It's just a simple wooden pole. I bought it years ago on a trip to the Smokey Mountains. Handcrafted by an artist in the heart of Appalachia, it caught my eye and I bought it. At home in Iowa, I didn't use it much. On our mostly flat and paved trails, it didn't seem to be needed.
But on the mountains of Virginia, this stick was a steady companion. The majority of the hikers on the Appalachian Trail used modern trekking poles. However, I had one hand occupied with Molly's leash, so this worked very well for me.
My hiking pole was helpful on the uphills, hauling my out-of-shape, slightly rounded body up the steep slopes. I also used it on the downhill, helping me balance and make my way around boulders. In areas of fallen leaves or overgrown weeds, I employed it to make sure there were no snakes lurking. And I even swung it in front of my short-legged hiking companion to remind her that dogs needed to "go behind."
In our walk with Christ, we need a "hiking pole" as well. Prayer is what hauls us up the mountains, helps us maintain balance in our lives, and can even alert us to danger on the trails.
Too often, we are like me walking on the trails in Iowa. Things are not so tough, and we leave prayer in a corner of the garage.
Don't wait for the steep inclines in your life to resort to prayer. No matter what trails life has you on right now, don't step out with your hiking pole of prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
Beginning September 8th, I hiked the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Forest, a dream that was years in the making. Here are the wrap-up statistics:
3 women - my friend, Leigh, who accompanied me days 1-11, my friend, Angela, who was there for days 10-13 and me
1 dog - Molly
2 shuttle drivers - my husband, Gary, and Leigh's husband, Shaune
13 days of hiking - 1 day of rain, 2 foggy mornings, 10 sunny days
112 miles hiked
22 mountains, 2 rocky knobs, 3 unnamed hills
3 bears - all in the area of the campgrounds
5 snakes, including a dead rattlesnake on the road
Countless deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and birds, and one critter only Molly spotted and jerked the leash from my hand and went for her own romp on the AT.
38 insect bites - for some reason the bugs preferred me over my friends
4 blisters - on my feet. Leigh and Angela each had at least one.
132 bottles of water
12 miles on the longest day, day 13
33,818 steps - most in one day
It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Or at least after recovering for a week or two.
This one is for the OOFPAs (Ornery Old Folks Peddling Along) - my group of bicycling friends. I took my last training hike on the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails-to-trails bikeway. Molly and I walked about 2 1/2 miles out and then back and I spent most of the time trying to figure out how the OOFPAs could make a summer bike trip to Pennsylvania.
The weather was perfect. And so was the trail.
I overcame my fear of high bridges to take pictures of the river. It was sparkling clear - no mud bottom!
Of course there were wildflowers everywhere.
A glorious walk in the woods!
Gary and I have had a wonderful two days in Confluence, Pennsylvania. This was my first trip to this lovely state, and Gary's first time to meander and explore. We are at the confluence (meeting of two rivers) one of which is a major river in this part of Ohio - the Youghiogheny. It's pronounced Yawkaganey. Don't ask me why.
Our first full day here we packed a lunch and went to Ohiopyle State Park. It is a beautiful natural area - lots of waterfalls, overlooks, deep canyons and forest trails. We looked at the main falls and visitor center, then went to my personal favorite - Cucumber Falls. I did some climbing around there to get the best pictures. Picture large boulders, fast flowing water, and one crazy gray-haired woman.
We also drove to the campgrounds to look around, then to Fern Cliff Peninsula where many unique plants grow. It is sheltered by the river on 3 sides, so it has almost a tropical climate. Gary suggested a hike and Molly and I never turn down an opportunity to hike so off we went.
An hour later we returned to the truck after tromping through mud, climbing over fallen trees, stepping carefully on rock strewn paths, tripping on tree roots, and almost losing the trail entirely a few times. I pulled out the park map and found out that the trail was classified an "easy" hike. What???
Yesterday we drove to the National Memorial site of Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful monument and quite emotional. The remainder of the day we spent at a Mountain Craft Fair with 150 vendors. We loved the crafts, entertainment, and of course the food.
Today is a laundry-doing, trailer-cleaning, catch up kind of day. And Sunday we head to Shenandoah National Park. This trip has been two years in the planning. And I can't wait.
See, he's a hiker too!
Taking time to rest and view the river.
Susan Lawrence taught elementary school for 33 years before hanging up her chalkboard to write and speak. She writes novels for both adults and middle grade children. Susan lives in Iowa with her husband and short-legged Lab, Molly. She has 3 children and 7 grandchildren who love to hear her stories.