Spring, Winter, Spring

By Chappy Jack

April 30, 2019

Location: Damascus, Va.

Mile: 470.8

Please read: Job 38:1-41

Job 38:22 “Have you entered the storehouses of snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,”

The AT (God’s creation) continues to amaze me! All in one day, I can go from green lush foliage in the lower elevations to wintry conditions in the higher elevations.

This past week has been marked by passing the 400 mile marker and entering Virginia. It has also been marked by wet wintry conditions before crossing over Roan Mountain forcing me to flee to a hostel to dry out of my wet and freezing clothing.

However, the next day was a gloriously beautiful day crossing over Roan Mountain. I enjoyed 360-degree views from 3 different balds.

Two days later, I was again bombarded with wet wintry conditions including thunder and hale. Once again I fled to a hostel to dry out and warm up.

Once again, the weather turned beautiful as I approached Damascus, Va.

I have been tempted to complain and moan, but my small group of friends, including my son D.J. (he joined me for a few days on the trail), has adopted Blueberry’s slogan, “Embrace the suck.”

In the scripture reading, even though Job’s trials and tribulations were far, far greater than the AT, I think God was telling Job that He was and is the Creator of all, and that he is in control of all. He controls our sunny days and he controls our wet soggy days.

Lord Jesus, I praise you for what you have created. Your creation is totally awesome! You are an awesome God! I thank you that I have the opportunity to experience your creation in such a unique way.

The AT is often called the Green Tunnel.

My son D.J. and I taking a break. Yes, I was tired!
Laurel Creek Falls
Sudden turn in the weather

Thanks to the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church for this unique ministry!

D.J. and me the day after wintry mix including snow, rain, hail, and thunder.

Trail magic from 2014 thru hikers. They do this every year as a reunion.

Leaving Tennessee and crossing into Virginia

Arriving at Damascus, Virginia, a well-known trail town.
Damascus United Methodist Church

Limestone Cove UMC near Irwin, Tennessee

He knows me

By Chappy Jack

April 20, 2019

Mile: 368.5

Location: Greasy Creek Hostel, near Road Mountain, Tennessee

John 10:14 “I (Jesus) am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

After a long day of hiking, it is a big relief to reach the intended shelter or camping spot. It is refreshing to reach that spot and hear one or two hikers to call out “Hey Chappy.” It feels good to be known and to welcome.

Most hikers by now have a trail name. I named myself, and some hikers do the same to make sure they don’t receive a name they don’t like. Some of my hiker friends have names such as Doc, Mom (a man), Heartbreaker, Pegleg, Sandman, and Fireweed.

More refreshing, welcoming, and good to know is that God knows me! He knows my real name and he knows my hiker name. He knows everything about me. He knows my failures, my weaknesses, my strengths, and I think He probably celebrates my victories in life.

As fellow hikers call out my name, I think He probably calls my name a lot! I don’t think I’m always listening!

Lord Jesus, help me to listen. Help me to hear your voice and and to know your presence.

The AT continues to baffle me. I go from seeing beautiful flowers and spring-like weather to rain and wintry conditions.
Green forest floor

Arriving at a shelter late in the afternoon after walking most of the day in the pouring rain
Wintry conditions from a distance
Wintry conditions a little closer

On top of a bald with ice and winds gusting at 40 mph

Last year’s AT Chaplain, Blueberry, encouraged me to “embrace the suck”! It has become my motto.

Trail Angels

By Chappy Jack

Mile: 274.6

Location: Hot Springs, NC

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for so by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

In the world that we live in today, it is difficult to trust people, especially strangers.

On the trail, I continuously ask myself where this high level of trust in the Hiker community comes from. How could people that are so different have such a trusting bond?

A similar aspect of the trail is Trail Angels that provide Trail Magic. I received my first trail magic in the form of a free shuttle to start my hike at Springer Mountain in Georgia. The 2017 AT Chaplain, Matt “Trigger” Hall, had made a friend on his 2017 thru hike. This same friend is the Trail Angel who gave me the free shuttle.

