Tag Archives: Hiking

Hiding Under the Frosty Icing of Snow

1.6.22 … Going for a hike.

Do you like the snow? How do you see the winter wonder – a smooth white blanket of tranquility? A frigid harbinger of icy death!?

Nine days after Christmas, our little corner of America received 4 to 10 inches of frozenness. Though our abode kept electricity, many did not. Schools were closed. Kids built snowmen. And every slope in the county had sled trails down it. It was a great day to stay indoors, drink hot cocoa and relax. But not me … for I surrendered to Nature’s call to spend a few hours trekking the fresh powder. Sometimes, we just have to get out into the world no matter the circumstances. Me, well I chose to venture out.

The air was crisp. The sky was cloudy but the sun was making its impact little by little. The trail was empty except for footprints from earlier adventurers. I went to the Tobacco Prizery on the surrender grounds of Appomattox historical park. I got off trail a bit and walked through some fields that had no human footprints. Oh, there were several deer and maybe raccoon foot prints piercing the icy layer of whiteness, but they were not showing their faces to me.

The sounds of nature were serene … the wind blowing through the trees, the snow dripping in tiny and not so tiny bombs from the limbs (and occasionally down the back of my neck), the water babbling in the local Appomattox River, the snow crunching under my Salomon boots.

About halfway through the wandering, I saw it. There were green shoots of life breaking through from underneath the icy plateau. It got me to think … what actually is under that shell of whiteness? And I thought how this relates to life. What is under the shell we create around us? Let’s see what my mind pondered …

Messiness is under there. Mud, slimy leaves, mush. And if someone looked deep into my life … messiness. Sloppy relationship skills, misplaced arrogant thoughts of self-worth, lazy efforts of minimalism. It’s messy. But God isn’t done. He’s still working on me.

Permanent is under there. The snow, like all circumstances, comes and goes. But below that melting layer is the reality of nature that doesn’t disappear just because it’s covered up.

Death is under there. Leaves that fell from the trees lie there decaying. In our way of life, there are plans. But the ways of life lead to death. Fortunately God’s ways are different.

Life is under there. Small shoots were breaking through. Green blades pierced the whiteness. The gift of God, in the middle of our messiness and death, is life. The gift of God is life!

Know this, no matter how good life seems or how harsh it seems, if your whole perspective is only what you see … it’s not the full picture of reality. There is more. And what you see is like a wisp of smoke that will disappear. Ecclesiastes shows this so clearly. There is more to life than what you see. And God offers life.

Stupid Rocks? Maybe Not

We went outdoors this weekend. Did our best on the social distancing thingamajig. So we went to CrabTree Meadows upper parking and walked the casual stroll to the head of the Falls.

My wife had never been there and she wanted to get outside. On the 2 miles of trails, we met only 2 parties and one dog. All pretty good . Though the overlook was way beyond governmental suggestions for crowd size. Shiver. So, we took her photos and got out of there.

We did meet a lot of Jeeps and one Camry on the very rocky, very bumpy, and very fun fire trail up to and down from the parking spot. The Camry was not very smart.

But my beloved is not the experienced hiker. And like me, she has to be very careful where she steps. Me, I look but am used to the bumps, side steps, slips, and even occasional fall. But she said she couldn’t really enjoy the hike for she was fearful of falling. The city girl likes her paved pathways.

So I asked her to give five words to describe the rocks. Dangerous. Distractions. Annoyances … You get the drift. Nothing good to say about those rocks. This is why I avoid asking her to describe “me” in five words.

So I tried to change her point of view. I challenged her to see them as essential and with splendor.

The rocks were part of the trail. Some were there as watersheds – directing water off the trail down hill. They were there to keep the soil from washing away. And even give footings in time of a muddy trail. Some of the rocks were placed there intentionally and we needed to appreciate the skill that went into the designs and upkeep of the trail. The USFS (United States Forest Service) even has guidelines about use of rocks.

This is Turk Mountain off Skyline Sr

I also challenged her to see the variety and often beauty in the rocks. The colors, strata and history behind them. These rocks had been here long before us and will be here long after as well.

At first, I thought she was going to pick up a rock and throw it at me. But we kept talking and we discussed the spiritual lesson behind all we were discussing (ever the preacher.)

Problems, and even problem people, come into our journey. We often see them as distractions, annoyances, even dangerous. But maybe God puts them there to test us, train us, grow us, and cause us to remain vigilant. Ever watching out for the ‘rocks’ will help us avoid slipping on them.

But don’t let vigilance be the reason you miss the splendor that is all around. The ‘rocks’ often push us to stop and view the wonder of God’s creation.

What ‘rocks’ are you complaining about? Maybe you can look at it a little different.

Stupid rocks? Maybe not.

Got Outside – Guest Blog

Wide open spaces. Fresh air. Few people. Some articles say it is the lowest vulnerable activity if social distancing practiced. So today, I give a blog from another page.

