REPOSTING from my first "Finish Line Hike" journey 3 years ago
This coming Sunday I will be embarking on my 3rd annual Finish Line Hike of the 14 mile Tanawha Trail. To inspire me, and my fellow hikers- here is what I experienced the first time! *forgive me, this one is long! Original post was broken into 3 parts!
The Tanawha Trail- from bottom to top. Part 1
The whole week before my big event is now just a blur of memories of checking the weather! All the weather reports kept giving me a 60-80% chance of thunderstorms throughout the day of my hike. I was beginning to panic and question and doubt, when that still small voice said once again, “I got this”.
I don’t know what it is about those 3 little words. They seem just as impactful and powerful as “I love you”.
With the phrase “I got this” whispered in my soul from my beloved…. I rested in a deep shalom knowing that no matter what happened it would all be okay.
As Saturday morning arrived, one last glance at my weather app showed me that overnight, much of the bad weather had turned north or dissipated and while the clouds still remained… my chances for rain were much smaller. Before the sun even rose, I knew that God was working things out behind the scenes all along.
With excitement stirring in my belly all the way up the parkway, the fog lifting off the mountains seemed to paint a picture for how I felt at that moment. It wasn’t butterflies in my stomach, but a cool misty fog rising up from within that would soon lift away making room for the adventure of a lifetime.
The 3 of us started off with prayer and some stretching and it wasn’t long before we were surrounded in the tunnels of the rhododendron. How fitting that the beginning of our journey symbolized a birth. Like a birth canal, the tunnels urged us forward into a new life. We began noticing the extensive root systems under our feet, and even over our heads in these tunnels. How fitting that these roots became the stepping stones that gave us the strength to push upward and onward thru the hills. Occasionally, we would stumble on these roots though, and our feet would get caught in them… usually it was a quick kick that propelled us to stay on our feet, but it occurred to me that if we weren’t careful, these roots could cause one of us to fall.
This is so true in life as well. It’s our roots… our family... our history… our past…. That gives us strength sometimes. We can use those roots to propel us forward and rise up to new things. OR, we can trip on them, get stuck and never move on from them.
I believe I’ve spent much of my life up til this point, sitting on the forest floor with my foot wrapped around a root system.
But no longer.
Now I am able to allow most of my roots to give me a step up, and I’ve got friends and loved ones who will take my arm and balance me when other roots try to trip me up along the way.
As we continued on the trail, we moved on from the tunnels and out into beautiful open pastures. Graceful hills, distant trees, tall grasses and wildflowers beckoned us to dance and skip like little girls. Reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie views…. I felt the beginnings of freedom rise up within my heart. The fog had lifted by now and the birds were singing fresh morning tunes inviting us to continue on. From here we could see Grandfather Mountain in the distance… a glimpse of our destination. It looked so far away, but at this point, only encouraged us to pick up the pace… excited that we were actually going to go that far!!
The next few miles took us back into the woods, with steeper inclines and beautiful quiet streams. Every quiet stream always reminds me of Psalm 23. Now that I mention it, the scripture was a perfect description of the trail so far…
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Before long, we started to hear the rumblings of thunder and we trudged on knowing that when God said “I got this” that he meant it no matter what it looked like to us. The rain came down, slow at first, and we put on our rain gear. Then the skies opened up and just poured out the waters upon us. All we could do was just keep putting one foot in front of the other. With our heads down the path was our main focus. Always on the lookout for slippery spots, we took special care not to trip on roots here, especially where the path was skinny and the soft edges would have sent us tumbling downhill. I took comfort in the scriptures that I searched out during the week prior to this moment. Scriptures that showed me that when the Lord sends rain- its purpose is to cause fruit to grow.
I thanked the Lord for his provision, for his rain. And we kept walking with good spirits and without fear. The few claps of thunder in the distance were not cause for concern.
I also remembered this section of 2 Samuel that I had prayed over our journey just the night before.
“He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.”
2 Sam 22:15
I imagined my enemy (in the spirit) along the trail being scattered away… so that the rest of my journey would be clear and I would not be ambushed. I thanked him for his protection.
And the rain stopped. Our way was clear now.
In a normal half marathon setting, as you move along you are encouraged by supporters that cheer you on and offer you water. My 14 mile hike was not quite the same experience, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have supporters along the way.
