Sierra Surprise part 2 of 3

Mariposa Hotel – Gold Rush Era

Leaving Yosemite via Hwy 140 West leads you straight into Mariposa, CA. A cute little town on the edge of Yosemite NP, it has a two block collection of old west, gold rush era – antique stores and mom and pop shops.

From there I got a map from the VERY friendly visitor center and drove North on Hwy 49 in search of a open highway east to get across the Sierra’s. Both Hwy 108 and Hwy 4 were closed due to winter road conditions and I was told the quickest option would be to drive about 100 miles due north and catch State Hwy 88 near Jackson, CA to go east.

Mariposa was quaint, but hardly ‘scenic’… so I was extra-bummed the other road options were now closed, I resigned myself to drive 2 additional hours to make my Sierra Road Trip loop. The road started as a simple two lane state highway, nothing special… but within 10 miles I knew I was in for a real treat.

Hwy 49 was no flat and straight snore-fest of a road, it was a winding, twisting, turning panorama of rolling green foothills and lakes, shrouded in clouds and as perfect and solitary as any road warrior could have wished for. My only regret… I didn’t have a sports car or Harley to truly wind-my-way through the 10-15 mph curves !


Hwy 49 – North of Mariposa

Gorgeous and relaxing, this 2 hour drive was a wonderful surprise ! What i thought would be a huge disappointment and annoyance, turned out to be one of the highlights of my drive. It was like driving in Ireland ( I think – as I’ve not been there yet) with the green lush hillsides and mountain vistas. Totally unlike anything I had seen in Yosemite, this was a calm and restful scene that kept repeating every-time I turned into the next valley. Hugging the side of the small mountain foothills, Hwy 49 wound back and forth across lakes and bridges, staying a thousand feet or more above the valley floors and providing camera ready moments for anyone took the time to travel it’s length.

The glory of the late morning sun and the clear blue skies with distant white cotton clouds, gave the scene a sense of the surreal and I found myself distracted….repeatedly grabbing at the wheel to make the next tight s-curve.

Almost no other cars were to be found and I had this “shalom” like drive to myself. It felt like a wonderful moment that God gifted to me, a time and place that satisfied the ‘longing’ of my wandering heart. I live for roads like this…. I yearn to discover new and remote vistas of beauty, and God having created me… knew “Exactly” what I was desiring. I couldn’t help but thank Him for taking me on a detour that turned out to be the ‘main’ event for my trip.

Hwy 49 Scenic

Hwy 49 Scenic

I had seen the desert vista’s and mountain extremes many times before… but the geography between Mariposa CA and Sonora CA was unique and beautiful and lush.

A wonderful hidden jewel just off the beaten path, waiting for me to simply discover.

Makes me think about how many times I have ‘missed’ those hidden blessings of God in my life. When I pushed and pulled and made a path forward without regard for the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. “Making stuff happen” for the sake of getting it done, and loosing out on the divine detour laid out and intended to refresh and renew my spirit.

My unexpected discovery of California State Hwy 49… served as a valuable illustration for me to remember and share. I hope it does….

Pastor B.

Part 3 of 3 in a few days.

Sierra Surprise

Icemaggedon 2015 hit Nashville with a sudden – surprise fury that stranded most and cancelled a week of our scheduled collective lives. My family was left stuck at home while I made one of the last flights out… my destination, southern California.

I wasn’t as thrilled as you might think…

I love winter, cold weather, and all things snow. Landing in Ontario CA… the weather was 77 F and sunshine for a week. Predictably perfect in every way. While my wife and family suffered below zero temps and four inches of solid ice… I dug through my suitcase to find a short sleeve shirt to wear and repeatedly pushed the AC button on my rental car.

By the end of the week… it was clear I wasn’t flying home as planned. Nashville airport was shut down for the 3rd time that week as another snow/sleet/ice storm was pounding the area and flights were not available for another 24 hours.

Stuck in LA. 

I had endured the smog, annoyingly perfect sunshine and 10-lane freeway gridlock for 4 days and I needed to get “OUT” of the city whenever, however I could !

A quick scan of the map showed Yosemite National Park (one of my faves) to the North and the Sierra Mountains slicing between the desert (east) and coastal (west) halves of southern California. If I hustled…I could just make a loop from Ontario CA to Yosemite (up the west side of the mountains and down the eastern slopes) across to Tahoe and down to Mammoth on my way back to Ontario. A circuit of about 1000 miles to be done in 36 hours or less… a bit of a push, one heck of a Road Trip 🙂

I jumped in and hit the road. Not even a hesitation….either sit around the airport for a day and two nights or head out for some high-mountain adventure!

