Solo or So Many – Which Hike Is Best For You?

Solo or Group - picture of people hiking

Solo or with a group, what’s your preference for a backpacking trip? The obvious answer is, “Either way you are out hiking!” But there are advantages and disadvantages to each.

I. Group Hiking

Benefits of a group hike:

Safety / Security

Injury – on a recent hike our group included a nurse and an EMT, thankfully I had no use for their services other than some great company. If you are not on a well-traveled trail, even a minor injury can become a major event if you are not able to find help for hours (or days in some cases).

Animals – danger from animals can be an issue in some areas. The most common in the lower 48 states would be black bears. Any animal will be much less likely to stalk or attack group of hikers.

The other animal to consider is the two-legged kind. Though rare, there are reports of robberies and disappearing gear on some of the national trails, especially as they pass near larger cities. As with four-legged critters, a group will be a deterrent to all but the boldest jerks.

Fellowship – probably the greatest benefit of hiking with a group is fellowship. There are few things more enjoyable than sitting around a campfire with a group of your closest friends!

Just a short note on Trail Etiquette. I recently read a great article about the importance of keeping your group small (less than 10). The writer detailed their frustration as they followed a group of about 30 loud inconsiderate hikers down a trail.

II. Solo Hiking

My last hike was a solo hike.

The most common question was, “Is it safe to go by yourself?” And the answer is, “It is as safe as you make it.” Two things I would suggest.

Double and then triple check that you have everything you need. Hiking solo there is no one to borrow stuff from, especially water. Check your map for available water sources and talk with a local outfitter or a Park Ranger about water conditions on the trail.

I recommend (at least to start with) that if you are hiking solo, you stick to well-traveled trails that will eventually have people on them. Bushwhacking (off trail) where the only things that will  find you are buzzards and coyotes is not a good plan, even if you are experienced!

The benefits to a solo hike are:

Solitude – you will be more likely to see wildlife and experience nature. The bull elk that jumped up in front of me, causing my heart to skip a beat, would have been long gone as a group of hikers approached the area he was bedded down in.

Reflection – a solo hike is a great opportunity for reflection. Take your Bible! In the quiet time sitting at camp by yourself, eventually you will find you are not reading the Bible, it is reading you.

Eventually you will find you are not reading the Bible, it is reading you. Click To Tweet

Pace – if you are hiking solo you set the pace. It’s nice to take an extended break or to push for that extra mile without worrying you are pushing or slowing others down.

One thing to take into consideration, if your hike is not out and back or a loop trail, you will need to arrange for someone to shuttle your vehicle or drop you off at the trail head.

Solo or group hike, which way is best? Well it depends. For me, being a people person, I admit that I missed having someone to talk with while working my way down the trail.

What’s your preference? Leave a comment and share your experience on the trail!

 

Have You Ever Walked A Valley?

Have you ever been through a valley where life seemed tasteless? Sometimes it’s circumstantial, emotional, or a physical event that comes upon us with a vengeance. When these events become long-term, life can get a difficult to bear.

valley

Nobody understood this more than a man named Job. In a moment’s time he lost his family, possessions, livelihood, and health. In the deepest part of his trial he says this.

Job 6:6-7 Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg? The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.

Life becomes tasteless as the white of an egg in times of discouragement. Egg whites are bland and tasteless, but people have convinced us they are healthy. There is only real use for egg whites, add a bunch of sugar, whip it up and bake it on top of a coconut cream pie!

When life is tasteless, the Bible becomes little more than words on a page. Our prayers feel like they are falling to the ground. We don’t see answers to our prayers and honestly, we don’t expect any. Even church becomes little more than something we do.

A valley is nothing more than a place between two mountaintops. Click To Tweet

Ever been there? The mountaintop is nothing more than a distant memory as we slide down the slopes of the valley.

Job 6:8-9 Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!

You get the feeling that Job is not having a good day? Asking God to kill us is a good indicator we are in a valley. It’s a place of despair where we try to climb out, only to slide back down.

Passing through a valley is difficult, but we need to remember, a valley is nothing more than a place between two mountaintops.

Job was ready to give up because he did not believe it was possible for him to see good days again.

There is a phrase we need to hold tight to in the valley, “And it came to pass!” We may not know how long the valley is, but we must trust that God is not going to leave us there.

There are some things we need to do in the valley because our actions there will affect the outcome of our trial.

I.  THE VALLEY REQUIRES OBEDIENCE

Job 6:10 Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

There is benefit in plain old obedience. If we are obedient through the valley, God will bless our obedience. How much greater will the blessings be when we are on the mountaintop again? Its like Job is saying, “If nothing else through this trial – I can take comfort in the fact that I have not denied my God.”

Our obedience in the trial, determines what our faith looks like on the other side of the trial.

II.  THE VALLEY REQUIRES EXERCISE

Job 6:11-12 What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass?

Job’s trial brought physical pain as God gave Satan permission to devastate Job physically. Job’s journey through the valley required an incredible amount of physical healing.

