What We Learn When We Walk (and Pray)

If you’ve been following our blog or Facebook page, you know that we felt led this year to do a Prayer Walk 2020 –20 days of focused prayer while hiking.  Our hike began September 2 on Vermont’s Long Trail, a rigorous path, and has since taken us to more moderate trails in various parts of the Green Mountain state.

As we enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, we have a wonderful opportunity to pray and worship our Lord.  Sometimes our prayers are free-flowing and easy; other times jagged and uncertain.  That has nothing to do with the Lord, rather our own frailty.  Thankfully God is always near and sufficiently fills us with His Spirit.

Our prayers during Prayer Walk 2020 have covered many topics–our country, our world, the pandemic, protection from wildfires and hurricanes, healing, forgiveness, the lost and suffering, kindness and love for our neighbors, churches–just to name a few.  We’ve prayed for our military after sharing a hike up Mt. Mansfield with soldiers from the Army’s Mountain Division.  We’ve prayed for businesses after seeing far-too-many “Closed” signs on doors.  We’ve prayed for families as they navigate challenges with schooling, finances, and jobs.  While we offer our requests up to heaven, we also learn that God wants us to experience an increased intimacy with Him.

Our hiking over the past ten days has been on the Long Trail, climbing Vermont’s highest peak of Mt. Mansfield; near the waterfront of Lake Champlain in Burlington; on the Appalachian Trail near Killington; and on local trails in the southern part of the state.  We had the pleasure of meeting up with Walkie Talkie, the trail name of a young woman who is thru-hiking the Long Trail.  We met her in 2015 while all hiking the Appalachian Trail and adopted her as our “Trail Daughter”.  Only recently did we discover all of us were hiking in Vermont.  Walkie spent two nights with us while taking a break to heal her blisters and grab some supplies at REI.  We dropped her back off on the Long Trail and wished her well as she continued her hiking journey.

Since we are traveling in a car, we have had the opportunity to sample the local cuisine–lobster roll; Vermonter pizza with apples, bacon, cheddar, and maple syrup; and maple creemees (soft serve ice cream)!  Both the food and the local folks we’ve met have been wonderful!

What we don’t like is the mouse that got in our car and started eating our hiking food.  Chief has set traps but has only managed at this point to feed the rodent more peanut butter!

All in all, we have learned (once again) to be grateful and are reminded how truly blessed we are!

Psalm 9:1  “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

What Were We Thinking?!?!

We quickly discovered there is very little cell service in the Vermont wilderness and absolutely no way to write a blog post.  I’m writing this update at the Inn at Long Trail near Killington, VT sitting on a comfy bed and THANKFUL to be showered and fed.

So what has transpired in the past four days?  Our Prayer Walk 2020 has been a positive time to reflect and give thanks, a time to pray for you and those partnering with us in prayer.  We have prayed for many requests shared with us, for our communities and our country, our churches, for healing and the lost, for unity and love, for schools and so many things put on our hearts as we walk.

For those who want to know the “backstory”, keep reading…

On Wednesday, Chief and I ate a good hearty breakfast, strapped on heavy backpacks and started hiking from the Inn.   Chief was carrying about 35 lbs with food and water and I was carrying about 26 lbs.  It was nearly a one and a half mile hike from the Inn just to get to the Long Trail at Maine Junction–mostly uphill.  Ironically, it was nearly five years to the day that we hiked the Appalachian Trail by Maine Junction.  Maine Junction is where the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Long Trail (LT) split.  The Long Trail continues north toward Canada and the Appalachian Trail turns east toward New Hampshire.  Obviously, we were in much better hiking form five years ago.  By the time we reached the junction on Wednesday, we were gasping for air and asking each other, “What were we thinking?!”

170 miles of the LT from here to eternity (Canada)…

It started raining shortly thereafter.  Of course.

