A Year of Waterfalls and Hiking

2021 has been a busy year for me, but my normal duties are not the only reason for this. In addition to my work for the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, I have published four books this year—the final three novels in The Truth Chronicles and an additional book in the series titled The Extras, which includes a study guide, brief prequel, concept art, author interview, etc. I’ve also taken several classes, which included travel, listening to lectures, writing papers, etc.

But this post is about something far more adventurous. I had the opportunity to hike at a bunch of state parks, national parks, and national forests during 2021. Many of those locations included waterfalls, so I thought I would share some pictures from those hikes to show off some of the amazing scenery that can be found in the United States.

Other than the local hiking trails I use for training, my first hike was at the end of March. After touring the Marengo Cave in southern Indiana, we hiked the Hemlock Cliffs National Scenic Trail. Located a couple hours from my home, my wife and I visited this short trail with my aunt and cousin in March.

Inside Marengo Cave

Casey standing behind waterfall #1 at Hemlock Cliffs

Behind waterfall #2 at Hemlock Cliffs

A month later, I spoke at a church conference near Duluth, Minnesota and at another conference in southwestern Wisconsin. During those two weeks, I did a fair amount of hiking and visited several state parks, including Rib Mountain SP (WI), Pattison SP (WI), Gooseberry Falls SP (MN), and Tettegouche ST (MN). I also hiked the Timm’s Hill National Trail (WI) and the Chaffee Creek segment of the Ice Age Trail (WI). Unfortunately, they didn’t spell “Tim” or “Chaffey” correctly.

From the bridge over Chaffee Creek on the Ice Age Trail.

The tip of the rock behind me is the very top of Rib Mountain, once thought to be the highest point in Wisconsin.

From the top of Big Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park in NW Wisconsin.

Little Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park

One of two signs I could find to indicate that I was in the “town” of Chaffey, Wisconsin.

Overlooking Lake Superior at Shovel Point, Tettegouche State Park, MN

At the top of High Falls in Tettegouche State Park, MN.

Huge snowflakes were falling by the time we reached Two Step Falls in Tettegouche State Park.

The upper falls of Gooseberry Falls at Gooseberry State Park, MN

The middle and lower falls of Gooseberry Falls

At the start of the 9.3 mile hike on Timm’s Hill Trail to the highest point in Wisconsin.

Esker Creek is about halfway along the Timm’s Hill Trail

Touching the marker indicating the highest point in Wisconsin

A view from the top of the tower on Timm’s Hill

Standing at the exact center of the Northwest Hemisphere (45 degrees N, 90 degrees W). Located NW of Wausau, WI.

In August, I participated in a conference near Mt. St. Helens in Washington. I spoke two times and took part in three hikes near the volcano and one near the Columbia River gorge. We flew out a couple days early and hiked the Tamanawas Falls Trail at Mt. Hood (OR), and the next day I hiked the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier NP (WA).

Tamanawas Falls, near Mt. Hood, Oregon. The water drops 110 feet.

At Myrtle Falls near the start of the Skyline Trail on Mt. Rainier.

At the top of the Skyline Trail (1700 ft. higher than our parking spot). The waterfall in the distance on the far left is the Wilson Glacier Falls, and it drops more than 300 feet. This helps to comprehend the size of Mt. Rainier.

The view from Panorama Point near the top of the Skyline Trail. Look closely over my left shoulder and you can see Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

The first of three days hiking around Mt. St. Helens

At Spirit Lake with the volcano in the background. The thousands of floating logs behind me have been on the lake for over 41 years.

Technically, it is a waterfall. This was at a tiny stream flowing into Spirit Lake.

The view from Windy Ridge, NE of the volcano.

On the second day of hikes, we walked through areas where plant and animal life has been recovering since the eruption. This is from the Hummocks Trail on the NW side of the volcano.

On the third day of hiking near the volcano, I went all the way down into the “Little Grand Canyon.” Everything in this picture is younger than me. The canyon was cut in a day through sediment that was laid down during three separate events, beginning with the eruption in 1980.

The fourth day of hikes for the conference began at Latourell Falls in Oregon. The water plunges 224 feet.

Next, we visited a spectacular overlook of the Columbia River Gorge before spending the day driving to several sites with geologic significance throughout the gorge.

