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Sometimes God Sneaks Up on You (Part 2)

January 14, 2009

Continued from previous post

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When the appointed time came for this year’s Godcation, I grabbed my journal, a good pen, my hiking boots, a backpack and a dorky-looking poncho. I loaded them into the car, and drove off into the sunrise to meet up with God in the great Adirondack Mountains.

The Adirondacks are a pristine swath of six million acres of preserved land in upstate New York. There are 42 high peaks interspersed with a multitude of lakes, and expansive stretches of rural wilderness that go on for miles. It is an ideal place to get away, to be alone with God. Sure, a few people get lost out there every year. It is a big place after all. But those unfortunate souls usually get into trouble because of plain old-fashioned stupidity. Each month, Aridondac magazine devotes a few pages to an intriguing section called “The Incident Report,” where the park rangers report on hikers’ mishaps in the forest. It’s the best part of the magazine:

“There were two incidents in late April that were caused by deep snow remaining long after hikers thought Spring had arrived.” Apparently a couple of guys and a girl were hiking the monster Whiteface Mountain dressed only in shorts and sneakers. They continued for several hours hiking the mountain, in spite of running into snow, eventually up to four feet deep. “Here they decided to call 911 for help.” Duh. Stupid kids. Why do all the young people insist on wearing shorts these days, even in the winter?

And here’s another good one. “Other incidents included a heart attack death of a fifty-three-year old male at Slant Rock.” Poor sucker. I wonder how long it was before they found him. If he was alone it could have been days before they realized he was a goner, and then a few more before they found him. Shoulda kept up with the workouts, buddy! Yeah, and maybe you could have laid off the cheesecake, too. Fat guy thinks he can hike the Adirondacks. What was he thinking?

I consulted the Lord with my trusty hiking guide, and we carefully selected the first day’s hike: Hoffman’s Notch. This trail was particularly appealing because it was not far from the lodge we were staying at, and although it was a seven mile trail, the vertical rise was only three hundred feet. In other words, it was an easy hike. “Handsome streams, waterfalls and upland marshes edge the trail in its entire length,” the guidebook said. Sounds beautiful. I figured I could hit the trail mid-morning, hike for a few hours, then turn around and get back to the lodge in time for dinner. God agreed heartily with my excellent plan.

By the time I reached the trailhead, the sky was turning a stubborn grey overcast. But I wasn’t going to let a few clouds bother me. Besides, I had that poncho in my backpack in case it rained. I parked the car, got out and found the signs marking the start of the trail. I took in a deep breath, relishing the scent of balsam evergreens, the smells and sounds of the forest, and the sheer joy of having uninterrupted time alone with God.

I had prepared a meditative hike for today, drawing from the words of the Psalms to reflect on God’s goodness. That would be a good way to start off the Godcation, to get us on a good spiritual footing. There was much to be grateful for, and I hadn’t nearly thanked God as much as I should.

The first few hundred yards of the hike were like a stroll down an off-country lane. The trail offered wide, roomy paths, and every so often a sturdy bridge crossed over one of those handsome streams that was mentioned in the guidebook. I began reciting words of praise and gratefulness in time with my steps, taking in the beauty of the forest along the way.

Soon the path became more narrow and uneven, meandering through a forest that was becoming increasingly dense. Even though it had only been a few minutes, I felt a million miles from civilization. Not a sole to be seen. All alone in the big woods. Unfortunately, it was here that another thought crossed my mind, a non-grateful thought, interrupting my words of praise. “Gosh, I really am quite alone out here. What if….” I tried to discipline my thoughts. Oh, come now, you’re a big boy. You’ve hiked in these mountains since you were a teenager. “Yeah, but what if I have a heart attack like the guy in the Incident Report? He wasn’t much older than me. Yes, I could have a heart attack. No one would find me for days!” I checked my pulse. Was that a shooting pain down my arm? A low grade anxiety crept up and hung by my side, dogging my steps as I delved deeper and deeper into the dark recess of the black forest. What if what if what if what if?? I couldn’t stop thinking about the fifty-three-year-old-male in the Accident Report. That could happen to anybody. I mean, at least any male who is closing in on the age of fifty.

Dying of a heart attack in the wilderness would definitely ruin my Godcation.

Click here to continue to Part 3.

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