Starting this week we’re starting something new; the HBF Hiker of the Week. As outdoor enthusiasts we read stories in Backpacker magazine about hikers, and we read on social media about someone who has broken the record for hiking the shortest number of day on the AT (that’s the Appalachian Trail for those who are not hikers).
We want to take the everyday person who has a passion for the outdoors, creation and hiking and tell their story. Our first hiker of the week is Melinda Howe.
“Mum. We’d like to earn the Hiking Merit Badge.” I knew very little of hiking but after five 10 mile hikes and one 20 mile hike, my 2 Scouts with my help earned the Merit Badge.
Now the question reversed itself to “Boys, let’s go on a hike!” The support wasn’t reciprocated. It is my sons who I thank for the introducing me to my passion for backpacking. I think about them when I’m alone in the woods. If it hadn’t been for them wanting a badge, I wouldn’t have 700 miles (and counting) of the Appalachian Trail under my boots along with other mileage on Pennsylvania Trails.
I have met many souls on the trail. Keeping in touch with them off of the trail is rewarding. I now have a dear ‘Chum’ living in England whom I met on top of Humpback, VA. I have witnessed humanity at its finest. A lost hiker in a thunder storm ended up being the most fed because everyone bonded together and gave him food. I have witnessed my own answered prayers. My eyes have been shockingly opened while I am in a situation helping, listening or comforting someone on the trail. My eyes have been opened by God Himself. There are many situations where there is no chance, nor amount of odds or coincidences that it was anything other than the Lord.
Backpacking has taught me, when one is on the wooded trail and you meet another soul, it doesn’t matter who they voted for, Left or Right debate, Fox or CNN. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. We look out for one another by making water sources known, weather updates, sharing battery juice as it should be everywhere. When I get home and unpack my gear, I realize that a lime green backpack housed everything that I needed to survive. I look around my house. I see clutter. None of it matters. None of it keeps me alive. I realize it more and more after each return that all I needed was carried on my back.
We look at 3rd world countries and pity them for collecting their water and carrying it on their heads. They can see the water source, hear it, smell it while collecting it. We simply turn on a limestone scaled faucet and impatiently wait for it to get hot. Who really needs the pity? I post countless pictures on Facebook for those who will never be able to see the views that I see. Knowing that a friend whose knees gave out years ago, or the friend whose eyesight is deteriorating can see what I saw first hand rewards me.
Hiking is a lot like life no matter how corny it may sound, it is true. You’re never going to get across the mountain until you take your first step no matter how small or slow you go; at least you took your first step. The best views have the hardest climbs. And you better learn how to laugh because ‘it ain’t all fun”.
The trails have taught and continues to teach me what is important and what isn’t. I tell folks I love them more and worry less about a lot of ‘stuff’. If you can’t spend a night or a weekend in the woods, do it for an afternoon and it will start to change your perspective too. I guarantee it.
To God be the Glory.