After the conference, Casey and I spent a week hiking in Oregon and California. In Oregon we hiked at Blue Pool (Willamette NF, OR), Tumalo Falls (OR), and Crater Lake NP (OR). In addition to the extremely beautiful scenery, Blue Pool and Crater Lake offered some unique opportunities. The water temperature at Blue Pool is always about 37 degrees, so I just had to jump in. And the Cleetwood Cove Trail at Crater Lake ends at a spot where you can do a bit of cliff jumping into the lake from about 25 feet up into water that is about 58 degrees. Both of those jumps were amazing.

The 2.25 mile hike to Blue Pool provides some outstanding views of the McKenzie River and some large Douglas Fir trees.

Blue Pool is amazing. I want to go back.

It looks quite shallow because the water is so clear, but Blue Pool is more than 30 feet deep.

Jumping into 38 degree water at Blue Pool was extremely invigorating.

Tumalo Falls near Bend, Oregon.

Double Falls is located about a mile up the trail from Tumalo Falls.

On the 700 ft. descent to Cleetwood Cove for some cliff jumping into Crater Lake.

My second jump at Crater Lake was a blast. My first jump was fun, too, but it took about 30–45 seconds of convincing myself that it wasn’t going to hurt too much.

If you know me, you’ll know that no trip to California is complete without visiting the Redwoods. We spent three days at Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP, Prairie Creek Redwoods SP, Humboldt Redwoods SP, and the Redwood National and State Parks.

Where’s the tall guy? This is one of my favorite pics because it shows how tiny I am compared to the redwoods. This was from the Boy Scout Tree Trail in the Jedediah Smith SP. This six-mile out-and-back hike is my favorite trail in the redwoods.

On a sky bridge at Trees of Mystery in Klamath, CA.

On the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail in the Redwood National and State Parks. While it’s a beautiful grove, this was the least impressive of all the hikes we did in the redwoods.

Walking on a fallen giant gives some perspective on the size of the redwoods

Walking in Fern Canyon (Prairie Creek Redwoods SP). Part of Jurassic Park 2 was filmed here — where the little compsagnathus get their revenge

While traveling to North Carolina in October, I took a detour to visit our newest national park, the New River Gorge NP in West Virginia. I had enough time to hike the Endless Wall Trail. I also completed that Bull City Half Marathon (Durham, NC), visited the Museum of the Bible (Washington, DC), and had great seats to watch the New Zealand All Blacks dominate the US Eagles 104-14 in rugby.

View of the New River Gorge from the Endless Wall Trail

At the start of the Bull City half marathon

The entrance to the Museum of the Bible

Front row seats for the All Blacks 104-14 victory. I also caught one of the conversion kicks in the first half.

As you can see, it was a year filled with adventure for me. Hopefully, 2022 will include some more amazing hikes and sights.

Did Mary Know?

Mark Lowry’s song, “Mary, Did You Know?” has generated some backlash from both Protestants and Catholics.

In 1984, Mark Lowry, who was probably better known for his comedy at the time, penned the lyrics to the beloved Christmas tune, “Mary, Did You Know?” This lullaby-ish song has been performed by major award-winning artists, such as Carrie Underwood, Pentatonix, Dolly Parton, and Kenny Rogers, and it even spawned a musical of the same name.

The song imagines Mary holding the newborn Jesus, and through three verses it asks Mary if she knew certain details about who her child was and what He would do. In recent years, many Christians have criticized the song, and some have even mocked it, because they believe that Mary obviously knew about the identity of her child. Thus, by asking the question, the songwriter is apparently calling into question what Scripture says that Mary knew. A few of the harsh criticisms over the past couple of years have misrepresented the text, and after seeing some lyrics mocking the song earlier today (see below), I decided to write this post to dive deeper into the text and see whether this popular tune deserves the criticism it has received.

One of the more respectful critiques is titled “Yes, Mary Knew” by Joy Clarkson on the Christianity Today website. She points to two criticisms of the song:

1. It comes across as condescending toward Mary.

2. Yes, Mary knew that her child was the Messiah, so the questions don’t need to be asked.

In reference to the first point, Clarkson explains that to some, the song comes across as a sort of “theological mansplaining.” That is, the songwriter assumes that he must tell Mary all these things about Mary. However, this does not strike me as the mood of the song at all. Instead, the song seems to be respectful, and I’ve always thought the intent of the questions to be contemplative, similar to how, after the shepherds visited, Mary pondered “these things” in her heart (Luke 2:19). And of course, the song is not truly directed at Mary since she passed away nearly two millennia ago. It was written for people today to reflect on who Jesus is.

