Saturday, November 22, 2014


The White River Marathon is well-established event that takes participants along the beautiful White River, in Cotter, Arkansas.  It is a Boston Marathon Qualifier Race.  It consists of a full marathon, a half marathon, and a 5K.  
 2014 marks the 11th year for the White River Marathon for Kenya ( ), and one of my "rituals" of this event, has been to get a photo made with David and Roxanne Johnson.  This year was no exception!  The Johnsons have had the opportunity to travel to Katito, Kenya, and be an eye witness to the benefits that the community has received, from the thousands of dollars raised by the White River Marathon. 
photo with the Johnsons took place before the race, and this photo with my friend Diane Quinn, took place after the race.  We were both very stoked to have won a medal in our age division!

At the finish line, I wanted a photo with the Race Director, Paul Gigliotti.  That too, is a bit of a tradition, because I had a photo made at the very first race with the kind lady who originally envisioned this worthwhile event---Laurie Kaysinger---who served as the Race Director for many years.  Next year the race is scheduled for Saturday, November 21, 2015.  It is limited to 700 participants, and since it completely filled up this year, I would recommend that you get your application in early!  Registration opens January 30, 2015. 
I have a collection of
cotton tee shirts with this logo on it in just about every color imaginable.  This years tee shirt starts a new trend, however, as it is the new light-weight, quick drying synthetic fabric that many races are switching to.  Also, the logo and print appear pale gray, but when light shines on the pale gray it glows bright white!  Since one of my first status updates on Facebook after the race was "PTL", which means "PRAISE THE LORD", it seems appropriate that this would be an appropriate visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that starts out with "PTL"!  It says, "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."  Psalm 103:2    You can be sure that I am praising the LORD for the White River Marathon/Half Marathon/5K, and praising the LORD that I was able to finish the 5K with a first place medal for my age division!  Likewise, I am praising all the race workers, volunteers, and businesses who donated money and supplies to make it such a success!  You have given us 11 years, filled with "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I was absolutely DELIGHTED when I found out that the regional Project Learning Tree workshop ( ) I was attending in southeast Oklahoma was going to include climbing a fire lookout tower!  The last time I climbed a fire tower was on the final day of my senior year of high school, when some girlfriends and I drove to the top of Boat Mountain in Boone County, Arkansas, and climbed to the top of the fire tower there.  The details in my mind are fuzzy of that day, but it is possible that we skipped school, and it is possible, that we were not authorized to be climbing that tower.  However, since the statue of limitations has long since expired on the endeavor, it is time for "true confession"!  Fortunately, for this "climbing expedition", we had staff members from the Oklahoma Department of Forestry giving us some history on the use of fire towers, and what life was like for those who had this job.  The tower was at the end of a very steep and rough dirt road, that climbed to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the Ouachita Mountain Range of that area.  Besides the tower, there was the home for the fire tower worker and his family, as well as several out buildings.

Climbing the tower was an "optional" activity, so anyone that had a fear of heights was welcome to stay on the ground and have an alternate course of study.  However, since the Master Naturalist who was climbing ahead of me seemed to be doing okay, I decided to proceed upward and onward!

These days the fire tower serves more as an "anchor" for a multitude of communication antennas, than as a full-time location for a forest service employee.

Once I made it to the top, and was inside, I had to have my photo made with one of the forest service employees who staffs one of the few remaining fire towers in Oklahoma.

It was a hot and sunny day in October, when our group climbed up to the top of the fire tower, and entered its tiny enclosure.  You can be sure, we were GREATLY outnumbered by the hundreds of wasps swarming the inside compartment, as well as the stairs on the way to the top.  Our guide told us they would not hurt us, as long as we did not accidentally lay our hand down on one of them that were crawling on the hand rails.  Between watching where I put my feet on the steep ladder, and watching where I put my hands on the wasp-covered railings, it was an exciting adventure!

This photo shows the "trap door" in the floor of the fire tower that can be locked, to keep out uninvited human beings from getting inside the tower.

As you look down from the top of the tower, and see how old the rust-covered supports appear to be, one begins to wonder if this was the wisest decision or not!

Our guide was skilled at "hollering" down to those below, to see if anyone else wanted to make the climb up to the top. 

One final thought:
While I was being greeted by a WASP at every step of the ladder, and the WASP buzzed my head when inside the top compartment, I felt very intimidated and a little scared.  It reminded me what a visitor from another race or culture might feel like when they are surrounded by the WASP ( WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant) members of my Bible study group.  I can see why my group of human "WASP" might be scary and intimidating to a foreigner.  Therefore, I resolved to make such a person feel welcome, and not scared!  So although this experience of climbing a wasp-infested fire tower might be viewed as a hardship, or a persecution, or a difficulty, or an insult, or an activity to point out a weakness, but if it was done for Christ's sake, to make me a stronger person, then I can delight in it!  In fact, I can use it as a visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses:  "For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:10    The experience of climbing this fire tower taught me a lesson about wasps, but it also gave me an appreciation for the hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, that those forest "watchtower" folks have endured over the years!  Thanks to their endeavors, we can continue to enjoy our beautiful forests, and have "MILES OF SMILES"!

Monday, November 3, 2014


This is a photo of a "Wildlife Technician".  Until last week, I had no idea there was such a career position as "Wildlife Technician", but thanks to a workshop I was able to attend as part of my training for being a Master Naturalist ( ), I learned that a person who enjoys working in the outdoors, and has either an associate degree or bachelor's degree in Wildlife Management, can be paid to spend time outdoors climbing trees!  According to various Internet job posting websites, the pay can range from $30,000-$35,000.  I would suggest if you take such a job that you also like solitude, because the site where the man in the photo worked was VERY remote, and about as deep in the back woods as one can go.
One reason that his location in Oklahoma is so remote is because he is in charge of protecting the habitat of the (rarely visible) Red Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW).  The RCW is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List, and you can read more details about the bird on their website at .  The wildlife technician is holding up one of the birdhouses that have been designed to serve as a "refuge" for the RCW, and so I am using this image as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46:1 . The RCW is the only woodpecker that uses exclusively LIVE trees to excavate their nesting cavity.  An additional criteria is that the cavity be in a mature pine over 80 years old.  With such narrow criteria, it is easy to understand why their habitat is shrinking due to urban development, agriculture, timbering, and hunting.  The Wildlife Technician is in charge of caring for a "cluster" of cavity trees that usually takes up about 10 acres. 

Our group got to see the technician climb this very old and tall pine tree in a matter of minutes---without any assistance from anyone---to demonstrate how he climbs up to various nests he is monitoring, to see how many eggs are in the nest, and make sure that predators such as rat snakes have not eaten the eggs or fledglings. By the way, the ladder does not stay on the tree all the time.  He carries the various sections of the ladder on his climbing harness, and assembles them as he goes higher and higher up the tree.

This is a photo of one of "his" RCW that he showed us.  The actual birds are about the size of a cardinal (7" long), with a 15" wingspan.  The male has a small red streak on each side of its black cap, called a cockade.  (A cockade was a word that came into use in the 1800's to refer to a ribbon or other ornament worn on a hat.)  The female RCW does not have the red streak.  One reason the RCW is considered so important is because it is classified as a "keystone" species because their cavities are used by other animals---27 other species, to be exact!  The RCW are the primary cavity nesters--meaning they build the cavity, which allows for "secondary" users.  I think I detect a tiny little smile on this bird, and I know learning this new fact about nature gave me MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia