Posts Tagged ‘appalachian trail’

Every Wednesday during the months of June and July, the local Lutheran Church serves spaghetti to hikers who may be passing through the borough. It’s not only spaghetti. I am pretty sure they make their own sauce, and meatballs, and salad, and desserts, even homemade ice cream. They replenish supplies and listen to stories and make hikers feel important.

I join them for dinner because I love trail stories. (It was pointed out that I was the only one present who was neither a hiker nor a Lutheran). I listen as hikers talk about gear and fears and weather. I listen to stories about bears and barred owls. I look through pictures that hikers have taken along the way. I ask them what they hope to find during their journey. I ask the story behind their trail name. I meet people from literally around the world. I ask what it is like to have a homemade spaghetti dinner after weeks on the trail. Nearly every time they tell me this is the best meal they have had. One hiker said when he learned of this meal, he pushed extra hard to arrive in Duncannon on Wednesday. The blisters were miserable but he claims it was worth it.

I think of the tendencies and temptations churches can have. How we might choose not to minister to some who will not be able to give back or even join us on a Sunday morning. How we might not want to support the Lutherans because they are competition. How we might think about force feeding a watered-down message down hiker’s throats along with spaghetti.

I am so glad these Lutherans do not seem worried about such things. I am convinced they love to serve. I am convinced they recognize hikers not as transients but as neighbors. The fact is, I support this ministry because the kingdom wins when Lutherans host hikers, when Lutherans offer kindness, when Lutherans serve the hungry and thirsty.

I learn that Bill was at the laundry mat one Wednesday afternoon and overheard a hiker there announce she would be spending the night in Duncannon because the Lutherans were offering free spaghetti and she wanted a home cooked meal on her birthday. Of course, Bill made sure she had a birthday cake that night when she arrived. It was emotional. I’ll bet whenever she remembers the summer she hiked the Appalachian Trail that this will be one of her favorite memories. Thank God for Lutherans.



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One morning Alf and I went for a walk. On another day Roger and I walked through the woods with his dog Charlie. And yet another day, Mike and I walked a trail along Sherman’s Creek. Every Sunday, Joann walks a half mile to church.

None of this is by accident. Walking the areas around Duncannon is an enjoyable exercise. The streets and sidewalks, the waterways and forests all bring pleasure. But this is more than pleasure. It is also a good metaphor for what we are trying to do. We are walking together as a community called church. And we are walking this journey in and around this place called Duncannon.

Interestingly, Duncannon sits along the Appalachian Trail. In fact, it is one of the few communities the trail actually passes through. There is even an Appalachian Trail Festival held here. It is even more interesting to me that we gather to worship on the trail. Our building is located on High Street and to walk on High Street is to literally walk on the Appalachian Trail. You did read that right. The white blazes that carefully mark the trail from Georgia to Maine pass directly in front of the church building. Anyone who enters the front door must step onto the trail before entering.

I rather like this. A church on a trail. While we all may not be on our way to Maine or to Georgia, we are all on our way somewhere. My suspicions are that all hikers are interested in spirituality on some level, whether intentional or not. There is something about the trail that calls to the soul. To hike the Appalachian Trail is a pilgrimage

To gather as a people of God is also a pilgrimage. I cannot help but remember that God has always called people to go out on a journey. We are a people who belong to the Way. Walking together as a people called church. When we say we belong to the Way, we are being very intentional. This is not a generic spirituality. We are following One who claimed to be the Way. This is truly an adventure.


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The Appalachian Trail climbs across South Mountain through the Michaux State Forest just before the half way point between Georgia and Maine.  At one point last week, my foot prints were the only ones visible along this portion of the trail, yet many have gone through before.  One of these is Bill Bryson who lets us in on part of the adventure that is the Appalachian Trail.

“The woods were full of peril-rattlesnakes and water moccasins and nests of copperheads; bobcats, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wild boar; loony hillbillies destabilized by gross quantities of impure corn liquor and generations of profoundly unbiblical sex; rabies-crazed skunks, raccoons, and squirrels; merciless fire ants and ravening blackfly; poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak, and poison salamanders; even a scattering of moose lethally deranged by a parasitic worm that burrows a nest in their brains and befuddles them into chasing hapless hikers through remote, sunny meadows and into glacial lakes.”

David Hansen writes that boredom is having nothing to do, nothing to see, nothing to feel, nothing to taste.  Hansen is a pastor who enjoys fly fishing, I am certain that he would not find the Appalachian Trail boring.  (Certainly not rabies-crazed skunks, merciless fire ants or deranged moose).  He goes on to say that boredom is a disease of the soul.  (Perhaps more so than any other disease in our world).  “Boredom isn’t nothing to do on the outside, it is nothing happening on the inside.”  Boredom is a symptom of a starved soul.

Bernd Heinrich enjoys “forest rambles” in blizzards or at midnight.  Heinrich is a biologist who prefers not knowing where he will end up and when.  The scientist and explorer in him find this the best way to discover the new and the unexpected.  Paths that lead to a predetermined destination make him want to dig in his heels.

In Winter World he reminds us that at a certain time of year water may become “a white powdery matter that sticks to the trees and the sides of the hills and that makes the woods look like a fairyland.  This substance can be stacked into piles, tunneled into, and made into dwellings for man and beast.  It can accumulate and become so dense and deep that we can’t walk through it… water can also become a clear glasslike substance that seals over the surface of lakes and allows us to walk across them.”

The groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter.  The next day I was taking two inches of white powdery matter off the cars.  Three days later this stuff is two feet deep.  Heinrich is right, it can accumulate enough that it becomes difficult to walk through.  Three days later, we are expecting eighteen more inches.  I think the groundhog should show up to shovel this time.  We are already hearing about a storm next week.  Where will I put this stuff?  My piles are already high enough to make dwellings for man and beast.  Actually, shoveling days are not that bad.  The neighbors cheer one another on and swap stories about weather while burning calories together.

Shoveling may be winter sport on Coover Street.  And just as I try to cheer on the neighbors, I hope to cheer as Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis and Shaun White attempt to win medals in the upcoming Winter Olympics.  Many of us will wish we were in Vancouver.  We will expect U.S.A. snowboard domination.  We will meet a skier from Ghana.  We will be introduced to a new sport – skicross.  And we will hear people make fun of curling.

It has been cold on South Mountain.  And again, Heinrich is right.  Water does become a clear glasslike substance that seals over a surface of water allowing us to walk across it.  Last week, clear skies and the waning Wolf moon were shining down as I shuffled across a frozen pond and performed triple salchows.  OK, maybe not.  But I did order a pair of snow shoes!

We should be sending people of starved soul outside.  Shoveling Coover Street or onto the mountain.  Mild cases could be prescribed a fishing trip or an overnight in the forest as treatment.  Severe cases could be recommended for a through hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Maine to Georgia.  (Beware of loony hillbillies).  I doubt boredom would be an issue.

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