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

We Are Finished! Let The Light Shine!

It was October 11, 2015, Day 182 of our Appalachian Trail hike, and we awoke to the sound of rippling water in a nearby stream.  It was still dark outside on this chilly fall morning but the thought of finishing our hike today was more than enough to quicken the pace of packing up the tent and gear.  We were only five miles away from completion.

Six months ago, the very thought of hiking 2,189.2 miles from Georgia to Maine was incomprehensible.  How do two retired people who have never backpacked or climbed a mountain expect to undertake such an escapade?  We didn’t know what to expect but set out step by step, mile by mile.  Our first phase was hiking the A.T. northbound from Georgia to central Pennsylvania.  At the end of July, we “flip-flopped” by flying up to Maine to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and then hiked the remainder of the trail southbound.  The more we hiked, the better our bodies adapted to the trail.  Our finish line was at Bethel, PA Route 501, anticlimactic for most, but for us the location wasn’t as important as the approaching achievement.

By now the reality of leaving the woods and the spectacular mountain views and returning to society was setting in.  We have come to enjoy the tranquility and simplicity of the daily hike.  Trail life was uncomplicated.  We hiked.  We ate.  We slept.  Not much else.  So what would “normal life” look like for us when we returned home to Ohio?

If you have followed this blog, you know that we have on occasion shared devotions from the Jesus Calling app that have spoken to us.  A recent devotion was quite pertinent and read, “Be willing to follow wherever I lead.  Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace.  Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough…Sometimes I lead you up a high mountain with only My hand to support you.  The higher you climb, the more spectacular the view becomes; also, the more keenly you sense your separation from the world with all its problems.  This frees you to experience exuberantly the joyous reality of My Presence… I will eventually lead you down the mountain, back into community with others.  Let My Light continue to shine within you as you walk among people again.”

We believe that God has given to us this wonderful hiking adventure for personal growth and to share His glory, but also to raise funds for our dear friend, John Gurney, who is battling cancer.  Many of you have already fulfilled a “pennies per mile” pledge and sent a donation to the Gurney family for John’s out-of-pocket medical expenses.  Your gift is greatly appreciated!  John is currently under the care of Hospice and most of those expenses are now covered by insurance.  There are still some other expenses if you feel led to send a gift now that our “Hike For John” is complete.
A penny per mile = $21.80
A nickel per mile = $109.00
A dime per mile = $218.00
A donation of any amount.
100% of your donation will help the Gurney Family and can be delivered one of these ways:

1. P.O. Box: Send a check to John or Jill Gurney at P.O. Box 41, Shelby, OH 44875.

2. Mechanics Bank: Visit any of the 8 Richland County, Ohio locations and make a deposit into the Gurney Health Account.
https://www.mymechanics.com/bank-and-atm-locations/main-office/

3. YouCaring: Pay online via paypal, credit or debit. A 2.9% and $.30 fee will be applied by either paypal or the credit/debit card company.
http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/new-race-to-run-for-john-gurney/309542

Thank you!!!

We are currently preparing to head home for some rest and recuperation.  Whatever is in store for us next, we hope to always be…

Shining God’s Light, Chief and Toad

 

How’d You Get the Name “Toad”?

I have been asked this question numerous times during the past six months while hiking on the Appalachian Trail. All hikers have a story about their trail name, whether given to them or self-selected.  Chief’s trail name is obvious to anyone who knows he retired as a Chief of Police. He has carried that title for over sixteen years so it seemed logical to use for his trail name.

So how did I become “Toad”?  You decide:

Scenario 1 – Our grandson couldn’t say Grandma Tina, instead calling me GrammaToad.

Scenario 2 – Instead is crawling as a baby I sort of hopped along.  Mom has called me Toad since I was small(er).

Scenario 3 – One of my favorite movie lines is from O Brother Where Art Thou – “We thought you was a toad!”

Scenario 4 – I thought about just using T. but figured it might be interpreted as Tee or Tea.  I then picked something in the woods that started with that letter.  Turtle sounded too slow so Toad was it.

Scenario 5 – Favorite lines from Stephen Crane:

“Think as I think,” said a man,
“Or you are abominably wicked;
You are a toad.”

And after I had thought of it,
I said, “I will, then, be a toad.”

Which scenario is true?  Thanks to hiker Firecracker for sharing Crane’s words with me; however, Scenario 4 is the actual unimpressive explanation for how I chose the hiker name of “Toad”. And now you know the rest of the story.

