Living A Resurrected Life

1 Corinthians 1:18

The teaching about the cross seems foolish to those who are lost. But to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (ESV)

 

As I ponder the most significant day in history for most Christians, my heart leaps at the thought that my God’s not dead, but instead lives on in resurrected victory. The grave could not keep Him, sin had no power over Him – He is risen! Jesus truly is “the way , the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and by His death , burial, and resurrection Jesus created a way to the Father.

The Bible teaches that we were also crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), died with Christ (Romans 6:8), were buried with Christ (Romans 6:4), made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), and raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). It is in our resurrection with Christ that we are to be a “new creation” – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

We were connected to Jesus at the cross because of our sin. Just as Jesus was buried, so should we bury our sin. In His resurrection Jesus rose up free from our sins, so too should we flee from our former sins. But we can’t do it alone. That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit walks alongside us (para) convicting us of our sin prior to our conversion, and dwells in us at the time of our salvation (en), He also flows from us (epi) as we walk in Christ. I believe that we need to pray daily for a filling of the Holy Spirit since, to quote D.L. Moody, “I leak”. That, I believe, is the humble beginning to living a resurrected life – prayer. Pray daily for the strength, wisdom, grace, mercy, and love that our Saviour Jesus Christ lived every day in His life here on earth. Then pray for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, and I believe you’ll find the building blocks of living a resurrected life.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Puttin’ A Few Miles On A Set Of “Retreads”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

“a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The "Retreads" (John, George, David

The “Retreads” (John, George, David)

Click HERE for Trip Pictures

While I may have recently purchased a new set of tires for my truck, I decided to put a few miles on a set of retreads in Louisiana. Now you may be thinking, “Really George, all you had to do was ask. I would have pitched in and helped you get something better than retreads.” (Of course you were thinking that – not!) No matter, the retreads I refer to are none other than my long time, but never met, brothers from another mother, John Donewar and David LeBlanc. We are the “retreads” because we all have a few miles on our tired worn out bodies, and are all in need of retreading.

I flew into New Orleans and John and his wife Cheryl were kind enough to pick me up and open their home to me for my visit. (I love the term “visit” by the way – “Where ya’ll going?” “Gonna go visit for a while”). Our original plan had been to drive to the Natchez Trace Trail and do an overnight, but as the trip grew closer things conspired to change our plans. David was under the weather, I took a nasty little fall at work and my ankle was swollen, John was a little worn down and the weather looked pretty rough on day two. No matter, as it turns out the Retreads are little more resilient than they sound. At this point I will say, “Go ahead and laugh young men. If you’re lucky enough you’ll live long enough to have the same aches and pains too!”

In the morning John and I set out across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to pick up David for a day of hiking. The causeway is the longest bridge in the world at just under 24 miles long, and gave us plenty of time to share in the word. Since it was April 5th I started out in Proverbs 5, and the warnings about the adulteress quickly led us to 2 Samuel 11 where we talked of David and Bathsheba. Needless to say, there is comfort in knowing that God uses men with “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you” (Psalm 51:17) When you go looking to serve in God’s kingdom the sign on the door says “Perfect people need not apply”.

Lake Ponchartrain Causeway

Lake Ponchartrain Causeway

After arriving at David’s and heading into town for breakfast, we set off in search of a hike. By now we were all feeling better, but were glad not to have to deal with the upcoming bad weather on the Natchez Trace. We landed at Bogue Chitto State Park in Washington Parish, and quickly arrived at the Gorge Trailhead.

The Gorge Trail

The Gorge Trail

The park and it’s trails offer some nice hiking and camping options and a few amenities I’ve never seen at home. The trails were very pleasant for hiking, and wide enough to walk two or three wide and talk.

Beautiful paths

Beautiful paths

Any worries of pain and suffering disappeared as three friends shared stories and good natured ribbing, mixed in with lots of belly laughs. If you didn’t know any better you’d think we had been hiking together all our lives. We hiked until the trail started to become ridiculously slippery and muddy, then started back to the trail head. At one point I stopped to take a picture of the Bogue Chitto River, and slipped and fell in the mud. My initiation into the  Retreads was complete now that I had a Louisiana mud bath!

Bogue Chitto River

Bogue Chitto River

At one of the road crossing a nice lady flagged us down and we thought she had car trouble. Turns out she just wanted to show us some nesting Night Herons she spotted in the forest. I’m not much of a bird watcher, but it was pretty cool to see. Before we knew it we were back at the trail head and another adventure was over.

Bogue Chitto State Park

Bogue Chitto State Park

We visited a while with David and his wife Barbara, and all too soon departed my new “old” friend. As I write I am still visiting with John and Cheryl, and tomorrow will be a sad adieu. It, however, is not good bye, but, à la prochaine fois – until we meet again.

