Acts 2:46. Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
The best meal on the AT is the evening meal. Not everyone stops to eat a full breakfast or lunch, but at the end of the day everyone is ready for a full meal. All shelters have some type of picnic table and the tables are full of hikers cooking, eating, and having lively conversation.
Meals are mostly made from some type of store bought dehydrated food that can be quickly rehydrated. Ramen noodles with tuna, chicken, or even peanut butter are a staple. I like instant mashed potatoes with spam… Don’t knock it ’till ya try it.
To me, the evening meal is the best time to get to know other hikers. It sounds to me that in the early church, immediately after Pentecost, early believers also used meals eaten together to get to know one another and to learn more about Christ.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for the privilege of walking the Appalachian Trail. Help me to connect with other hikers. Show me ways in which I can serve them in your name.
This past week has brought much sadness, mourning, fear, and despair to the AT hiking community with the murder of “Stronghold.”
I did not personally have the chance to meet “Stronghold,” however all of us in the hiker community have a strangely close bond whether we have met, or not.
We have all become more cautious of people outside of the hiker community as we meet them on the trail, and as we visit trail towns and communitys. We tell ourselves that this was a very isolated event. And yes, this was a very isolated event, but we still have our fears.
I personally know of one hiker who left the trail in tears, and I am sure there are more that have left.
I wonder about the trail name “Stronghold” since stronghold is mentioned many times in the Bible mostly in relation to spiritual warfare. It is my hope that “Stronghold” used this term because of his relationship to his Heavenly Father.
Lord Jesus, with all my fears, I take refuge in You! You God, are my refuge and my stronghold!
Some of my favorite trail photos as a tribute to “Stronghold.”
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.
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.
Last year’s AT Chaplain, Blueberry, encouraged me to “embrace the suck”! It has become my motto.
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!
Location: Newfound Gap, border of North Carolina and Tennessee
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.
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!
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.
Hints of spring in the lower elevations. I’m about to enter the Smokies, I bet I see a lot more winter.
Location: outside of Bryson City, NC, at the Nantahala Outdoor Center
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.
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.
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.
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.