SPRING, WINTER, SPRING?

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.   

SPRING, WINTER, SPRING Part 2

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 I the day after wintry mix including snow, rain, hale, 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, UMC

Limestone Cove UMC near Irwin, Tn.

HE KNOWS ME

Location: Greasy Creek Hostel, near Roan Mountain, Tennessee

Mile: 368.5

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

Mile: 274.6

Location: Hot Springs, N.C.

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

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.

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 misreble. However, I can’t get used to it’s beauty.

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

HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?

Location: Fontana Village, NC

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

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.

Pastor Wayner Dickers and his wife Joanna. Pastor Wayner pastors a United Methodist Church in Bryson City, NC. 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,9 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.

Blessings and thanks to all. Be encouraged!

Chappy Jack

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.

Counting the Cost

Mile:32.1

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 treesand 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 they of a mountain.

May your Trail full of God’s Peace.

Chappy Jack

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.

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.