 

 

 

Getting Back To Whack

Psalm 119:1

“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.”

Back in November I hosted a Critical Incident Stress Management (CSIM) class which was the first step in the new CSIM team my church is starting. During the training we were discussing how severe stress can throw a person “out of whack” in their day to day routines. The inside “joke”, if you will, was that we help people “get back to whack”. Well, I’m trying to do just that with WWTS.

It’s been my desire to post here every 2-3 weeks, and the process of putting these posts together is one of my stress management tools. I love setting out on the adventures that I post here for you, and there something cathartic about putting them into word after it’s all done. It has been difficult lately to achieve that mission, and I guess from time time that’s life. With that in mind, it seems I’m getting back to whack.

I’ll be heading off to Mississippi for an overnighter in a few weeks, and I have a long overdue review of my ULA Ohm 2.0 pack that seems to call my name every time I log on here. There are also a few half finished drafts that beg for my attention now and again.

There’s been a lack, but I’m on track, and getting back to whack (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Stay tuned.

A Second Chance For Harriman

Isaiah 43:18

“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.”

 

Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms

Click Here To View Trip Pictures

Back in October I paid a visit to Harriman State Park in New York State, and it met me with beautiful trails and vistas, but the crowds and lack of water left me wanting a do over. I vowed to return in the off season to see another side of this diamond in the rough. I got my chance on the final weekend of December 2013. The forecast was for cold and rain on day two, so I set out, with my brother Paul Cummings, to see how the character of the park would change.

Day 1

I planned three different loop hikes so that we could assess the conditions when we got to Harriman and make an informed decision, and due to winter road closing and such we decided to do a repeat of the hike I did in October. The parking lot at Reeves Meadow was full, with just one spot left for my pickup in a snow pile by the trash dumpster. For the most part any snow from recent storms had melted, except what was piled high on the parking lot fringe. I was hoping this would be the case on the trail as well, since there were a few steep ups and downs to contend with during day one.

As we started it was cool and cloudy, not the sunny day we were promised. No matter – any day hiking is a good day.

Nice clear trail

Nice clear trail

There was breeze that added a nice crispness to the air, and it created the only sounds in the forest aside from mine and Paul’s conversation.

Cool boulder

Cool boulder

As we climbed ever higher on the Seven Hills Trail it became apparent that the heavens were going to bless us with the warming sun we were hoping for. By the time we reached the top of the ridge and the junction of the HTS Trail it was clear, with awesome views to the north and south.

Looking north toward Torne View

Looking north toward Torne View

As we climbed toward Torne View we came across some ice that made hiking interesting, but not all that difficult. Thankfully that would be the case the whole trip.

Icy patch

Icy patch

Paul and I took a short break at Torne View, but the stiff breeze chased us onward.

Amigos at Torne View

Amigos at Torne View

The trails were rather empty, however we did run into a large group of scouts on the Raccoon Brook Hills Trail near Chipmunk Mountain. We continued on and their sounds disappeared as fast as they had appeared. As we turned onto the Kakiat Trail I was optimistic that we would find water, given the recent snow fall. Even though the streams were all dry in October, I could now hear the unmistakable rush of flowing water. In fact every stream was flowing, even the ones I was told about that aren’t on the map. That makes me happy, happy, happy indeed.

Takin' a picture because it might not be there next time

Takin’ a picture because it might not be there next time 🙂

As we hiked along I was thinking about how I figured my food just right and would eat the last of my days rations before camp, and we had water so life was good, and we would hit camp just before dark and all those things that you think about when you don’t have to think about anything at all, when it happened. Somewhere on Cobus Mountain I bonked. I completely ran out of steam. Rationing properly doesn’t mean a hill of beans if the food you eat doesn’t keep the machine going. Fortunately we were in the last mile or so, but it was a drag gettin’ it done.

Stone Memorial Lean-to

Stone Memorial Lean-to

Paul and I set about the business of setting up camp, and the unmarked stream that flows downhill from the lean-to was flowing, so we had everything we could ask for in a campsite, including solitude.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

I set up my stove, put on warm clothes, and started to second guess whether or not my paper thin quilts would keep me warm. As Paul attempted to start a fire I tried to force down my chicken and stuffing dinner, but my appetite just wasn’t there. I ate what I could and decided to hit the sack at 6:30 pm, just as darkness settled in. The wet wood just didn’t want to cooperate and since it wasn’t all that important Paul gave up and hit the hay as well. To my pleasant surprise I woke up an hour later quite comfortably (almost too toasty, in fact) warm. Even though it dipped into the 20’s overnight I slept happily warm all night. All I can say is I will never doubt my Hammock Gear quilts again.