I can’t write about this journey without mentioning how awesome my husband was during it all! We started off arriving at our “lunch” point quite a bit early and he rushed up the path all alone with a cooler, bread, peanut butter and jelly, snacks and a gallon jug of water to refill our camelbaks while we sat by the Boone Fork River with our feet in the water taking a break.
Originally I had posted about this hike asking supporters to come and meet us at spots along the way to give it the “race” feeling, but up until Mile 11.5… my husband was the one who was there. He gave his entire day to drive up and down the parkway getting us supplies and meeting us for water refills and offering encouraging smiles. His support is appreciated GREATLY!
After our 2nd meetup with him, we were entering the “Rough Ridge” zone of the hike. Believe me, I never fully realized the meaning of Rough Ridge up until this point. Sure, I’ve hiked this beautiful section before as a small mile out and back hike, but on this journey, the Rough Ridge became our “wall”.
Every runner or marathoner will tell you that at some point, they hit a wall when their body tells them that they can go no further. It’s actually a real thing, caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the body that can leave you feeling fatigued and without energy.
Rough Ridge was the 9 ½ mile point for us. It was a steep boulder hopping climb to an elevation of 4773 that afforded breathtaking 360 degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Getting to the top of it was exhilarating!
When we arrived at the first outlook, the winds were blowing so strong I felt like I was standing on the front of the Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio holding my arms out shouting “I’m on top of the world!!”
But the most incredible thing was the green. Everywhere we looked the color green was climbing up the mountains. Just the week before, it was still mostly brown, but on this Mothers’ Day weekend, spring was racing up the mountain right with us.
It was honestly breathtaking. I’m used to the “Blue” view… but this kaleidoscope of green felt dreamlike. Every different type of tree had a slightly different shade of baby green. The fact that we didn’t have blue skies didn’t even matter.
From up here… only the views mattered. Our tired legs didn’t even seem to care about the depleting glycogen stores.
We explored the cliffs and played around taking pictures for a while. Momentarily we felt like our journey was over.
Until we noticed that bridge over there in the pictures. That bridge is our destination, or rather, the mountaintop BEYOND that bridge is our destination.
From up here, I think the realization that we still had a long way to go was starting to sink in.
I’ve felt that way in life before too. I’m very aware of the fact that I’m FAR from perfect. I’m FAR from who I was created to be, and who I want to be. Sometimes, when I get a glimpse of just how far off I am … it can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes, it even seems pointless. And that can leave me not wanting to even try anymore.
I remember clearly sitting atop the highest peak on Rough Ridge thinking those same thoughts. Thinking, this is good enough. This is far enough. Let’s just settle here. I even felt peace in that moment and I knew that Jesus was going to love me even if this was as far as I got.
Then I stood up, stretched, and said, “let’s do this!” and started down the steep descent of this current mountain crest with my friends by my side. We didn’t talk much at this point. I think we were all sorta lost in our own thoughts… and we continued down…. and around, and down some more, and through the boulder field… each of us beginning to become aware of just how exhausted we were.
Have you ever experienced something exhilarating and amazing only to be followed by a low point… a crash?
This is what we were going through for miles 10-11. The low. The down. The “what goes up, must go down” moment.
Just when I was about to stop and give up, I thought to ask Jesus where He was at that exact moment. I was in the “lead” at that time, and noticed my 2 friends were slowing down behind me and I was starting to feel like they didn’t want to be with me anymore. (I mean, this was “my thing” and they were just along for the journey right... they were probably feeling pretty sorry they had agreed to this by now!)
When I feel alone like that, I’m learning to find Jesus with me in the moment. Since He is Immanuel, God With Us… why not ask Him to let me see where He is??!!
So, in my head, I asked Him, “Where are you now Jesus?. And I got a glimpse of Him, just ahead of me on the path, turned backwards kinda jogging backwards… full of life and energy… with a glint of excitement and love in His eyes. He was waving me forward saying “Come on!” I felt a huge surge of energy burst through my veins and my pace picked up. I felt like I was skipping along the trail, hopping over rocks effortlessly, chasing after my leader who was so full of life it was irresistible! I turned around and saw that my friends had fallen back behind me quite a bit so I shouted back to them to encourage them as well. I reminded them that we were not alone on this journey and kept pressing on.
My friend and partner on this hike posted this picture and statement on Instagram…. And I couldn’t have said it better: