img_0273I’m embarrassed to say that it’s been months since my last hike. Partly because of an unusually rainy and a not-so-unusually hot summer, I just haven’t been able to make my weekly jaunts through the Pine Mountain Trail. Also, this summer has been increasingly busy with everything at the church and beyond, with camps and vacations. Don’t get me wrong, this summer has been incredible, but has really limited my hikes, unfortunately.

For Father’s Day, Molly and the kids got me a new pair of hiking shoes. I’m quite partial to Keen’s because they are super-comfortable and super-durable. You can see below how much I’ve used my last pair. I’m a creature of habit, so Molly bought me the exact same style, only in a different color. Even though I got them on Father’s Day, I haven’t been able to break them in on the trail. So on Wednesday morning, I laced them up, strapped on my Camelbak, got my poles and my journal, and headed off to Pine Mountain.

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The shoe on the left once looked like the shoe on the right.

I have been wanting to hike Dowdell’s Knob again, especially after the tornadoes that struck in the spring. They have finally reopened the loop on Dowdell’s Knob, even though there’s still a section of the PMT from that loop to Mollyhugger Hill that is closed. This loop is one of my favorites because it’s a perfect 2 hour hike, being only 4.3 miles. But this day was atypically hot, not just because of the temperature, but because of the lack of shade!

img_0276I was stunned to see so many bent trees, uprooted majestic oaks, naked from their lack of leaves. You can pretty much see the direction the tornado took as it plowed through the landscape. Where there was once a nice canopy of shade, was almost a desolate and rocky desert. It reminded me of the landscape in those “Jesus videos” you can watch–rocky, dry, and hot.

On many parts of the trail, you can stand and look out over the valley and see how the storm leveled everything. The views were amazing, but also heartbreaking to see how nature ran it’s course. I am thankful to the hard work of the volunteers and workers at FDR who have cleared these trails for us to walk. I did come across one small section of the loop that was blocked by two big trees. Luckily, other hikers have created a temporary path around it, which only requires a little bit of traversing over bushes and debris.

img_0275As I left, I was soaked! But sitting next to the statue of FDR seemed to cool me down. If you haven’t been on the trail to see some the damage, I encourage you to take an early morning or late afternoon hike on the Dowdell’s Knob loop. Take plenty of water!

As I hiked, I pondered this week’s Gospel reading of the disciples being amidst the storm and seeing the form of a man walking on the water. They thought it was a ghost. Instead, it was Jesus, standing amongst the waves as the “I AM,” the Creator and Master of the sea, who has all power to withstand any storm. I looked around at the trees around me, bent and splintered, and realized that they too withstood the storm, just like the disciples. Our Lord stands in the middle of such tragedy, and holds on to those who are being bent and splintered. It doesn’t mean that the storm doesn’t hurt the disciples, or the trees, but in the end, they remain…changed, different, broken, but existing. Sometimes that’s all we can ask for.

Thanks be to God for another great hike! For new shoes, for life becoming more balanced, and for the storms that allow me to think about where God is in the midst of them.

Jeff+