Day 2

After a great nights sleep I think we packed up in record time. Paul and I were eager to get underway, as the days forecast called for rain in the late morning. We were so eager that as we started out of camp it occurred to me that we forgot our morning devotion. We stopped and took time to thank God for all that He has blessed us with, and away we went, only stopping to water up.

The trail back to the parking lot is generally downhill to level, and the highlights are Pine Meadow Lake as well as Pine Meadow and Stony Brooks.

A frozen Pine Meadow Lake

A frozen Pine Meadow Lake

The great thing about a winter hike on a rainy day is the lack of crowds, and I reveled in the fact that we would pass only about two dozen hikers on the way out, as opposed to the 200 or so I probably saw in October.

Pine Meadow Brook

Pine Meadow Brook

As Paul and I hiked the last 100 yards the rain drops started down. After we loaded up our gear and climbed into my cab it started coming down in buckets. Timing is everything, I always say.

So was the second time the charm? I enjoyed this hike just as much as my first experience, and all I can say is I think I found a new winter hiking destination.

 

 

 

 

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Job 1:20-22

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.  And he said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

In the story of Job we are told that he was a “blameless and upright man”. When he lost everything -kids, house, wealth – he mourned his loss, as we humans will do. But Job continued to bless the name of the  Lord even as he grieved. Yes, he hit more bumps as time went by, but Job remembered where his true wealth lies. In the end God restored His faithful servant Job to even greater wealth than he had in the beginning.

Where does your treasure lie? On this Thanksgiving Day I pray you remember to bless the name of the Lord., the God who gives and takes away.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Few of My Favorite Things

Luke 10:3-4

“Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”

One thing most backpackers have to concede – we’re gear junkies. We can’t imagine going on the (road) trail without a few of our favorite things. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to peruse the latest and greatest gear sites and catalogs, dreaming of how much better our next trip would be IF ONLY we had that piece of gear we’ve been drooling over. With that thought in mind I thought I might suggest a few things (based on my experiences) to might make your Christmas shopping (or catalog browsing) season brighter.

Backpacks

I have carried Granite gear packs for quite few years now. The company has a wonderful reputation and makes a darn comfortable piece of kit in the AC 60.

Granite Gear AC60

Granite Gear AC60

While I still highly recommend their packs for the lightweight crowd, I have most recently become a convert to ULA Equipment. I became the proud owner of a ULA Ohm 2.0, and can honestly say that it instantly became my favorite pack.

ULA Ohm 2.0

ULA Ohm 2.0

The Ohm 2.0 weighs in at half of what my AC 60 did, and is great if you are the type who has his or her gear kit dialed in. If you are looking for a lighter alternative to your current pack I recommend giving ULA a look.

Shelter

I am a long time tarp user, and for years one of my favorites was the FlatTarp3 by Oware . Dave Olson has a reputation for making quality tarps, and it really shows in the details.

Oware FlatTarp 3

Oware FlatTarp 3

Since becoming a bonafide hammock hanger my choice has changed. I am a huge fan of the Hammock Gear Standard Cuben Tarp w/ Doors .

Hammock Gear Cuben Tarp with Doors

Hammock Gear Cuben Tarp with Doors

You’ll hear me gush whenever I mention Hammock Gear, and rightfully so. They’re quality and customer service is second to none.

Hammock

If you are in the market for a hammock, in my honest opinion there is no better brand than Warbonnet. I currently use a Warbonnet Traveler , and their Blackbird is legendary among hangers for comfort, quality, and resale value.

Relaxing in my Warbonnet Traveler

Relaxing in my Warbonnet Traveler

Sleeping Gear

There is nothing more important to me than a good nights sleep on the trail, and for years I have sung the praises of Mountain Hardwear Phantom series sleeping bags. I owned a Phantom 15 and a Phantom 45, and I considered these my most essential pieces of gear for years.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15

Lately I have said good bye to my old friends and converted to the Hammock Gear Burrow line of top quilts. Now I get top of the line quality in an even lighter package.

Hammock Gear Burrow 20

Hammock Gear Burrow 20

My Burrow 20  comes in at 17.1 ounces – half of what my Phantom 15 weighed. Combined with my Hammock Gear Incubator 20 under quilt my whole insulation package comes in at the same weight as my old sleeping bag alone!

Cookware

I’ve owned more than my fair share of cookware – titanium, aluminum and stainless. Of all my cookware the piece that gets the most use is my Evernew Titanium 550 ml cookpot.

Boiling water for breakfast

Evernew 550 ml pot

This pot weighs in at 3 ounces even, including lid and stuffsack, and has the capacity I need for most freeze dried meals. On top of that it’s the perfect size to use as a mug.

Clothing

I never (NEVER) go on a hike without my Black Rock Gear Down Beenie .

