Everyone Has Awful Days On The Trail

A strong entry from Snuggle and Darwin about being on the AT during extreme conditions. Check out their blog and follow along on their Appalachian Trail adventure.

3/19/15 The Awful Day



You Got Funk


The first time I tangibly learned that hikers get stinky was a sixty-mile hike I went on a few years ago. However, my realization did not come at the end of the hike. It came fairly quickly. The second day kind of quickly. I was on the trail with four other guys when one of them re-injured his foot from a previous recreational activity.  Eight miles into the first day he was beginning to feel the pain causing him to pause occasionally to rest his foot. As the next day came, he chose to continue because he believes going forward far outweighs going backwards. A few miles into our day, his foot began to lock up again so when we found signal on our phone, he gave his wife a call and cashed in his Get Off The Trail Free card. When she arrived, she was very courteous to us however, she was sure to let us know very kindly that we reeked of an unpleasant odor. He left the trail and I continued on in my stench for five more days.

Another occurrence was a trip I took with a friend for an overnight hike in the heat of summer. We hiked a twelve-mile loop; a very fun and rewarding time in the woods. When we reached his truck, I changed my shoes as always. My hiking boots are for hiking only. He didn’t have much to say for the first few miles. We reached an Amish store where we found a great turkey sandwich and Birch Beer (root beer) for lunch. When we got back in the truck, there was a foul redolence of sweaty feet that permeated the cab. It was a horrid smell that deserved more than the two windows of aeration.

You know what else stinks? Your soul? That is until it was washed in the blood of Jesus, (Imagine Billy Sunday just preaching your sins away as you read that). Seriously folks, we stink to God. That’s why when we worship (responding to who God is and what He does in our lives), we are like a pleasing aroma to Him.

2 Cor. 2:15 (NIV) – For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

That means only God can wash away our stank. Maybe you ask how we acquired such a funk. I’ll tell ya; the world baptized us in funk. We were born into sin. Not to get all crazy on ya (maybe I have already talking about sin and all) but we were born separated from the holiness of our creator. When we exited our mommy’s womb, we breathed in a stank. That stank covered us and that stank has been molding us since birth. There’s only one way to get rid of that stank.

I’m sure you’ve experienced stepping in a pile of mess once in your life and there was no getting rid of that stank so you threw your shoes away. Maybe you attend a gym and you gym clothes reek from a stench that makes the washing machine immediately quit working. That kind of stench doesn’t go away on its own. There has to be some serious purging. Disinfection is not going to work on them clothes nor will any disinfection work on your soul. That’s why the God tells us we have to be made a new creation.

2 Cor. 5:17 (NIV) – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here.

No power in Heaven or earth can dispel your stank. It’s got to go. I’m surprised my friend didn’t throw my boots out the window. I’m surprised my other friend’s wife didn’t but a no entrance sign on her car door. I was carrying with me some stank. Until I found Christ, I was spiritually carrying around some stank. And I would venture to say unless you know Christ and follow him, you stink!

Walking Off The Spiritual War


After having an hour long conversation with a friend about a tough situation he is going through, we decided we needed call it a day. We talked on our way to our trucks yet I parked further away than he did in a different parking lot. He offered me a ride to my truck but I replied without even thinking, “No, I need to walk off the war.” Immediately I thought about Earl Shaffer and his reason for being the first person to uninterruptedly walk the entire Appalachian Trail. In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II.

I can not imagine what he may have experienced as he fought over seas in WWII. It had to have been tragic enough that he felt the need to get out of his surroundings and be alone for a few months walking in the woods in order to cope with his PTSD. However, what I can understand is my own experience of war, a spiritual war. That spiritual war is one fought spiritually yet transpires physically. Ephesians says,

“ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,

against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and

against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (6:12)

There is a war every christian must engage in. It is a struggle, a conflict, a strife. We do not just fight but we wrestle as some translations put it. This fight is an effort or a strain. It is not an easy walk in the woods. It is a struggle similar to taking on an eight mile, straight-up-the-mountain, hike with hardly any switch backs with your backpack filled to capacity after leaving your resupply. By the end of the first mile, you feel like scrapping everything in your pack and getting to the top where, hopefully, camp is at.

