About the only time I go hiking/walking alone, is around our campgrounds. My husband and I are full time RVers. He always knows when I leave and when to expect me back. And I’m close to other campers and the staff. But I had an opportunity to go hiking far from him. Now I must add a caveat, I am never really alone, I am always in constant communication with my Lord and Savior. But He lets me do what I want and He is there if I need to call 911! Of course, I would call on Him first…and I almost thought I was going to have to on my alone hike….
This past week, I drove my nearly 9 month pregnant daughter out of town for two days. She had a court case for her job about 90 minutes from her home, and two hours from where we are camping. I am never bored, so knowing she would be in the court house from 9 am to 4:30 pm didn’t bother me. And the fact I could join her for lunch was a bonus. She asked what would I do all day. I knew I could find a coffee shop and free wifi. She warned me that won’t likely happen, the Town of Upper Marlboro is VERY small. I said we travel all over and visit many small towns. I’ve never found a town I couldn’t find coffee and free wifi. And I love to walk, so I’d just explore the town. Guess what? There is no free wifi and no coffee shops in the town. Thankfully, I did manage to get in a good walk, 3 miles, exploring the town and enjoying the grounds at the Equestrian Center. And I had an enjoyable 1 1/2 hour lunch with my daughter.
At the end of the first day, I discovered a Park Ranger Office in the free parking area at the Equestrian Center. I had time to run in and ask for a map of any nearby hiking trails. I was so sad I didn’t see it sooner as my knees already started aching from walking on sidewalks for about 1/2 the walk….I can walk or hike for miles on God-made surfaces, like dirt or sand! But only a mile on man made surfaces.
I had my next day planned, to visit Watkins Regional Park, only about seven miles away. And finally, I could get in a good five mile hike! Neither my daughter nor sister we too happy about me being alone in a park…but again, I am never really alone. I’m not a typical 60 something year old woman, I’ve been trained in defensive tactics and much more. So off I went, self confident I’d be OK. I was thinking my sister and daughter must watch too much Investigative ID TV where there are so many horrific homicides. In fact, there was one on the other night about an 18 year old young lady who disappeared from a very busy family park. It took 30 years to solve the crime. Now that I think about it, if I had seen that one before I went to the park, I wouldn’t have done what I did…. I had a map of the park, but it was hard to really get oriented or see any signs once I parked. I saw a woman loading up her bicycle, so I asked her where the trail head might be. She then asked if I had my GPS and told me to be careful. Hummm, she was riding her bike alone, that was curious.
I found the paved trail to the trailhead. Isn’t it lovely? But I can’t walk long on pavement, so found the nature trail about .8 of a mile down this path. But after walking alone for a while, I began to question my safety-based on the biker telling me to be careful. Then I heard some voices and allowed them to pass me while I explored a side path. It was a man and two women. I felt more comfortable once I saw others on the path. So how does this relate to my spiritual walk? As it turns out, the whole story does fit perfectly. So hang on….
For me, life is so much better to have a partner walking through life. There is an element of safety having my husband by my side. And there are times when we have to walk on a bridge over troubled waters – we have both suffered the loss of our fathers due to cancer. But this day, I had to converse with the Lord as my partner for this walk. Also, fortunately, my sister and I pre-arranged to talk so I was anxiously waiting for her phone call. You see, the trio stayed on the paved path while I ventured into the forest and on to the nature trail.
Interesting, no one else was on the nature trail for the first two miles. But I could hear the children playing on the playgrounds. And the trail did weave in and out of parking lots or picnic areas. I was so happy to finally have my sister on the phone. But I didn’t tell her how alone it felt.
My sister had to keep the phone call short. I was sad to hang up, so I thought I could focus more on the scenery. I stopped to take another picture while I really savored the quietness of the woods. And then the first incident happened. As I turned from this picture to move forward on the trail, I stubbed my toe on what I thought was a root. But was hard and sharp, I had to look at it more closely. It was a piece of buried rebar (reinforcing bar, used in construction). About one inch sticking out. It hurt so badly but I decided I’d be ok, so I kept on walking/hiking. I’ve been craving a long hike…. Again, the terrain was diversified, making it very interesting. I was also alone.
I decided to check in on my husband. While we were talking, the second incident happened. A lone male was coming toward me, and it looked like he had a thin rope between his hands, sort of “reeling” it. And my mind went to the dark side, was he a serial killer, looking for someone to strangle? He wasn’t really dressed in a way for a walk or hike in the woods. I straightened my posture and tried to look big and strong, looked straight ahead and gave a pleasant hello as I picked up my pace. I was telling my husband what I was seeing as I took off. He said these kind of people could hide and try to ambush their “prey.” Oh what a lovely thought! So I kept looking backwards as I tried to not stub my foot again….Finally, I got into an area close to playgrounds again, lots of children playing. I saw a mother and her two children. Then I saw a man and his dog fetching a stick….I felt safe again so we hung up.
It isn’t every day you see a bench on a nature trail. There was one every 1/2 mile to 3/4 mile. And in my spiritual walk, I need to sit and savor the environment. But I rarely do, just like on this hike. I never took a break, but I needed to at one point. But I limped on, determined to finish the course….
And finished it, I did! Maybe not the total five miles, but my toe was really throbbing. I got to my car where I had brought plenty of ice water and ice. I took my sock and shoe off, rinsed it in ice water and looked at the damage. It looked like I may have broken it, really swollen and bruised. Off I went to meet my daughter for lunch. We decided I needed to go to an urgent care center. We found one nearby, thanks to google! Off I went while she went back to work. Thankfully, it wasn’t broken, just a contusion! Take ibuprofen, keep icing it, stay off of it for three days and it will be fine!
So this is about how my life is….and that’s my spiritual life I’m talking about. No matter how irresponsible I may be, the Lord takes care of me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)