Monday, May 19, 2014

0 to 60 in One Mile

I know...the title doesn't make sense. I've got it backwards, right? Wrong. We tackled what we thought would be a part of the Appalachian Trail this weekend near the Delaware Water Gap. The problem began in the parking lot, where, according to a detailed description in a trail book, we should take the blue dot trail. There was no blue dot trail. Only an unmarked trail and a red dot trail, so we followed the crowd going toward the red dot trail. It was all uphill. Straight up. All rocks. I quickly discovered why no one else had their dogs with them. It took us an hour to excuse climb one mile. At first, I had Lucy and Brian had the pack. But Lucy pulls, and I was having enough trouble navigating over the rocks without her pulling. So, we switched. I took the pack and Brian took the dog. 

Now, I don't usually carry a pack. Our hikes aren't usually that long or strenuous, and typically, if we do take a pack, Brian carries it. Hiking with a pack is a very different experience. It totally shifts your sense of balance. And of course, it slows you down somewhat, until you get used to it. 

But hiking with a dog that pulls is a lot worse. Honestly, I don't know how Brian did it without falling. There were times that I needed two hands to hoist myself up some of those rocks, but then again, I am on the other side of 50 and my legs just don't lift as easily as they used to.

One of the things I noticed about the people on this trail was that everyone was super friendly, and very encouraging. Mostly everyone greeted one another, but some even ventured to say things like, "You're almost there." (at the summit). Being the outgoing and curious person that I am, I asked people, "Are you familiar with this trail?" and  "How far is it to the top?" I almost felt like I knew these people because this trail was very difficult and everyone experienced the climb. At one point, we met three young women, maybe in their teens, who stopped to greet us and pet Lucy. One of them said, "Wow, I don't know if you'll make it with the dog. It's pretty rocky and steep up ahead." They weren't kidding! But Lucy fared far better than we did! She had no problem, even with a missing toe!

Climbing uphill, especially when it's unexpected or when you don't know how long it will take is difficult. Sometimes the way is rocky and we need to be careful where we place our feet. One shaky rock is all it takes to send us crashing down. Sometimes the uphill climb seems to take forever, but if we keep looking up, we'll see the top, we'll see the summit, we'll know that if we look up, we'll see our Savior coaxing us, awaiting us with open arms. But other times, the uphill climb is a battle. It seems never-ending, like this trail. Just when I thought we were reaching the summit, another incline appeared. I never knew when we'd make it to the top. When those times come, and the way is rocky, we need to pace ourselves and look down at where we're walking, where we are placing our feet. We need a strategy for the best way to get around or over the obstacles. Knowing what's ahead helps us plan our strategy, but when we don't know what's ahead, it can be discouraging to keep coming up against another incline.

Walking with a pack slows us down and throws us off-balance. Sometimes we don't even know that we've brought along a pack until we start feeling our companions-fear, doubt, insecurity and discouragement jumping out onto our shoulder, one by one, chattering in our ear. We need to be sure that our pack is full of nourishment--we need to know who we are in Christ. And surround ourselves with people who have walked the trail before-people who've reached the summit and can offer encouragement to us. "You're almost there. Keep going. Only another half hour." Don't listen to those well-meaning folks who say, "Wow, I don't know if you'll make it with your (dog...or other hinderance). Make sure your pack has positive and nourishing things in it to sustain you; leave those pesky companions in the parking lot.

The steep uphill climb is always difficult, but the view from the summit is always worth it. One hour after we started, we reached the summit (which was only one mile!) and rejoiced along with all the other strangers who had become our friends along the trail. What a glorious view, what a glorious day, what a glorious Lord! Nothing can describe the feeling you get when you realize your accomplishment! 

That's the view from 1500 feet-the view from the top of Mount Tammany---the beautiful (and dirty) Delaware River. We never reached the Appalachian Trail. We figured out what we did wrong-we parked in the wrong parking lot. Maybe next time, we'll go back to Plan A. But Plan B worked out pretty well. It was tough, but so worth it! Not having any idea what awaited us at the summit, it was a beautiful surprise. And a Beautiful Surprise awaits all of us at the Summit of our Uphill Climb-Jesus. 

Blessings Along the Path,

If you're a hiker and interested in tackling this great trail, read this link. It gives great instructions, which I wish I'd known about first. My two cents: Wear hiking boots or shoes rather than sneakers, as it is very wet in spots, and navigating the rocks is easier with proper footwear. And DO NOT bring your dog.
Mt. Tammany Red Dot Trail

Song of the Day---beautiful videos/photos of God's creation
Creation Calls (Brian Doerkson)

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