However you know if you do that, you will loose your much needed supplies to get you through to the next resupply. The mental and physical struggle is difficult to bear. With every step, you question your original idea to get out an hike. You question is it worth it. You consider a phone call home is easier. You weigh whether quitting is noble.  Still you trudge along, knowing that you will make it. You just need to make it.

In the same sense, as my friend and I talked, I fought the battle in my spirit to say what was needed to say so that he understood and possibly his life changed however minuscule it may have been. I wanted him to feel encouraged and our spiritual enemy to feel defeated. I wanted to know that what we discussed would make him feel a little closer to God. Although he asked some very good questions, I didn’t have all the answers. And even if I did feel that I had an answer, I may not have said anything discerning that he may not have understood the depth of what it took to grasp the manifold wisdom of God.

So I prayed. I fought spiritual fire with spiritual fire, my spiritual sword against the enemy’s spiritual sword. I fired spiritual bullets towards the enemy while he fired back. It was a war. It was a battle. It was a struggle. It was a wrestle. We licked each other. Wounds were made. Blows were landed. We stood on the battlefield spiritually clobbering each other.

I do believe I got the upper hand. But only momentarily. There will be another fight. Even still as we parted ways, I had to take a minute to walk to my truck. I had to rest from a hard fight. I had to lick my wounds, think about what was said, what should have been said and what should not have been said. I had to assess the fight and decide whether it was fought well or fought poorly. I had to decide to put it in God’s hands and know that I was a good servant of His word. The walk to my truck was a slow hike full of deliberation, meditation and rumination.

I had to walk off the war.

Hike Your Own Hike

This was a paper I wrote for my Effective Communications class at Grace College of Divinity.


Among the hiking community a popular phrase permeates the trail: Hike your own hike. Every hiker has a philosophy about how to prepare, pack, hike and camp. At the foundation of any packing philosophy is determining comfort at the hiking level or comfort at the camping level. The phrase Hike Your Own Hike has become prevalent on the trail due to arrogance of some or lawlessness of others. Hike Your Own Hike is an aphorism; hikers debate its application since it varies in its absolute definition. The hiking community struggles to define whether Hike Your Own Hike has a universal application beneficial to the community or if it is a personal declaration to enhance one’s own hike.

Although the origin of the statement is unknown, and there are no documents to trace it back to, the statement has taken on a life of its own within the hiking community. It is stated in various ways such as live your own life, mind your own business, control your own destiny, but its universal meaning is, “Travel your own journey. Let others travel theirs.”[1] In other words, each person has an idea of the way life should be lived.

The causative behaviors that have sparked this ideology are numerous; choices in gear, clothing, food, and entertainment along with moral structures, and personality traits. Hikers have varying philosophies for comfort and entertainment. Therefore, debate wages over whether habits should be personal or communal. This means trail habits have come into questions such as how loud radios should be, how far should one go when partying, is it considered graffiti or art in trail shelters or is proper sanitation acceptable along the trail or in designated areas.

Renee “She-Ra” Patrick is an avid hiker who has completed The Triple Crown; the AT, PCT and the CDT, and she addresses the Hike Your Own Hike philosophy in her article by admitting that there are many different hiking styles on the long trails. She states, “Hike Your Own Hike is about tolerance. It’s about recognizing our differences and being ok with that.”[2] Tolerating the differences of one another allows hikers to appreciate the diversity on the trail. It is what makes the trail beautiful; that it attracst people from all walks of life.

With the numbers of hikers getting larger each year, decisions have greater potential to affect other hikers, especially those in close proximity. The ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) reports the number of hikers have grown exponentially over the years. The reports show that from 2007-2013 the number of hikers jumped from 526 to 875 hiking the whole trail. Although hiking may be an individual sport, there lies a multilayered leisure subculture or community where membership, identity, and status are shaped by intersections of class, race and gender. In other words, as the number of hikers grows, the potential grows for diversity to leak into the hiking community. The trail is no longer attracting only outdoorsy, nature loving people. People are coming to the trail for solitude, sport, and achievement.