If we are in a time of trial, we have to pay attention to our health. Sitting and sulking will make it harder when the time comes to climb.

You don’t climb out of a valley all at once, it takes many small steps. When I was a runner the countryside where we ran was very hilly. Not long comfortable hills, but short steep hills.

My running coach taught us how to get up the hills without yielding to discouragement. He said when you hit the hill, fix your eyes a short distance up the hill and run to it, then the next spot and the next. Don’t look at the top of the hill, just the next spot. When you get to the top, you will be amazed at how far you have come!

III.  THE VALLEY REQUIRES FELLOWSHIP

Job 6:13 Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?

Job had some friends with him, but as we read the rest of the book, his friends stunk. Even God said so! You know you are a bad friend when God says you stink!

Job cried out that he was utterly helpless. When we are waking through a valley, we are tempted to give in to the lie that we are all alone.

But the only Christian who is helpless is the one who makes that choice. God has given us what we need to help us through the valley. He has placed people in our lives to build us up, encourage us, and sharpen us.

What happens in the valley, determines the height of the mountain top. Click To Tweet

If you are in a valley today, find someone to walk through it with! If you are on the mountaintop, pull someone up! Christ never intended for us to live in a dry tasteless existence. In fact the opposite is true.

John 10:10a …I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I wish there was a prayer could change everything. But the best thing I can share with you today is, hang in there; choose obedience, take care of yourself and find some fellowship, because the thing about this trial is, it came to pass!

On the other side of the trial, God blessed Job more than he could have ever imagined. But here’s the hard part, there were 41 chapters between the bottom of the valley and the top of the mountain. For Job, just like for us, what happens in the valley, determines the height of the mountain top.

 

Three Steps To Rebuild Your Trust When You Struggle

The words shout off the page at us, “Trust in the Lord.” And the people shouted, “Amen!” and the old pastors waved their hankies! It’s all so spiritual! But there are times it annoys us to read those words, times when for whatever reason, we struggle to trust.

It sounds sacrilegious to admit as a pastor, there have been times that my trust has faltered. As we worked through the process of closing our church, found myself in one of those valley experiences. As I write this post my trust is under attack as I send out resumes, only to receive the customary no thank you form letter.

Like so many, I struggle with the feeling of being on the shelf. Satan would love nothing more than to have us believe that God has let us down. He wants us to ask, “Can God really be trusted?”

We remember what it was like to trust God on the mountain top. But God knows that nothing grows on a mountain top. There is little up there that will sustain life for long. Growth occurs in the valleys. It’s in the valley that we find the nutrient rich soil that fosters growth.

We view the valley as a test of our faith, but God views it as a place of great value. The deeper the valley, the greater the trust required of us to grow.

The deeper the valley, the greater the trust required of us to grow. Click To Tweet

So what can we do when God leads us into the valley where trust seems a long climb away?

We have to:

I.  Turn Up The Truth

Again today, I am preaching to myself…

When we are in the valley and facing a multitude of trials, we are by nature not very trusting. The most difficult verses in the Bible to obey are the ones that require trust in the One Who we feel has let us down.

Our enemy has set the perfect trap. The less we trust, the more we pull away, the more we pull away, the less we trust. The lack of trust we have, is in direct proportion to the Scripture we pour into our lives.

When our trust is failing, we feel like failures spiritually. God knew this and He is not at all shocked. We know this because again and again we find the words, “Trust in the Lord,” in His book!

II.  Tune Out The Trash

William Shakespeare once said “The Eyes are the window to your soul.”

What we put into our soul directly affects our ability to trust. We live in a world that is constantly connected to an incredible amount of information. The majority of it very negative.

I am a bit of a news junkie. First thing in the morning Fox News gets turned on and I won’t confess how many times day I check the Drudge Report or Google News. Unfortunately, most of the information I consume each day is not good news. It’s easy for us to believe that God created this world and now He can’t handle it as it spirals out of control!

The world of Social Media is just as bad. We get sucked into the deception that God is treating everyone else better than He is treating us. It’s very easy to become cynical. Every once in a while I have to go on a media fast to detox my soul of the things that cause me to lose trust.

III.  Transfer The Energy

A lack of trust is self-consuming. It builds an incredible amount of negative energy which breeds further mistrust.

We need to redirect our negative energy. One of the greatest ways to do so is by serving others. There is little that is more satisfying, and little we resist more than serving others. We become self-consumed by our negative energy. When we make the effort to do something to build trust in others, it will boost our trust dramatically.

One thing I have always found helpful is reading a book just for fun. For me it has to be something that is not about theology, leadership, business or church growth. For instance, I love reading books about mountain climbing. I will probably never be able to climb one, but there is just something I enjoy when I read about it.

What can you do to transfer your negative energy?

“Trust in the Lord,” was never intended to make us feel bad about our lack of faith, but rather a beacon of hope in the darkness of our trials.

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