Something special happens on the trail. Maybe it’s because we’re away from our regular lives and it’s easier to connect. Maybe the walls come down quicker. I don’t know a better way to explain it than to say that good friends are made on the trails. Every single backpacking trip I’ve been on has been a time of deep connection with the others on the trail. One of the young ladies I hiked with this weekend is one I met a year ago on the trails. We both feel like we’ve known each other for years. The other one is a new friend I met for the first time on Saturday.
Several first-evers happened on my backpacking trip on the Pinhoti Trail this weekend. This was my first-ever all female backpacking trip. The three of us hiked fifteen miles the first day – a first-ever for all of us. By the way, fifteen miles with a backpack is no joke. We stopped several times along the way to take in the views, have a snack, and rest our legs and backs. I needed to replenish my water supply desperately, and we finally came across a tiny spring where we stopped, filled our water bags, and filtered water.
Nearly two of our last miles were in the dark. When we reached our campsite, all of us were glad we pressed on. It was a beautiful campsite situated right by the water. If you’ve never seen the stars in the wilderness on a clear night, then you’ve only seen a dulled version of a night sky. Bright stars in the woods are awe-inspiring. We ate a late dinner by a small fire and each of us made our way to bed.
The next morning we lingered around breakfast while I tried in vain to build a fire. We laughed, learned more about each other, and enjoyed rich conversation. It was just so good. After I packed everything up I realized some solo time on the trail would be good for my soul. I was apprehensive at first because I was on brand new trails in a forest I’ve never been in. I pushed aside my hesitation and told the other two I was going to hike ahead of them. From the hike the day before, I knew the trail was well-blazed and that helped me get over my hesitation.
Soon after I left the campsite, I crossed a wide stream then hiked on about a quarter mile when I realized I hadn’t seen a blaze. “Maybe because the trail is so obvious there isn’t a need for as many blazes,” I thought. I hiked on – no blazes. Around the curve and up the hill, still no blazes. I turned around, hiked back to the stream and saw the blaze I’d missed where I was supposed to cross it again. The rest of the nearly four mile hike was glorious. Not one other person was on that section of the trail – I had it all to myself. The solo hike out was another first-ever for me.
I hummed, sang, talked to God, cried, laughed, and took in all the beauty around me. Part of the reason I enjoyed the trail so much was because of the blazes. They told me I was headed in the right direction and provided comfort. It made me think of the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness. God went ahead of them out of Egypt in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. “Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” Exodus 13:22
How beautiful and gracious that God would see to it to give the people a visible sign of His Presence. Later in the Exodus story, Moses asked God to teach him His ways so that he may know Him. “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here,” Moses pleas (Exodus 33:15). Moses struggled to lead the people and knew he could not do it without God.
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Dear one, God knows you by name. May the truth of it seep down into your weary and broken soul. He knows your name.
Thank you for the photo Whitney or Molly.
I absolutely love this! Hiking solo is an amazing experience and such a great time to connect with God. He is with us. Always!
Thank you, Bruce. I’m kind of proud of myself to listening to my gut and turning around. Actually I’m proud of myself for a lot of things this weekend. Thank you for introducing me to backpacking! It’s one of spiritual rhythms now.