——

We just hiked into Pennsylvania – 2,089 miles done and exactly 100 miles to finish at Bethel PA Route 501.  Lord willing we should complete our journey on Sunday.  Watch for our “We Are Finished!” post…

Down the Homestretch,  Chief and Toad

Hiker Hazards

Today Chief and I hiked into New Jersey as we continue southbound on our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Imagine our surprise to hear that Gov. Christie has declared a state of emergency for New Jersey as Hurricane Joaquin approaches.  Heavy rainfall and high winds may hit the state beginning tomorrow night.

Chief says, “No problem. We can continue hiking if the weather isn’t too bad.”  So what IS the definition of “too bad”?  With only 163 miles to finish this hike, we don’t want to lose any time; however, a vision of us clinging to a pine tree spitting rain water isn’t appealing either.

We have already investigated that there are three shelters in the next twenty miles of the trail where we can hunker down if necessary.  We have a five-day supply of food and rain gear but never fathomed dealing with a hurricane while on the A.T.

If a hurricane wasn’t hazard enough, it is now bow season for deer hunting in New Jersey. Hikers are encouraged to take extra caution and wear blaze orange. I wasn’t aware of this when Chief stuck some branches in my cap and suggested I wear the brown shirt and white handkerchief.  Not funny, Chief!

The weirdest hazard we just encountered on the trail were two very large snapping turtles.  Their shells looked similar to the large rocks covering the trail so it wasn’t until the turtles moved that we noticed what they were!  Chief nearly stepped on one.  Wouldn’t that have been funny if it bit his toe?!

In Risky Business, Chief and Toad

Toad: What I Have Learned

Imagine our surprise to see familiar faces while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in New England.  Hiking toward us were Derek and Shannon who run the Hiker Hostel in Georgia where Chief and I stayed in April before starting our A.T. hike on Day 1.

I specifically remember Day 1 after breakfast when Derek loaded the anxious hikers and our gear into the van. As he drove us to the southern terminus of the trail for our drop off, Derek prophetically said, “Prepare to have your life changed.”  I contemplated what that statement might entail and hoped it would be in a good way.  168 days later, I think I can share…

What I have learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail:

Rattlesnakes don’t always bite but are really scary.

How to hang a bear bag.

What a moldering privy is.

How to bathe in a stream with two inches of running water.

To have a greater appreciation for the blessing of a home – indoor plumbing, a bed, roof over our heads, and a kitchen.

To live more simply, with few possessions.  To be joyful even in difficult circumstances.

To be humbled, since we didn’t often smell very good, yet people graciously helped us.

That people are extremely generous with the fundraising for the “Hike For John”.

To spend quality time with Jesus in prayer and meditation.

To not be such a pain to my husband (still a work in progress).

Greater appreciation for family and friends and the amazing support they provide to me.

To be still and free from worldly distractions and expectations.  To enjoy the moment.

That I miss coffee. 😀

Sincerely, Toad

– – –

Read the post from Chief about what he has learned.

 

 

 

Chief: What I Have Learned

What I have learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail:

It reinforced and I have witnessed that God is alive and helps us daily.

Importance of family and friendships and how much I missed our kids and grandchildren during this absence.

Importance of my wife as my best friend and how it makes it easier to endure difficult situations.

That hiking the Appalachian Trail is the most difficult thing I have done.

The importance of prayer.

Simplicity and living with just the necessities; understanding we just need a few basics in life.

To be grateful for a shower, a bed, and ice-cold pop (it’s “soda” everywhere on the A.T.)

Appreciating the beauty of God’s creation.

That friends help us along life’s way.

There are a lot of good decent people who help in this world.

That 2,189 miles is a LONG way!

Sincerely, Chief

– – –

Toad and I are currently in New York State, having completed 1,979 miles with 210 miles yet to hike.   We hope to finish in Pennsylvania in two weeks. Thank you for your continued support, comments and prayers!

Heroes

On sunny Day 163 of our Appalachian Trail hike, we are staying at Vanessa’s Salisbury, Connecticut home.  Beautifully restored, this 300-year old house is a respite for hikers and Vanessa is a gracious hostess who opens her home to total strangers.  We relished a hot shower and look forward to sinking into a real bed with pillows.