I was already considering a place to crash for the night and figuring rough distance – times and weather factors in my head. If I missed traffic, I could be in Yosemite by sunset. MapQuest said 314 miles through Fresno and north up state Hwy 41 to the southern entrance to the massive NP. Six hours later and I was catching the last rays of golden glow on El Capitan!

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

Outdoor tent-sites for $37 (Curry Campground – Yosemite Village) made this a most economical option and without the luxury of planning ahead, it was only option available. (hotels in the NP fill up months or years ahead of time)

Expecting snow… I was surprised to find sunshine and fall like weather in the valley. (60F daytime / 40F at night) Winter was more than mild this year in the California Sierras’… balancing out the nuclear winter settling in over balmy Nashville.

Up before sunrise, I had some surprisingly good breakfast in the food court (Yosemite Lodge) and hit the highway for my push up and through the Sierra’s into Nevada and back down to Ontario/LA. Winter exits from Yosemite NP to the east don’t exist. You have to push south or due west to get back, adding half a day and 400 miles to your journey. Tioga pass road (120) is closed from Dec -May each year and forces a by-pass/detour for anyone wanting to head for Nevada or the Eastern slopes.

Tioga Pass is a FANTASTIC road to drive with a camera. One of my top 10 roads ever! 

Bummed it was closed…I grabbed some extra snacks and a few waters as I cruised underneath the silent giants of Yosemite Valley on my way west to Mariposa, CA… I was being forced to take the long way and although  I didn’t know it… I was about to find a wonderful Sierra Surprise that was worth the entire trip!

Funny how God can use the ‘detours’ in our lives to help us find our way…. 🙂

Part 2 of 3 on Thursday !

Pastor B.


Fall Roadtrips make a lifetime of family memories

I remember my parents taking me to the “Covered Bridge Festival” every October.

An annual migration to east-central Indiana each autumn was one of my favorite childhood memories. Every year we made a Friday-Saturday migration to the wooded countryside of Parke County IN and the city square at Rockville.

The leaves were crimson and scarlet with bursts of bright orange and gold, the weather crisp and cool with hints of cold. I remember walking through the various vendor tents and tables, sampling pumpkin ice-cream and homemade donuts called “crullers”, all chased down with cold milk and warm cider. It seemed like a dream world, where people dressed and worked in the authentic old country-style, carpenters and blacksmiths side by side with home spun blankets and leather goods. The smells were spectacular, with every kind of candy concoction brewing in big brass kettles and caramel apples still warm on their sticks. YUM!

Covered Bridge Festival

Covered Bridge Festival

The point is… after almost forty years, I REMEMBER!

The hilly roads and woods, dotted with small towns like Bridgeton and Montezuma, each with their own splendid festivals of BBQ and Corn on the Cob or live Bluegrass bands playing by the little towns celebrating their one and only covered bridge!

It was so fun, and we took the time to explore everything! Driving and walking, stopping to talk and eat, shopping flea market stalls as we visited each Hoosier town along the way.

A treasured tradition I won’t forget, these short road-trip adventures were so healthy for me to experience as a pre-teen…I counted on going back to Indiana each fall. The weekends became my place to escape the stress and just enjoy being with my family. It didn’t matter what grade I was in, what stuff my parents were dealing with or how old I got… we ALWAYS took a day or two each year to go to the Covered Bridge Festival.Something I am so grateful for today.

My question for you… what tradition can you create this fall… where can you wander when the leaves change their color? Go, get out….take a day off and make some memories. Those precious kids of yours won’t be young for much longer…

To find out where the best fall foliage colors are this year… check out the US Forest Service website ! Priceline is always a great site to use for last-minute hotel deals and the Food-network’s, Diners-Drive in’s and Dives is a fun way to discover some great local grub along the way!

Pastor B



Why Christian kids should be allowed to listen to Post Modern Rock!

Ok, going out on a limb here with the moms in our audience, but hear me out.

Christian music isn’t going to “save” your kids.

It’s time to be honest and admit…the ways of the fresh 80’s and inspirational 90’s are gone. Cool – hip and modernized Christian music just doesn’t hit today’s tween and teen with the same “oommphhh” it once did

courtesy of

courtesy of


It may still warm the hearts of thirtysomething moms and encourage pastors there is a sensible way for the younger one’s  to purge their urge to dance without being put in “time-out….but that’s not enough anymore.