The answer to finding middle ground with the Hike Your Own Hike premise is one of morality. Kenny Howell says in his article When Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) Does NOT Apply,

“Hike your own hike also contains a moral framework to keep the more self-centered core principle in place. This framework represents a basic standard for hiker etiquette. In layman’s, it means that every hiker is entitled to hike their own hike up and to the point that it begins to negatively impact the experience of another hiker.”[3]

People choose to take to the trail for reasons that can be pseudo selfish: therapy, health, entertainment or sport. Howell explains that hiking can be a great experience until one’s experience becomes disruptive to another person.

There are two potential reasons Hike Your Own Hike is misleading is: first it gives license to those who want to enjoy their hike in any way they feel. There are no rules. Second, it suggests individual hikers to hike their own specific way free from peer-pressure from others. A hiker should feel comfortable to use the gear they want, walk as far as they want, and be critiqued less than others.

However, both of these should be filtered through the lens of community. When an individual steps foot on the trail, he/she immediately becomes part of a community of hikers and every decision made will affect others in some way. To be a part of community of any kind means there will always be limits on individual freedoms; you are free to do as you like until your freedom begins to affect the freedom of others. We all have to live together in perpetual compromise. Gutmann and Thompson write in their article Valuing Compromise for the Common Good, “To begin to make compromise more feasible and the common good more attainable, we need to appreciate the distinctive value of compromise.”[4] In other words, sacrifices will have to be made by each individual for the common good of the community. Without sacrifice, there will always be disagreements and the possibility of unpleasant experiences on the trail.



[1] “Hike Your Own Hike [Archive] – WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail.” WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail – Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail News, Appalachian Trail News Announcements and Articles. Accessed October 24, 2015.

[2] Patrick, Renee. “Hike Your Own Hike.” She-ra Hikes. Last modified February 18, 2015.

[3] Howell, Kenny. “When Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) Does NOT Apply [Part 1].” Appalachian Trials. Last modified January 2, 2015.

[4] Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis F. Thompson. “Valuing Compromise for the Common Good.” Daedalus 142.2 (Spring 2013): 185-198.



 Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis F. Thompson. “Valuing Compromise for the Common Good.” Daedalus 142.2 (Spring 2013): 185-198, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10591657.

“Hike Your Own Hike [Archive] – WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail.” WhiteBlaze – Appalachian Trail – Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail News, Appalachian Trail News Announcements and Articles. Accessed October 24, 2015. http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-40445.html.

Howell, Kenny. “When Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH) Does NOT Apply [Part 1].” Appalachian Trials. Last modified January 2, 2015. http://appalachiantrials.com/hyoh-does-not-apply/.

Patrick, Renee. “Hike Your Own Hike.” She-ra Hikes. Last modified February 18, 2015. https://sherahikes.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/hike-your-own-hike/.

Wilhoite Mill Trail

Wilhoite Trail

During Fall Break, it is always hard to find something for you child to do when they are bored. It seems that all toys and games have been exhausted and it is up to the creative parent to find them something else to keep their attention. I admit, I fail to spend enough time with my son and I will give no reason or excuse why. I just do. So this week, I knew I would want to get him out and do some day hiking. However, his small legs and feet can only take so much before he tires and wants to go.


I chose a small trail by the Duck River (I refuse to call it the Duck Scenic River because I did’t grow up with that name and think it’s a stupid name). My wife and I used to hike these trails when were dating.


We parked at the trail head and started on the Wilhoite Trail. Hence the reason I called it the Wilhoite Trail. However, the Wilhoite Trail cuts to the left and circles back around. We went right at the fork.  It wasn’t an exciting hike and there is not much to see but it is a good time in the woods and cuts around to the back end of the campground.

