A Tale of Two Hikes

A few years back I journeyed 20 miles for a taxing day hike over Blood Mountain.  What was special about this day was that I not only went up and over once but I went up and over twice.  I walked 10 miles out to Woody Gap from the north side of Blood Mountain and back.  I wanted to know if I could hike 20 miles in one day.

This was after a derailed trip to the Shenandoah’s when my backpacking companion became sick after 32 miles of a planned 100 miler.   Our trip consisted of two 20 mile days and one 17.5 mile.  On day two we only made 13.1 miles which threw a wrench in my plan.   I learned a lot of valuable lessons on that trip and now that I am writing, more revelations are coming my way……

So what lessons did I learn?

For one, my pack was too heavy for a 7 day trip.  I packed food like our normal 3 day extended weekend hikes times three.  Big Mistake!!!  While I was sucking it up, I had no empathy for my friend who was struggling with his pack (he should have prepared better, in my not so humble opinion.)  We tried to fit 100 miles into 7 days.  On our third day, we were trying to beat an approaching cold front where snow was forecasted.  Day two was shortened by 4 miles since we just weren’t moving as fast as I had hoped and it was late in the day.   All we needed to do was to hoof it and make up the lost mileage.  The goal was to make it to the shelter to claim our spot so we would not have to pitch our tents in the rain and snow and stay in the shelter.  First come first served is the law of the shelter.

It was all uphill as soon as we left the camp that morning.  It was almost lunch when we reached the crest.

HikeIMG_20190408_073529

We heard how the Shenandoah’s were a piece of cake for those who had hiked it before BUT, those people had hiked as north bounders.  We were hiking as south bounders from the top end of the park.  As a section hiker you have to work on a schedule.  You have a limited amount of time and you need to account for everything like time on the trail, travel time, vacations, pick up points, drop off points, food (breakfast lunch, dinner, snacks,) water, camping spots, day 1, day 2……  and when you hit the trail you’ve got to move.  When I look back on this trip we tried to stuff ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag.

Our perspective was off, we had made so many assumptions based on 40 mile trips and the opinions of others that when we actually got on the trail, nothing we encountered was what we expected.  To the north bounder going down was going up, but to a south bounder everything was backwards.  The folks we spoke with were not newcomers to 100 mile plus stretches but this was our first 100 miler.

Think about your walk with Christ, has it turned out as you expected or thought?  Have you been disappointed because what you envisioned your walk to be is suddenly without the early fanfare?

How many times have you driven somewhere new and when you drove back you say, “I don’t remember seeing that.”  This is what this was like.  We heard what others before us said based on their journey and it was diametrically opposed to our experience.  They said it was fairly level but that was at the south end of the park not the north.

This was our journey and no one else’s.  These were our experiences now used to grow us up.  No matter how hard this trip was, nothing would have been learned if I had not stepped on the trail.

I was trying through brute force to push us through.  We were going to do this, we just needed to “break on through to the other side.”  Yes it was tough but “we can do this” I exclaimed!

My friend kept falling back.  We had hiked many miles together prior to this, but I was concerned with the finish rather than the journey.

Sound familiar?

By the time I realized that this hike would remain on the bucket list, I was mad, angry, and disappointed.  My internal thoughts were ugly and my comments where not uplifting.  We left the trail and found a lodge in the park.  As the night progressed, my friend became sick confirming his inability to continue.   I lost a hiking buddy that day.  Since then, I have made amends for my attitude and we still keep in touch but…..things were never the same.

So what does this have to do with my 20 mile hike over Blood Mountain two days after my return?  I was determined to see what 20 miles felt like even though it was with a day pack.  I wanted to know if my 7 day plan was a pipe dream.  As it turned out it took 9 hours 41 minutes 53 seconds according to my GPS stats for that day.  It was a dream if you take into account we really didn’t have our legs underneath us and the weight of our packs and the elevation changes.

So what is this lesson about you might ask?

It’s about perspective.