Black Rock Gear Down Beenie

Black Rock Gear Down Beenie

There’s just no reason to leave it home! My BRG Down Beenie provides incredible warmth, whether in camp lounging or settling in for a night in the hammock, and weighs in at a scant 9/10’s of an ounce. Unfortunately the only thing it can’t do is make me look cool.

Another must have for me is my Smartwool Socks.

Smartwool socks

Smartwool socks

 

You’d think merlino wool would be a problem in the summer, but not these socks. My feet are cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and comfortable anytime I wear them. I have a few pair of Adrenelines from 8-10 years ago that are still wearing like iron. Smartwool socks are a little pricey up front, but you’ll get your money’s worth out of them.

‘Tis the season and Black Friday’s a comin’, so why not treat yourself to some of those goodies you’ve been drooling over? What’s on your wishlist?

Hangin’ In Harriman

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”

Starting out at Reeves Meadow Visitors Center

Starting out at Reeves Meadow Visitors Center

Click Here For Trip Pictures

Sometimes the circumstances that direct our paths through life (as well as our paths in the forest) can’t be imagined until you get there. So it went in the days leading up to this hike. I was supposed to meet up with a couple of dear brothers on a hike over McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia, but while I was en route life intervened. A few days later, with a pack still loaded for a three day walk, I decided to stay close to home and hike in New York state’s Harriman State Park. For those of you unfamiliar with Harriman, it lies approximately 20 miles north of New York City, and contains the first miles ever constructed of the Appalachian Trail. My plan was to stay away from the crowds (as much as one can) and hike in the south-west corner of the park. As I parked my truck at the Reeves Meadow Visitors Center I found it hard to believe I was so close to New York City, and yet there were only 6 cars in the parking lot. I guess I should have known better – it was a Friday after all.

The first of many uphills

The first of many uphills

My walk started with a short walk west on the Pine Meadow Trail which led me to the Seven Hills trail. As the name states, the trail crosses seven hills if you follow its entire length. My plans were a little more loose and free-spirited, and I decided my route based on a whim of the moment. When I reached the Hillburn-Torne-Sebago Trail I decided against the views from Ramapo Torne and instead stayed on the Seven Hills Trail to Torne View.

Seven Hills Trail straight up to Torne View (yes the trail goes that way)

Seven Hills Trail straight up to Torne View (yes the trail goes that way)

The trail takes a vertical approach for the last 20 feet, then suddenly you’re standing on a ledge enjoying views to the northwest of the New York countryside.

Looking northwest from Torne View

Looking northwest from Torne View

There were a few day hikers out, but I was able to pick my degree of solitude merely by varying my hiking pace. In this instance that meant an extended lunch/nap while taking in the views. Soon enough I was alone again.

The world through my eyes

The world through my eyes

Back on the trail with my belly full and mind empty, I made the turn onto the Raccoon Brook Hills Trail. This was one of my favorite trails on this hike, since it was mostly a hilltop trail. There’s just something about hiking above the surrounding countryside that is really cool.

Raccoon Brook Hills Trail

Raccoon Brook Hills Trail

View from the Pulpit

View from the Pulpit

Right about the time I dropped down into the Torne Valley I realized I needed to start looking for water. No big deal I thought – the map showed two streams on the Kakiat Trail, so I made the turn. One half mile later I was looking at a dry stream bed. No problem, I’m not dry yet. I stopped to snack and look at my options just in case. Another half mile and another dry stream bed – yikes! I said a short prayer for safe passage and continued on, but by now I was rationing water and starting to dehydrate. I adjusted my pace to conserve energy and as I reached the Suffern- Bear Mountain Trail I knew that the next stream would be no better. The song “Oceans” by Hillsong United was stuck in my head, “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”.   I reached a viewpoint where I could make out the New York City skyline 20 miles distant, and at least for a short while that helped to take my mind off my immediate trouble.

New York City skyline 20 miles away

New York City skyline 20 miles away

I might as well kill the tension right now – I wasn’t going to die. I was just going to get a reminder of how much you can trust maps. Anyway, I knew what I had to do, like it or not. My destination for the night was Stone Memorial shelter, which is a dry shelter. That meant I would first have to detour down the Conklins Crossing Trail to Pine Meadow Lake for water. This added an extra mile or so round trip that in my dehydrated state I did not appreciate. At the lake I filled both of my bottles, then proceeded to drink 32 ounces straight down. This upset my stomach, but I knew I knew I needed to drink up. I briefly debated finding a stealth camping spot somewhere around the lake, but I knew I couldn’t do it. I remember someone telling me once, ” It’s not what you do when people are watching, but what you do when no one is watching that defines your character”.  Camping is only legal around the shelters in Harriman and I was determined to do the right thing.