Rain always means mud and slippery rocks.  Chief had a fall early on after stepping on a slippery rock.  If you recall our AT hike, Chief fell on a slippery rock and ripped his left rotator cuff, requiring surgery six months after our hike plus a year and a half recovery.  He managed on Wednesday to fall on his right shoulder, trying to protect the old injury on the left side.  Now he has two bad shoulders.  Thankfully, the right shoulder is merely sore, we think…

The rain continued most of the morning but we had a reprieve for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Our plan was to hike about ten miles as we had heard a bad storm was forecasted that night.  More seriously, we ran out of drinking water that night.  We found what seemed like a level spot for the tent but turned out to be on an incline, which caused our plastic sleeping mats to slide downhill in the tent, interrupting any hope of sleep.  That turned out to be the least of our problems.  A steady rain all night turned torrential at one point.  Raindrops hit the rain fly of the tent so hard that a mist of water starting seeping inside.  The mist gathered and floated downhill to pool in the bottom of the tent, as gravity pulled our clothes, sleeping bags, and us in the same direction.  How ironic that we couldn’t bottle the water to drink.  At one point Chief whispered, “Are you awake?” How I wish it were only a nightmare.  Neither of us had any sleep that first night.  But there’s nothing worse the next day than putting on cold, wet, sweaty hiking clothes on a body so incredibly sore you can’t move around enough to get warm.  We both downed adequate doses of Ibuprofen for breakfast and packed up soggy gear to begin Day 2.

Thankfully Day 2 was warm and the sun shone among the many pine trees in the forest.  Our first task was to get water.  Thirst is a powerful motivator.  (I remember running out of water twice while hiking the AT.  It was brutal and I was so disgusted that it happened on our first day on the LT).  It was a wonderful sight to see a piped spring gushing with cold water.  Chief quickly filled the gravity bag and filtered two liters which we guzzled down.  Four more liters were filtered for the rest of the day.  Having water is wonderful but carrying it is not.  Each liter of water weighs over two lbs.  It took an hour just to walk some of the soreness out of our legs, back and feet but once we got moving we enjoyed the forest and the warmth of the day.  The trail in the afternoon was fairly straight and level–a welcome change–as it is also used in the winter for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.  We made it all the way to Brandon Gap and camped halfway up Mount Horrid the second night.  We didn’t anticipate fierce, howling winds would keep us awake for a second night.

After we packed up our gear Friday morning, we continued hiking up Mount Horrid.  It wasn’t long before we understood how it got that name.  The terrain and ascents were brutal.  It was difficult to catch a breath during the climbs.  Our bodies were in pain.  We encountered mud, slippery rock and tree roots.  A chilly wind blew and the fog made it difficult to see.  I took a tumble and ended up on my back.  I couldn’t get up due to the weight of my backpack.  Arms and legs were flailing like a turtle flipped on its shell.  Chief got me back upright and I seemed unhurt, although I then discovered the rock on which I fell broke the screen on my cell phone. A bit later, Chief hurt his knee and we admitted that our bodies weren’t holding up well on the rugged terrain of the LT.

“Are you having fun?,” Chief asked.

“No,” I admitted, then asked, “Do you think we should consider getting off trail on Sunday?”

“Why wait until Sunday?, Chief responded.

We discovered that we had cell service while standing on the top of the mountain so I called to see if we could get a shuttle from Brandon Gap back to the Inn where our car was parked.  A man named Charlie answered and said he could pick us up at 2:00 at the Gap.  So we turned around and hiked three miles back to the Gap and waited to be rescued.

The Prayer Walk is continuing, but we are selecting less rigorous trails to hike.  Today we hiked a portion of the AT around Kent Pond near Killington.  It was truly enjoyable.  We have learned that where we walk isn’t as important as why we walk.  Some lessons are truly learned the hard way.  Now that’s a better way of thinking!

Chief and Toad

Never Say Never

“We will NEVER do another long-distance hike,” we promised in 2015 after completing the Appalachian Trail.

And today, we drove to Vermont to start an end-to-end hike of the 272-mile Long Trail.

Eating those words,

Chief and Toad