This years men’s hike was an adventure. We started at Max Patch and hiked 20.2 miles over four days and finished at Hot Spring’s, NC. This years attendees include: Larry Lowe, Bennett Weir, Brandon Tate, Craig “Camping Sucks” Herr, Matt “Bob Par” Rainey, Charlie Wilson, Kenny “James Beam” Kirby, Pat “I have to work Monday” Sanders, Don Sanders, Phil Wright, Jason “Bear Bag” Terry, David “Poo-shoe” Heigel, Jamie Tash, Tony Akers, Jon Clark, Scott McMichael, Brian Patrick, Jeff Womble, Brandon “llama” Zeller, David Dodd, Tom Salter, Kenney Walker, Bruce Martin, and Chris Holden. Bruce and Chris were our trail and spiritual guides on the trip.
4/21 – Arrive home from Colorado Springs business trip at 11:30. Kevin dropped off his camping gear earlier in the day. I’m tired and decide to pack in the morning.
4/22 – Start packing. Realize that my boots are at my parent’s house. They brought them to me. Had to get a water bottle that fit kevin’s water filter – the only color left was bright pink. Met everyone at church at 5pm – loaded up the car’s and drove to Chattanooga for a dinner at Glenn Jean Deli. Left Chattanooga and arrived at the Bridgemont Camp. We unloaded the cars for an evening sleep in cabins. I went back out to the car for my toothbrush and realized that the car would not start – nothing worked, the whole car was dead. I rationalized that maybe the car was just tired and would start in the morning. I didn’t sleep very well.
4/23 – Woke up and tried to start the car – nothing. I had to call a tow truck to take me to the GMC dealership in Sevierville, TN. About five guys fooled around with the battery and other parts under the hood and one of them found a mummified rat in the engine block – very bizarre. While waiting for the tow truck I ate a huge breakfast and listened to the first kickoff briefing for the hike. Bruce starts each day with a briefing where he discusses a scripture lesson and asks us to consider a few specific questions while we hike. This year’s topic was FEAR. Bruce quoted many scripture verses describing fear. Fear is one of the most abominable sins because it is the dis-trust of God. The two questions that Bruce wanted us to chew on while we hiked were 1. What is it that you fear the most?, and 2. What is God inviting you to trust him with? The tow truck arrived. The car was winched up on the truck and off I went. The group met me there an hour later. I decided to just leave the truck at the dealership and hope that it is fixed by Sunday afternoon (I have to give props to my wife Amanda at this point. She told me to just leave the truck and she would take care of taking care of the payment and logistics of working remotely with the repair shop). We got to Max Patch at 2pm and started hiking straight up hill. Beautiful weather. We hiked 5.8 miles to a campsite just beyond the Roaring Fork Shelter. We set up camp and ate steak and potato dinners (Most of the guys packed frozen steaks for the first night dinner since Llama brought a grill to go over the fire). While we were setting up a through-hiker stopped by our site. His name was Noah. He looked hungry and in need of fellowship, so we invited him to stay at our camp with us. First (and probably last) time that he had a steak dinner on the trail. The campfire debrief was good. Bruce opens the fire up for anyone to discuss what God put on their heart during the hike. We talked a bit about our fears. Noah asked if he could share his story with us. He grew up in a family that went to church very sparingly. After a difficult year in college where he was drinking himself to sleep every night and contemplating suicide, he got on his knees and prayed – asked for a sign and told God he wanted to make everything right. He asked us many questions that night. He is definitely searching for a relationship with God. He told us how much of an impact we made on him – I hope he realizes the impact he made on our group. He reminded me to be aware of the random opportunities that we have to witness to people everyday – mostly through our actions and grace, invitation, and humility. This is where the story gets interesting. After the conversation wound down, Bruce went to check on the bear bags (we had to hang our food bags in trees to keep them away from the bears). He came back and told us there was a bear at our bags. We all jumped up and ran down the path to see (Note to the wives – we realize that this was not the smartest thing to do, but city boys don’t get the chance to see a wild bear that often, plus we probably scared the bear pretty bad with twenty four guys with headlamps running down the path). The bear got Craig’s foodbag. We all decided to rehang our foodbags and go to bed (total circus rehanging the foodbags). At one point I woke up in the night to heavy breathing outside my tent, at first I thought it was Jamie, but I think it was the bear. Tom Salter poked his head out of his tent and saw the bear in our camp during the night.
We woke up the next morning and everyone was accounted for – the only problem was that we were missing three more food bags including mine! I had to bum food from the rest of the guys the entire trip. No worries, we had plenty of food in the group.
Bruce gave the morning brief on The Greatest King That Could Have Been – King Saul ( 1 Samuel). Saul was the first king of Isreal. He was described three different times as being a very large man – head and shoulders bigger than everyone else. Saul was a king that was consumed with fear. 1. In the ceremony where he is to be anointed king, he is found hiding in a warehouse – obviously afraid of his calling. (Fearing your destiny can define your destiny) 2. In the battle with the Philistines, Saul did not wait for Samuel to come offer the burnt offering before embarking on battle because his men were quaking with fear and began scattering (Saul was fearful of the battle – when the leader is fearful, those being led will be fearful. (Fearing your future can sabotage your future) 3. Saul instructed to destroy the Amalekites every man, woman, child, and animal. Saul wins the battle but doesn’t obey God. He enslaves some of the Amalekites and takes their animals as spoils. He was afraid of his own people. (Fearing people will lead you to make bad, desparatedecisions) 4. Story of Saul and Goliath. Saul and his men were terrified by Goliath. Goliath called for them to send their biggest guy to settle the matter. This is a direct reference to Saul, who was earlier described as a very large man. Goliath was calling out Saul, and Saul didn’t have the guts to fulfill his destiny. Along comes David who wasn’t going to let anyone deride the name of his Lord and we know the rest of that story. I had never heard the story told from the perspective of Saul’s paralyzing fear that held him back his whole life. (Fearing failure can make you miss your greatest success). 5. Saul was critically wounded in battle and was afraid to die at the enemies hand, so he asks his armor-bearer to finish the job. The armor bearer was afraid and botched the job. An Amalakite (supposed to be completely destroyed) came through the camp and finished the job. (Fearing your enemy is suicide).Bruce summed it up with the statement “Fear is the worst of all motivations – it must be dealt with ruthlessly in order for us to experience our destiny with God”. The question he wanted us to deal with was – How many times has fear drove the decisions you made?
We hiked 7.2 miles through Lemon Gap, up Walnut Mountain, down a valley and then up Bluff mountain. We camped at a beautiful meadow campsite at Three Springs. A little bit of rain, and a rowdy campfire made for a fun evening!
Stay tuned for the rest of the adventure!