Stone Memorial shelter

Stone Memorial shelter

I’m glad I did, because the hike back up to the ridge wasn’t that bad. I reached the shelter around 4:30 pm, and was immediately impressed. Made completely of stone, with three fireplaces, it sat on top of a rock slab (but unfortunately no views). There were five guys already camping in the shelter so I walked to the bottom of the rock and found a site that was as good as I could hope for anywhere.

What could be better?

What could be better?

I set up the hammock, got water boiling and hung my bear bag. At that point there was nothing to do but relax. Nothing is sweeter than chilling in camp after you’ve earned it. Stuffing, gravy, and chicken for dinner followed by some reading and before I knew it, it was dark. The guys up on the hill were drinking and whooping it up, so I just kept to myself. Eventually everyone settled down and all that was left was the sounds of the woods. Aaahh, yes!

Day 2

Boiling water for breakfast

Boiling water for breakfast

I awoke a few times during the night to answer mother nature’s call, but otherwise slept well. In fact I didn’t get up until around 8 am. There’s nothing like a great night’s sleep in a hammock, and if I could convince my wife I’d sleep in a hammock every night. Before finally committing to a new day I spent some time reading Psalms; “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” (Psalm 135:5-7 ESV). It’s by God’s great grace that I get to enjoy another beautiful day!

As I waited for my Mountain House scrambled eggs with ham to rehydrate, and my tea to cool, I broke camp.  I was originally going to make this a three day hike, but not wanting a repeat of the day before and given the uncertainty of the other water sources I was depending on, I decided to hike out instead. Since I was retracing my steps back to Pine Meadow Lake I was certain I would have no further water troubles.

Pine Meadow Lake

Pine Meadow Lake

It’s amazing what a good nights sleep can do for a person, and as I walked along I felt great. I knew I would be near good water all day, so I didn’t bother filling up at the lake. It was a crisp, clear, beautiful morning and nothing could spoil it. Well, almost.

Along Pine Meadow Lake

Along Pine Meadow Lake

As I walked along the shoreline I passed a large group of day hikers, about 30 in number. The closer I got to the upper end of the lake, the more people I passed. I continued on the Kakiat Trail as more and more people appeared. By the time I hit the Pine Meadow Trail, it had become a steady stream of day hikers, many of which were woefully ill prepared for any type of outdoor activity. Some looked like they genuinely didn’t want to be there. Maybe they hate crowds too, heh, heh.

Along the Pine Meadow Trail

Along the Pine Meadow Trail

I wasn’t sure how much further I had to go, so I finally gave in and filled my water bottle and took in a few snacks to keep me going. Better safe than sorry. Little did I know I was only about a quarter mile from the trailhead. Oh well.

The end is near

The end is in sight

Funny thing – you would think that all the people I passed would have prepared me for the circus I would see at the trailhead parking lot. Not so. As I meandered over to my truck I was struck by the immensity of it all. People fighting their way into the crowded lot, and people fighting their way out. Cars were parked as far as the eye could see in both directions along the road, and yet cars still pulled in, as if one of the twenty spots in the lot would miraculously be available. It was a mind blowing juxtaposition from the day before.

So what did I think of hiking in Harriman? Harriman has a lot to offer in terms of terrain, scenery, and resources. I personally thought it was beautiful! Unfortunately it’s incredibly taxed, particularly on the weekends. I would certainly go again (and I will, God willing), but never on a weekend. I would hike the southern section of the park and do it during the week. My next trip would be during the spring when water would (should) be more available. It’s not the solitude I find in the Adirondacks, but for me, Harriman State Park is a good opportunity to get away within a few hours of home.

 

 

Resting In The Unknown

Jeremiah 29:11

“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.”

The Four Geezers (Matt, Dave, Paul and George)

Click Here For Trip Pictures

Paul approached me a while back and said, “What about a trip just for the geezers?”, meaning all of our cohorts in the 40+ age range. Now if you’re over 40 we mean no harm. This was just our tongue in cheek way of saying we’re going on a men’s only trip. Fresh air and fellowship, food for the geezer’s soul. Something within a few hours of home, with some degree of solitude. We wanted to do reasonable mileage – not too hard, but not a lollipop hike either.

In the planning stages I first thought about Harriman Park in New York, but while I was doing my homework instead came upon the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. This trail seemed to fit the bill – it was 2 1/2 hours from home and it was a ridgeline trail so it should have views. The only real issue was a lack of info. There were no topo maps to be found, so I had no idea of how rugged the terrain was, and I deducted that water was going to be an issue. Because of the unknowns, and the fact that we were looking for a leisurely (or was that geezerly?) stroll, I kept the mileage down to about 5 miles per day. On top of that we were able to cache water at the halfway point, sooooo, problem solved.

