Tag Archives: hiking

45 Miles on Foot and All I Get Are These Lousy Epiphanies?


Actually, the epiphanies aren’t lousy.

I’m just smarting over the low-grade but ruthless abuse I took to get them.

Yet I have no one to blame but myself.

I chose to hike 45 miles through the Smokey Mountains in 3 days.

Why? Because I love to hike. I love a ridiculous challenge. And I love hanging out with my friends.

The epiphanies, on the other hand, I credit to God. So, here are some lessons learned, thoughts stewed over and questions asked.

Never Trust a Downhill Hiker

Here’s the deal: Hiking etiquette demands downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. This creates the perfect opportunity for uphill hikers to ask “How far to the top?”–the perennial question on every uphill hiker’s mind.

The answers always vary. “Half a mile. Half an hour. Fifteen minutes. You’re almost there.” The truth is, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Their sense of distance varies widely from yours. I eventually stopped asking.

Irreducible Complexity Remains Evolutions Biggest Stumbling Block

Hardly surprising that hanging out on the backbone of the Smokies drives me to think about evolution. Principle questions that I want answers to: Evolution posits that we have an instinct to survive, to reproduce. What is the origin of those instincts? What was it before complex organisms? What are the odds that organisms can survive the transition from cell division to one sex organisms to two sex organisms?

Swarms of Flies Sound Like Talking Humans

Don’t know why, but on certain stretches of the Appalachian Trail hordes of flies buzzed. Freaky, because you’re expecting to run into hikers but find yourself surrounded by tiny black winged insects.

Then, when you actually do hear humans talking, you’re not sure it’s not the flies. I can see why some people go AWOL on the Appalachian.

Ibuprofen Is a Good Over-the-Counter Drug

Thudding mile after mile up and down steep hills works ugly magic on your knees, joints, hips and head. Eventually the monotonous pounding deadens your motivation to keep hiking. Pop four ibuprofen, though, and a new, stout mad man emerges to finish the days hike.

Brotherly Love Ranks High on Pleasures of the Christian Life

I adore the unity of Christian brothers. The fellowship. The discussion. The accountability. The corporate worship around a camp fire. Brotherly love is evidence of God’s grace. And it is a means of grace I cherish deeply. Second only to marriage.

Stop Telling Unregenerate Sinners That God Loves Them

I’m guessing I mulled over this because of a few comments I’ve recently received that carried a tone of God’s unconditional love for sinners.

Yes,  does say that God so loved the world. And he . But  says that unbelievers remain under the wrath of God. And  declares that God’s anger falls upon the intentionally wicked. Nothing can deliver us from this predicament except Christ. Therefore, God’s love for unregenerate sinners IS conditional. It cost something. Dearly.

Here’s what I’m not saying: God relishes sending condemned people to hell. Jesus, in fact, . Paul said he’d  for the sake of his brothers. But neither skirted the issue of God’s justice. God’s love begins and ends with the cross of Christ, not the sinner.

Bears DO Fall Out of Trees

Less than four miles to go and I heard something scrambling in the tall trees. Not uncommon with chipmunks everywhere. Yet I looked up and saw a black bear–maybe 150 pounds–plummet 30 feet to the ground. He immediately charged downhill, crashing through brush and disappeared. I think I spooked him.

Forgot What I Looked Like

No mirror, no see self. For three days. Bizarre. But does that mean I bring a mirror next time? No. I quite like the absence of concern for self.

By the way, the image is a photograph of  under construction back in the 40s. Our hike ended on top of the dam. We started at . Total distance: 45 miles. Read more about the .

The Abusive Hike (A Short Story on a Fortunate Event)

Short story on how a man who four years ago would’ve stomped away in a subtle rage, managed to see beyond himself and care for other people.

If you’re interested in stories with classical happy endings, you might be better off reading something else…

Naturally, it depends on how you define “happy endings.”

The prince and the princess elope and breed a royal family inside the walls of a mammoth castle on a hill in England.

The fumbling Iowan outcast wins the school presidency, finds someone to play tether ball with and gets back the girl.

Or the restless penguin breaks free from domestic monotony to surf the biggest waves with his childhood hero.

Those, in the classic sense, are happy endings. This story, however, is not like those.

But it ends happily. I think.

This story begins one day on the Appalachian Trail. Five hikers who embark on a forty-six mile journey.

Our first mile was a dirty, abusive mile. The trail, like a rocket, rose rapidly in elevation. No one was prepared. It took us one hour to cover one mile. We were exhausted. AND we were in trouble. In many ways.

One, we needed to cover about two miles an hour to stay on schedule. Two, according to our stupid maps, the trail continued to climb. Three, one of the hikers was battling a nagging leg cramp.

That leg cramped turned into frequent stops. Eventually the hiker could no longer carry his pack. That meant that everyone else took turns sharing the extra load…

Yes, at times each of us had one pack on the back. One pack on the front. Other times we’d hike our packs to the top, run down and hike the other pack to the top.

Our pace was pathetic.

Competitive and selfish, I bristled that we were moving so slowly. And by the end of the first day we were four miles off target. At the end of the second day, eight miles off target.

At that point somebody mentioned the unmentionable: Maybe we should cut the hike short. Calculations determined we’d arrive at the end of our 46 mile hike about 9 P. M. on Monday. Not helpful if you had to immediately drive ten hours.

So, on the third day, we decided to do just that: Hike to mile 34 and call someone in to pick us up.

Often, during that day, I wandered far ahead of the pack, ambling on in the sunshine over the narrow dirt path. Often I contemplated leaving them behind. Pushing forward by myself. Knocking the remaining 12–or whatever miles–and accomplish the goal we set out to achieve.

But my conscience wouldn’t let me do that. In fact, I didn’t even feel it was appropritae to ask permission to finish.

As much as the thought made me want to vomit, we came in as a team…we leave as a team.

So, around 3 pm on the third day I climbed into the van that would take us back to the cabin. Climbed in smarting like hell that I couldn’t finish the hike.

The only reason I tell you this story is because, by the time you read this I’ll probably be on the Appalachian Trail, half way up Clingman’s Dome.

At 6,643,  is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park I’ll spend the next four days in. Trying to hike 42 miles this time.

And while you wait for me to get back on Tuesday, I thought it might do some good to tell you this story and the moral behind it…

How a man who four years ago would’ve stomped away–arms folded, chin into chest, teeth grit–in a subtle rage, managed by God’s grace to see beyond himself and care for the feelings and needs of other people.

That’s a happy ending via God’s gift of grace. Pray for that grace again. Happy Labor Day. And see you soon.