The truth is, after three decades of a legit Christian Music Industry that has spawned billions in revenues and launched thousands of Dove award-winning artists, we’re loosing our youth to a godless world view like never before. In the end… it’s statistically sad but true, all that hip and “proper” music is no protection against the evil and seductive world outside the church walls.

Somehow, getting the lyrics ‘just’ right isn’t enough.

What’s that have to do with Post Modern Alt rock ? Well nothing really, but it does point to the larger picture that it’s genuine – heartfelt art and beauty that will leave a mark on our kids lives.

Our kids are FEELING STUFF !!!Yes, just like we did and do and they need to be touched by authentic beauty and art that connects their feelings to God’s heart!

IF and when  Christian artist can stop playing it safe, and are allowed to write and sing with their hearts…connecting their passion and faith with our own… its amazing!  Their music lands with the megaton impact of a nuclear encouragement and reminds us all that God is real and knows exactly how we/they feel. (For modern examples of such creativity check out… “Rend Collective” or “Lecrae“)

Rend Collective, Integrity Music

Rend Collective, Integrity Music

But if 90% of it all sounds just exactly like the previous nine songs on the radio and fails to really connect in any way that’s significant… (before you send me hate mail,I understand there are awesome and authentic artists making a tremendous difference)…Why would I expect it to move my tween-kids to aspire to live a life of holy and sanctified living?

May God give you the wisdom to know which battles to fight and which to concede. The war we must win… is for their hearts! Trusting in Christ for ‘real” transformation is the goal, not dying on the battle ground of being “right”. For some… music very well could be a decisive issue, for others its academics and the pull of all the extra-curricular stuff.

Post Modern Rock from "Animal Collective"

Post Modern Rock from “Animal Collective”

The proof of a true Christian isn’t in their pre-sets on the car radio or the artists on their playlist, it’s in the authenticity of their hearts. Same must be true of our kids. 

Tomorrow’s Christians are not going to be recruited to join “the cause” by making sure we have a “hip” message of purity and purpose. It’s going to be confirmed and accepted by our teens as they observe the consistency in our lives. How we love and live with the integrity of our words and the gentle warmth of a forgiven spirit.

Post modern rock isn’t the danger… faking it, is.

Peace out!

Pastor B

PS – thanks to my 17-year-old son Caleb for introducing me to his extensive post-modern-alt – jazz/rock playlist on our recent road-trip to Philadelphia. Awesome stuff – inspiring really 🙂

DISCLAIMER: as a Christian music & media executive, I have invested large pieces of my life into creating and providing modern media for Christian families (at iShine), I believe in wholesome and engaging content as an essential presence in every Christian home.


Summertime is Road Trip time!

It’s officially “summer” season now, Memorial day is in the rear-view and the 4th of July is fast approaching. What are your plans to enjoy life as a family ?

Courtesy of WARNER BROS / Kobal Collection

Courtesy of WARNER BROS / Kobal Collection

As a fervent advocate of “roadtrips“, I can’t help but step boldly up on my soap box and start my ardent gospel cry…. GO GO GO, TIME TO GET OUT, EXPLORE… DRIVE, DISCOVER and COME ALIVE !

Summer is the special sauce, the moment of each year that a special convergence of work and school schedules that allows for spouses and kids to be in one place at one time and I believe that needs to be “  ON THE ROAD”!

Determine your destination and budget, pick the dates and pack your bags… it is time to GO “O” away. I don’t care if you head for the hills, the hollers, the beach or the peaks… just get everyone in one vehicle and drive. For those of you rigid planners and procrastinator’s alike, get crazy…be spontaneous and dump a dose of adventure back into your life.

We only have a few precious years to discover together. To learn and love and laugh and explore the treasures of our world as a family… you cannot do much better in creating a lifelong family memory than taking them on a cross-country RoadTrip!

Your kids may never remember your day in and day out consistency in providing a roof over their head, clothes on their backs and a full belly…but I can guarantee you they will tell everyone they know for the rest of their life about the Amazing Adventure they had in the summer of 2014!

tate huesmann - candid shot - May 2012 FB picTake the time to invest in your family, THIS SUMMER…

Remember parents, the ultimate language of love is TIME, and to our kids it’s so essential that we stay firmly connected to their world and they to ours. Smashed into a ten by ten box (car) for days on end is one of the most amazing incubators for parents to re-establish common ground with the ones we hold most dear.

