Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Following the Flags

This past weekend, Brian and I were part of a group of volunteers who actually got to lay out and design a new trail at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation. It was around this beautiful reservoir that our group worked. 
Sunbathers and swimmers. Lots of dogs and college students here.
There is currently a "social" trail around the water, which means a few people started it and more have followed. So the trail basically made itself, but it's not blazed or "official." It's also, in some spots, not the best place for the trail.

Our job was to continue where the last group of volunteers left off in establishing a better trail. While the current "social" trail may seem fine to the average person, there are many reasons why it is not. Once the new trail is cut, the old one is filled in with rocks, logs, soil, etc. and naturalized so that you never even know the old trail was there.

As we were walking through the woods placing our yellow flags where we thought the trail should go, it occurred to me that this was a heavily traveled area, and folks may try to follow those flags only to find themselves not exactly following a path. I found that idea somewhat amusing.
Brian and Fred (another volunteer) scoping out the trail
Meanwhile, another group was coming the other way with pink flags and (hopefully) we would meet somewhere in the middle. We were to continue on to the end (the other group's beginning), and if we agreed with where the other group placed their flag, we were to place our flag next to theirs. If not, we should simply place our flag where we thought the trail should go. Later, Peter, our coordinator, would decide which, if either of those paths would make the cut (literally! The next group of volunteers would come in and clear the designated path).

I found this even more amusing because I actually witnessed a young man hiking on his own trying to follow the flags (that he was not supposed to even follow!) and his faced registered his confusion when the pink and yellow flags converged, then split. Which way?
Mr. Froggy went-a-courtin'
While I found it amusing to watch that bewildered young man trying to figure out the purpose and direction of the pink and yellow flags, I also found it a bit disturbing. I pondered how quickly he trusted in those flags which caused him to veer off the established (albeit, unblazed) path; how easily was he led astray by what he assumed was something "official"; how quickly he became confused when the paths converged, then split and took him into a part of the woods that had not yet been cleared.

Look! I kissed the frog and he turned into a prince!
It's easy to be led astray, especially when it looks "official"--whether it's someone we look up to who gives us bad advice, a trusted leader who ends up falling, something another well-meaning traveler recommends. A book. A movie. Something on social media. It only takes one person, and then another follows and before you know it, a whole new "social trail" has been created. And we suddenly find ourselves in a part of the woods that has these flags on it, but no clear path. Is this the way to go or not? It seems like it should be...but why are there now two colors? Is there more than one way? What about the path we just left? Was that right? It wasn't blazed and these are, but they're not really...what's right? Can it all be right? We become confused, bewildered and befuddled.

That's why we need to be grounded in the Word, and to only heed the voice of the One who whispers, This is the way; walk in it. (Isaiah 30:21)

Before we veer off the trail, always ask God, "Is this the way I should go?" The right way may not seem like the right way at all. Or, the right way may be the path that you're already on. Always ask.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

If you are interested in free classes at Trail U through the NY/NJ Trail Conference, where you too can be a part of establishing a new or existing trail, visit NYNJTC.org Trail U Workshops

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