When we reached the top at Newfound Gap, we encountered a parking lot absolutely packed with cars, suv's, motorcycles, campers, etc... After finding a parking spot, of course the next thing on the agenda was a family photo op. As I patiently waited for my daughter to actually look in the direction of the camera, I fidgeted at how cold it was. Just before getting out of the van I noticed that the temperature had dropped from 53 degrees in the valley, down to 40 degrees up top. That is a 13 degree drop for all of you math majors out there. However, what I didn't tell you was that the wind was blowing at around 20 miles per hour on top of that mountain, and we could see our breath as the ice formed on the edge of our nostrils.
Just ahead we saw a small sign that denoted that this was a trailhead for the "Appalachian Trail." The sign said that it was only 1,979 miles remaining to the finish in Maine. WOW... I thought that maybe we could go a couple hundred yards up the trail to see what it was like. In case you don't know, the Appalachian Trail spans 14 states and runs from Georgia all the way up to Maine. The total length is 2,178 miles and can be hiked several different ways. The most devoted will hike this trail in one season which is called "Thru-Hiking." Still others will just take it in pieces which is called "Section-Hiking." I was there for neither. I just wanted to get a view from the top.
My wife and I and our three kids started up the trail. Along the trail we encountered snow and ice. I later discovered that we had gone from an elevation of 5,045 to 6,250. Although I had hiking boots on, the rest of my family just had tennis shoes. To say that we were ill prepared would be like saying the Titanic just sort of touched an iceberg. We had guys passing us with 50 pound packs on their backs, and metal walking sticks in each hand. They were setting out to accomplish and tackle this trail. About a mile up the strenuous trail, my wife and daughter decided to turn back. It was decided by my two sons and I to pursue it a little further up hill. The farther we climbed, the more snow , icicles, tree roots, and rocks we encountered. Did I mention that this was April? We finally decided to turn around and head back.
As we were heading back, I noticed the gear, or lack thereof of the people heading up. One girl was wearing flip-flops. Another person was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Others were carrying cameras and bottles of water, which prohibited themselves from having a free hand if they slipped. I was curious why I hadn't noticed this on the way up while I was passing people, or for that matter not noticed my lack of equipment and gear. You see when I was heading up that mountain I didn't know about the ice and snow up ahead. For that matter, I had no idea that the temperature would get even cooler, and that the wind was whipping even more. I had no idea that the ice and snow melt would make for a muddy footing and one treacherous slip could mean my demise. I was naive and ambitious.
How many of us are that way in life? We are ill equipped to handle what comes our way. We see others turning back, but have no clue as to what is in store for us. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Ephesians 6. It talks about putting on the whole armor of God. In many ways that was what those experienced climbers had done. They knew not to enter that trail with flip-flops. They knew they would need changes of clothes for the different climates, as well as food and shelter. Every one of them had metal walking sticks because they were fully aware that one slip on those rocks could mean their death.
As we got closer to the parking lot on the return trip, I will never forget what I saw. There was a man that was equipped to the hilt. He had on the correct clothes, had the walking sticks and the pack on his back. He shouted out as he passed by me and my two boys: "YEAHHH BABY.... Only 1,979 miles to go..." I am assuming that he started in Georgia and was a "Thru-Hiker." All I remember thinking is that this guy has the correct attitude and equipment to succeed.
God gives us the required equipment in His Word, it is up to us to have the right attitude. Will you go out equipped, or be the one I pass wearing flip-flops???