Rider Back!!

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Rider back! I hear that often since I take my training hikes on a popular mountain biking trail called Walnut Creek. It is pretty busy on the weekends and I get to see how well trail etiquette really works.

As a hiker I step clearly out of the way, facing the riders so they know that I know they’re coming…most appreciate and acknowledge the fact that I am making way for them…for me it’s about attitude… I don’t feel like I own the trail and that they should have to go around me. I believe that I should make way for them and this is just common courtesy, it’s respect. I mountain bike these trails too and it can be difficult to maneuver around a hiker in the middle of the narrow trail!

So while doing my hike this weekend a group of mountain bike riders passed me coming up a steep hill. There was 4 riders all together and one of them was a woman. Now I have no idea concerning her skill level but she was last and slow getting to the top of the hill. The guys made a right turn (so did I) and apparently she went left since I never saw her pass me. They came back down the trail and tried to find her for little bit but then went on without her. I started to think about how she was doing…was she looking for them…was she frustrated that they went on without her…where they just a little ahead and not waiting? So many scenarios…and in the moment, no way of knowing which is right. At this point I figured it all gets down to her attitude. She gets to decide what kind of experience she is going to have. She can be pissed that they left her behind and ruin her ride or she can go find her own adventure and go forward and enjoy her own ride…enjoy the solitude…ride at her own pace. 

 
Just like life…

Throughout my hike the guys path crossed my path many times, they were having fun they were excited about the ride they didn’t seem to be missing the girl all.  Maybe that’s “group think” maybe because they were the “group” that didn’t get lost it didn’t affect their attitudes and all?

Later I came across a small herd of deer and I startled them…a few went right the other went left…it was doe…I wonder how her day is going to be?

After seeing the deer I thought about the girl a little bit more and I prayed for her…I prayed that she would enjoy her day…enjoy the ride…enjoy the solitude that this opportunity presented to her!

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Finally, I thought about how much our attitude towards everyday things totally effect the outcome of our day, our lives and the lives of those around us. I thought about what was expected of me as a follower of Christ and what His attitude towards things would be…I thought about the Apostle Paul, sitting in a prison cell in the Empire of Rome writing letters to new Christians to encourage and boost their budding faith. In one such letter, Philippians 1:27 Paul wrote about the attitude a Christ follower should have:“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”.

Think about it…Jesus pretty much had a perfect attitude in every situation he was thrust into because He prayed about everything and worried about nothing. Shouldn’t we at least try to do the same thing…have the same attitude? We should always look to God for guidance about every aspect of our lives (not just the big stuff) and allow Him to work out His perfection within us and without our everyday distractions. How often does scripture mention Jesus being depressed or discourage…do we hear him respond to anyone in a defensive manner? Nope…because He had a pretty simple goal (yes our salvation was part of that simple goal) He simply aimed to please God instead of trying to please himself! When life got difficult, He was patient. In the midst of suffering, He was hopeful. When being blessed, He was humble. When being ridiculed, abuse, and tortured, He made no threats…he did not seek revenge!

 
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23).

Preparations

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I spend a lot of time on the Internet nowadays…researching gear, comparing gear, ordering gear, etc. I read a lot of forums from previous thru hikers and from those who, like me, are planning a thru hike this year. There seems to be a common theme to the forums and that is preparation.

Reasonably, your first thought on that should be directed towards gear and physical preparation and I would say you are mostly…well almost mostly right.

Everything I have heard and read says that after you have hiked a few days you become aware of how poorly you chose your gear as far as weight is concerned…and most stop at a small town called Neels Gap to unload stuff that previously they could not imagine doing without! Now since I’m not planning on having a plan (at least not much of one) I can’t say whether I will be making a pit stop in Neels Gap or not, so who knows…

The point here is that from what I can see you really can’t be completely prepared from a gear stand point, and believe me I am doing everything I can to try and be!

So what about physical preparation? Am I physically prepared to hike 15 to 18 miles a day with 30 pounds on my back and daily elevation, temperature and weather changes? I have read forums about hikers sleeping outside in the cold or down in their basements to acclimate to the upcoming environment. Have I been pulling on my hiking boots, loading my pack with 30 pounds of junk and walking 10 miles a day to prepare?

Negative.

Why you ask? Because physical preparation is not at the top of my list (mind you it is real close). Because outside of an injury or illness I am not going to be physically defeated! Sure I’m going to hurt, I’m going to be uncomfortable maybe even miserable at times…but that will not keep me from going. The only thing that can truly defeat me is my heart and mind in the metaphysical sense so lets lump all that together and call it my spirit.

So I am doing spiritual preparations and this certainly includes working it out with God for the amount of time I will be spending with Him on the trail. But am also preparing myself “spiritually” from a deeper place within myself. I am preparing for the simplicity and solitude of life I am about to experience…if anything…this could be my Achilles Heel.

