a good bit of nature study, and awakened
a love of the outdoors in most of them, we
rarely went out in the woods and camped in
a tent when the kids were little.
What are some of the reasons I’ve
learned to love hiking, backpacking, and
camping? First, I’ve always been a nature
girl. I love being out in the woods and the
fields, interfacing with animals and plants.
However, as an older woman, throwing
on a heavy pack and heading up a steep
mountain, there are other, more tangible
effects I see on my life, which I wish I had
shared more with my kids.
On the trail, I meet challenges that I don’t
run into in my daily life. After the recent
hurricane in Georgia, I ignored some sage
advice to stay off the trail until the national
forest service could clear the downed trees.
Every twenty feet or so, I ran into a large
tree down across the trail, and had to decide whether to climb over, crawl underneath, or leave the trail to go around it. In
places where there was an extreme amount
of blow down, the trail disappeared entirely
and I had to figure out a way to search for it
without getting lost.
Once I was hiking on Blood Mountain,
and a sudden snow storm blew up when
I was on the summit. The white blazes on
the trees that mark the trail are painted on
the granite rocks up above tree line, and the
snow quickly obliterated them. I managed
to make it down, although it took me an
hour longer than planned. At one point I
slipped on the ice and wound up doing a
log roll down one big slab of granite and
crashing into another one. Still, I survived,
and learned that I’m stronger and more re-
sourceful than I realized! However, I also
have realized that I need God more than
ever when I am out on my own in the wil-
derness, and have experienced Him living
up to His promise to send some angels to
bear me up in their arms to prevent me
from crashing (too hard!) into a stone.
(Psalm 91—I call it “The Hiker’s Prayer”!)
Indeed, God does feel much more real
to me when I’m out interfacing with nature
one-on-one. Wilderness backpacking has
helped me face and conquer several fears:
bears, snakes, and worst of all, fear of falling and hurting myself when I am alone on
a mountaintop. I’ve also learned the importance of planning ahead and being prepared.
The most obvious benefit of hiking is, of
course, the physical fitness aspect. Coupled
with daily flexibility exercises, the weekly
hikes I have been taking are largely responsible for keeping myself fit as I get older. I’ve
met several eighty-year-old hikers on the
trail recently, and they really give me hope!
I recently read a book by Dick Van Dyke
about aging, called, Keep Moving! It really
is important to keep on trying to do what
you can do, and if you aren’t ready to climb
a mountain, start with going for a walk
around the block! Do what you can, and
you will gradually build your fitness level.
There are many educational opportunities for kids on the trail. Giving them real
experiences will help them enjoy vicarious
ones so much more. The first time I read
I’ve learned the
planning ahead and