January 21, 2013
A winter hike sponsored by the Miami Rivers Chapter of the Buckeye Trail Association took place a week ago. I pulled my car into the lot near the trail head before the others arrived. The air already felt unusually warm for a mid-January day, even though the sun was still barely peeking over the wooded hills at East Fork State Park. I planned to use the time to mentally prepare for what lay ahead on this day. This, to compensate not only for any lack of physical readiness, but also for the gap between my age and that of most of the hikers who I knew would soon show up.
Many of the participants in this hike would be 20- or 30-somethings, eager to take on the hilly 16-mile challenge. A challenge enhanced by the mud we were sure to encounter, mud produced in abundance by the recent rains and now being thawed into a reddish-brown pudding by the spring-like breeze.
Sure enough, a crowd soon poured in, and they excitedly shared stories of mountains climbed and raging rivers forded. I decided to keep my treadmill adventures to myself. Darryl called for the group to gather for prehike instructions. When the time to depart was near, I still hadn’t decided how I was going to keep up with the group. It was time for me to whisper a prayer.
Sometimes God responds in an instant. I heard Darryl introduce me and tell the group that I had hiked the entire BT. I was relieved when the looks of disbelief turned into looks of admiration. The outlook for today was beginning to brighten already.
But wait–there’s more. Darryl asked me if I would SWEEP. That means to go last and encourage or assist others who might develop problems–just what I love to do anyway. Another plus: sweepers determine their own speed. There’s not a lot of pressure on you when you’re last.
I didn’t think it could get any better–not until I heard a few of the other hikers ask Darryl about the 8-mile option. WHAT?? I immediately volunteered to sacrifice the second half of my hike in order to lead these new kindred spirits back to the parking lot when the time came. The things a guy has to do sometimes.
I learned a lesson that day, one that my Sunday school teacher had promised many years ago. The last shall be first (in this case back to the car first). I admire the crowd that went the distance, but I thank God for the chance to accomplish something that was more on my ability level. And I got to help others, to boot.
Let me be the first–but hopefully not the last–to thank Darryl for putting together an awesome hike.