Only a half mile into my hike, the Stay Young group of Ellijay, Georgia gave me trail magic in the form of a granola bar. It is amazing and uplifting to come to a trailhead and to find a Trail Angel grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and to sit with other hikers and just enjoy.

Have I ever entertained an angel without knowing it? I hope so! If I haven’t, I hope that through the trail that I will become more trusting of people. Maybe, just maybe, one of those people will be an angel.

Lord Jesus, help me to trust people more, but especially to trust you more!

Sunrise after a rainy night.
Snow a few days ago and, now, signs of spring. It’s possible that I will have more winter to come.
Thousands of pinkish white flowers.

Atop Max Patch. The summit was cleared for cattle and is maintained as a bald. I removed my hat to prove that you really don’t have to do a lot to maintain baldness.
One view from Max Patch. Max Patch provides a 360-degree view.

Slip and Slide

Chappy Jack

April 3, 2019

Location: Newfound Gap, border of North Carolina and Tennessee

Mile: 207.7

Psalm 94: 18-19 When I said, my foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

I awoke yesterday to a beautiful snowy morning. However, I knew that my plans for the day included climbing Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smokey Mountains.

The climb with the elevation and the snow was very enjoyable. I was not surprised that the 360-degree view from Clingmans Dome was clouded over since it was still snowing when I arrived.

Chappy Jack along the AT near the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

I was very surprised when I started my descent on my way for another six miles to Newfound Gap.

The snow had very quickly turned to ice that was very difficult to see. Falling is common on the AT, and I fell a total of 4 times. Thank God, no injuries. I arrived safely to Newfound Gap.

In Psalm 94, the Psalmist writes of the Lord’s love supporting him when his foot was slipping. My literal feet were slipping yesterday, but I believe the Psalmist is speaking of anxiety as he talks about the Lord’s consolation in verse 19.

Thankfully, we have God’s Holy Spirit who is our Peace! He is the Peace that passes all understanding!

The snow can be miserable. However, I can’t get used to its beauty.

Trail magic. Hot coffee. Much needed! Much appreciated!

How can we know the way?

March 28, 2019

Location: Fontana Village, N.C.

Mile: 165.9

Please read: John 14: 5-14

John 14: 5-6 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered , I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.

Approximately 165,000 white blazes mark the path of the Appalachian Trail to show hikers the way from Georgia to Maine.

These white blazes can be seen mostly on trees, but also on stone boulders, posts, sidewalks, streets, and buildings.

My family will tell you that I get easily lost while in the woods. I have a very poor sense of direction. However, this simple system of white blazes has served me well, and I have not been lost, yet….

Similarly, Jesus’ answer to Thomas’s question is very simple. Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.

Lord Jesus, I tend to complicate things. Please help me to keep your simple truths simple.

I have not seen any bears.

To all my fishin’ buddies. Yes, it’s almost time for spring fishin’ in Alabama. However, I’m in the right place.

Hints of spring in the lower elevations. I’m about to enter the Smokies, I bet I see a lot more winter.

I hope all are as blessed as I am!

Chappy Jack

Living Water

March 24, 2019

Location: outside of Bryson City, NC, at the Nantahala Outdoor Center

Mile: 137

Please read: John 4: 4-26

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4: 13-14

A very common occurrence on the AT is hikers gathering, filtering, and purifying water at springs and waterfalls along the trail. Having been spoiled by the overabundance of water sources, I foolishly skipped a water source because I deemed it too far (two-tenth mile) off trail. Big mistake as my lips became parched indicating that I was becoming dehydrated.

As the above scripture came to mind. I wondered, how thirsty was Jesus that day, and with all the walking that he did, how often did he thirst?

When I finally found water, it was cool, refreshing, and delicious! I then wondered, was the water that Jesus drank that day cool, refreshing, and delicious?

I do long to drink the water that Jesus promises in which I will never thirst again. I am thankful that Jesus provides a spring of water leading to everlasting life.

Chappy Jack (left) with Pastor Wayner Dickers (center) and his wife Joanna. Pastor Wayner pastors a United Methodist Church in Bryson City, N.C. He also holds services at the Nantahala Outdoor Center River of Life Church. Offerings go to building water systems in Haiti.

