Trail Names

Damascus TN, 2-5-2019

Sat April 20. I left Boots Off hostel in the rain this morning around 10:30. It was a cool day around 5c. Got chilled and my hands were numb but warmed up later in the day. Walked 13 miles and set up camp just as the rain turned to sleet. Got real cold at night and had a rough sleep. Finally fell asleep early in the morning.
Sunday April 21. Today it is exactly 2 months that I have been on the trail. I got a late start and hiked 11 miles. It was cool and cloudy all day but at 4:00 the sun came out so I set up camp early so my tent and gear could dry out. One of the amazing things about this country is all the springs. Water simply gushes out of the ground, cold, clean

and good tasting water. I pass 3 to 4 of these springs on average every day on the trail.
Monday April 22. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. I walked 16 miles today and am 2.5 miles out of Damascus were I will meet Sharon. Spent an hour walking with City who grew up in the projects in New York. He told me his life story and philosophy which was made more interesting by the fact that he was high. Tonight I'm camping with Smarty Pants a fellow from Boston. Had some dark moments thinking about leaving the trail and heading for home. Just anxious about it I guess. Here on the trail I know what to do every day, life is simple although challenging. I don't feel like a looser and people are friendly and interesting.
Tuesday April 23. I walked the last few miles into the town of Damasus TN in the morning. I checked into the Old Mill hotel and had lunch at a local diner. I tried to text Sharon to let her know were she could find me but there was no cell service. I sent her a text on messenger through the motel WiFi. However she was already in Damascus at this time and also had no cell service. She finally managed to get signed in on WiFi at the gas station and got my message. It was a beautiful day and so we went for a walk around town and caught up on the last few months.

It is common practice for people on the trail to have trail names.

These names often given by friends or trail family highlight something that happened or a particular trait of the hiker. My friend Waffle got his name when he said he was waffling between two other names. He was pronounced Waffle at that point. I remember the second time a met him, I could not remember his trail name and I tried Cup Cake, Pancake and a few others before I got to Waffle. Some hikers also choose their own trail names,probably mostly out of fear of getting a name they are embarrassed about. I chose my own name as I was pretty sure no one would give me one. This is partly due to being an introvert and a bit of a loner. I was humming a song to myself one day while walking - "plant my feet on higher ground." I thought about the term 'higher ground" and felt that sort of described why I was on the trail - seeking to get out of the pit I was in on to higher ground. Then I remembered a song by Bob Dylan called Highlands.

"Well my heart’s in the Highlands gentle and fair
Honeysuckle blooming in the wildwood air
Bluebelles blazing where the Aberdeen waters flow
Well my heart’s in the Highland
I’m gonna go there when I feel good enough to go"

"Well, my heart’s in the Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There’s a way to get there and I’ll figure it out somehow
But I’m already there in my mind
And that’s good enough for now"

To me the words speak of a longing to find peace and renewal. They also remind me of the psalmist who wrote "I look up to the mountain, does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
So I chose to go with the name Highlands. To me it just speaks of a longing and hope to live on a higher plain. My decision to hike was made with the longing and hope that it would lift me out of the pit and rut that I was in. It was made with the hope that I would meet God in the "highlands" in a way I was not able to at home. It's not that God is anymore available in the mountains than at home, it is that I am more available to God when I walk in his incredible creation.
When I was thinking of my trail name I thought a lot about the word that I have heard many times from God, "You are my son in whom I am well pleased." God calls me his son. The word son means much more then "you are my biological off spring." When I say my son or

my daughter it carries with it a whole range of meanings. There is the sense of ownership, you belong to me. There is the sense of commitment, because you are mine I commit to doing everything I can possibly do to see you be happy, fulfilled, and successful. I am always available for you if you need me. I would give my life to protect you. When God calls us his son or daughter all of these meanings and many more are involved. A person dealing with depression has to cling to the reality that God calls us son or daughter. We need this hope when the lies of depression tell us we are hopeless and life is hopeless and pointless. Fort Atlantic in their song "Let Your Heart Hold Fast" sing these words:
All my days are spent
All my cards are dealt
Oh, the desolation grows!
Every inch revealed
As my heart is pierced

Oh, my soul is now exposed!

In the oceans deep;
In the canyons steep
Walls of granite here I stand
All my desperate calls
Echo off the walls
Back and forth; then back again

To believe I walk alone
Is a lie that I've been told

So let your heart hold fast
For this soon shall pass
Like the high tide takes the sand

The lie that I walk Alone has been part of my life as long as I remember. But it especially came on strong in my depression. At times it overwhelms me and sucks all the hope out of my life. It's easier to cling to our name "God's Son/Daughter" when we have had a mountain top experience (eg Having someone pay off your mortgage). But mountain top experiences are not the norm and they are given to us so we can live victoriously in the valley. God has renewed my faith and sense that he calls me His son. My desire is to

overcome the lie that "I walk alone" and cling to the promise that I belong to God and as his son it entitles me to all the meanings that come along with that word. Coming off the trail and going back into the daily grind of life will most certainly test my resolve. I will miss the trail and it's simplicity.
Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin
I've heard a thousand stories of what they think you're like
But I've heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you're pleased
And that I'm never alone
You're a good good father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am
I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching
For answers only you provide
'Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word
You're a good good father

It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am
Because you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it's love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love
You're a good good father
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are
And I'm loved by you


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