Times and Travels: AT hike conclusion

I will remind readers that this hike took place in 2004. I am revisiting it in order to have in mind the good and the not so good as I prepare to finish more sections of the fascinating AT this year. 

Day 5

There was wind. It was chilly. We stayed in the tent till almost 9 wondering whether it would rain again. There wasn’t much to do except start walking and find out. I knew I didn’t want to climb the infamous Albert Mountain, so was planning on the bypass trail. Esther’s knee was hurting, even before the weight of her pack was added. We knew we would be crossing several forest service roads and felt that if a ride out came our way, we would take it.

As you sit safe at home reading this, you can’t really grasp what it’s like to feel hurt, uncertain and fairly helpless and then come upon a scene like this. God bless men with trucks.

We started at 11 am and had a good two hours of nice flat and down stretches. The sun came out, there were flowers everywhere and fresh bear scat on the trail (just to keep things real). While eating lunch at Betty Creek, we heard a truck in the distance,beeping as it backed up. However, it must have been on another trail, and farther than we could run to to catch it. On we went to Mooney Gap with Lorraine and Kenton leading the way, as we were now quite a bit slower.

As we approached the next road, there were Lorraine and Kenton talking with a whole crew of men from the Nantahala Hiking Club. They had been working on the trail (putting in an elevator at Albert Mountain, they said. Giving CPR to a blackbird, they said.) and were about to head back to Franklin. They were concerned about Esther and happy to pack us into the back of one of their trucks and take us back to town.

It was a little surreal, two hours later, to be back at the Microtel taking a shower instead of on the trail in jeopardy of hurting ourselves. I thanked the Lord for taking care of us. We will live to see another day, maybe even hike again. We took Kenton’s car which she left at the motel and drove to Wayah Crest to retrieve my Aztek. Found a Thai restaurant! Back at the motel, went to bed on a real mattress!

Day 6

Things I learned:

  • In early May take gloves and warm jacket and hat
  • Take a good rain suit and cover for my pack
  • Go lighter still – it can be done
  • Take treats and morning coffee – you need them and they don’t weigh that much

Hiking can be pleasant and the scenery beautiful but the most amazing thing is finding yourself dependent upon God, and pretty much out of control of your own welfare. I felt the experience was as much an exercise of faith, discipline and persistence as it was for our muscles. That has become a big reason why I love hiking in remote places.

Esther and I had a great day checking out Franklin, visiting the outfitter’s store and a book place. We ate lunch at a creekside cafe with robins singing over our heads and the brook singing underneath our balcony – very Appalachian. We found a great park to lounge around in and read our books. Succumbing to the mundane, we had pizza for supper and relaxed watching a thrilling episode of Extreme Home Makeover on TV.

Day 7

I had breakfast (that’s me, always), Esther didn’t (usual for her) and then we got ourselves packed up and into the Aztek for the rendezvous with Lorraine and Kenton. We parked where the trail crossed the main highway at Winding Stair Gap. Esther’s knee wouldn’t let her go very far up the trail but I intended to meet the girls, identifying flowers along the way with my new book. I only got a short way up the trail to discover Lorraine and Kenton sitting, eating morning snack and thinking they were still a couple miles from the meeting point.

They were in good shape but also content with cutting the hike a little shorter than originally planned. We whisked them back to the motel for a quick shower (for which we were not charged, even though it was past checkout time, yay!) We had a celebratory meal at the renowned “Fat Buddy’s Barbecue”. It was a place worth another visit and even Esther (vegetarian) found some good stuff there. Lorraine didn’t mind heading home right away so we left about 3 pm and had a safe trip home to Florida. There are many other details I could have written but, basically, that’s the story (morning glory).

Does this story make you want to go hiking, or not? Are you curious about any element of the story?


Ordinary Times and Travels: Signs

I was in danger of becoming discouraged yesterday.  My job for the last two days has been to give an outside look to the house listings being sent to my daughter from the realtor. There are so many variables to keep in mind and each variable has a priority assigned to it. Price, distance to work, adequate space, animal friendliness, resale value… I could go with this list, but you get the idea. I went south of the city the first day and north of it today.

The first place today was a no show. I could not find a house or a driveway at the supposed address after driving for 30 minutes to reach it. The second place was somewhat less disappointing but certainly not a place Dr. J would have liked to live. I was stoked for the third place to be really awesome. How could it not be? It was time for some good news. After many turns, roads getting smaller and smaller, this is the sign that marked the last gravel lane.

Some people have welcome signs, then there are others…


With that message in mind, I started thinking about what I’d read that morning before setting out, a specific message in scripture that is pretty commanding. “Don’t let your heart be troubled.” And along with that were words from Jesus promising to love me and send the Holy Spirit to guide me.  I’m not saying the Holy Spirit was looking over multiple listing for the perfect house for Julie. But it does seem to be a promise from someone who is faithful and loves me, that I will have guidance when I ask for it, if I love him, trust him and am obedient. The question is not whether God is guiding me in this small thing. The question is what is he guiding me toward or away from. In this instance, if God were a realtor he would be saying “location, location, location…”

As Julia and I look over listings on the internet, I see our focus changing a little. Maybe we are listening to guidance. It’s interesting to watch for signs, of all kinds.

