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

Hickory Ridge Trail – Henry Horton State Park

Hickory Ridge Trail Another semester down and another hike to do. However, this was a small day hike but it was a joy to get out to walk in the woods again. This trip took me to a local trail at Henry Horton State Park thirty minutes from the house. I didn’t know what to expect but it proved to destroy any expectations I could have had. Henry Horton State Park is offering more and more than they used to and I’m quite pleased to see that this park is finally up-scaling to offer many events and trails for the outdoors enthusiast. I parked at the camp store just off Highway 31. Although it was closed, I grabbed a map and checked out my options of trails. The Hickory Ridge Trail has two loops; inner and outer loop. Of course I chose the outer loop however I noticed that it also connects to another trail so I had to oblige and put two trails together to make it worth my travels. Hickory Ridge Trail I started at the Camp Store parking area. It curls though some trees then a small forest road crossing to the parking area where the trailhead actually is. From there the trail takes off with plenty of rocky scenes. A campsite resides to the right where some campers had already settled. I may have been too early for them because it didn’t look that they had began to stir. Hickory Ridge Trail I arrived at the first fork that offered the inner or outer loop. The outer loop continued through the woods curving through the trees offering birds of color and sounds and vegetation of Tennessee kind. I wrapped up some recording on my phone and tucked my phone in my pocket when I jumped a cute little fawn who took off just ahead of me and never looked back. Twenty feet down the trail I believe I ran into its mother staring at me from a distance. She saw me first. More walking brought me to a structure of rocks that I was guessing was a spring house but was unsure. I shot some more video of the structure and daydreamed of who would have constructed it and for what reasons. I spent some time looking around the structure and decided to move forward. Ranger Jenkins Hickory Ridge Trail spring house The trail came to a clearing where workers had put rocks down for what may be swampy when it rains too much. I was very thankful for their hard work not just because of their attempts to keep my feet dry but also it created a very picturesque area. I came to another fork where my connector trail would take me to the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail. Hickory Ridge Trail Hickory Ridge Trail fork The trail commuted to the right where it worked back into the trees for a distance. It led me past a rock wall and paralleled the wall for yards before cutting up through the wall. A little further it opened up to cross another forest road. The trail then cut through hedges and tall grass before coming to the fork of the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Loop. Hickory Ridge Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail I went right anticipating the backcountry campsites and overlook deck. The trail would offer mud then dirt off and on through pines and overgrowth. I grabbed a perfect hiking stick from a fallen pine tree that fit my hand and was good enough to not cause discomfort by weight or length. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail IMG_4541 Here I began the first incline of the trail. Compared to my previous experiences, this incline was small. It didn’t make me work hard enough to lose breath but the humidity of the day caused enough sweat to fill buckets. When the trail made it to the top of the incline, it cut left and lined the ridge for  a while. Boulders began making themselves known and I even saw a Dr. Pepper can sitting on one. The backcountry campsites became visible moments after reaching the ridge-top. I never saw campsite three, found campsite two but didn’t follow the trail to see campsite one. The trail led to campsite one to the left but I took the trail that led down a steep decline to the right informing me of the overlook ahead. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Adeline Wilhoite River Trail The steps on the overlook were a tad narrow. When I reached the top of the overlook, I noticed it overlooked a field. I was a little let down because the view I desired was not of a field but the Duck River. Further in the hike I noticed two other deer stands and began to wonder if maybe this overlook was built not to be an “overlook” but to be a glorified deer stand. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail IMG_4548 IMG_4551 IMG_4552 In any case, I spent a moment then climbed down to make my way towards the river. The river scene on the Adeline Wilhoit Trail is brief. They do provide a bench for contemplation or rest but the river opening is a few yards long then the trail cuts back into the trees. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail   At the fork you can take the left to continue the loop back to the connector of the Hickory Ridge Trail or you can go right which takes the River Trail which I’m sure has more water vistas. This was not my direction for today. Adeline Wilhoite River Trail I went left and the trail eased its way back up the ridge. No extreme climbing. The trail meanders back and forth (not necessarily switch backs) through the woods till it reaches back to the where the loop begins. I took the connector trail back to the Hickory Ridge Outer Loop and turned back towards the trailhead. So far the trail had not offered much in the way of views or vistas. It has been mostly woods and undergrowth with the songs of birds, crickets, tree frogs and wind. Towards the end of the trail (depending which way you turn at the fork it could be the beginning of the trail) I came across a tree that was very interesting. Hickory Ridge Trail

Hickory Ridge Trail

This was an accidental picture

Tradition says these trees were made by the indians bending the sapling over in the direction they wanted to remember and tying it down. Over time it grew with a bend. Check out this link to learn more. This one had a hollowed out area that contained some brown liquid. Not sure what that is. I lodged my phone in the bark of a birch tree and took a picture to give an idea of size. Hickory Ridge TrailFurther down the trail I came across another tree that was tall and hollow. I leaned my phone against a small tree and took another picture to contrast size. Hickory Ridge Trail Hickory Ridge Trail More towards the end of my hike I came across an area that is rocky and provided many holes and ditches that went deep in the ground. These are a gnome’s playground. The temperatures were very cool down in the bottom and provided temporary relief from the humidity above. IMG_4613 IMG_4614 IMG_4615 I finally came to the original fork that leads back to the trailhead and further to the camp store. I was stopped briefly by a camper’s small dog that refused to let me by. I reached out to show I was harmless and implore for passage. It gave in because I had paid the price with a belly rub. I smiled to the camper and continued to the Camp Store. Hickory Ridge Trail Unfortunately, a Fudge Round was not in order at the moment but a coke machine providing Mt. Dews were available. I put in my money and received as a reward for my hard work a hot Mt. Dew. The coke machine was on but I believe they forgot to fill it with freon. You better believe I chugged it anyway. The Hickory Ridge Trail and the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail surpassed my expectations more than it let me down with the overlook. I was very pleased with the hike. All in all, it was 6.5 miles. I can’t wait to take the wife and son back to do some backcountry camping. Hike out, camp out then hike back. Should be a fun trip. I do recommend if you are in the Henry Horton State Park area to treat yourself to this great day hike that shouldn’t take you more than 2-3 hours. Don’t expect views but do expect solitude and fresh air. IMG_4532_Fotor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrSgJHEpThE