Sunset is the Best Time for Flying

No real profound thoughts again tonight just some beautiful pictures.  Mt. Fuji was looking beautiful as always against this amazing backdrop.  Unfortunate that the beautiful clouds around her are actually indications of major turbulence.

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Coming/Going Home is the Sweetest of Gifts

I knew what I was going to write about today this afternoon as I was flying, but I had to adjust my message a little due to news that came shortly after we landed.  More on that in a minute.

As you may have guessed from recent posts, I was on a work trip for the last little while, and today was the day we finally came home.  We had some delays along the way, which I really didn’t mind because with my family not here I really had nothing to get back to but desk work.  The per diem is also always nice.

20170825_152152As we were flying up the Japanese coast we were directed to fly on a path that looked like it would take us near Mt. Fuji, which is always fun, but not very common.

We actually saw the summit more than 100 miles away, but as we got to within about 10-15 miles it dawned on me just how great it feels to come home.  I have mentioned numerous times before how much I love the majesty of Mt. Fuji and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing her rise above the horizon these last two years.  She has also been a beacon of sorts letting us know that we were close to home.  I doubt I will ever have something quite so remarkable as a landmark, but I will never forget her.

20170825_152239I really do love to travel and see new things, but no matter how long you are away, there is just something wonderful about coming home.  As you can see from the pictures, she was looking quite lovely today, which is good because the crazy people I climbed her with a few weeks ago went back up for a second serving of punishment today.  Fortunately, the weather looked equally as lovely as the day I did it with them.

Normally when I would land from a trip in the past, I would call my wife just to let her know I was on the ground safely, but seeing as how it was after midnight her time I decided not to call her.  As luck would have it, a message I had sent before taking off hadn’t sent but did go through upon landing.  She happened to still be up so she called me to see how it had gone.  It is always nice to hear her voice after a long trip, but the call was short so she could try and get some sleep.

I went inside and was going about my business so that I could go home and do some laundry, much needed after that many days on the road, when my good friend came up and said congratulations.  I’m not sure why he was still there so late on a Friday, but I just looked at him funny and told him thanks but I have no idea what he was talking about since I had been in the plane all day.

Then he explained himself and confirmed my suspicion that my Palace Chase package had been approved!

The short explanation for the uninitiated is that I get to move back to the States and be with my family again.  We have been working on this for close to a year, and it is finally happening.  I cannot begin to express how happy this made me.  My commander also came up to congratulate me, which he also deserves a ton of credit for with all of the effort he put into it.

When I finally got to my desk to check my email myself, I just sat and stared at the email; not really believing the email was real.  After months of back and forth and denials and clarifications, and the efforts of others, it had finally been approved.

As excited as I am to get back to flying more regularly, the real joy of this approval is that I get to go home and be with my family again.  No more staying up late just to say good morning before the kids go to school.  No more missing out on the fun they are having.  And, no more having to tell my sweet little kiddos I have no idea when I will see them again.

20170629_171554I would keep writing, but I am starting to get speechless again just thinking about how excited I am.

This whole situation reminds me of a line from the great movie Mr. Holland’s Opus that I believe is actually from a Beatles song that Lennon took from someone else but either way, here it is: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

When my commander and I first sat down about a year ago and talked about my desires he told me that he wasn’t sure how we would do it, but that one way or another we would get it done, and true to his word, it was a crazy journey getting there, but we got it done.

Life is full of all different kinds of journeys, and there is no way to know where those journey’s will take us.  Some of them are planned and only last a few days or weeks, but the biggest ones, the ones that matter the most, never really stop.  The adventure called life just keeps on going and going.  That is why today, I am more grateful than ever to have come home, and even more grateful to be going home.

What are you grateful for?

Climbing Mt Fuji

I know I have already expressed gratitude for this majestic mountain of Japan, but it is a whole different type of gratitude to have summitted her.  As one might imagine, this is no small feat and was the reason I was so exhausted yesterday.

The Japanese say that a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, and only a foolish man does it twice.

I guess that makes me a foolish man.

I was able to climb Mt. Fuji last year but was unfortunate enough to have terrible weather at the top and really was not able to enjoy the experience.  I was still proud of myself for accomplishing the feat, but it left me with a desire to do it again.  So when the opportunity arose to go with some friends, I had to take it.
It was not looking promising in the days leading up to our climb with a typhoon coming through and rain forecast for the entire week.  With the way schedules aligned, yesterday was the only chance we had so we decided to just go for it.

When climbing Mt. Fuji almost everyone starts at the fifth station, which is around 7,000 feet in elevation.  As we started up the mountain we were essentially at the same level as the clouds, but they were also climbing the mountain.  

It is actually a pretty cool sight to see as the wind pushes the clouds up the mountain and you go from blue sky to overcast in a manner of minutes.
Fortunately, as we proceeded up the mountain, we were able to outpace the clouds and broke out into blue skies for most of the way up the mountain.  It was actually fascinating watching the clouds climb up after us wondering if we would make it to the top before they did.  Which we did.

