That Nomad Life; the First 100 Days: Day 0-40

Day 0 – Friday, July 6, 2018
I drove my truck and trailer to the campus of Trinity Ministries one last time… I took some pics of my rig in front of the massive Cross at the front of the campus. I just stood there across the street from where I had taken the pictures, looking at that Cross and my truck and trailer parked there. “What on Earth are you doing Whit?” I thought to myself. What indeed; I’m not entirely sure yet… The one thing I am sure of is that it is time to leave Trinity, leave Jacksonville, leave Florida, and see what the Lord has for me next.

My intention is to head back out West to where this last chapter of my life began, in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon. I plan to drive up into the forest where I once was a professional wildlife biologist before surrendering to the ministry. There I hope to spend some time alone with the Lord as I seek His Will for the next leg of my journey. It’s been fifteen years since I left Oregon; so much has happened in that time: Bible college, marriage, kids, twelve years of teaching, a painful divorce, and now, what?

Three days ago, I turned 56; most folks my age are looking forward to retirement… But me; for the second time in my life, I have resigned from a very good career position, and now find myself stepping into an uncertain future. But I have jumped into the abyss before… When I left Kentucky to go out West in 1987, I was told I would never amount to much. Yet, I worked my way to one of the most desirable District Wildlife Biologist positions in the Pacific Northwest Region.

When I left that career, some folks thought I had lost my mind, that I must be having a “mid-life crisis.” That wasn’t the case; I just realized there were more important things in this life than timber sales, environmental analyses, and Lynx habitat…  And I achieved my goal of getting a degree in Theology and doing mission work in Siberia, before the Lord redirected my path to teaching at the academy. By God’s grace, I was made the Department Chair for Biblical Studies, and developed an Apologetics program for the academy. Both times now, I have left of my own accord, at the “top of my game.”

So, am I scared? Yes, just a bit… But I know the Lord is directing my Path as He has for all these years now. Do I know how all of this is going to turn out? No, I do not; but I know the One who does, and that is enough for today…

Day 3 of 40: Sunday, July 15 -2018
The drive cross-country to Oregon was largely uneventful. But it was good to leave the last large cities behind in the rearview mirror, and get out into “Big-sky Country.” God’s Country, that’s what I’ve always called it… More deer and elk than people; that’s how I like it. When I mentioned to my students at the academy that Wallowa County, Oregon is larger than Duval Co. Florida and there isn’t even one stoplight in that entire landscape, they were a bit incredulous. “Come on out sometime; you’ll see,” I told them. This most northeastern corner of Oregon has been one of my most favorite corners of the world for a long time; it’s good to be back…

So here I am, 50 miles out from the county seat of Enterprise, tucked in the edge of a big meadow surrounded by a classic mixed conifer stand so typical of the Blue Mountains ecosystem. It’s been fairly quiet thus far; no encounters with “charismatic megafauna,” just a few chipmunks, deer, and a bunch of bald-face bovines that have been wandering along the allotment fence across the meadow. At least they are on the other side of the fence…

Tomorrow, I am going to move camp to a beautiful, mature Ponderosa Pine stand about a half mile closer to the main road that loops around the north end of the district. I want to get that accomplished while I still have lots of strength… I really don’t know what to expect past ten days; that being the longest I’ve ever attempted a Fast, and that involved juice and coffee as I recall…

My plan is to spend 40 days and nights alone with the Lord up here. I intend to fast, off and on, during that time. I intend to pray, read the Word, and seek God’s leading as I plan this next phase of ministry. I have a lot of ideas about what I would like to do, but I really need some clarity. That is my heart-felt prayer; I don’t want to start off on a false path; Lord deliver me from that…

The quarter moon is getting ready to set here in the next hour. I hear a small owl trilling… doesn’t quite sound like a Screech Owl; I wonder if it could be a Saw Whet, or maybe even a Flammulated Owl. It’s been so long; I’ll have to look up their calls when I go into town tomorrow. It would be cool to ID one of those here; it’s typical habitat for either species…

Day 10 of 40: Sunday, July 22 – 2018
Was up early this morning; another chilly start. Spent quality time in prayer in the Word, in the tent with the Big Buddy propane heater burning. Once the chill had burned off, I set about priming the Zodi for a shower.  I’m certainly not impressed with this particular unit; somethings not right with it. It will not heat up cold spring water; you have to add a kettle of boiling water to the bucket and get it to room temp before it will make “hot water…”

But I got a shower and straightened up camp for my big video production. I got started somewhere between 9 and 10 am; it took me 5 takes to get it right. Had several hick-ups with the GoPro camera, but finally in the early afternoon, I got a complete video about 15 min. in length, giving Folks a brief tour of my camp, and explaining why I am here and what I hope to accomplish during this little “sabbatical.” Very frustrating, but I’m pleased enough with the results… I plan to go to town in the morning and try to post it on Facebook and Instagram.