Here is a teaser…

Welcome to Faith Connections Friday! It is a joy having you today! For the next several weeks until Easter, we will identify a biblical character from the Easter story and connect them to our life’s pursuit of excellence.

Two events leading to the Easter story involves Mary of Bethany. We witness one of the most beautiful biblical characters and the way she worships. In Luke 10:38-42, we see Mary worshipping the Lord while …

Read the rest here. And check out more of her blogs too.

Let the Donkeys Pass On By

Awhile back, I was hiking the Grand Canyon with my son. It was one of the more popular trails – with scores of people going both ways, descending and ascending. There were a few spots on the trail that had water and shelters. But mostly, this trail was a collection of cutbacks and popular spots to stop and get your photo/selfie in a scenic view of this majestic wonder.

People were polite, giving cordial nods and friendly greetings as they passed by. There was lots of encouragements and plenty of “not far now,” a saying I learned not to believe.

The trail was from rim to bottom, and it could be done in a day – just the one way that is. It is too long for ‘rim to bottom and back to rim’ in a day. And since we had just the day, we did 8 miles down, 8 miles up. I understand there is a lodge at the bottom you can stay at, then hike back up the next day. Maybe next time. We were on a schedule.

Though not new to me, there are several lessons one applies to that hike. Comfortable shoes. Hydrate, and hydrate some more. Start early. Be polite. Take plenty of pics. Make sure your camera is charged. Watch out for each other. And get out of the way of the donkeys.

Yep, let the donkeys pass.

When they show up, there are few options. Stop where you are. Take a step off the trail, stand on a rock, maybe a bit into the rough, whatever. Just get out of their way and wait it out. It’s easier, safer, and less trouble in the long run. The burrows have been used for decades to carry supplies (and people) up and down the canyon’s trail.

Even Peg Leg gets out of the way.

Life is like this. We’re on a journey. There are some beautiful spots of scenery in life, stretches of hard work on the trail at times, and a variety of people that are part of our trek – some going our way, some going the opposite. But sometimes donkeys just show up. Those obstinate, stubborn, and single minded creatures that block our path, demand the trail, and seem to be a downright pain.

And sometimes, the best way to handle the situation is to just let them pass – get out of their way – and then get back on the path and start walking again. Shake the dust off and start up afresh. Donkeys may be part of God’s plan to slow you down or regroup.

Don’t yell at the donkeys, or tweet – it won’t do anything. Don’t complain, that won’t help either. Take the moment to step back, hydrate, snap a photo, check your map, and then get back to moving forward.

So today, if a donkey gets in your way, let them pass on by.

One final note. These donkeys in your life will occasionally leave you gifts, little reminders they are part of life too. That’s normal. Just watch where you walk, otherwise you might be carrying that reminder with you the rest of your journey. And that stinks, literally. You can’t stop the ‘gifts’ being left on the trail, but you don’t have to step in them.

Have a great day.


Post Script/ please note, this article has nothing to do with any particular political party. For in reality, both parties have people who fit into this category.

52 Hiker Mistakes by Backpacker … and by Worship Leaders

Bad choices, poor planning, and simply not paying attention. The article listed 52. And I have probably done 50 of them. True, many were in the early stages of my hiking journey, but some have happened very recently.

Most of these mistakes are common sense errors.

  • Handling the water reservoir wrong … so it will leak, freeze, too little, too much, etc.
  • Poor planning … don’t know the hike and her demands, ignore the weather forecast and signs – weather.com can be wrong, no bug deterrent, not using a map, too little food, etc.
  • Laziness … poor packing, not staying together, not double checking position, cutting switchbacks, pitching tent in a puddle or poor placement under a dead tree or not staking your tent, dumb food storage.
  • Poor equipment … hiking in heavy cotton, too layered, not layered, no lighter (or two), no waterproof bags, inadequate sleeping bag, shoes too small, etc.
  • Unwise decisions … touching poison ivy, getting off trail and not paying attention, climbing up with no return path, not setting a turn back time and/or getting caught in the dark, going beyond comfort zone (way beyond), hiking in wet socks (when avoidable), over-dependence on a cell phone, not telling anyone where you are going, etc.

Now, I get it. Sometimes it happens. But let me do a little twist and see if these same mistakes apply to worship planning.

  • Handling water reservoir wrong … Jesus is the living water and we can take Him for granted, expect too little from Him so we try it all on our own, expect too much so we get lazy in our planning.
  • Poor planning … we wing it, we keep,doing the same thing (thus getting the same outcome and wonder why), we don’t pay attention to what our people are going through and ignore the signs (like not praying or realizing a national event, say a shooting, impacts our members in so many ways), and we don’t have everything ready when service starts. Poor planning.
  • Laziness … expecting others to handle everything, no follow up, not punching ourselves in becoming a better choir, praise team, or worship leaders, don’t invest in prayer or studying when preparing a message, etc.
  • Poor equipment … bad projector, crackly sound from microphone, dangerous chairs, and children’s equipment, play area that is faulty, broken, and worn out.
  • Unwise decisions … passing over prayer time, going way over time (especially if limited by radio or video allotment), giving people leadership positions without vetting or proper accountability, over-dependence on technology, planning around pleasing people and not glorifying God, etc.

