed yourself.

John Haller said...

So, let me see if I got this right: the Pagitt thread is locked and now we're gettin' a TRAVELOGUE?

Seriously, this midwesterner has been up there two of the past three years and while I don't do hiking or camping, the lakes and mountains are spectacular.

And then, of course, there Schat's Bakery in Bishop.

DJP said...

Ohh, yes: Schat's. (And pardon me, but the correct spelling in this case is "Bakkery.")

On the door as one enters, they have posted Matthew 4:4 — "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Ahh, but the aroma. You put on 5 pounds just walking through the door. There is nothing bad there — sourdough, extra sourdough, Honi Squaw, and their famous Sheepherder bread. And everything else.

Amazing place.

Daryl said...

Hey Dan,

What did gas used to cost?

DJP said...

Well, I remember in the 30-cent/gallon range.

John Haller said...

I would have used the real spelling but it also has one of those dutch squiggly thingees over the e and I couldn't do that. But it is a wonderful smell in there. The most amazing thing is the quantity. Bishop is in the middle of nowhere and it's big enough for NYC. Who buys all that stuff?

Since we're about the same age, I slso remember gas in the $.30 cent range, but at times there would be a gas war somewhere and it would get down to $.18 or $.19. And they had two types, regular and premium and both were chock full of lead.

DJP said...

...AND you didn't pump it, or even get out of your car. They'd pump it for you, AND clean your windshields, AND check your oil and tires.

As to Schat's, it's a must-see for everyone who comes through Bishop. It's always crowded with people. They do a bang-up business.

Erik said...

Candy - Thanks. It is Tioga Pass. When they close it for the season, they don't kid around! It just happened to be the night before I was going to use the pass.

Dan - Is that Beef Jerky place still in Bishop? Really forgot the name of that place. And I always thought the palce was on the wrong side of the road. I want jerky coming down from Mammoth, not going up!

And for sheepherder bread, there is nothing better than Schat's!

DJP said...

That's around where the antique stores are? I think so. One of those antique stores, last time I went in, had the most amazing array of chili's, with the funniest names.

Drag to me is that the sort of clearing-house bookstore in Mammoth closed. I got some real bargains there. But the used bookstore in Bishop still has a big Christian book section. Best buy ever, though, was in a now-closed thrift shop in Bishop, where I got C. F. D. Moule's commentary on the Greek text of Colossians...

...for ten cents.