I promise you… the adventure of discovering and admiring the beauty of Gods creation as a family, is unequaled in its ability to create new and powerful relationships with your kids and your faith.

If you have teenagers or tweens… it’s an essential milestone moment waiting to happen. Don’t let it pass you by.

Love – Pastor B.

Cascade Mountain Snow at Easter!

Arriving from the gorgeous San Juan Islands we entered Anacortes WA via the Washington State Ferry, we left blue sky and calm seas behind as we lumbered into the grey gusty rain that’s cliché’ for Northern Washington state. Two cups of McDonalds coffee (with 3 creams)later we were cruising through the drizzle of the Seattle suburb of Everett WA on our way to the Cascade mountains via State Hwy 2.

Caleb desperately was seeking to find/see/play in snow. As a ten year native of Nashville, he only had fond memories of snow and winter from his Illinois-Iowa years as a little guy. Today we were gonna find snow if it killed me. We had flown thousands of miles and searched for five days to find him some of the cold white stuff and the Cascade mountains were our last chance at delivering the goods.

Cascades via Hwy 2

Cascades via Hwy 2

An hour into our drive east on Hwy 2, we started to really gain altitude and noticed the grey layers above starting to show teasing glimpses of blue as the late afternoon sky seemed to gradually clear.

We could see patches of old snow remnants along the ditches and in the deeper shadows of the woods as we whizzed by. We were following a roaring mountain stream bed as it snaked its way out of the mountains and back to the sea we had just left behind. Dropping a gear for traction, it was clear the road was winding tighter the higher we drove.  As we climbed over 4,000 feet we suddenly noticed real snow on the curb of the road, snow about three feet high and covering the mountain sides as we rose above the river valley and immediately we felt the cooler mountain air.

I made the turn at fifty five and saw the avalanche ahead…. not kidding. Avalanche !

The road was covered in a pile of snow and rock about ten to fifteen feet deep across all the lanes of traffic as a melting snowbank had suddenly “let go” and it couldn’t have happened more than 30 seconds before we arrived. Talk about close call!

Avalanche !

Avalanche !

We waited until the local WDOT guys came with some end-loaders and removed enough for us to get by and it was obvious to everyone we had indeed found the snow! Now it was up to us to find a way to enjoy it and get back to Seattle in time to catch our flight home in 24 hours. Turns out, it was not a problem at all.

Leavenworth WA is a very “over the top”  Bavarian village, but it “works”. Seems to be the entire city has whole-heartedly embraced their German-roots and every hotel, shop, eatery and establishment has a German or Bavarian theme, menu, style and décor. Even the Italian restaurant we ate at. 🙂

Warning, room prices are high up here as Leavenworth is about your only lodging option for a few hundred miles of Hwy 2 as you come in from the west to east and the beautiful views of the snow capped Cascade mountains and the proximity to famous wineries and Seattle make this a very popular and happening little resort community, year around. We hit it on a Wednesday night in late March and it was very active.

Leavenworth WA

Leavenworth WA

The next morning we drove into the mountains off of Hwy 2 and went snowmobiling. Oh YEAH. We found the last outfitter (Mountain Springs Lodge) in the area who would do a snowmobile ride and we had a blast. They were worth the wait! Super nice and super professional, great gear and everything you needed all included in one fair price. So after driving about 40 minutes we made it to a remote lake (Fish Lake) in the high Cascades and began a 2 hour snow tour that was so much fun, we all swore to do it again 🙂

Tired and hungry we found a legit diner (59 Diner) on the way home and had some of the best cheeseburger and fries with home-made shakes anyone could ever want for. If your in the area, STOP and get some. Seriously good diner food. Sit at the Elvis booth – you’ll know what we mean when you get there 🙂

Flew out the next morning at 5am with the rest of south Seattle after enduring a comic-con Northwest convention at the Doubletree hotel (Seattle Airport) as Good Friday and Easter weekend dawned. Southwest was gracious and efficient and we made our connecting flight in time.

Finally ! Snowmobiling

Finally ! Snowmobiling

If you’ve been reading along… my Point is thiswe had a ball!

Caleb was alone with his two parents for a week and will never forget his time in the Northwest. We focused ONLY on him and celebrated just HIM for a week. No distractions, no business calls – and no sister drama… we loved on him without anyone or anything in the way. The investment is priceless… our kids need to know we value them more than our jobs, our church activities and our own selves and the memories we share will last for generations.