After I stopped for lunch at the halfway point and was heading back for the final 10 miles, I had the pleasure to hike 6 miles of those with a fellow hiker.  It didn’t take long for the topic of God to pop-up.  You have to picture this, two guys talking out loud in the woods about God, Christ, and the differences between the Latter Days Saints and my Protestant/Catholic experience.

You see he left the Catholic Church because he could not get his head around the Trinity.  He asked me:  “How can God, Jesus and Holy Spirit be the same?”  It was because of this one question he was lured away from God as I understand and know Him to be.

I had no answer except I believed it and have felt all three aspects of God work in my life at one point or another.  I can still see this guy asking me that question on the south side of Blood Mountain on April 17, 2014.

I would not have been on that mountain if I had still been in the Shenandoah’s.   I was on the mountain trying to satisfy my pride and ego.  Regardless of my attitude and ego, when I heard the call of God that afternoon, I stopped facing inward but outward and upward.

My perspective changed.  I was no longer trying to prove something, I was celebrating my Father who art in Heaven.  I was declaring His glory in the mountains with a stranger.

We talked for 2.5 hours about God.  We agreed to disagree on many points, but in the end we prayed before we went our separate paths.  I pulled a Holy Spirit sneaky on him and prayed that the Holy Spirit would convict his spirit.  That was the last I saw of him.  I do not remember his name, but I can still picture him.  I didn’t try to shame him, tell him he made a mistake.  My soul was not trying to convert him back, we talked about God and I shared how wonderful He was to me even when I am a brat.

So why are we here today?  I was reminded of this gentleman at the dinner table with my aunt the other day.

My aunt made a statement that answered this question about the Holy Spirit.  It was about perspective.  We go into many situations with preconceived ideas.  We have biased opinions.  We go into debates with one goal to prove you wrong and I/we right.   Are we open to HEAR the other side?  We expect certain outcomes.  We try to force solutions.

And many times we are reluctant to try and understand the truth, or try and find another way to explain the truth.  Instead we sometimes throw our hands up.  Do we see any examples of that in the Bible?  Who usually throws their arms up?     Those trying to understand God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Many of us have based our faith on the experience of a south bounder when we are traveling north.  How many times had we fallen off whatever wagon we were on because we were disappointed in God or did not try to understand Him.   When the answer does not come easily do we turn inward instead of upward?

So back to the trail.  When everything started to spiral, I became mad, angry and disappointed, as I said.  At the start of my journey I was happy, excited and everything was possible.  But as the journey progressed, I was not a stellar graduate from charm school.  Take everything we have discussed and replace everything with an experience related to your Christian walk.  One where you got your nose out of whack over someone’s behavior or you were judging your insides by other people’s outside.

When the truth starts to reveal itself and we don’t have all the answers, many of us try to white-knuckle our faith or look for an easier softer path.

That gentlemen I hiked with found a church that answered all of his questions through doubt and tangible beliefs.  I was all too eager to speak with him to bring him back.  Ready to place an offering on the altar per say when only four days earlier I had no compassion for my friend.  Why???  Because I was focused on myself.  It is always easy when we are not emotionally involved.

It is almost five years to the day since this tale occurred and, because my aunt was willing to share her experience, it helped me relive the truth about two hikes.

So today, this is my open letter to the man who could not grasp the Trinity, compliments of my aunt.  I hope the Holy Spirit finds him listening because I can finally answer your question after five years.  God did not take your question lightly and He loves us all even if we stray.

Are you ready?

It comes down to the molecular make-up of water H2o.  Whether it is water, ice or vapor it is still H2o.  Water runs through your hands, ice and snow can be held and vapor breathed in.  On top of that, at room temperature, it is called humidity and under pressure heated above 100 degrees it is now steam.

Coal and diamonds are made of carbon, but to look at them, you would not think they are from the same element.  One, we think of as dirty and the other, pure.

This is the conundrum of God.

God is and whatever form He takes it is still God.  I know that man believed in creation so if God created water and coal and they can take many forms, is it such a leap for God to take different forms?

Come home the water’s warm.

God Loves you, I love you and there is nothing you can do about.

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