My first time camping in the snow.

Miniature snowman. This Alabama boy has been in very little snow during the years.

Blessings to all!

Chappy Jack

Be encouraged

March 20, 2019

Location: Franklin, Ga.

Mile: 109.4

Please Read: I Thessalonians 5: 11-18

Verse 11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just in fact you are doing”.

In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he encourages the Thessalonians to encourage and build each other up. In fact, Paul acknowledges that they are doing so.

As the AT Chaplain, my role also is to encourage and build up other hikers. However, I do have to acknowledge, that other hikers bring me much more encouragement and build me up all during the day.

Those in the hiker community are all working toward the same goal of completing the Appalachian Trail. We all realize that we need each other to meet our individual goals.

Lord Jesus, help me to encourage and build others up in their relationship with you!

This has been a week of small goals met. (1) I completed Georgia and passed into North Carolina. 13 states to go, (2) completed the first 100 miles, 2000+ miles to go, and (3) completed my first 12 mile day. I’ve intentionally kept my miles at about 8 miles per day to avoid early injury. However, it’s time to step my mileage up to 10-12 miles per day. At some point the mileage will need to increase to 12-18 miles per day.

Crossing over from Georgia to North Carolina

Celebration photo after climbing Albert Mountain and then climbing the steps of the fire tower.

This sign to a Methodist Church was only a few feet off the trail.

l/r Chappy Jack, Grandson David, my Pretty Girl Courtney, and my son D.J.

My son and his family were vacationing in Gatlinburg. They drove to Franklin, picked me up, and I spent the night with them. Great breakfast before they dropped me.back off in Franklin and they headed home.

Blessings and thanks to all. Be encouraged!

Chappy Jack

The Creator of All

March 14, 2019

Mile: 69.2

Location; Hiawasee, GA.

Read: Colossians 1: 16-17

In my prayer time I frequently reflect on how awesome our Creator is! He created the tiniest of things that can not be seen. He created the “glue” that holds everything together, and he created the vast universe that knows no end. I can’t even imagine no end!

What better place to marvel at God’s creation than the AT. How fortunate I am.

When walking the AT, you find yourself in a bubble of hikers. Sometimes hikers will pass you on the trail. Sometimes you will pass those same hikers during the same day. Often those same hikers will be staying at the same shelter or tent site.

I had the delight of passing and being passed by a really fun married couple doing a thru hike together. Suddenly, as I came to a beautiful vista, this couple had stopped to admire not the vista, but the tiniest of wildflowers growing out of rock crevices. Being caught up in the beautiful vista, I would have missed the beautiful wildflowers had it not been for this hiking couple.

Oh, how much of God’s Glory do I miss everyday!

The last few days I left from Neel’s Gap, hiked to and slept at Whitley Gap Shelter, then Low Gap Shelter, then Blue Mountain Shelter, then Tray Mountain Shelter, then Deep Gap Shelter. I then had a short hike to Dick’s Creek Gap for a shuttle into Hiawasee, GA. for a resupply and a zero (no mile day). Because of stormy weather, I will also take a nero (short mileage day) tomorrow.

I have learned what a Gap is… Simply, the area between two mountains. Simply said, but not simply completed! Every step down a mountain equates to a step up the next mountain. Strenuous for this old man, but I’m loving every second.

I’ve had difficulty with keeping my electronic devices charged even with battery back up. My pictures are very limited. I promise to do better the next blog.

It has warmed up a little bit, but notice the ice among the rocks. My biggest fall came from admiring ice and slipping on the same patch of ice. Also notice the ice in my water bottle. On cold nights I sleep with my water in my sleeping bag. The water in the bottle above froze while making breakfast.

My photos really doesn’t do justice to the beauty I see every day out here.

Blessings to all.

My prayer for you today is that you experience God in the smallest and the greatest ways.

Chappy Jack

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Counting the Cost


Location: Neel’s Gap

Please read: Luke 14: 25-34

In verse 28, while speaking to a large crowd on how to follow Him, Jesus says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he first not sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?”