I think you get it. I realize many readers are not involved in worship planning, but for those that are (like myself), I hope this challenges and encourages us. Mistakes should not define us. They should teach us. It does me.

Hiking … and worship planning … are both areas I’ve made mistakes. But I will not give up, I will look up and get back to the heart of worship. It’s all about Him.

See the Backpacker article here.

Jump Rock Trail Highlights

It started in the dark, early hours of the morning. I headed out towards Goshen Natural Preserve. A trail called Jump Rock. But the beauty hit me even before I got there. Once off I-64, I traveled the back roads. Splendid farms, rolling hills, cows, and the sun breaking over the mountain tops.

Then I travelled along the Maury River, there was some awesome shots of nature.

Once I discovered the empty parking lot to the trail head, I parked and headed to the swinging bridge that took pedestrians across the river. I guess the parking lot was empty for there was a sign noting the bridge was closed for repair. It said the Goshen Pass bridge was closed. I wasn’t exactly sure it meant this one, so I gingerly walked across. That’s me, a daredevil. I don’t ever remember walking across a swinging bridge, so across I went.

I had not charged my phone all the way, so I turned it off to save for spot checks and pics at the summit. This meant less pics along the way. Within a mile, I saw deer running away and rabbits leaping across the path. There were signs of bear (that which they left behind), but no bears were spotted today.

It was a pretty step climb. About 2500 feet in about two miles. Few switchbacks and some very sharp angle trail at points.

This is a web photo but shows a great view of the lake.

The leaves were just beginning to turn. Lower altitudes showed lots of yellow; and the higher you go, the leaves were turning red. The trail was marked well at times, but not so well at others. I followed a blaze, but I soon discovered it was not the regular trail. With a Boy Scout reservation near by, I think many short cut trails had formed over the years.

PegLeg Pete and I made it to the summit, (I think, since phone had died, And the blazes stopped, I had to guess at this) and enjoyed the views, a bit of early lunch, and a rest on the rocks.

My early lunch … always try to have beanie weenies at the top. Peg Leg jo Ned me.

These three are shots at the rock outbreaks before the summit, but the spot was perfect for me.

About 8 miles, some good to great views, but pretty steep at times. I saw no one until I got back to the swinging bridge. A family was enjoying water fun in the river.

I did take one summersault tumble on a slippery rock on the trail’s descent, but I almost always take at least one tumble – it’s the way I roll (literally).

On an exciting note, this is the last hike photos on my iPhone 6. My 11 should arrive in two days – longer battery, and much better camera.

I wonder what will be the first trail my iPhone 11 will photoblog?

Jump Rock Trail, VA

Headed out real early. Sunrise from a mountain road near Buena Vista. Breakfast at Waffle House (might stop on way back too to replenish carbs). I am excited – for me it is a new trail, new part of the state, and new park – Goshen Little North Mountain.

Pics will surface tomorrow …

The daily challenge to you – try something new today!

Old Rag Mountain: Lightning on the Ledge

Some days the bear gets you, some days you get the bear. Some days it’s like you’ve been beaten and eaten by a bear. Such was Monday.

Calvin, Tiffany, and I attacked Old Rag Mountain. The most popular, and possibly most taxing, day hike in all the mountains of Virginia. I’ve done it before, which helped, but it seemed God threw more boulders down in the scramble … and made the last leg twice as long. Basically, harder and longer than I remembered. I recommended a few other hikes, but Calvin had his heart set on this trail, so we went. Me to my physical draining, muscle pushing, knee scrapping event. Them to their love bird stroll, simple hike in the woods, first time on Old Rag, never seeming to break a sweat, 20 something bodies I wish I still had, photo taking trek.

It was wonderful to see groups that hiked near each other, leap-frogging at times, encourage each other. It was a blessing to see Calvin and Tiffany encourage each other, talk and express their love, and interact without distractions. And I already miss the ability to look at my son, talk face to face, and stay connected.

Personal note of gratitude … we may have had to journey the 11ish miles of rock and mud … but Lisa was the hero of the day. She went with us and stayed at base camp (the parking lot). She did venture into Sperryville for coffee and a stroll, but since our hike was 3 hours longer than I planned, she waited in the parking lot quite a while. Text service was zilch. I love that girl more than I ever let her know.

