I’ve seen it in the news before….“Couple Found, Safe After 30 Minute Hike Became a 30 Hour Ordeal!”, “Man, Survives 5 days on Trail Mix and A Single Bottle of Water After Getting Lost During A Late Afternoon Jog.”, “Day Trip Turns Into Nightmare as Hikers Veer Off Trail, Found by Local Scouts 3 Days Later!”
I always thought it a bit odd that these wayward wood travelers never seemed to be remotely prepared for an unexpected extended journey. After all, who goes traipsing into the woods with little more than a bottle of water? How hard is it to stay on a trail in broad daylight? How can a 30 minute hike turn into a news worthy, life threatening event? Well, I think I have the answer to these questions now.
Yep, the hubby and I went for another hike the other day. The sun was shining and he was anxious to try a new trail and his handy new backpack/camera case. Having learned a bit from our previous hiking misadventures, we were careful to dress appropriately for the chilly weather and dodgy terrain. We loaded Scott’s new camera bag/backpack with one energy bar and some water. I had tissues in my pocket for the inevitable drippy nose that accompanies early morning, chilly weather, pre-Spring hikes. We both had our cell phones and a good pair of sturdy shoes. We were ready to hit the trail like Luis and Clark, or Lois and Clark, or maybe more like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.
The trail was clearly marked with blue lines painted on various trees. As part of an old civil war trail, it is maintained with great care. By maintained I mean, someone saws logs that have recently fallen onto the path and the rickety wooden bridges that span small gaps where the trail crosses water or ravines are never missing important boards. It is still a natural trail, and as such is prone to variations caused by time and weather.
When the trail changes direction, or if there are various paths to choose from, the trail is marked with two blue lines on the nearest tree. We were feeling confident in our ability to spot such marks; after all, we have hiked at least two of these trails before…we were practically experts! ( In hindsight, I can almost hear God giggling at our misplaced confidence.)
About an hour into our journey, we realized we had not seen any of those blue marks in a while. Matter of fact, we could no longer see the well worn trail we had been on…it was as if the path just disappeared into a pile of leaves, rocks and tree branches. “Are we lost?” I asked my hubby/trusty trail guide. “Not at all, just follow me” came his reply, and I did.
I followed him over tree trunks, under thickets, past thorn-covered plants and deep into a tangle of tree branches, vines, and piles of decaying leaves. “Are you sure this is the way?” I asked, not just once, but with every step I took. “Yes!” he would respond in an ‘I can’t-believe you don’t trust me’ tone.
As I teetered over a rather large fallen tree and struggled to catch up to my ‘sure he knows where he is going’ husband, I began to envision the headlines. “Wife kills Husband for Last Energy Bar Only to Die Herself from Starvation a Day Later on Remote Trail” or “Local Couple Found After a Early Morning Hike Turned Into a 10 Day Ordeal!” ….. “So THIS is how it happens!”, I thought to myself.
We were not lost for too long,( according to my hubby/trail guide, we were never actually lost), but it was humbling to see how quickly we could lose our way. How did we miss the marks? How did we manage to veer off the intended path? I was reminded of how beneficial a well walked; marked and planned path is to those on a journey to an unfamiliar place.
Lord, as I follow the path you have set my feet on, help me to keep my eyes and heart open to the things You use to guide me, to follow the trail worn down by the “cloud of witnesses” you have lead before me and to surround myself with co-journeyers who will do the same.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us…” Hebrews 12:1