I’ve been asked from time to time about why I like to backpack.
Last week my wife and I finished a 56.8 mile section of the Appalachian Trail, a national scenic trail. We hiked 4 days with our friends Mike and Jessica, who are thru-hiking the entire 2185.3 miles from Georgia to Maine. I’m fond of the AT having hiked over 25% of the trail: multiple sections, multiple times. I have no idea how many miles I’ve backpacked.
I like to backpack, just not every step. It takes effort and some thought. What to take? What to do without? How far? How fast? Where will I sleep and in what? What will I take to eat?
But I get to live in simple beauty for a few days and see what some will never see: Mountain Laurel in huge shrubs, Fire Pink, a Scarlet Tanager, a black snake, the fog that’s settled in a valley, rain coming down in sheets only covered by a tarp or a breath-taking vista like McAfee Knob. I relish the joy of quiet miles to think, to pray, to sweat. I value unhurried conversation.
And while the troubles and disappointments of normal life follow me out into the woods so does my life in Christ.
And when I return, I’m reminded, and still get a little overwhelmed, by the abundance I enjoy…and at times, hate…and at times, take for granted.
Running water. Clean running water. I don’t have to treat it or boil it. I can just enjoy it.
On the trail, I have a cup. At home, I can choose from…well…too many cups.
I’m reminded that so much of this world is geared toward creating discontentment. Sales papers. Ads. Newspaper articles. Facebook posts.
I’m reminded that I can get caught up into someone else’s agenda rather than living out life in Christ, not compared to anyone else.
I’m reminded that I have more stuff than I really need. That my abundance can own me.
I’m reminded that the Body of Christ is so affected by the values of the world that it too seeks to amass temporal power and wealth…and so do I.
I’m reminded that the 24-hour news cycle does more harm than good.
For you see, backpacking reminds me that I’m just a traveler here. I do not have as many days ahead of me as days behind me. Staying physically strong takes more work than it once did. Recovery takes longer too.
And I’m reminded that I’m not made just for this world.
I need those reminders.
Oh…why do I like to backpack?