After hiding water at Ferguson Road we went in search of the trailhead where we were going to leave my truck. I am so spoiled; between the Appalachian Trail and the Adirondacks I’m used to having good trailhead signage. Don’t count on that on the SRT. We spent a good half hour or better looking for the yellow blaze side trail where we were to park. We only found it by God’s grace because the only yellow blaze was 4/10 of a mile down from the trailhead, and Matt and I almost didn’t go that far looking for it.

After driving back to our starting point we had a short road walk and then finally, the journey began. We encountered a large blow down about 100 yards in and I thought, “I hope there’s better maintenance than this or this is going to be a long day!!!”. Thankfully, that was the only real blow down we would see all weekend. As we left the road the trail climbed higher and higher, trying to gain the ridge in earnest. Upward we climbed leaving the hardwood behind, until we finally we claimed the ridgetop with it’s covering of scrub oak and blueberry bushes. Somewhere near the top Dave and I were taking a breather and talking when all of a sudden Dave took off running, yelling something like “I gotta get outta here!”. He was standing on a ground nest full of angry yellow jackets and they decided to chase poor Dave down the trail. He got away, but not before getting stung about a dozen times. For whatever reason they never even gave me a look. We wound up taking a long break at an overlook while Dave got sorted out.

 

View toward Wurtsboro, NY

View toward Wurtsboro, NY

It was an idyllic spot for a break. There were views of the valley, and we could see gliders riding the clouds after being launched from Wurtsboro airport, climbing the same breezes that were cooling us after our climb up from the road. I haven’t been on a mountain hike in quite some time and this was a nice change of pace. Even so, my lack of conditioning was evident. I wasn’t dying, but I wasn’t leading the pack either. As long as I kept my own pace all was well.

A nice walk along the ridge was soon interrupted by a steep dip into a col, followed by a gentle climb back to the ridge. The payback for the effort was another nice view.

Dave taking it all in

Dave taking it all in

At some point along the ridge Dave and I caught up to Paul and Matt who were trying get a picture of the biggest porcupine any of us had ever seen. This critter looked like he was 40 pounds and stayed just far enough ahead of us on the trail to avoid our feeble attempts at becoming trail paparazzi. He finally bid us adieu and disappeared into the scrub as we descended into Roosa Gap. Down, down, down, and then finally back up to Ferguson Road. As we recovered our cached water we had a decision – climb up the ridge not knowing if there were any decent campsites, or double back (downhill, no less) to Roosa Gap. The decision became easier after consulting the weather; 100 percent chance of rain with thunderstorms. No one likes to retrace their steps, but fewer still want to be on top of a ridge in a thunderstorm.

Three hammocks and a tent

Three hammocks and a tent

While Dave pitched his tent the rest of us decided on hanging spots. Paul was spending his first night in his new Warbonnet Blackbird (very nice rig, if I do say so), while Matt was spending his first night hanging in my Hennessey Hammock Expedition Asym. In the meantime I hung my Warbonnet Traveler and cuben Hammock Gear tarp. After dinner Matt got a small fire going to cut the inky blackness, and as we were taking it all in the first drops of rain started. By the time we our hit respective bunks it started to rumble and pour. And pour it did for most of the night. I know I mention it every time, but I love the rain on a tarp. Everyone slept comfortably; even Paul, who is typically an early riser, couldn’t resist the comfort of his hammock.

Day 2

After breakfast and packing I had the pleasure of sharing from Hebrews 3:7-11,

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”.                                                                                                                                                                   This is an exhortation to be faithful and not harden our hearts. Weary and heavy laden? Jesus promises in Matthew 11:30, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”. We can only enter into God’s rest through faithfulness and obedience.

Climbing out of Roosa Gap

Climbing out of Roosa Gap

After packing up we once again started the climb out of Roosa Gap. The morning was cool and the sun was fighting a losing battle with the clouds. After a mile we reached the ridge top, with it’s cooling winds and awesome views.

Views south, with High Point, NJ some 35 miles in the distance

Views south, with High Point, NJ some 35 miles in the distance

Once again today would be dominated by a beautiful ridge walk. Scrub and blueberry lined trail gave way to the occasional view north toward the Catskills. Once again we dipped into a col, and stopped to snack at the base of an escarpment.The weather had turned decidedly cloudy and as we sat a chill started to settle in. A pack on one’s back does an amazing job of retaining core heat, and we decided to saddled up before we cooled too much.

Escarpment and stone walls

Escarpment and stone walls

A pleasant walk through hardwoods interspersed with the forgotten remains of old stone walls gave way to a gradual climb to regain the ridge top. At one of the last views we took a break as Dave took care of a cut he received after his foot lodged between two rocks. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s say I might have been a little less sympathetic than I should have been . Dave’s a good sport, evidenced by the fact that he hikes with us.

