A few thoughts before I trade my pillow for rocks and tree roots:
There are several reasons why I picked early March for my solo jaunt along the Appalachian Trail. I didn’t carefully consider all I would miss. I am a college basketball junkie. March is prime time for the sport. I will have no possible way of keeping up with some of the most important games of the season. Unless that is, there is a bear or two with the ESPN app.
My wife made sure to have me read an article on how to avoid snake bites, and what to do if skin does happen to meet fang. There are no hospitals along the Appalachian Trail, and an ambulance would have one heck of a time climbing Blood Mountain. The article advises the victim of a snake bite to remain calm and move away from the snake. I’m not sure how calm I would be, but I’m certainly not going to move toward any snake angry enough to bite me.
For the last month, most of my hikes and walks around town have been accomplished with 35-pounds strapped to my back. For 10 days, I will give my whole world a piggyback ride over steep hill and stream, and I want to be prepared. This has drawn a few curious stares, especially when I rambled down to the neighborhood creek to practice my water purification techniques. I’m glad my wife talked me out of sleeping in the front yard.
There are only a couple of things that concern me about this venture, and one of them is keeping my meals from furry thieves. While camping along the trail, I will have to hang my food supply away from the black bear population. I have 50-feet of rope and absolutely no idea how to tie it. You see, I’m no Boy Scout. If somehow I manage to fake my way into an adequate slip knot, I’ve got to make sure my food bag is dangling in just the right position so a bear can’t reach it from the ground or the tree. I might as well just notify Yogi that there’s a nice plump picnic basket waiting for him.
I’ve taken a peek at the extended weather forecast for the days I’ll spend in the mountains, and it appears somewhat daunting. There is a mention of rain hanging over half of the days I will spend hiking and sleeping out in the elements. There is even talk of snow. Yep. Nighttime temperatures, if the forecast holds, will be in the 30s. My next step is to review the limited wardrobe I plan to carry. Unfortunately, there’s no room in my backpack for a space heater.
My wife is already fully aware that when she picks me up at the end of this venture, I will smell like the hot, rancid center of a landfill. I will not shower for a week-and-a-half. The closest I’ll come to bathing is a quick, daily rub down with a baby wipe. I won’t shave either, but that’s not much of an issue. There are 13-year-olds who will wake up this morning with more facial hair than I can grow in a month. The only thing that will look like a beard will be the cloud of flies following me.
One final thought–
I have absolutely no idea what I’ll encounter between Springer Mountain, Georgia, and the hills of North Carolina. I’m sure there are surprises waiting, and I really hope there are. I want to emphasize the purpose of my trip. It’s a little complicated, but then again, it has a rather simple core. I need to spend some time where it’s just me and God. I need the silence of the night so I can hear His voice. I need peaceful days away from phones and traffic noise so I can focus on His message. I’m dedicating my trip to the memory of my father and my sister and the loss that is still quite heavy. But it is God who will blaze the trail, lift my feet when they’re heavy, and warm me when the ground is soft with snow.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”– Isaiah 52:7