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Finding God in the Wilderness #2

Blog post by Susan Yates / Introduction by Sarah Wells

Author and speaker Susan Alexander Yates has discovered a deep passion for hiking in the wilderness with good friends. Over the last several years, she’s gone on five different long hikes, and each time, God has met her needs in powerful ways. Susan shares her experiences meeting God on the trail in this blog series, “Finding God in the Wilderness.”

Susan’s work can be found on Amazon, or on Facebook and Instagram. Blog posts reprinted with permission.

My Second Hike on the Appalachian Trail

My friend Melody and I just finished our 2nd hike on the Appalachian Trail!

4 days, 3 nights, 37 miles, each with 37-pound backpacks; We hit the trail at Trout Creek, Va and staggered off 4 days later near Daleville, Va. We scaled Virginia’s triple crown-“Dragon’s Tooth,” “McAfee Knob,” and “Tinker Cliffs.” Even my “Tarheel blood” has to admit that Virginia is one of the most beautiful states in the nation.

Several have asked:

“Why in the world do you do this?” (Translate: Are you crazy?)

We are a little crazy. But there’s something about pushing your body to its very limits. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. But one of the most re-freshing things I’ve ever done emotionally. When you are on the trail it’s like you are lost in another world- cut off from life’s worries, lists, projects. You have no time to think about anyone or anything except putting one foot in front of the other. And that is refreshing.

“What are your favorite things about the AT?”

Being quiet in God’s nature is at the top of my list. 

This year our theme verse was from Psalm 111:2.

“Great are the works of the Lord, they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

We wanted to ponder what we were seeing in creation and specifically look for metaphors. A 

large uprooted tree with weak roots spoke of the need to sink deep roots of faith in our lives in order that we might not be toppled over by the whims of culture. The delicate art in the flower of a mountain laurel (calico bush) spoke of the whimsical nature of God’s artistry. Why the pink lines? I think God just wanted to have fun. Everything doesn’t have to have a serious purpose. It makes me want to be more whimsical.

The people you meet on the trail.

These are the best folks ever. Helpful, kind, and willing to share. On the trail we feel completely safe. We all have trail names. I’m “Trailblazer” and Melody is “Deep Roots.” (We named each other last year.) Along the way you meet up with the same people: rich, poor, black, white, corporate, blue collar, no collar-no one cares. We are all equal, sharing the same adventure. It is not a stroll-it’s up and down and up and down all over again. Hard, sweaty work. Yes we’re all a little bit “weird.”

What are special memories from this year?”

Waking up to the birds singing praises to God and going to sleep to the robins’ bedtime concert. Pitching our tent by a stream-the perfect sound machine. Sharing Lectio Divina in the evening. Cooking on our tiny stove (3 ounces) and filtering water from the creek to drink. (This did get old.) And then those times we said, “I’m not having fun right now.” Almost stepping on a huge black snake. He jumped one way-I the other! Falling down 3 times – I still haven’t conquered the backpack balance. Becoming dehydrated. Excruciating muscle pain in my calves and glutes-4 days after the hike!

And yes, we’ll do it again…just not next week.

After all, I am 71!