This is the first in a series of posts about my adventures on the Pine Mountain Trail. As I've posted before, I have been blocking off time each Monday morning to hike a bit of the PMT. This is a way for me to have some peaceful, reflective time of my own away from church and family life, to re-center myself for the week, and to begin thinking about next week's sermon. You may be thinking, “What a cushy job that priest has!” Believe me, hiking is just as much work for me as is sitting at my desk. I have to make myself go most of the time, even though I thoroughly enjoy hiking and gain a lot from my walks with God. Besides, who says work can't be enjoyable and beneficial for the soul?

So last week, I completed my first round on the PMT. It took me 11 hikes over the course of 4 months to complete the trail & it's various off-shoots and side trails. For a beginner like myself, the PMT is very accessible and not too difficult. It's quite doable, if one chooses to put aside the time to hike it (which is easier said than done in the course of our busy lives). But the trail is quite wonderful, and amazingly, God shows up every time!

The beginning...

But one cannot be completely prepared without the proper hiking tools. Here's what I take:

Walking StickMy trusty walking stick, given to me by John Brent, which is a bamboo stick that's been whittled away on my last trek on the PMT. It's surprisingly strong despite being broken (there's a parable there, isn't it?).

These shoes are made for hiking...My trusty hiking boots/shoes, which are Keen Targhees. Inspired by my good friend Sam. These are among the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. Nary a blister!

Make Love, Not LandfillMy trusty Sigg Water Bottle, given to me last week as an anniversary gift. So big. So cold.

This backpack has seen places I've only dreamed about!My trusty backpack, which is actually Molly's, which she lived out of when she hiked the west coast of Ireland. Yeah, she rocks. See the trash poking out? Always pick up trash when you hike! Inside the backpack are my trusty ENO hammock, in case I want to hook in somewhere and sit, and my journal, for recording my big (and not so big) ideas.

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_0391-300×225.jpg” alt=”Purchased at the very friendly FDR State Park Center” width=”300″ height=”225″ />Last, but not least is my trusty PMT map, which is getting rather dirty and marked up, which is what a map should look like.

So that's what I take.

The overlook at the Country StoreToday, I started again at the Country Store, which overlooks the beautiful Pine Mountain Valley. What a site!

The first trail of the PMT is the Overlook Loop. In includes about 1.3 of PMT and then doubles back on the Chestnut Oak Trail. This 3. 4 mile loop only takes about an hour and 45 minutes to complete, so it's a very nice day hike. It's an easy hike, with nothing too steep. If you do the loop counterclockwise, then I believe you do more down-hill. Next time, I'll try the other way and see if it's a bit more challenging.

img_0385There are a few great overlooks, and I imagine once the leaves fall, the views will be even better.

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I love trails with variety, and this one has some great rocky paths, but also some heavily wooded and shady areas. There is a small creek on this trail and some really swampy parts. They've done a good job of building some small bridges to get over these places and could probably use one or two more. But it's nothing impassable.

Perspective is an amazing thing, isn't it?There are beautiful trees of all shapes and sizes. If I was more scientific, I could name them for you, but I'm not there to look at types of trees, just their beauty.

I usually begin with a good steady hike and just let my thoughts go. I usually begin with the prayer, “OK, God, here I am, now where are you?” which is a great conversation starter for us. About halfway down the trail, I read the lessons for the next Sunday, which for this week are:

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10

James 1:17-27

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

I thought today about Pharisees and what they represent. In fact, I started today feeling frustrated with a personal relationship that is constantly challenging me. Over the course of my reflections, I came to a good point, but I don't want to spoil anything unless it makes it into my sermon on Sunday. 🙂

One down, 22 to go!It was a great hike and a great start to the week. Next week is a longer hike of 5.2 miles from the Gardens Overlook parking area to the Mountain Creek Trail and back.

Jeff+

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