The climb itself is only about 4.1 miles to the summit, but as it is also about 5,000 feet of vertical elevation, it is not a quick jaunt up the hill.  It took me just over six hours to reach the summit but I am glad we took a little bit of a slower pace because we got to enjoy the beauty of the mountain more, and we were not dying when we got to the top.

Beauty is an interesting word to describe the terrain you climb through because it is mostly volcanic rock everywhere with no vegetation or life of any kind once you get above about 8,000 feet.  And yet, it is truly beautiful.  

The sheer magnitude of its size, the dramatic pitch of the climb to the summit, and the feeling of comeplete remoteness of the mountain provide an incredibly peaceful feeling as you climb.
It is no wonder that this incredible mountain has such spiritual and religious meaning to the Japanese people.  

As I summitted the mountain for the second time, I was able to really take in the magnitude of the sight I have admired these last two years from down below.  With bluebird skies overhead, and only a light breeze.  I was able to walk to the edge and admire the crater of what is still an active volcano.

It is another one of those things that you truly must witness for yourself to fully appreciate it.  I was with great people witnessing a great sight, and there is not much else I could have done to better enjoy the day.

The one thing that would have made the day truly perfect would have been having my Queenie there with me.  She wasn’t able to climb the mountain while she was here due to a bum knee and then leaving before climbing season started, and it just breaks my heart because I know she would have loved it as much as I did.

As I sit here on the eve of my Japanniversary I can’t help but be grateful for the experiences this amazing country has given me.  I have met people that have changed my outlook on life, I have been to some of the most historically significant sites in the world, and I have witnessed some of the most beautiful and majestic sites one could ask for.

After climbing the mountain last year I was certainly left wanting, and having now witnessed her, in all of her glory, I better understand what I was missing.  Having now been witness to it, I feel fulfilled and enriched.

Life is full of incredible opportunities that change us in ways we don’t fully appreciate until later, and after waiting a full year to get the complete Fuji experience, I can honestly say with all my heart that I am grateful for climbing Mt. Fuji.

What are you thankful for?

Mt. Fuji

There are few things more iconic in Japan than the majestic Mt. Fuji.  At 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) she is the tallest peak in Japan.  What makes that even more stunning is that the summit is only about 15 miles from the coastline.  

During the nearly two years that I have lived in Japan I have been able to forecast what kind of day it would be based on how well I could see Mt. Fuji from my work about 50 miles away.  Part of this could be because I fly for a living so if you can see something 50 miles away the weather must be pretty good.  

However, there is also something energizing about seeing that stunning peak rising up on the horizon, generally covered in snow.  She has a very spiritual influence on the life of many Japanese people and it is easy to see why.  

Today I had the opportunity to once again drive out to the mountain to enjoy her beauty up close one last time before my family leaves.  To give you an idea of just how large and steep the mountain is, it takes about half an hour to drive from the base to the fifth station, the highest you can drive, about 7,000 feet up.

The climbing season to the summit is only about two months long because it is so cold and covered with snow the rest of the year.  Here on June 11 there is still a ton of snow all over the mountain, and the temperature on the summit at 1pm was -3°C or about 27°F.  Not exactly a warm summer afternoon.

I had the opportunity to sneak up to the summit right at the end of the climbing season last year and it is in my top five favorite things I have done in Japan.  The Japanese say, “a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, a foolish man climbs Mt. Fuji twice,” but if I am lucky I hope to sneak back up to the top one more time before I leave.

I have always found joy from being in the outdoors, and there has always been something special about summitting tall mountains and passes.  I think it is the reward you get at the top of knowing how hard you worked to get there and then the view you get to enjoy while you rest.

I know there will be dozens of other mountains I will climb during the rest of my life, but Mt. Fuji will be a tough one to beat in terms of meaning.  I am just grateful I have gotten to live in her shadow for the past two years.

Mountains bring me more peace than most anything

An important part of life is finding somewhere that you can go to just relax and find peace in your life.  We need that to be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of life.  

For me, the mountains have always been just such a place which is why I am grateful for mountains today.  

Ever since I was a little kid I have loved spending time up in the mountains enjoying the majestic beauty they provide.  I have been fortunate to visit some of the most remote parts of the mountains in Utah which provided for amazing views and an incredible peace.

Now that I live in Japan, I am regularly witness to one of the most majestic mountains I have ever seen, Mt Fuji.  When the clouds aren’t in the way I have an amazing view of the mountain on my drive to work and everytime I see it I am just in awe of its beauty.  

I had the privilege of climbing to the summit last summer with some friends and it was one of the more fulfilling hikes I have ever done.  While the summit is only about three miles from where you park the car it still takes 5-6 hours to make it to the top because you are ascending about 5,000 feet.

Many people here say that a smart man climbs Mt. Fuji once but only a fool climbs it twice.  However, I am hoping to do it again this summer because, as I said, it was incredibly fulfilling and the view was just incredible.

Wherever you go to find your peace and quiet, I would encourage you to go there as often as possible because in this chaotic world we can all use a whole lot more peace.