The first point has also upset some Roman Catholic writers, such as Fr. Robert McTeigue, who wrote an article bearing the subtitle, “The hymn that cancels Christmas.” I’m quite certain that was not Lowry’s intent when he wrote the lyrics. How does this song cancel Christmas? In McTeigue’s view as a Roman Catholic, the biggest problem lies in the third and fourth lines of the first stanza: “Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.” Roman Catholic theology views Mary as being sinless, so she would not need to be made new and would not need deliverance.

Protestants do not agree with Catholicism’s view of Mary’s sinlessness for several reasons.1 Putting aside the Protestant/Catholic debate about Mary, which is not the main point of this post, let’s look at the second objection: that Mary knew her baby was the Messiah, so there’s no point in asking the questions. Some of those who critique this position have been unnecessarily harsh while condemning the song, while others have mocked it. For example, a picture is making the rounds on Facebook showing “lyrics” to a parody of the song.

“Mary Freaking Knew”

Mary freaking knew, that her baby boy would one day rule the nations.
Mary freaking knew, that her baby boy was Lord of all creation.
Yes she knew! Read Luke 1, you fool, she sang about it then.
It helps, if when you’re reading, you listen to WOMEN!!!!

While this was intended to be funny, I found it to be rather baseless and its tone to be obnoxious. The criticism assumes both points mentioned by Clarkson. It calls Lowry a fool for writing his lyrics because “Mary freaking knew.” And it assumes that Lowry, and probably all those who like the song, don’t “listen to women,” which is an absurd point to draw from these lyrics.

This criticism seems to assume far too much about the song and about Mary’s understanding of the situation. While the song does essentially ask whether Mary knew Jesus to be the Messiah, this is not all it asks. Critics also seem to think Mary fully understood everything about the Messiah.

Let’s look at the lyrics to the song and see it if deserves so many harsh rebukes. Remember, the setting of the song is shortly after Jesus was born, so the things Mary learned from Simeon and Anna at the Temple were not known to her yet. The lyrics will be italicized and bolded, while my comments will follow in regular font.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?

There is no indication in Scripture that Mary could have or should have known that Jesus would one day walk on water. No Old Testament prophecy foretold this, and Mary was not told this prior to it happening.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?

Mary was not told directly that her child would save “our sons and daughters.” However, Joseph was told in a dream that the child would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). It seems very safe to assume Joseph would’ve shared this information with Mary. So, on this question, we can say that Mary would’ve known this.

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? 
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Assuming the previous point (that she would’ve known about saving “our sons and daughters”), it’s possible that she could’ve known these things too. However, when reading the New Testament, we need to be careful about placing the vast amount of new revelation into the minds of the individuals living prior to or as it was being revealed. It’s easy for us to look back through the lens of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and understand what it means that He would save His people from their sins. But would Mary understand being made new or being delivered in the same way we think about it? We often think of being made new as being made a new creation, as described in 2 Corinthians 5:17, but this verse wasn’t written until roughly 55–60 years after Christ’s birth. Deliverance would’ve likely invoked ideas of the Exodus, and may have caused her to think of the longing of her contemporaries to be delivered from the Romans. I think it’s unclear and perhaps unlikely whether she would’ve understood the point of these questions.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand?

Nothing in Scripture indicates that Mary could’ve known that Jesus would calm the storm with his hand. It is within the realm of possibility that she could’ve known that Jesus would give sight to the blind. In the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 61:1, it was prophesied that the blind would receive their sight.2 It seems to be a bit of a stretch to think Mary would’ve recognized this verse as being about her son. After all, John the Baptist needed to be reminded that the giving of sight to the blind was one of the things the Messiah would do (Matthew 11:4–5).

Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.

It is difficult to know what Mary might’ve known on these two points. The angel told her that the “Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35) and her cousin, Elizabeth, called her “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43). It seems obvious that Mary recognized she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. However, what is not so clear is what she understood about the Messiah. Did she know that the Messiah was also the Creator of the universe? Did she know that He was equal to the Father? Perhaps she was aware of how Isaiah 9:6 and Micah 5:2 related to the Messiah, and how they spoke of His eternal nature. However, this was not the common understanding of most Jews of her time. Yes, the chief priests and scribes recognized that Micah 5:2 foretold Bethlehem as the birthplace of the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:4–6). But did they truly understand that He would be equal to the Father? Given that the people attempted to kill Him when He made such claims (see John 8:58–59 and John 10:30–33), it seems unlikely that the Jewish people really understood what the Messiah would truly be like. They were certainly expecting a conquering king, but were they also looking forward to a suffering servant?