IMG_5301Back in the thicket of pines we were pleasantly greeted by a doe and her fawns. They sat staring at us about as much as we stared at them. She would look at us then walk away then turn around and come back to look at us some more. We saw some squirrels also.

It was a good time to hangout. After the walk, we went to the playground at the campsite then the playground at the main park. We then got my state park passport stamped. This is a great program. It encourages you to visit all the state parks and record what you did while you were there. Click on picture to learn more.

TN Park passport

Through the whole trip he kept saying, “Hey Daddy.” It was hilarious. Watch to the very end of the video to hear him.

It was a great day of hiking and visiting my dad and riding in the country. I always loved doing that with my dad. It so good to be able to share those memories while making new ones with my son.

Hiking Abram’s Falls

Recently I took a trip for my birthday to the Great Smoky Mountains. I had two objectives: Hike on the Appalachian Trail and visit the Titanic exhibit in Pigeon Forge. I succeeded in visiting the Titanic. It was amazing in itself but even more so because I received a free entrance since I am a teacher.

IMG_5242 IMG_5241

I wasn’t so lucky in my other objective. Minor details held me back from making it to the AT so the alternative was just as good and gave me the opportunity to mark some things off my bucket list.

My wife and our friend are great photographers and they wanted to go to Cade’s Cove so I decided to join them at the Cove and hike back to Abrams Falls. It was a great 2.5 mile hike back and the falls didn’t disappoint (just the hipsters who wouldn’t get out of the way of a great photo shot).


The hike was a slightly easy walk (for those who hike) yet the sign called for a moderate to difficult hike. It had a couple of ascents going but the ascents coming back were far greater. The trail is wide to accommodate for groups of hikers in which there were plenty of those. The weather was perfect; cool enough to sweat from a good workout.


The falls aren’t that large but there is definitely a meditative experience. Gallons of water falling just a few short feet or thousands of feet, either case tends to make one sit in awe and contemplate the meaning of life, the reward of the walk or the   challenge of the return. Some folks sat eating fruit and I smelled the sweet smells and desired some myself. There was a rock perfectly positioned in recliner form to sit back with your feet propped up and watch the falls. It was a highly desired perch so I didn’t sit long to give others the opportunity to experience the natural recliner.


The walk back proved a little more difficult since the climbs were a tad bit steeper. I not only gained entertainment from the hike but those who were walking towards the falls asking me how much further as well as my judgement on every single tourist who has absolutely no inkling of proper hike wear. Blue jeans, flip-flops, flats, hoodies. Then others went to extremes wearing outfits you’d think they just finished running a marathon with all their spandex. It was definitely fascinating.


After I returned from the Falls, I went just a half mile over to Elijah Oliver’s cabin. I met a couple who lives in the area and likes to get away from “life” and hang out at the Cove. They were a very nice couple. One of the reasons I love hiking is you always run into some very nice folks who like to talk. I like to listen So it works.

So that’s my day hike. Hope you enjoyed.

Mousetail Landing State Park

Mousetail Landing State Park

This was my first hike alone. It started as 8 miles but I took a mountain bike trail to extend it further. The drive there was nice. I stopped at an Amish store for a sandwich and okra chips. The entrance can sneak up on you but it’s a great State Park and I would love to hike it again… With friends!!!

Mousetail Landing State Park trail map

Most of my commentary is on the video. Some points I’d like to make are:

  • Difficulty: moderate (can be strenuous for some)
  • Miles: roughly 12 miles (this includes hiking mountain bike trails to make a figure 8)
  • Marking: Clearly marked but easily confusing since mountain bike trails criss cross the trail in numerous places
  • Shelter: Stay at shelter #2. Shelter #1 has no view.
  • Terrain: dirt, mossy, rocky; bridges can be slippery if recently rained
  • Water sources: Take plenty of water. Hardly any water unless it rains
  • Trail conditions: Lots of blowdowns and debris on the trail
    • Nothing but ups and downs. Hardly (but some) flat hiking