On the trail … Old Rag is one of those that when you think you’ve reached the final peak, you haven’t. When you think it can’t get any more beautiful, it does. Higher and greater views were over the next rocks or past the next cluster of pines. Photo ops never stopped happening.

On the scramble (the rocks that you had to slide, jump, climb, crawl, drop off, etc.), there were a few times I had to just rest before the jump or slide. Calvin was the champ and took my Osprey backpack. Later I tried to reclaim it, but he was quite selfless … maybe showing off for her, or maybe she felt pity on me and made him take it from me.

On the way up, we met a foursome that was about the same pace as us. Three were Navy, and the 4th was a Navy wife. We also met a father/college-age-son. The father had an accident and hit his head. The three groups all came together to help each other

The pictures show the beauty, but nothing prepared me for the apex. We reached the top right as small drops of soft rain began to fall and refresh us. But the soft and light rain didn’t last. Lightning was seen in the distance. We took a few pics and next thing you know, lightning hit a rock a few feet away. The thunder and lightning were at the exact same time. We checked on each other and found all were shaken but not scorched.

Interestingly, I had joked about a mile prior I might need an AED, defibrillator at the top … God provided it.

Funny, none of us felt fatigue anymore. We pretty much all said, “Let’s get off this mountain.” The next four plus miles were done at the fastest pace I’ve ever done on a trail. The soft rain turned to strong electrical storm with a monsoon type downpour that penetrated every part of my being and made my waterproof trail shoes soaked inside and out. It was all down hill and much of the trail was like a free flowing creek.

We made it back to the parking lot, right after the navy foursome, side by side with the father/son, and with Lisa waiting and relieved with our safety. Struggle? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. Do it again? Not till my legs can feel again, but yes.

Some days the bear gets you, some days you get the bear. Some days it’s like you’ve been beaten and eaten by a bear. Such was Monday.

Enjoy the pics … and be encouraged to spend time with those you love. And I love these two.

My son’s fiancé … just got a wake up call

For a few days, we are being blessed by a visit from our son and his fiancé. I had met her once … we ate out at Hard 8 … a great Texas BBQ place where I always eat toooo much. I was moving from Dallas to Virginia, my son had struck up a friendship with this wonderful woman, so he wanted her to meet me before I headed out. My wife hung out in D for about 3 more months, so they got to know each other some more.

That was 9 months ago. A lot can happen in 9 months. A lot. They started to date, they changed their Facebook status, he met the parents (while her daddy held his gun), they dreamed, planned, doubted, dreamed more, and then he surprised her with an engagement proposal. She figured it was coming, but not yet. But that timing is in the past now. Rings have been bought, the date has been set, registration has begun, and so on. (This will be nothing compared to the following 9 months as they wed and start a life together as husband and wife).

They flew up to see us some. And here lies the lesson.

Over about 72 hours, she has gotten to experience the life and ways of Todd. She has seen me preach, interact, pushed to physical limitations (come back tomorrow for that entry … Old Rag Mountain: Lightning on a Ledge), and more.

I pity her for having to go through this. I really feel sorry for Lisa … she can’t go anywhere – forever. But Tiffany said, that in these few short days, she now sees where Calvin gets so much of who he is. She sees so many physical and relational mannerisms. I am not sure if she meant it as compliment or not. I will take it as such … mostly. But she got a wake up call about Calvin’s background.

As I ponder this, this is exactly what it should be for each of us. But not our earthly father, though that is not bad per se. I am talking our Heavenly Father. Wouldn’t it be great if people looked at us … wondering what makes us do the things we do, what makes us act the way we act, and what makes us be the way we are … and then they realize it is because we are like our Heavenly Father … or, more specific, the Son–where we have been transformed into the image of the Son.

What does that take …

  • Hang out with Him (you become like the people you hang with)
  • Learn what He loves, cherishes, desires for people (look through His eyes)
  • Get rid of things in your life that doesn’t honor Him.

I’m not there yet. But what I would love for my son, is that when people, specifically Tiffany, sees his ways, his actions, his mannerisms … they see he is so much like Jesus. I want the same for me, for you, for each of us. What a world that will be.

Hike Naked Day … really?

I think I will stay off the trails today. Apparently, it is an Appalachian Trail tradition that on the day of Summer Solstice, many will attempt getting back to … well, nature … the way you came into this world. Not specific to the AT, this tradition seems a bit extreme. And in a day of many posting their trail pics, this leaves me deciding to stay off my hiking websites today. And maybe even tomorrow.

I get that we all celebrate in our own way, but this seems a bit extreme.

We all have weird traditions … we all have weird family members … and we all are a bit weird ourselves. As I’ve said before, I put ‘fun’ in dysfunctional.

So, today, as we kick off Summer, having the longest daylight hours of any day of the year, may we enjoy the life and creation God has given us. Take advantage of the daylight and get outside some.

But please, if you’re around my neck of the country, please leave your clothes on.