Once again, it’s easy for us to look back through the lens of the New Testament and recognize the Messiah as God in the flesh and as being equal to the Father, but this does not seem to have been the expectation of most Jews. Yes, Isaiah 7:14 states that He would be called Immanuel (“God with us”), but look at Matthew’s quotation of it: “and they shall call His name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23). In our English versions of Isaiah 7:14, it looks as though the virgin would call His name Immanuel. But this is not how it is rendered in the Septuagint, which seems to be what Mary used.3 Here it states, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.” Notice, it doesn’t say that the woman would call Him this name. As far as we know, Mary didn’t call Him this. Joseph named Him Jesus, just as the angel instructed him (Matthew 1:21–25).

With all that being said, it seems unlikely that Mary, at least in the early days, truly understood that her child was God in the flesh.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?

As mentioned above, it seems a bit unlikely that Mary understood that Jesus was the “Lord of all creation,” but it is possible. I think she did know that He would one day rule the nations. This is what the Jews anticipated from the Messiah. The angel told her that “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). She certainly knew He would rule over Israel, but the Jews believed that the Messiah’s kingdom would be above all nations.

Did you know that your baby boy is Heaven’s perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM. 

In the previous paragraphs, I expressed doubt that at this point Mary knew her child would be equal to God (“is the great I AM”). It also seems very unlikely that Mary understood at this point that Jesus would be the perfect Lamb who would die for our sins. Yes, Daniel 9:26 and Isaiah 53:8 specifically mention the Messiah being put to death, but this never seemed to sink in for the Jews. The disciples walked and talked with Jesus for years, and they still didn’t understand this point until it happened, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they didn’t get it until after He rose from the dead. After His resurrection, Jesus reprimanded two disciples for failing to comprehend this truth (Luke 24:25–26). While Mary was surely a godly woman and her hymn of praise showed remarkable understanding of Scripture for a young woman, it gives no indication that she knew He would die. She had just been told by the angel that there would be no end to His rule (Luke 1:33). It wasn’t until 40 days after Jesus was born that Simeon told her that “a sword will pierce through [Mary’s] own soul also.” But Simeon’s words do not mention anything negative happening to the baby (and these words were after the probable setting of the song).


After looking at each line in light of what Scripture teaches about Mary at this point, I think we can conclude that much of the criticism of the song is not justified. In some cases, the critics are misrepresenting Scripture by implying that Mary knew every detail mentioned in the song. But as pointed out above, there is no way that she could’ve known that Jesus would walk on water or calm the storm.

If a Christian intends to critique fellow believers, he or she needs to exercise caution to avoid misrepresenting the truth and becoming guilty of the very thing they seek to call out. In this case, critics of the song are accusing the lyricist of misrepresenting the Bible because “Mary did know!” but in the process they misrepresent the Bible because there are points in the song that Mary did not know. She might have only known about one-fourth of the things asked by the song.

Furthermore, if one is to critique the song on the points that Mary did know, or at least could’ve known, then this should be done with gentleness and respect rather than mockery and nastiness. Our world has enough mockery and nastiness to go around. As believers in Jesus Christ, we must treat one another with love. Rather than looking for every opportunity to criticize fellow believers, let’s look for opportunities to encourage and edify. And when correction is required, then do this in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).

  1. In her Magnificat, Mary calls God her “Savior” (Luke 1:47). Would a sinless person need a Savior? Furthermore, Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Finally, the Catholic position seems unnecessary and illogical. Why would Mary need to be sinless to carry the Messiah in her womb? As McTeigue puts it, “If Mary is a sinner in need of a savior, then she cannot be the worthy vessel in whom the All-Holy God takes on human nature as the Word-Made-Flesh.” But where does Scripture ever teach this? And if Mary needed to be sinless to carry the sinless Savior in her womb, then would Mary’s mother need to be sinless to bear the sinless Mary? Of course, this could be carried all the way back to Eve, and we know she became a sinner prior to giving birth. 

  2. This statement does not appear in the Masoretic Text, thus it is not found in most English Bibles. However, when Jesus read from Isaiah 61 in Nazareth’s synagogue (Luke 4), He read about giving sight to the blind. See my article here for a brief discussion of this variant. 

  3. Most of the Magnificat is based on quotations from the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is possible that she recited the Hebrew and that Luke used the LXX while writing his Gospel.