As we started down off the ridge for the last time I remarked to Dave that the trail reminded me of hiking in Maine, and he agreed. The Appalachian Trail in Maine follows some very similar looking terrain including stunted conifers, and views while walking over canted slabs of bare rock.

Descending trail with views toward the Catskill Mountains.

Descending trail with views toward the Catskills Mountains.

Down we went, steeper and steeper, until finally we hit bottom at the yellow blazed trail that led to my truck. A short walk to the road and this trip was history.

The Shawangunk Ridge Trail turned out to be everything we wanted and more in a geezer hike. The weather was great, the fellowship was sweet, and the challenges were just enough to satisfy that itch to get out.

 

 

 

West Canada Lakes Revisited

Acts 6:3

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.”

And so it begins....

And so it begins…. Pillsbury Mt. trailhead.

Click Here To View Trip Pictures

When I hiked the West Canada Lakes loop last year in New York states Adirondacks I instantly knew this was a place of solitude and immense beauty. I also knew I had to share this special place with my closest hiking companions. I put the offer out and Paul Cummings, his son Brian, and Josh Gordon were able to make it. Brian also brought along friends Micah, Antonio, and Ian, all first timers. We met around 5 am, and after many miles we finally hit the logging road into the wilderness. About 6 miles in (and after dodging a logging truck) we finally made the trailhead at Pillsbury Mountain. We were hiking by about noon (maybe later – just a little fuzzy in my memory bank), and as the trail started it’s steady uphill climb the boys were off like a shot! Paul and I took our time, letting the boys get a slight lead, although I’m sure I couldn’t have kept up even if I wanted. Ha, ha, let ’em run – I want them tired at camp. At about 1.7 miles the trail crests the hill, and the boys were taking a break waiting for the geezers to catch up.

First rest break

First rest break, French Louie Trail junction

With the hard part of day one over, it was time to enjoy a nice stroll in the woods. The trail heads generally down-hill, with the occasional wet area. Between the junction of the French Louie Trail and Cedar Lake there is a washed out bridge, a rickety bridge, and a washed out dam at the junction of the Northville-Placid Trail.

Rickety trail crossing

Rickety trail crossing

Trail maintenance is a little light in this section, but that didn’t seem to matter because all too soon Cedar Lake appeared before us, showing just a sample of the beauty to come. As we approached lean-to #1 a small group of college students on the last day of their wilderness adventure appeared. It was just a little too crowded for our liking, so as the rain started to come down we made a beeline for lean-to #2, just 10 minutes further down the trail (and the better location in my opinion). Not long after we settled in the rain decided to get serious.

I will say, I love sleeping in the rain. At home I’ll crack the windows so I can hear the rain on the gutters, and in the woods the sound  on my tarp is like a lullaby that soothes me to sleep. What a perfect ending to a perfect day. I’m back home in the wilderness.

Day 2

Early to bed and early to rise – blah blah blah. Anyone who’s ever known the comfort of being cocooned in a hammock on a cool morning knows that morning always comes way too early. Oh well, guess I’ll greet the morning, knowing that it’s Friday and I could be working instead – not!

Good morning Cedar Lake!

Good morning Cedar Lake!

Mountain House scrambled eggs with ham on a tortilla, along with a hot cuppa tea sweetened with honey got the old motor firing on all cylinders. After everyone ate and packed up Paul shared from the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Nice to always remember Jesus (the Word) has always been there in God’s plan for our salvation.

Once again the morning started with an uphill climb to get the blood flowing. This section of the trail was the nicest from a ease of hiking perspective. We spent most of the day with soft trail underfoot and only the occasional blow-down.

Nice trail

Nice trail

The plan each day was to leave camp around 9 am, and get to our next destination around 2 pm. In between the boys generally hiked ahead, waiting for the rest of the group at predetermined spots on the trail. I’ll usually give them something a mile or two down the trail to shoot for, and they get to that point about ten minutes or so ahead of the rest of us. At one point we gathered at a stream crossing and it was great fun to watch the guys laughing and having a good time.

Soon enough we hit the famous South Lake Bridge, immortalized by many a camera toting hiker. Last year I spotted a family of otters here, but this year we had to be satisfied with the calling of the loons. No matter, the views of South Lake from the bridge are nothing less than God-breathed and food for the weary soul.

Approaching the South Lake  bridge

Approaching the South Lake bridge

A few minutes after the bridge and we were at the South Lake lean-to. I think next to Cedar Lake number 2, this is my favorite on this loop. The view is awesome, and if you like to fish or swim you can access the lake directly in front of the lean-to.

Wading and fishing at South Lake

Wading and fishing at South Lake
Photo courtesy of Paul Cummings

While some of us were checking out the lake Ian decided a fire was in order.