Day 15 of 40: Friday, July 27 – 2018
Well, it’s not even 9am yet, and I’ve already had an awesome day… I woke up early, feeling well rested… I prayed, made a cup of coffee, and sat down with the Word to greet the coming day. I read Romans Ch. 5-8; which never fails to impact me, and today was no exception. Before long, tears were streaming down my face and God’s praise was welling up in my throat…

It is the blood of Jesus Christ, ONLY, by which we are saved! Not our prayers, not our confession of sin, not our “asking Christ into our hearts;” no, it is by faith in the shed blood of Christ only, and the grace that has purchased, that delivers us from the righteous wrath of all-mighty God. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your plan; “the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world…” Thank you for the “unspeakable gift…” Thank you for “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Thank you for this beautiful morning out in your creation…

Footnote, two weeks in the woods, and I just now saw the first skeeter in this camp; gotta love NE Oregon over NE Florida!

Day 17 of 40: Sunday, July 29 -2018
Today marks two solid weeks since I started my “Fast.” I did not eat today but did have a cup of coffee and a big RTIC cup full of sun tea. Much better batch than the first one… Enjoyed my time in the Word this morning; finished the Book of Romans and read some in the Psalms. “…Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).”

There it is; you say you want to find God’s perfect will for the latter part of your life on this sphere, there it is. You must separate yourself from the things of this world, and you must not be so “worldly and carnal…” And therein lies my great struggle; “… but I am carnal, sold under sin… (Rom. 7:14).” Somehow, I don’t think Paul was as carnal and worldly as I am… “O wretched man that I am…” Lord help me; God be merciful, God show grace, God deliver thou me…  Please Lord, be not far from me…

I fetched water from the spring at Buckhorn, and piddled around camp most of the day. Continued my reading of Francis Schaeffer’s trilogy of his most important works. I charged devices, went through my “Go-bags,” and took a shower in the early evening. I love this little camp; I am well outfitted. “Just add water,” and I could easily not leave this ridge for the entire 40 days.

I was thinking earlier today, that it seems like I have been preparing for this for most of the last 15 years. The acquisition of all my gear, the research into techniques, the practice of doing 4 cross-country camping trips; several 3 weeks or more in length. My system and kits are seasoned; this doesn’t seem difficult, what I’m doing. I don’t really feel like I’m “suffering for Jesus” at all.  But I do so greatly value this time alone with Him.

When I am sitting here in the early morning with a cup of coffee and God’s Word, looking across the meadow and the surrounding forest; I have the most serene feeling of fullness, satisfaction, near completeness. I know I am complete in Christ Jesus, but I still have the distinct feeling that there should be someone else in my life, sharing this with me… I can’t quite shake it; it’s always there, that same feeling since I was a child… “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him… (Gen. 2:18).” I have always felt it was so…

Lord, I don’t know if you will still do this for me; I don’t entirely know if your Word allows it to be so at this venture in my life… but if there is grace enough for this, I do pray it might be even so; a wife… But, she must love you first; more so than me. If there is such an one; who could be part of this ministry Lord, I pray you would bring her to me at the appointed time…

Day 21 of 40: Thursday, Aug. 2 -2018
Had a good day today; got up early and drove into town for breakfast in Joseph. I had no sooner left my meadow and got out on the main Deadhorse Ridge road that I jumped a sub-adult black bear feeding in the huckleberries along the road. Couldn’t been more than 500 yards from my camp.  There are way more huckleberries right behind my camp than out here on this road.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for him…

I counted Kestrels on my drive across the Zumwalt Prairie.  There is an amazing concentration of raptors out here; I counted 47 of the diminutive falcons before I reached town… That’s approximately one falcon per mile!  I had breakfast at the Cheyenne Café; I’ve never left there hungry and today was no exception. “Of course we have sourdough toast!” the place was packed and only one poor woman waiting on the whole bunch, but I didn’t care; she kept me in coffee and they actually had customer Wi-Fi, so I was able to get caught up on social media while waiting on breakfast…

