Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hiking the Ridgeline-Unexpected Terrain

Ridgeline: A line formed along the highest points of a mountain ridge (Dictionary.com).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Okay, that makes sense. 

But no one told me that in New Jersey, the ridgeline is all rocks. Looks easy enough, right? 

Actually, my ignorance was probably for the best. If I'd known that 80 percent of our 14-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT for short) would be on, over and through rocks, I probably would not have set out so ambitiously.

Sometimes, a path appears easy until we traverse it.  

Some of you may remember that the Hubbles and I have been hiking the New Jersey section of the AT for the last 5 weekends, averaging about 9 miles each hike.

High Point Monument
FASHION NOTE:  Standing in front of
a tall object makes you look tall and thin!
This past week's hike started at High Point, the highest point in NJ (in case you couldn't figure that out from the name) at a little over 1800 feet above sea level, and followed the ridgeline of the Kittatinny Mountains for 14 miles to Culver's Gap. We studied the map several times.  The topography was such that there wasn't much deviation from the 1800 foot point. It seemed easy enough, even though it was 14 miles.  We could do it. How hard could it be?

Somewhere between six and eight miles my feet started to hurt--bad. I wondered why, since the grade didn't seem strenuous.  We had to take more breaks than usual, and by mile 10, not only were we ready for lunch, we were ready to quit. 

After recharging, we were ready to tackle the last 4 miles. Our hurting feet dragged, and we stumbled again and again. We stopped several times, and I heard Brian huffing like a bear (he earned his trail name, "Huff" this weekend. I've yet to get mine).  It seemed like he was having a really tough time.  

We finally sat down for a break.  Brian had run out of water, so I split what little I had left with him.  He was out of breath and took a long time to recoup. I started to get worried. We were almost out of water. I looked at the tracker-13.25 miles.  

"We're almost there," I said, trying to encourage him. "Less than a mile."

Except that I'd miscalculated. The section from High Point to Culver's Gap is indeed 14 miles, but we'd started at the monument, not at the Appalachian Trail head. I was off by a little over a mile. We were actually two miles from the end point.

Obviously, we made it. When we stopped at a store on the way home to purchase drinks, Brian downed two Gatorades, a Coke and a water. We hadn't realized that he was dehydrated. No wonder he was having such a difficult time.

While the hike was almost double in length than we're used to, the rocks added to the difficulty. They slowed us down. 

Hiking on rocks takes a toll on your feet. You look at the rocks and think, "That doesn't look very hard," and you hop from rock to rock.  You walk along the rocky ridgeline. You climb over jumbles of rocks.  Your boots fold, stretch, get stuck and bend to the shape of the rock you're stepping on, over or around. Sometimes you stumble. Sometimes you slip. Sometimes you even fall.

But the unseen trauma, the one that really makes your feet hurt, is the force of your foot on the hard rock compared to the force exerted on a softer dirt path.  

Knowing this ahead of time may have caused us to re-think the length of our hike (15.27 miles).

What's going on in your life right now that's rocky? What's slowing you down?  What's causing your feet distress?  Is it contributing to an unsuspected dehydration?

Know your terrain.
  • Is it rocky? 
  • How will it affect your journey?
  • Are you adequately prepared, with proper attire and supplies?
Know your endurance level and your limits.
  • Do you need to push yourself?
  • Or do you need to give yourself a break?
  • When it gets hard, keep going anyway. Don't give up in the middle, because you'll be stuck in the woods with no water.
Recognize the symptoms of dehydration. 
  • Increased thirst 
  • Lethargy
  • Sluggishness
  • Headaches 
  • Confusion 
  • Dizziness 
  • Weakness 
Take the necessary steps to re-hydrate.
  • Recall the Word of God when you are confused. 
  • Rest in Him.
  • Drink abundantly from the Well of Living Water.
  • Take as many breaks as you need. God walks with you always.

(Check out this video-All Who Are Thirsty Kutless)

Is the way rocky? 
Do you feel like giving up?
Do you ever think, "I didn't know it would be this hard?"

Do your feet hurt from walking along the ridgeline?

Is it taking longer than you thought?
Are you spiritually dehydrated?

Keep going, friend! The way may be rough, but the reward is great!

See, I forgot to mention---walking on the ridgeline means an abundance of views-sometimes panoramic. In a way, it compensates for the rocky path.
View of Culver Lake from the ridgeline
Blessings as you traverse the difficult and rocky places,

I may share this post with any or all of the following: 
Joan at Sharing His Beauty, Laura at Playdates With God, Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly at #RaRa Cheerleading Linkup, Beth at Wedded Wednesday, Holley at Coffee For Your Heart, Crystal at Thriving Thursdays, Deb at Blessing Counters, Barbie and Mary at The Weekend Brew, Janis at Sunday Stillness, Kaylene at Grace and Truth, Arabah Joy at Grace and Truth


  1. Thanks for the great hiking lesson. I've never hiked but I sure have traveled over some rocky terrain in my life and your points are so true. My favored is how you wrapped it up when you said - keep walking but don't get so focused on the rocks that you forget to treasure the view. Thanks for sharing. Hiking by from RahRah Link Up.

  2. Thanks, Rebecca! The Hubs and I LOVE to hike, and as soon as my feet hit the trail, and the trees encircle their canopies around me, the cares of this world just fall away. I find that there are so many spiritual lessons to be learned in the woods!

  3. What a beautiful hike - and what a wonderful message God gave you in the journey! I've been on some of those hikes where it sure is a lot harder than I anticipated!!!! Blessings on your next hike!

    1. Thanks---and I loved your blog about the ocean as well. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I'm so glad you guys made it to the end of the trail--instead of it being the "end of the trail" for your dear hubby! ;) Seriously, though, that's scary stuff! You two must really be strong to handle those kinds of hikes week after week. I have a bad knee that is basically bone on bone. So prolonged walking on pavement or rocks is always a challenge for me. But I LOVE to hike--especially in beautiful places like the AT. My husband and I hope to do a bit of it on our vacation this October in Virginia. Thanks also for this very profound metaphor and useful resource for persevering in life and hiking, Mary! This is a great post, my friend! Hugs to you!

    1. Thanks Beth. Hey, we should meet up in Virginia and hike!

  5. That's a good place to make all these reflections. So many realizations.

    1. Lux, I love being outdoors, in the woods especially. I find that's where God really speaks to me. Always good to see you here.