What’s really cool about getting to camp early is being able  to stay as busy as you choose. My choice was to lounge, others fished, while others just stayed busy doing a whole lot of nothing.

Josh Gordon fishing

Sunset fishing at South Lake

Still, when dark finally arrived, we were tired (ok, at least I was). Other than being awakened by the sound of a pack of coyotes howling in the middle of the night I slept well.

Day 3

Morning, oh glorious morning! Same routine, different day. And what a great routine – wake up, eat, pack up, spent time in devotions and hike. What could be simpler, what could be better? Can I get paid to do this, because if that job opens up I’m there!

Morning devotions

Morning devotions
Photo courtesy of Paul Cummings

Paul once again shared from the Book of John, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It is only through the grace and truth (and mercy) of Jesus that we can truly be called children of God. He is the way, the truth and the light!

Reluctantly we left South Lake, but if I have my way I will be back someday. After a short hike we passed West Canada Creek lean-to and regrouped at the rebuilt West Canada Creek bridge. Here we left the Northville Placid Trail and started up the French Louie Trail.

Bridge across West Canada Creek

Bridge across West Canada Creek

IMG_0703

Looking north at West Canada Creek

French Louie was a trapper from the late 1800’s whose trap line ran roughly in the area we were hiking. Our destination this day was Pillsbury Lake, and that is where French Louie spent his last night in the forest. In February of 1915 Louie hiked into the town of Speculator and rented a room, which he paid for with a trout. He fell ill on the evening of February 27, 1915 and by the next morning had passed away at the age of 85. Fortunately there would be no illness among our group of hearty travelers.

The trail at this point follows a generally uphill course, and as I mentioned last year becomes a bit less maintained. There were many more large blow-downs in this section that made for a little slower going. Paul and I finally caught the boys at the turnoff for the Sampson Lake lean-to, which brings me to something I noticed from day one – there is signage for all the lean-tos! Last year I mentioned that most of the lean-tos had no sign showing where they were located, but this year every single one was marked. Sampson Lake previously had a shovel blade nailed to a tree, but no more! Now if they just get the junction signs at West Lake and West Canada replaced – just sayin’!

Junction with the side trail to Sampson Lake lean-to circa 2012

Junction with the side trail to Sampson Lake lean-to circa 2012

Junction with side trail to Sampson Lake lean-to circa 2013

Junction with side trail to Sampson Lake lean-to circa 2013

After a short break we were off again. I told the boys to wait up when the trail turned into a woods road. What the boys didn’t know, and what I failed to explain was that an old woods road doesn’t always look like a road. Sometimes the only indication you get that the trail was a road is that the trees on either side of the trail spread out a little. Anyway, we didn’t catch the boys again until the turn off to the Pillsbury lean-to. Fortunately they caught sight of the lean-to sign when they decided to wait for me and Paul.

Old woods road

Old woods road

Once again we would spent a wonderful night camped out at a beautiful Adirondack lake. I pitched my hammock sans tarp, Paul used his Titanium Goat bivy for the first time, and Micah decided to cowboy camp. There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars on a cool evening.

Day 4

Micah cowboy camping like a boss

Micah cowboy camping like a boss
Photo courtesy of Paul Cummings

You can tell when summer is drawing to a close, because you wake in the morning and a mist shrouds the lake as the warmer water does battle against the cool night air. Then as the morning progresses it’s a God inspired play of nature, with the fog retreating, exposing creation in all of it’s glory. I’ll take a ticket to that show any time!

Morning mist on Pillsbury Lake

Morning mist on Pillsbury Lake

After eating a warming breakfast of ramen noodles and canned chicken (couldn’t  get pouches), and packing for the last time, we once again settled our minds and hearts as Paul read from John, “He said, ” I am The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Make straight the way of the Lord.”.  That cry is as important today as it was for the Israelites in John’s day. While we wander a crooked path through the (West Canada Lakes) wilderness, it’s important that in our day to day lives we walk a path of “good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”. 

Parting shot - Pillsbury Lake lean-to

Parting shot – Pillsbury Lake lean-to

Our walk out could be summed up in two words: short and fast. We only had 3.5 miles to the trailhead, and most of that was either level or down-hill. We hit the trailhead and our vehicles somewhere around 11:00am. I had a low front tire on my truck, and a couple in the parking lot offered me their air pump. Turns out Elijah read WWTS in preparation for his trip into the West Canada Lakes.Thanks for the help brother!

I was really glad I had the opportunity to share this special area with the guys, and would absolutely return again. We hiked for 4 days, covering 22 miles and only saw the college students on day one, and one other camper on the last night. We passed absolutely no one out on the trail, and had the lean-tos to ourselves each night. If your looking to get away and find solitude and great scenery, this might be your trip.

As an added bonus, Brian Cummings put together an awesome video compilation of the trip. Enjoy!