I knew I needed to get rid of some trash, so after breakfast I drove over to the local Safeway, which also has the best block ice in town. I parked near the dumpster, and thought I could sneak a bag of trash in there on my way out but the pharmacy guy caught me in mid act! “This is not a public dumpster,” he says… Before I could mumble an excuse, he continued, “But, if you donate $2 to Feed the Families, we’ll let it go; I gather quite a bit for that cause during tourist season…” “Sure, I can do that; I can do better than that,” I say.  I handed the guy a $5, and told him to keep the change… “Just tell the next guy you’ve paid in advance!” he says… “Ok, that sounds like a good deal,” I replied. I drove off feeling much better than if I had successfully dumped my trash clandestinely…

I drove out to the east end of the Forest, up to Harl Butte and Beeler Ridge, to look at some of my old aspen projects. Found the one which first got me interested in doing aspen restoration on the north end of the Forest. The original buck and pole exclosure was built back in the early 80s. That fence was falling apart when I became the District Bio in 1999. We put together a big challenge-cost-share project with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to restore aspen stands throughout the drainage, and we replaced the old fence with a cow fence and elk-proof cages within the stand.

There were only a few of the old huge “Grandma Trees” alive then, and those were all dead when I arrived this morning… But the sprouts are well established throughout the stand; some in excess of 15 feet tall. I jumped a ruffed grouse inside the exclosure and thought I may have heard chicks peeping as well. I took some pics and posted them online later; it was cool to see one of my old projects still functioning and providing habitat all these years later.

Drove back to camp right as the sun was setting up on the ridge and ran upon the big herd of elk I had seen a week ago. They were about a mile closer to camp, right up on top.  There is a stock pond right there along the road; that may be what is drawing them up here. Had the presence of mind to shoot some video, and posted that from Buckhorn Lookout.

Day 30 of 40: Saturday, Aug. 11 -2018
Day 30! These last 10 days have gone by rather quickly compared to the previous 10… Definitely cooler last night and this morning; was able to wear flannels and a long sleeve T-shirt out of the tent. My Zodi shower unit finally “gave up the ghost” the other day, so this is day 4 without a real shower. I ordered a new one from Amazon, but it will be several days more before it arrives in town. Guess it will be pit baths and bucket baths till then!

Drove up to the lookout in the afternoon; stiff breeze blowing up there and the temps were falling fast. Man, what a difference 24-48 hours can make in the mountains. Supposed to get down in the upper 40s and it was already in the mid 50’s when I was getting ready for bed. I hope it’s not that chilly or windy tomorrow night or this will be a very short meteor party.  Tomorrow is the high point of the annual Perseids Meteor Shower… Tonight, is supposed to be a good night to watch as well. I’m thinking I may get up in the night and walk out into the meadow for a bit, but we’ll see how hard it is to get out of that sleeping bag…

Went to bed around 9 pm, but got up at midnight to see what the sky was doing… I wasn’t disappointed; saw 50 meteors in the 70 minutes I was out there, several multiples and several “Fireballs” as well. Definitely chilly; temp was 50 degrees with a bit of breeze blowing. I wrapped up in my Wiggy’s bag in my lounger and was warm enough.

The coolest thing though was the owl, a barn owl I believe, that kept buzzing me in the meadow; I mean right over my head! It’s a little disconcerting when you are laying on your back looking at the stars and suddenly said stars are blocked out by the shadow of a 4-foot wingspan! No sound whatsoever; he would be there and gone just as quick… That’s living… Went back to bed around 1:15 am; looking forward to tomorrow night’s show up at the Lookout…

Day 35 of 40: Thursday, August 16, 2018
Woke early and couldn’t go back to sleep; I laid there from 3 am to nearly 5:00. I heard coyotes in the distance and the local Great Horned Owl as well. I hooted at him, but didn’t fool him a bit this time and he quickly went silent again. So I got up early, a little after 5am.

The air was still as death, not a sound in the Forest, and the air felt a bit muggy… I prayed, made coffee, and sat down with the Word. Soon I heard a Gray Jay “warbling” back in the woods. I got up and put out some more peanut butter crackers. It wasn’t long at all that they started coming in and calling their brethren to come join them for breakfast. Then I heard a Stellar’s Jay squawking as well. Sure enough, first one, then two, and soon 3 or 4 Stellar’s Jays joined the 6-8 Gray Jays swooping in for a bite of cracker.

It was a battle of the “Blue and the Gray!”  I shot a short video of some of the grays before the Stellar’s joined them… Later today, I’m going to roll an old log round from the fire ring right over to the edge of my canopy and tomorrow, see if I can’t get a better video of the Jay Bird Party; they are always fun to watch.

Had a good devotional time in the Word. Started the Book of Hebrews which is so powerful; read the first 6 chapters, so rich with the description of exactly Who Jesus Christ was, is, and will be… “How can we neglect so great a salvation??” The Creator Himself was undone; separated from the Father in exactly the same way every unbeliever will be and every person deserves to be. But He did not deserve to be… “How can we neglect so great a salvation.

