Ghost Writer In The Sky (with apologies to the Outlaws)

Mountain of God by Third Day

“Even though the journey’s long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the One who’s gone before me
He will help me carry on
After all that I’ve been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God”

Due to some issues with my knee, which never fully stopped hurting after my West Canada Lake Wilderness trip, I asked Sean Cummings to recount his thoughts and  experiences on our group’s latest and greatest adventure. I was surely with them in thought and prayer, and am happy to recount the trip along with you, here and now:

On Saturday, November 20th I got the opportunity to hike up in Port Clinton, PA to Eckville along the Appalachian Trail.  Ever since my first time hiking with George in 2009 I have jumped at every opportunity I can to trek in the great outdoors.  As George wasn’t able to go this time due to knee problems, he asked me to be his “Ghost Writer,” to which I happily obliged.

Day 1 

Before officially beginning our hike, we carted up some firewood in a wheelbarrow on a short, three-quarter mile path up to our campsite and stored it for later.  We then proceeded to drive around to the entrance of our trail, which was about five miles away.  We started hiking around 9:30 am, and almost immediately, the trail became a steep incline.  Online, the description of this particular path was described as “strenuous,” and I was certainly not disappointed.  It felt almost like we were walking directly up the mountain itself.  After about an hour of gasping and bumbling around, we took a short break at a small outlook, giving us an idea of our altitude. 

First views

 We had some snacks and cooled off for about a half hour.  Some of us sat down together on a log, which was funny because since we were balancing the log with our weight, every time one of us got up, the rest of us would fall (kind of like a teeter-totter).  After discussing our first destination, which was Pocahontas Spring, we continued down the trail, which flattened out considerably shortly after.  The air was fresh and damp from the recent precipitation, and the ground was covered in wet leaves, giving off an earthy, sweet smell.  The sky was bright blue and almost completely free of clouds; the air was just chilly enough to keep us moving.  In other words, the weather couldn’t have been better.  We stopped at the spring to refill our water supply, and the water was fresh and cold.

Getting some fresh liquid hydration

The path eventually turned into flat, hard rock, which was easy to walk on, but broken in places; we had to watch our step.  The trail eventually seemed as if it couldn’t decide between incline and decline, and by the end of the first five miles, it was only by the grace of God that my legs could move; they seemed to be fighting me every step of the way.  Some of the others seemed to be dealing with similar ailments, and before long we reached our campsite at Windsor Furnace.  We grabbed some of the firewood we had stashed, and before long we had a cozy blaze going.   

Nothing like a campfire

After eating a delicious dinner of mashed potatoes and tuna (cooked on my Gram Weenie Pro stove), I was ready to get some sleep.  I decided to hit the hay early on so I could get extra rest for the eight miles tomorrow, but after a few hours I woke up with excruciating pain in my back and chest, unlike any I’ve ever felt.  After about four hours of tossing, turning, walking around, and growling in frustration, I finally got to sleep.

Day 2

I awoke the next day to less pain than the night before, to which I was grateful.  I heated up some instant oatmeal with my Gram Weenie stove and enjoyed the morning.  The air was chilly, and the sun was just beginning to make light in our camp.  I devoured my oatmeal like a hungry bear, and chased it with a cup of hot chocolate.  After packing up and looking over our map, we hit the trail, feeling refreshed and ready for anything. 

Windsor Furnace lean-to group shot

We hiked for the first few miles uphill, until we got to the general apex of our altitude for the day.  We made our way around the trail, which led to almost the outer side of the mountain.  It was pretty precarious, and I had to fight not to look down for some of the way; I tried to remember to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.  Eventually, I was able to look down and realize how high up we really were, and I started to get really excited at the amazing views we were going to see.  I was not disappointed either.  Out first stop was Pulpit Rock.  After scrambling up a steep rock face (me trailing behind) we finally saw the breathtaking view that pulpit rock jutted out to.  I was reminded of Amos 4:13 – For, lo, He forms the mountains, and creates the wind, and declares unto man what is His thought, that makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, the Lord, the God of host, is His name. 

Pulpit Rock

 We refreshed ourselves and enjoyed the view.  To my surprise, my back and chest pain had gone down considerably, and I walked around on the cliff with ease.  Coming down off of Pulpit Rock, we walked between two rock formations that led straight to a body of water, where we refilled our water supply and marched on.  I was excited about visiting the Pinnacles for the second time, as we had camped in the area with George last year.  We finally got there and I was astonished- I had forgotten how amazing it was! 

We could see for what looked like 20 miles

Beautiful Pennsylvania farmland

After some lunch, my dad, Paul, led us in a devotion in Philippians 2:12-18: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.   But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.   So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” 

My brother (to the left) and I eating some lunch at the Pinnacles

My Dad with his bible in a waterproof bag (pretty resourceful)

Before long, it was time to hit the trail once more.  I felt refreshed and re-energized, but before long, the trail became a steep decline, and remained that way for the last few miles of the trip.  I hung back with my dad, mainly because our legs were killing us!  We slowly made our way down the trail as our legs screamed in protest; I found myself wondering how it would feel to be doing this with the body of a fifty-year-old man.  I think I’ll try and find out when the time comes.  We didn’t realize how far we were trailing behind until we finally reached our car- everyone had been waiting for at least a half hour.  I like to take my time when I hike; it’s much easier to enjoy the scenery that way (and easier on the legs too!).  All in all, this trip was one of the best yet- 15 miles of ups, downs, and great scenery- and I can’t wait for the next one.  A trip during the winter would be sweet.

 George’s note: I have the body of an almost fifty year old man – that’s why you’re writing this one 🙂 ! Thanks Sean!

A Weekend on the AT

Matthew 28:19

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Unfortunately I had to bail on the last hike due to knee problems, but my buddy Brian Cummings came ot the rescue with an awesome video of the trip. The guys decided to hike on the Appalachian Trail from Port Clinton, Pa. to Eckville with an overnight at Windsor Furnace Shelter. A trip report will be coming soon!