Guide books for hiking are very useful and important. Especially when you’re planning an overnight or thru-hike. But they are just as important to a day hiker. Anytime I hike a trail for the first time I research as much as possible about the area and the trail even if a guidebook is not available. Guide books provide important information such as shelters, sources of water, difficulty of the terrain, elevations, some historical facts and dangers to beware of while on the trail.
Yesterday I took a hike on a portion of a three hundred mile trail. I’ve hiked other sections before and have become very familiar with them. So before hiking this new unfamiliar section we took time to read the guidebook to get all the information we needed, but we also made sure to bring it along with us in case we needed to refer to it while on the trail.
The trail began at a state games lands road with a slightly steep incline straight up the mountain. About a half mile up the trail turned to the left onto an old logging road that had been used many years ago by settlers in the area. It was a beautiful day and the view of the valley from the trail could be seen from time to time through breaks in the trees. Along the way moss covered portions of the trail and walking on it felt as if we were walking on a soft plush carpet. It was soothing to my feet after hiking up hill over nothing but rock. We knew somewhere along our hike we’d come to a view over looking the valley but weren’t sure how far we had to go. So we referred to the guide book stuffed inside the outer pocket of my pack. About two miles to go is what it told us. Eventually the trail made a ninety-degree turn up the mountain heading straight for the ridge line. I thought the rocky game land road was steep, this portion of the trail made the game land road look easy. The trail narrowed and on either side of us Mt. Laurel grew think, it was rocky and moss covered. We made sure to take every step carefully as moss and rock can make for a hikers nightmare. One little slip and you’ll find yourself rolling down the hill with a broken leg or worse.
Half way up we took a break to catch our breath. As I turned around to look behind me I saw the view to the valley was clearer then down on the trail. We were now above the tree line and for miles all we could see were farms and fields freshly plowed and being planted. Spring was in full bloom as the mountains were a bright array of greens with a shade of white and yellow from flowering trees still blooming.
After adjusting the shoulder straps on my pack we continued to the top where the trail turned to the left and followed the ridge line. Up here the trail was more rock and boulders then clear ground so every step had to be taken with care. To the right we noticed a large outcropping of boulders where the sky opened up with no trees. Though we hadn’t hiked this section of trail before, we were familiar with the area and knew from atop the large boulders it would provide a view every hiker longs to soak in after a steep climb. But in order to get there it meant getting off the trail and pushing our way over rocks and through brush and thickets. We were only a few yards from the boulder we had picked out that would be our resting spot to take in God’s masterpiece called creation when we suddenly discovered we were un-welcomed guests. We had stumbled upon a snake den.
Now, in my years of hiking this was not the first time I’ve come across a rattle snake. However, this was the first time coming across more then one at the same time. The smallest one quickly darted under a rock, scared I suppose. Little did he know I was more afraid of him then he was of me. The second rattle snake sat curled up on a boulder sun bathing. He wasn’t happy we had disturbed his afternoon nap, either that or we had stumbled upon his home and the first rattle snake was his mate and his soon to be “children” were nesting under the rock. He quickly let us know of his disapproval of us being there as his head dart up, mouth wide open revealing his sharp fangs. And if that wasn’t intimidating enough he made sure to raise his tail and shake it at us. By the look of him he was one ticked off rattle snake.
Now you might be thinking to yourself if it was you you’d high tail it out of there as fast as you can, but making any sudden movements will only anger them more. Believe it not, even though they crawl on their belly, rattle snakes can be quite fast and can have a long reach when they strike. Carefully and slowly we moved, keeping our eyes on the one hissing curses at us as well as the one that darted under the rock. If there were two we wanted to be sure there weren’t others around. For all we knew the large one could have been hissing calls to his posse and we were surrounded. After making sure we were clear of the snake den we turned our back on our new found…umm, “friend” and quickly put our feet back on the trail.
The guide book warns you of different predators in the area and we knew about them as we are familiar with the area. As a matter of fact earlier in our hike we even talked about rattle snakes, but eventually we got caught up in the beautiful weather and views as well as our conversation.
God gives us a guide book, it’s His Word…the bible. It gives us everything we need for hiking the trail known as life and we need to refer to it often. Even if we are familiar with it we need to refer to it often to remind us how we are to live. But when we get too comfortable and hike along in our daily lives we can tend to forget even if we are “familiar” with what it says. God’s guide book helps us stay on the right trail and points out the dangers along the way. And the moment we vere off the trail and lose sight of things we can and will run into danger. It won’t be an angry rattlesnake but rather sin. And sin bites and can bite hard. It’s venom will course through our viens and if left untreated it will reach the heart causing nothing but pain and destruction.
To follow Jesus we must read, refer to and do what His guide book say and then carry what He says with us in our hearts. Reading and then walking away and forgetting what it says will led us off the trail or on the wrong trail and into danger.
So remember, life itself is one long hiking trip filled with adventure, trials and some magnificent views only God can provide. But if you hike this journey alone, without Jesus, you’ll only be lost. So hike by faith, with Jesus leading your every step.