As I’m reading, I kept hearing a scurrying noise from the direction of the trailer; “Under it, or in it?” I’m thinking. “Lord, I hope I don’t have rodents in my bins…” The sound continued so finally I put down my Bible and start pulling out bins. Sure enough, I found rodent droppings on top of one of them. I keep pulling stuff out of the trailer and finally I see him; a striped chipmunk scurrying for the fast disappearing cover. I opened all the doors thinking he’d jump right out, but I had to chase him out with the broom!  Finally he jumped out the back door and high-tailed it back into the trees. I think he might have been in there all night, but I couldn’t find any sign that he had actually gotten into anything. I guess I’ll keep that back door shut from now on when I’m not using it!

Day 36 – Friday, August 17, 2018
Well we got off to a rough start this morning. The night passed alternating between moments quite windy and then utterly still; I managed to get some sleep during the later. About 3 am the wind really began to pick up and drops of rain began to pelt the tent. I got up and dropped the front flap with some effort due to the wind; and it wasn’t long before it was raining and blowing like last night, but with one major difference, lightning…

I was laying there with my eyes closed when the first one lit up my retinas; “one-one thousand, two-one thousand… when I reached five; BOOM! A huge crash of thunder rolled through the Forest… A few minutes later, another flash; one-one thousand, two-one thousand…on the count of three; Boom! This one just seemed to roll on for a full ten count. “Three miles out; that’s not far,” I thought… The next one was about five miles, and most of the subsequent ones were thankfully further than that.

(Do not adjust your screen; video was shot in the dark.  Watch for the flash!)

“Lord, we haven’t had near enough rain for all this lightening…” I thought. If we were to bust a fire up here on top I would be in trouble, possibly trapped down this spur road. “Lord, I don’t want to leave; our time isn’t finished… please, let the rain be enough to keep this from becoming a wildfire; I want to finish this time together,” I prayed. The wind continued to blow for some time, but the rain slowed to a drizzle.

Day 40! – Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Well, today is the day; 40 days and nights out here on Dead Horse Ridge… Chilly start to the day; overnight low of 38 degrees! It has been good; I wouldn’t have traded this opportunity for anything. This was the absolutely necessary next step before I could go any further in any direction… Has the Lord parted the clouds and spoke to me in an audible voice?  No, He has not… Has He spoke to my heart; yes, He has indeed, absolutely… What are some things He has shown me??

#1 – I am His child; though the Enemy loves nothing better than to play with my heart and mind concerning this, I know I am His. He has confirmed this in my heart through His actions, through His Spirit, and through His Word. Whatever may come after, I will one day see His face, and He will welcome me Home… Not because of anything I have ever or will ever do, but only because of His grace, and His love, and His blood shed for me…

#2 – I am carnal, I am worldly, I am sinful, I am weak; I am at times a sorry example of a Child of the King… I often have a foul mouth, a foul mind, and sometimes, a foul heart… God forgive me and change me…

#3 – God is not going to leave me in this state; He will perfect what He has begun in me. He has chided me and chastised me, and I am the better for it; thank You Abba Father…

#4 – There is really nothing to keep me from moving forward with the plans that I believe He has laid on my heart; the book on Eschatology, the Blog, the YouTube Channel, and whatever else those may yield.  I will endeavor to take what He has taught me and done in me these many years now and use those to reach this “last generation, Generation Z.”  If my experiences, and my stories, and my teaching can help one person find his or her way back into the arms of the loving Saviour who died for their salvation and redemption, then how can I not… In the words of Paul, “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!”

#5 – God has uniquely outfitted me for this very ministry. Most everything I have done and experienced over the past 30 years has prepared me for this very thing. My years as a wildlife biologist and natural resource manager; my years as both a student and teacher of the Bible; my mission work; the experience I have gained as a Prepper; years of cross-country camping and road trips; everything…

I know this, and though I have some real fears about how my needs can be met doing this, I know I have to try… And I’m just foolish enough to believe He will indeed meet “all your need in Christ Jesus…” If not now, then when? There hasn’t been a time in my life when I have been as free as I am right now… I have no debts, my only bills are my truck insurance and my phone bill… I have a little money in the bank and my needs are modest. I have to try…

2 thoughts on “That Nomad Life; the First 100 Days: Day 0-40”

  1. Love you brother and I am proud of what you are doing for the Lord! Both of our lives parallel so much in our ups and downs I’m probably the one person who understands you the best! Stay safe and enjoy this journey God has for you!! Your Bro!!

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