How does one go about such preparations? Honestly, I have no clue! But I can tell you what I am doing. First I have simplified my life, I do not want to worry about whether my pipes are properly wrapped or if my yard is getting mowed, so I sold my house.
I don’t want to worry about whether my position will be the same when I get back with the company or if others have advanced further then me so I am only doing contract work.
And finally, and probably the hardest I am detaching from my ministry and my kids (students I work with…I have no biological children). This has been hard since teens, who most would try to avoid in adulthood, are my life blood so to speak. So I spend less time with them, I have stepped down from ministry and only hang out with a few. I am honest with them about what I am doing, that this is where God is leading me right now, and I promise them I will be back…because I will.

I am compartmentalizing my relationships. I am making sure that I’m not leaving any unfinished “business” at home. I am meeting with people in my life to let them know, personally, what I am doing and that they are still part of my life. I’m not closing doors, I am making sure that they are wedge open…

This is my true preparation…

The Peace Pilgrim

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My original plan for a post tonight was to start writing about my gear list (wee, fun) but instead I’m going to blog a little about Mildred Lisette Norman, a.k.a. The Peace Pilgrim.

Honestly, I had never heard of Mildred before tonight and her story is incredible. From 1953 thru 1981 Mildred (calling herself only The Peace Pilgrim) walked about 25,000 miles, crossing the US almost 7 times. She carried no food, money, sleeping gear or really anything else. She walked until someone offered her shelter, she fasted until someone offered her food (she never asked). She did it to promote peace.

Wow!

In a big way this resonates with me as Mildred was the first woman to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 1952, since I’m not sharing my gear list I will share Mildred’s: A pair of slacks, one shirt and sweater, a blanket and two plastic sheets. For meals she had two cups of uncooked oatmeal soaked in water and flavored with brown sugar (for breakfast and dinner). For lunch, two cups of double strength dried milk, plus any berries, nuts or greens that she found in the woods.

I feel a little unworthy…

I’m not going to go into too much detail, you can google Mildred and found out all you want to know. I’m going to conclude this post with what Mildred basically describe as her spiritual awakening, when this idea started forming and was incidentally concluded after completing the Appalachian Trail.

In 1938, after walking all night through the woods praying for guidance to discover her calling, she underwent a “great spiritual experience.” Increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while others were starving, she walked and asked God to use her. Coming to a moonlit opening in the woods, she described this seminal experience:

“I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life – to dedicate my life – to service. “If you can use me for anything, please use me!” I prayed to God. “Here I am-take all of me; use me as you will. I withhold nothing.” Then a great peace came over me. I experienced a complete willingness without reservations whatsoever, to give my life to something beyond my self.”

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A Sad Day

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If you remember my first post, I wrote about how I came up with the name for my blog. Inspired by how my dog relentlessly pursued his ball (and everything else) and how I wanted to be able to pursue God the same way. Sadly, my companion of 10 years, this big pawed goofy dog passed away today.

I’m amazed at how many people are posting comments and pictures of him on Facebook. Some pics I didn’t even know about! Apparently, the big goofball had a life of his own and he is going to be missed.

He is buried at a friend’s place where he was staying while I prepared for my hike. Just a few feet from his final resting place are the goats he loved to chase as much as he loved chasing squirrels (I think he actually might have had a chance to catch one or two of the goats). As we were laying him to rest one of the goats walked over and gave him a sniff goodbye. You can see the goat in the background of the picture.

Good by Paco Junior (PJ) my old friend, you will be sorely missed and you were well loved by many! I hope you are surrounded by lots of water, many a squirrel, a goat or two and of course all the fuzzy yellow balls your heart desires!

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It’s getting real…

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Well it’s 2013 and my adventure is approaching quickly! The idea is set in my mind, I feel led to taking this time off and letting God guide me through. I have been doing a lot of gear research, purchasing and reviewing. Unfortunately, I have not been able to test as much gear as I like since I took a contracting job right after Thanksgiving (got to earn the bucks when I can). I’m hoping to get a few weekend trips in before I go.

I will publish a gear list once it is completed and I’m sure I will be switching it up on the trail…I’m planning on carrying some extra winter gear since I will be 2 weeks further into winter on my start date then most thru hikers. It’s basically a “better to have and not need, then need and not have” situation. I’m hoping to shed this gear by April (I’m starting the last week of February).

My early departure will allow for more solitude and let me take slower days (10 miles per day) but it will also allow for more severe weather and colder temperatures! If the weather gets too bad I can always drop into a town a take a few days to let it pass.

I plan on posting more frequently as I have more stuff to write…

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