I recently went backpacking with a buddy of mine from work. Little did I know, the trip would result in the loss of a toenail and questioning a certain verse of Scripture. Here’s how it happened.
We planned a 3-day, 14-mile hike through the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama. My friend was so convincing the hike would be easy that I even brought along my 15-year-old dog (that’s 105 in dog years). All went well for the first three miles. We enjoyed the mild spring weather, no humidity or bugs, and a nice flat, wide trail. At about the third mile my buddy said we had to cross a river, and he knew a better spot than where everybody else crosses. So I followed him off the trail and through a nice campsite to the edge of the Sipsey River. It was maybe 30 feet wide, knee-deep and crystal clear. I had no problem carrying my backpack and dog across the river. But on the other side was a world of hurt!
Randy said we would need to bushwhack through the thick brush for a couple hundred yards or so before we found the trail where all the less experienced hikers cross. After about 300 yards, he started saying, “Oh no. This is not good. This is bad.” He said we should have found the trail by now. I suggested we could go back the way we came, but he said we should turn from the river’s edge and keep bushwhacking. The weeds were getting so thick now that even my dog couldn’t find a way through! Worse yet, most of the weeds were thorny vines. Some of them wrapped around my left foot tripping me but I managed to kick my foot free before falling. However, in the process, I ended up kicking a hidden log…hard! It felt as if the toenail on my left big toe had been driven straight back into my toe! I started howling. My buddy couldn’t even hear me through the thick brush.
Finally, we reached a spot where we had to cross a creek again. We had to cross back because we crossed in the wrong place the first time. This was actually a creek that tees into the river we had crossed, and if we had hiked a couple hundred yards further before crossing the first time we wouldn’t be crossing now. I had a little more trouble carrying my backpack and my dog across this time due to my painful toe.
We immediately found the trail on the other side, but instead of continuing to hike we decided to make camp for the night. Even my dog was happy to be done for the day. But sadly, while setting up my tent, I stubbed my toe again on a hidden 3-inch stump. This time Randy heard me howl! He also heard the same sound 3 or 4 more times the next day as I accidentally kicked rocks and stumps on the trail. Every time it was my left foot that made contact, and my hiking boot seemed to offer no protection!
Psalm 91:12 says, “they [angels] will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” I know that God’s Word is true, but I sure wish they would have lifted me a little higher!
Midway through our Saturday hike, we learned the weather forecast had been updated, and heavy rain was now expected to begin overnight. We agreed we should hike out the rest of the way on Saturday rather than camping another night and then hiking in the rain on Sunday. It meant we had to hike 10 miles on Saturday, but I think it was actually God’s mercy for me and my toe!
All in all, it was a fun experience. In fact, it seems more fun the more distant the memory becomes. At this point, the thorny vine scratches on my legs have almost healed (my toe is another story).
I wanted to conclude with an appropriate verse, but I can’t find the one that says, “How sweet it is when friends walk together in Christian love.” Maybe that was just something my old pastor used to say.
Come to think of it, he never invited me backpacking.