March 20, 2019
Location: Franklin, Ga.
Please Read: I Thessalonians 5: 11-18
Verse 11: Therefore encourage one and build each other up, just in fact you are doing.
The Apostle Paul encourages the Thessalonians to build each other up and acknowledges that they are in fact doing so.
As the AT Chaplain, I see this as a duty to encourage and build up other hikers. At the same time, I acknowledge that other hikers constantly encourage me and build me up.
I have quickly learned that the AT hiker world is a distinctive community of people with a common goal. Numerous times each day someone showers me with a gift of encouragement.
Lord Jesus, I pray that I would be as willing to encourage others in their pursuit of you as I am in encouraging others in their pursuit of the Appalachian Trail.
This week, I have completed three small goals; (1) completed Georgia and I am now hiking in North Carolina, (2) passed the 100 mile marker, and (3) completed a twelve mile day.
However, on the larger scope of things, I have 13 more states and 2000 more miles to complete. To prevent injury, I have purposely kept my miles at approximately 8 per day. However, it’s now time to step it up to 10-12 miles daily. At a later date, I will need to increase to 12-18 miles daily.
Location: Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
II Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
There are hundreds of volunteer trail maintainers that belong to 31 trail maintenance clubs that work constantly to keep the AT walkable from Georgia to Maine.
These volunteers remove downed trees from the trail, makes sure that the trail properly drains water from the trail, keeps white blazes painted and visible, makes sure that shelters are well maintained, maintains privys, keeps grass and high weeds cut, and does many other maintenance items.
Without these volunteers, life on the trail would be much much more difficult for hikers! I am so thankful for each and every volunteer trail maintainer!
However nice it is to have trail maintainers to maintain the AT, we individually have to maintain our relationship with God. This too, takes work and discipline!
I sometimes find it difficult on the trail to maintain the discipline of prayer and scripture reading. I get too caught up in the duties of the day. My relationship with God soon becomes covered with weeds and downed trees.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for not being attentive to you. Help me to keep my focus on you.
McAfee Knob in Virginia
Reaching the 1000 mile mark
Unofficial half way mark at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Office in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
Mason Dixon line as I left Maryland and entered Virginia
Official half way mark. 1,096 miles
Location: Waynesboro, Virginia
John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.
With a bit of sadness, I have walked through the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Sad, because I have seen familiar faces and met many wonderful people! All have been extremely supportive of this unique ministry, and I have really “felt the love”!
Jesus, in speaking to his disciples before the Passover Feast, declared that all people would know them as his disciples by their love for one another. He then gave them (and us as his followers and disciples) a new commandment to “…Love one another as I have loved you,…”.
What a tough thing to do! Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life up for us! It sounds like an impossible command! However, I have experienced being the recipient of that kind of love from the great people of the Holston conference.
Lord Jesus, Thank you for loving me so much that you gave your life for me! Thank you that you use people like the people of the Holston Conference to demonstrate your love. Thank you that I’m “feeling the love”.
Pastor Rick Lindamood and wife Carol. Rick is the pastor of West End United Methodist Church. Rick’s Grandfather attended Lindamood School. West End UMC provides Trail Magic (soft drinks, gator aide, snacks, and hiker toiletries) at the school. I was fortunate enough to run into them while they were resupplying the trail magic boxes. Their son Josh was a UMC Trail Chaplain.
Pastor Alan Ashworth and wife Mary. Alan is the co-founder of the Chaplaincy and is the Chairman of the Chaplaincy Board. I had the pleasure of spending two nights with them and shared several meals.
Pastor Brian Burch and his wife DeAnne. Pastor Burch is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Pearisburg, Virginia. Brian and DeAnne invited myself and a hiker buddy to stay at their home for the night. Brian and DeAnne along with their friends Tim and Trish, treated us to Italian at a local Italian restaurant. Hiker hunger was raging and I ate, then ate, and then ate some more.
2016 Chaplain Bert “Wildcat” Emmerson and his wife joined me on the trail at a shelter in the Smokies. He taught me how to serve others by gathering wood, building fire for the long cold night, and even providing trail magic for other hikers.
There have been many others in the Holston Conference that have helped along the way! Did I mention that I’m “feeling the love!”
Location: Catawba, Virginia
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.
First pair of shoes just barely made 700 miles. I can’t believe how much they stank.
Pictures do not give this massive structure justice. Dragons Teeth
700 mile mark
Second largest tree on the AT
Virginia is beautiful!!
Wild ponies at Mt. Rogers lick salt off of sweaty hikers. Cute at first, but after several smelly ponies surrounded me while I was trying to eat lunch, I had to find another lunch spot.
Location: Catawba, Virginia
Psalm 31:1 In You, Lord, I have taken refuge.
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”.
“Stronghold”, Rest in Heavenly Peace!