Roadtrips are so unique in how they provide us as parents with an amazing and priceless way to really honor our adolescent kids.

Please consider seriously how to take your 16 year old on their own trip and watch them grow right before your eyes…

Peace out RTP!

Pastor B.

January RoadTrip…Flying Father Brian, Makes his Canadian Debut!

So it’s days four and five and we’ve made it all the way to Canada, sweet Eh? The sky’s are holding clear and the weather is beautiful but cold, -24-27F at times. We’ve visited all of our favorite summer places and all of the places we missed seeing the year before, including Bow Lake, Athabasca Glacier… Jasper and Lake Louise. All “MUST SEE” Canadian stops at anytime of the year!

Lake Louise - Jan 13'

Lake Louise – Jan 13′

But the crazy stuff has yet to happen. On day Four we enter Jasper (Alberta Canada) ready to look for the rugged beauty and wildlife the area is so famous for. It’s in Jasper that the real heart of the untamed wild remains for us and we love to see where and what God will lead us into every time we get to visit. Brian asks about Maligne Lake and suggests we give it a go and try to drive the lonely winding road from Jasper back to the lake, knowing it’s probably not plowed or open to the public in the winter months.

We find the road and sure enough it’s coated in a good five to six-inch layer of fresh snow, but appears to be passable in our SUV. So we drive on, winding our way in the infrequent tracks of other outdoor enthusiast’s vehicles that have come before us. Within thirty minutes we run out of tracks to follow and have to start creating our own in the fresh snow, we have yet to see a soul and it’s clear we are not going to.

Road Outside of Jasper - Jan 13'

Road Outside of Jasper – Jan 13′

We are alone. Isolated and removed from the bustle of tourists and trinkets and happy to serve you Canadian restaurant’s, we are off the beaten path for sure and well into the not to be traveled for another four-five months road. Along the way we discover the awesome impact that total and complete silence can have on the soul and spirit. Nothing is stirring, no one is moving and no animal is even attempting to approach. The wind is still, the snow is completely covering all that we can see and the ambient sounds of nature are all dormant in mid-January. We have the place completely to ourselves and as we wade out in the thigh-high snow to stand at the base of the famous Maligne Lake we are awed by its majestic beauty and wondrous silence.

Brian takes some super cool – 360 view pictures with his new iPhone5 and we stand quietly, soaking up the view and the beauty and the presence of such God breathed glory…all alone and undisturbed in this winter paradise. We are about 40 miles from Jasper and civilization and the sky is a clear but greyish color, hinting of snow to come…but it’s beautiful and open and reveals to us the many glacier tipped peaks that surround this gorgeous place and allows us to remember the ancientness of this sacred site. Knowing that what we are gazing upon what generations of Native Americans have seen for thousands of years before we ever arrived, just as it has always been…undisturbed and perfect!

Flying Father Brian!

Flying Father Brian!

On the way back we are enjoying ourselves, relieved we could find the place and overjoyed that we had ducked the crowds for the solitude of Maligne Lake in January. Brian loves the view we have as we drive the winding snow blanketed road and decides to get on the roof of our SUV with his HD camera and try to film it!

It’s a brisk 5-7F out and he’s bundling up with most of what we have in the car – scarfs, gloves, hats,  hoodie, down coat etc… he gingerly climbs up on our Chevy and balances himself and his gear in the best way to capture the most view without exposing any more skin than is absolutely necessary…. He thumps the roof (he’s ready) and off I go, driving slowly through the Narnia-esqe scene before us. After 10 minutes and about 2.5 miles we stop at the shores of Medicine Lake and Brian unwraps himself from the roof and re-enters the heated atmosphere of our vehicle. Stoked at the adventure, He loved it!

From that moment on… I dubbed him “Flying Father Brian Hardin and it’s clear that his Canadian debut was a success! Can’t wait to see his HD film of it all and promise I will share it with you on RTP.

The truth is this… When we go out of our way to seek out the silence and solitude of being alone, of experiencing God on His terms…we open ourselves up for something beautiful and significant to occur in our lives. RoadTrips are an excellent way to step back from the crazy and chaotic and re-set, re-center ourselves around the beautiful and substantive things that make our lives worth living!

Oh Canada, How I love thee !

Oh Canada, How I love thee !

Tomorrow… our return drive through Idaho and the Land of the Mormons.