Archive for August, 2013

Log Bridges and Persistence

August 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Our second day in North Carolina found us making a repeat drive from Bryson City to Cherokee to the Smoky Mountain National Park in the hopes of getting better pictures from Clingmans Dome. The seven-mile drive from the visitor’s center was just as picturesque as it had been the day before, except that the hour was earlier. We agree to bypass the tempting vistas on the way in favor of gaining a few extra minutes as we continued up the winding mountain road. As we climbed toward the parking lot, the temperature dropped, not drastically, but enough to make me glad I had grabbed my sweatshirt before leaving the cabin. We met ominous clouds, the wispier ones blew across the road and our faces. Clingmans Dome beat us again, but we had the rest of the afternoon to overcome our disappointment on different trails.

Kephart Prong Trail promised a walk with a tangible reward. Situated two miles into the trail sat the Kephart Shelter. When we reached the shelter, we would turn back, we decided. Along the way we passed the remains of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp that dated back to the Great Depression era. Remnants included a chimney that stood eerily among the trees, the camp barracks to which the chimney belonged was noticeably absent. What I thought might have been an ancient tribal altar turned out to be a stone water fountain upon closer inspection. The camp signboard remained in its place.

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We continued on our walk along a mountain stream in search of the Kephart Shelter that the park ranger had told us to expect. Had she mentioned anything about log bridges? The first bridge took us by surprise like finding a $10 bill in a pants pocket while doing the laundry. Fashioned from a log, the bridge was widened by a wooden plank which made it easier to cross. The railing provided additional support, but it was easy enough to cross without using the railing. We took pictures and marvelled at the beauty of the rushing stream which we would continue to follow up the trail.
The bridges became progressively more “interesting”. None of the following three bridges had the plank, so I crossed cautiously—no pictures on these bridges—and held the railing. When I reached the other side, I called back to my husband and waved him forward as if I had crossed a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. City slickers in nature are funny, aren’t they?

Having survived the log bridges, we continued toward the promised shelter. The farther we ventured, the fewer other walkers we encountered. There were no baby strollers on this trail as there had been on the Oconaluftee River Trail. We did not amble along; instead, we stepped carefully over smooth rocks and branches. The air was deliciously cool under the shade of the trees. Occasionally, white or red flowers were visible among the greenery. My husband’s mobile walking app eventually cut into our conversation to announce the one-mile point.
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After the second log bridge, we met a couple who had given up the adventure of reaching the camp. By our estimations, we had approximately another half mile to travel before reaching the highly anticipated CCC Camp. Without a device to measure distance, their walk could have been daunting. Perhaps reaching another rustic footbridge dampened the appeal of reaching the World War II structure. Surely the Visitors’ Center had pictures of the camp that would satisfy one’s curiosity just as well and with less exertion.
Determined to reach the camp, we walked and walked. That is, we walked slowly along the trail and waited to hear the app announce the two-mile mark or to see the cabin appear through the trees. Onward and upward. The stream wove its way closer then farther from us as we journeyed on. At one point, being hungry and tired, we prepared ourselves for the seemingly inevitable conclusion of this outing—turning back as the other couple had. Perhaps there had been a cabin here in the past. Perhaps it had disappeared like the other structure, and with no chimney to remain, we could not find any sign of it. After a brief rest on a nearby rock, we agreed we would turn back.

Taking my last look around, I ventured a further two steps, then four, then a few more just ahead. I noticed something behind the trees. Racing ahead I saw the cabin come into view. We had been less than one minute’s walk away from our destination. Had we turned around at the rock, we would have returned to the beginning of the trail with the sour taste of defeat lingering on our lips.

Our experience on the Kephart Trail taught me two lessons:

1. Trust the plan. We were armed with all of the information we needed to reach the destination: instructions from the park ranger, a map, the GPS app, and signs along the way. In our spiritual walk, we have all we need: instructions from God via His Word, easy access to His GPS through prayer, and signs along the way. These signs that He is faithful come from our past experiences and the testimonies of others that show that He keeps His promises to give us hope and a future.

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2. Don’t give up. How many times do we give up, unaware that we are only a stone’s throw from achieving the goal? Some goals are meant to stretch us and we are required to step out in faith in order to see them come to fruition. Earning a college degree. Starting a business. Getting a promotion. Try to imagine if the Israelites of the Bible did not follow the directions they were given and failed to march around Jericho on that seventh day because they did not see victory on any of the six previous days. Imagine if they marched around the city seven times but quit before the priests blew the trumpets. What if they did not shout? Joshua said to the people, “Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city.” (Joshua 6:16)

We are often tempted to give up because we doubt that the goal can be achieved instead of following the directions and having faith. We were only a few steps away from the shelter that we had almost given up finding. Once it came into view, however, we forgot all about fatigue and hunger and instead enjoyed exploring the old shelter. Even the log bridges did not seem as scary on the way down the trail. After all, we had seen what we had hoped to see.