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. 


Chai Tea Latte

Location: Opelika, Alabama

Miles Walked: 0

Proverbs 11:25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Most Appalachian Trail (AT) Northbound (NoBo) thru hikers can receive a shakedown (help with ridding packs of unnecessary items and weight) thirty miles into their hike at Mountain Crossing Outfitters. I had the opportunity to meet with the 2016 Appalachian Trail Chaplain “Wildcat” Bert Emmerson and the 2017 AT Chaplain “Trigger” Matt Hall at the Little River Trading Company in Maryville, Tennessee for my shakedown.

(l-r): 2017 AT Chaplain “Trigger” Matt Hall, 2013 AT Chaplain “Shortstop” David Smith, AT Circuit Hiker “Dr. Mary” Mary Palmer, 2019 AT Chaplain “Chappy Jack” Jack Layfield, 2016 AT Chaplain “Wildcat” Bert Emmerson

I learned that during Wildcat’s thru-hike that he kept a supply of Chai Tea Latte to refresh other hikers. Not only did this bring refreshment, it helped to build relationships with other hikers.
An expectation of the AT is that it will be more difficult than can be imagined. Weariness and extreme fatigue sets in and can end the dream of successfully completing the Georgia to Maine 2,192 mile thru hike.

Serving others with a Chai Tea Latte sounds so simple. However, in times of great fatigue, it sounds like, and I am sure is a great sacrifice. Proverbs 11:25 tells us that in refreshing others,  we will be refreshed.

My prayer: Lord Jesus, Help me to take my mind off of myself and set my mind on serving others.

Day #140-It is finished (for now, anyway); Miles hiked: 8.1

This morning I woke up in what I’m going to call an ice cage. Everything that was wet from the rain was frozen solid, including my tent, pack, hiking clothes, and shoes. I had to crawl out from under my tent because the zipper was frozen shut. What a fitting last morning on trail!

Even if my shoes were too frozen to put on, I left camp in socks because nothing could stop me now!

I spent the last 8 miles of my thru hike in conversation with the Lord-what a walk we have been on together!I got to walk the last mile of the trail with a big group of Holston/ATOM folks, my mom, and my brother. It was pure craziness with so many hikers finishing, but I still managed to get pictures with the boys I call my brothers and of course a face plant picture that is a perfect representation of what my body feels like right now.My brother and I enjoyed a quick walk down the stairs at Amicalola Falls State Park where I officially registered my thru hike as complete! They say that less than 20 percent of those who start a thru hike succeed. I owe all of my thanks to the Lord, the chaplaincy crew who has supported me the whole way (as well as countless strangers), and a good dose of laughter on rainy days from my hiking buddies.Thank you also to all of the people (most of whom I’ve never met) who read this blog and pray for me accordingly. I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey with you here and hope it inspires you to get outside and minister in the simple things. Look for a more detailed reflection on my trail experience in a week or so if you want more details about what I’ve learned about the Lord and his people on my 2190.9 mile walk.

Ps-I’m considering a thru hike of the 800 mile Arizona Trail in April–it doesn’t rain in the desert! Stay tuned!

Day #139-I wouldn’t have imagined it any other way; Miles hiked: 20.6

Still damp from the overnight storm excitement, I left camp in a cold rain this morning. This is how my thru hike started, how it’s been more often than not in the middle, and exactly how I envisioned my last day on trail. At this point, I’m really good at hiking in the rain, so bring it on!

Knowing this was our last chance to be together like this, we hiked in a big group almost all day. The SOBO snowball has grown and it looks like more than 20 thru hikers will finish tomorrow. Hawk Mountain shelter this evening served as somewhat of a reunion for hikers I’ve been just a few miles behind for the past month. When we were all in our tents, we giggled about how it was like the night before Christmas (with excitement). I don’t think anyone slept well at all…

A cold front has also started to roll in for a chilly finish tomorrow.

Day #138-Crossing mountains and out for blood; Miles hiked: 21.2

Even though it rained again today, we got a wonderful sunrise from beneath the clouds.The rest of the day was relatively uneventful as we journeyed further south into the Georgia hills. I enjoyed the chance to bounce among small groups of hikers and hear what their thoughts are on finishing the trail.

By afternoon, we made it to an AT icon: Mountain Crossings. This outfitter and hostel at Neel Gap marks the only time the trail crosses under a roof. Mountain Crossings is also a very popular place for northbound thru hikers to end their hikes, as it’s the first major road they cross (right after the first big climb). There is a tree full of shoes of from hikers who have called it quits here.I chose not to hang my pair and instead journeyed up Blood Mtn.

The stone cabin on top was a wonderful place to eat dinner, but became less wonderful as the night went on. We had hung rain flys and tarps over the windows, but a windy 4 am storm brought all of our barricades down and a leaky roof allowed the water to pour in. I’m going to miss the AT, but not nights like that!

Ps-Rachel brought us more trail magic today, and we are very grateful!

Day #137-Georgia isn’t flat; Miles hiked: 19.1

This morning, our new friend Rachel was so very kind to bring us back to the trail (she even recruited a friend so we could do it in one trip!). Having Holston people around to help sure does help make a thru hike a little easier. Thanks for the ride!With the sun shining, we set off to go further up and further in to the Georgia hills. Let me tell you, there are quite a few of them!

I counted seven 500-1000 ft climbs today, which wore my poor tired legs out quite thoroughly. There is plenty of fear mongering about “hard parts” of the AT, but no one mentioned GA.

Nonetheless, I did make it as the final batch of rain of my thru hike (which will last 3 days) stares rolling in.With the rain came a beautiful rainbow that we saw from Blue Mtn shelter.

Springer, here I come!