I saw another sign the other day. I pulled in to fuel up the truck for my day’s adventures and got stalled at the gas pump looking for the credit card slot. There wasn’t one. There was a sign which surprised me enough that I had to post a pic on Facebook.


I paid the cashier and told him I didn’t remember the last time I saw a “pump first” sign. He very calmly told me I had been traveling in the wrong neighborhoods. Sometimes I do get the sense that the climate here is a little quieter, less oriented to crime and its prevention. That would be nice, just saying…

Ordinary Times and Travels: St. Marks Cathedral

We traveled to Capital Hill to St. Marks and experienced this.

This was exactly as described, “quiet night and perfect end”. Esther and I entered the cathedral almost half an hour before the appointed time, but it was already nearly full. We went up to the front and put our blankets on the floor, using the short wall as our back rest. Esther said this was prime seating. In spite of the crowd, the sanctuary was quiet and dark, except for the candles lighting each row and the altar area. We saw the singers assembling.


The music was old, historic, mysterious, haunting at times, joyful at times, sacred in quality. There are very few opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the chant, of harmonies in a building so acoustically perfect. Part of the experience is being surrounded by others who are also curious, amazed, calmed and blessed by the words and songs.

pipe organ, back of church

Much of the music was acapella. Occasionally handbells joined the singing. And at the end of the half hour, the pipe organ began to enrich the empty places with tangible layers of sound.

With the departure of the chorus most people filed out quietly, but the organ continued to play. The complexity of the sound demanded that we get a closer look, and there did seem to be people in the organ loft. We found the stair and joined a small group watching the organist. This virtuoso was a young man in plaid flannel, whose fingers flew over the four levels of keys, and whose feet were all but running over the foot pedals. At the finish he stood and bowed slightly, seeming almost embarrassed to be watched.

not what I was expecting, talent in flannel

I now love the word compline, for its meaning and for the memory of this experience. St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral, Capital Hill, Seattle, WA. You will not be disappointed.

front of sanctuary

Every Day Should Be this Good

Letters handed to me today from far away Cambodia
Letters handed to me today from far away Cambodia

Even though I did not get a lot of sleep the night before (might have been up late blogging) today was a day I enjoyed and for which I am thankful.  I heard something inspiring and it just happened to be about change. More specifically, about being willing to change things in my own life in order to relate more to other people – to get to know them, to spend time with them, to come to love them.  Sitting next to me at the time was an older man who, it struck me, was a good example of this. He was dressed pretty conservatively, except for his socks which were insanely wild and not shy about being seen.  I surreptitiously took a picture of them with my cell phone when he wasn’t looking but evidently I wasn’t careful enough and got a picture of the inside of my bag instead.  Sorry.  You should have seen these socks.  George H. Bush would have loved them.  This guy was willing to be a bit quirky in order to spark interest, arouse the curiosity of the younger set and enter the world of high fashion. He stepped outside the realm of the average 70-80 year old and I’ll bet some good experiences have come from it. I remain inspired and have some new goals for this week.

Also at this same venue, I was given some letters addressed to me from two very precious women in Cambodia.  One I had never met personally but in her letter she assured me that she knew all about me from others and had been praying for me. Her expression of love and encouragement, in a language not her own, was clear and confident. She is a caretaker in an orphan home in Phnom Penh. She sent a picture of herself.  I can hardly wait to meet her someday.

The other letter was from a teen age girl I have known for several years.  Her family gave her up to live in the orphan home, feeling she would be safer there.  Her father had an alcohol problem and in her culture children in those circumstances are often abused or sold into slavery of one kind or another. She excitedly wrote about how her father had started learning about God, had quit drinking, was helping his wife at home and reading the Bible.  This was a miracle we had been asking God to work out for years.  I could feel her happiness.  Change had brought it.

Lastly, I went to work this afternoon.  My elderly client, Jack, has thrived in his own home over the last couple of months.  He loves to invite people to have dinner with him at his favorite restaurants and tonight it was our turn to be blessed.  I drove him to the Lucky Pelican where we met up with “the husband” for a great meal.  Later, back at his home, I helped him get ready for sleep.  I know it’s part of my job but it’s always a little strange for a grown-up to tuck another grown person into bed. I said “Good night, dear Jack” and he laughed and puckered up for a kiss.  He has changed so much.

Change is at the heart of all these experiences today – our ability to change, and God’s ability to change us.  He made the most miraculous change, giving up his God existence and living like a man, never again to be quite what he was before (becoming more, not less). Change like this is good (for us).  I’m just sayin’ that I’m thankful for everything I’ve become aware of today, thankful there are so many people here on the planet to live with, to love and to pray for. Thankful for change.