The Appalachian Trail has many cost.

Financially, some say about a thousand a month counting gear, clothing, food, off trail lodging, and off trail expenses.

Relationships, including my wife Marty, a son, a daughter, their families, and my mother and father, church family, and my many close friends.

Of course,there is also the cost of walking away from many commitments and responsibilities and asking someone else to shoulder those commitments.

Thanks to the Holsten Conference of the United Methodist Church for this unique ministry and for supporting me financially and supporting me through a large network of prayer support.

Thanks to my family and friends that are supporting me with prayer and encouragement. And for forgiving me for being away during Easter, birthdays, sporting events, and prime shellcracker fishin’.

My biggest thanks goes to my wife Marty. At first she called me “Crazy” for wanting to thru hike the AT. She is now very supportive, she encourages me every day when we talk for a few minutes on the phone, she has picked up all of my home commitments. She loves me even if I might be a little “crazy”! Thank You Marty! “Crazy” me loves you!!

Wintry start. Ice in the trees and on the ground. The temp dropped to 12 degrees at the shelter. Typical shelters only have 3 walls. At first, my feet were cold, but after about 30 minutes in my sleeping bag, I slept warmly.

The cold zapped all the power from my phone preventing many photo ops. This photo is after it warmed up.

My first trail magic. A Community that lives self supported through all natural farming met hikers at Woody’s Gap with Barley soup, mango tea, homemade bread, Mandarin oranges, freshmade cookies, and a heater to warm up.

First view after wintry clouds lifted.

Time for a short celebration after reaching the top of a mountain.

May your Trail be full of God’s Peace.

Chappy Jack

The time is now–a note for Jack.

Dear Chappy Jack, 

I can’t help but feel a chill run down my spine as I think about the incredible journey you are about to embark on, the community you are about to become part of, and the transformation you are about to experience on the trail. 

Like myself, I know that you have dreamt of walking the trail for year and years. Like myself, I bet you had no idea you’d be serving as the AT Chaplain for Holston when those dreams started brewing in your heart. I’m sure you are experiencing a wild mix of hopes and dreams alongside fears and questions. 

Will the trail be anything like what you expect and have prepared yourself for? How will you wield the name of Christ in a community where the Lord is both ever-present through nature but often forgotten by those wandering down the path? Will your body stand up to the seemingly infinite miles between Georgia and Maine? How much will you miss your family and comforts of home? How will you balance your role as Trail Chaplain with your personal journey on the trail? For goodness sake, what will you do when you would rather be water boarded than eat another pack of ramen noodles and instant mashed potatoes? 

Take my words with a grain of salt, but here’s what I’d like to impart:  

·         Embrace the suck—there is plenty of it on the AT, from cold rain to oppressive heat and feet that look and feel like they went through a meat grinder. You’ll miss this dearly when you enter the bland comfort of normal life again. Laughter is the best medicine. 

·         You are about to walk through the closest thing to Eden I’ve ever known. The Lord will come walk alongside you in the cool of the afternoon if you let Him. Don’t be afraid to walk with just the Lord for a few days. You have to be fed to feed others. 

·         Take Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes seriously—there is a time for everything; a time to share faith and time to simply live honestly in front of other hikers, a time to give prayer and time to receive it, a time to hike and a time to stay put.

·         Never pass up a good meal—always pack out the leftovers (if there are any). 

·         Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s hanging your bear bag at mile 1500 or a ride to town and place to stay with a random stranger.

·         Pick all the blueberries in New England. Schedule at least 90 minutes per day for this. 

·         Give yourself grace to adapt to life on the trail. Each section holds new challenges. 

·         There’s no shame in riding out a storm in the Motel 6 or hiking a 3 mile day just because you can. 

·         Become best friends with Miss Janet; she’s a true AT gem. 

·         Remember SLRTT in every town: Shower, Laundry, Resupply, Trash, TP and you’re golden.

·         Use the long days of grinding out miles to incessantly intercede for other hikers. 

Chappy Jack, you’re going to make your Father proud. I simply can’t wait to see how your journey unfolds.