Chief and I are enjoying our hike through New England and in the past week have walked over one hundred miles.  We climbed Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts and several smaller mountains on our way to Connecticut. We have now completed 1,886 miles and ten states of the A.T. (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts).  There are 303 miles remaining that, Lord willing, we can finish by mid-October.

There are many heroes along the A.T. and some we met recently. Hendo and Hendo’s Mom passed us in Massachusetts.  Hendo serves in the military and is an Iraq veteran.  Her mother is 66 years old and the pair have been thru-hiking the trail for the past 16 months.   Hendo’s mission is to raise awareness for the issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide.

Another hiker wears prostheses after losing an arm and a foot, plus sight in one eye, while serving in our military. This wounded warrior is attempting a thru-hike of the A.T. and is unquestionably a true hero!

Two section hikers we met over the weekend shared that they had undergone a total of five hip replacements between them. Even with multiple surgeries the pair was out on the trail hiking and enjoying the Massachusetts scenery.

Two women with the combined trail name, “The Meandering Moms” said that this is their 19th year section hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The Moms, clothed in rain gear, were hiking on a chilly wet day determined to achieve this year’s mileage goal so that they are poised to finish the northern most portion of the trail next year.  An older hiker named Beepo is still heading north even though he knows he won’t have enough time to finish before Maine’s bad weather moves in. He says he will come back next year to finish. Their tenacity is admirable.

Meeting these heroes makes us realize that many brave men and women undertake challenging adventures, including hiking 2,189 miles on the Appalachian Trail. They are an inspiration to us.

Others we have recently met on the trail include Hat Man, who hikes sections of the A.T. each year wearing a different hat for each section, and a group of six from New York who each year hike different sections of the trail in Massachusetts.

This hike has given to us countless moments to reach out to others, sharing our story, and listening to the stories of others.  It reiterates the fact that relationships are more important than miles.

Celebrating Heroes on Life’s Path, Chief and Toad

Seasons of Change

Yellow leaves drifted softly to the ground at the top of Bromley Mountain in Vermont.  As Chief and I quietly hiked the Appalachian Trail, it dawned on me that autumn is nearly upon us.  The fall season will mark our third of this A.T. adventure, having begun our hike last spring on April 13th.

If you have followed our journey you know that we hiked the Appalachian Trail NOBO (northbound) from Georgia to the middle of Pennsylvania, then at the end of July flipped up to Maine to hike the remainder of the trail SOBO back to PA.  Currently, we have completed 1,734 miles with 455 miles yet to hike to complete the entire Appalachian Trail in one year.

Flipping has proven to be a good decision for us.  We recently heard a statistic that the A.T. in Maine and New Hampshire accounts for 20 percent of the trail length but takes 80 percent of a hiker’s effort. I don’t know if that is true but it could explain why Chief and I were so utterly exhausted after our trek through those two states.   We are, thankfully, reinvigorated and making good time as we continue SOBO.  Other hikers tell us that the hardest part is over and “It’s all downhill from here.”  We can validate that the trail is smoother, the mountains are not as high, and the temperatures are cooler.

The number of NOBO hikers that are passing us is dwindling. We did see Rocket and Timber the other day – two young ladies we knew from hiking in Virginia.  They remain determined and spirited in their thru-hiking efforts. NOBOs have about 500 miles to reach Katahdin in Maine before the weather gets too brutal and their hiking season is over for this year.

Interestingly, we have met several SOBOs who began their thru-hike in Maine during June/July and are planning to finish in Georgia sometime before Christmas.  McGhee and Frisbee are a young couple on such an adventure that have been hiking the same area as we are for the past several days.  Their hike may include a bit of winter season where we anticipate a season with a long hibernation!

Last week, we camped at the home of Stash and Scooter who for years have allowed hikers to pitch tents in their yard.  Stash and Scooter have a beautiful vegetable garden brimming with tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and herbs.  The limbs of their mature apple trees are heavy with ripe fruit that Stash plans to use for cider.  Chief and I were given free access to all of the seasonal vegetables and fruits.  What a delicious treat!  Also, a special thanks goes to Trail Angels in Vermont who gave rides to us – Super Kate and Nancy.

Chief and I ask that you please pray for John and the Gurney family. John was recently in the hospital and, although now at home, is struggling with a serious infection and new medications.  Thanks to the many contributors who have already donated or who have pledged money for the “Hike For John”.   It is greatly appreciated!  John’s faith and trust in the Lord is a continual inspiration to us.

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.”   Psalm 1:3

Embracing the Season, Chief and Toad