Mount LeConte – view #2

2013 LeConte Group

Well after reading last week’s post on my hike to Mount LeConte I hope you did not get the feeling I was disappointed in our hike.  I did have a lot of pain and it was foggy where we had no view, but I really did enjoy the hike.

This week I want to share some of the positive details about the hike, and my experience of llamas, a bear, cabins, food, friends and the views.

Llamas

Mount LeConte is accessible only by trail –  hiking trail that is.  There are no roads to access the mountain top.  So to get provisions to LeConte Lodge, they employ llamas to deliver the goods.  Three times a week eight llamas will deliver about 70 pounds each of perishable food, clean linens and mail to the Lodge.  They take about 4 hours to hike to the top, where they will eat lunch, and then hike back down Trillium Gap trail to the parking lot.

We had the pleasure of passing the llama parade on our way to the top of the mountain.  I found the llamas to be a pleasant animal who enjoyed their routine hiking.

Llama close up
Llama close up
Llama parade
Llama parade

Bear

There had been an uninvited guest at Mount LeConte a couple weeks before and leading up to our stay.  A bear had found a liking to the availability of food as it prepared for a long winter’s nap.  The staff at the Lodge had been trying to discourage the bear with a variety of methods, but nothing was deterring the hungry intruder.

We saw lots of signs, but did not actually see the bear – which I did not have a problem with.  During the night I had to get up to go to the bathroom of course, and my stroll to the bathroom down the trail was on high alert.

Bear activity
Bear activity

Cabins

We stayed in a three bedroom log cabin.  A bedroom consists of a room big enough for a bed.  Actually they are bunk beds and queen size at that.  There is no electricity in the cabins, so an oil lamp is the only option for light unless you bring your own flashlight.  There is a gas heater in each room as well.  In spite of the drafty walls, the gas heaters do a pretty good job heating the cabin over night.

Cabin fireplace
Cabin fireplace
LeConte cabins
LeConte cabins

The food

Once you get to the top of the mountain the first thing you have available is the much talked about hot chocolate.  I had a cup of it, as soon as I could.  As far as hot chocolate goes it was ok, but something hot on a cold wet day was super welcome.

I have to tell you I think just about any meal prepared for me would have tasted great.  But having a nutritious meal to feed my hunger and restore energy was just what I needed.  With your overnight stay supper and breakfast are included.  For supper we had potato soup, beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, stewed apples, peach half and chocolate chip cookies.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, biscuits, pancakes, grits, coffee and Tang.

Again there is no electricity, so meals are by candle light.  The staff prepare food and deliver to each table with a reliable routine.  The meals are the same each day, but they have figured out a way to prepare hearty delicious family-styled meal that is nutritious and fun to eat.

Supper table
Supper table

Friends

We had a few friends who hiked with us of course, but in such a small place LeConte Lodge is a great place to meet new friends.  The office has a large common area where hikers gather to play board games, share stories, and get to know each other.  With one heater in the room and only a few lanterns, the rich ambiance takes you back to a more refreshing simple time.

Common heater in the office
Common heater in the office
Office area
Office area

The views

The only disappointment is that I cannot show you any views from the top.  I will share a few of the other beautiful scenery we were able to enjoy.

Log bridge
Log bridge
Mountain view
Mountain view
Grotto falls
Grotto falls
creek
creek

I am so thankful that I finally got to hike to Mount LeConte.  I hope to do it again – in much better shape the next time!

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Mount LeConte – view #1

Foggy view of LeConte Lodge
Foggy view of LeConte Lodge

In November my daughter, myself and a few friends hiked to Mount LeConte and stayed the night at the LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I had never hiked to Mt LeConte and had wanted to hike it for as long as I could remember.  Our friends who hike it every year posted they had a couple of openings in one of their cabins and asked if anyone wanted to go on short notice.  I jumped at the chance as that was a rare free weekend for me.

So there are a few facts I need to let you in on to put this story in perspective.  First you need to know that I agreed to go one week before the weekend trip.  Yep – one week to prepare for a long hike and overnight stay.  Like I said before, I have wanted to hike and stay at LeConte for a very long time, so I eagerly jumped at a chance to go.   Secondly I lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Exercise to me was a big part of my life at one time, but is not currently something I do regularly.  ……..Work, home, eat, sleep and repeat is pretty much my routine.

Also know that I am a former member of the 10th Mountain Division in the US Army.  I was a commando Infantry light fighter, which meant more than anything we walked just about everywhere we deployed.  My job required me to carry a 75 pound rucksack full of food, water, clothes, and mortar gear when we were on maneuvers.  We were stationed in the flat lands but were trained mostly to navigate mountains (hence the name 10th Mountain Division).  Our unit was designed to go to and fight in places that the normal Army units could not access.  We were trained to go no matter how I felt, or how bad the weather was.  So I know how to hike and take care of myself.

The Hike

Trillium trail 1
Trillium Gap Trail

Now given the fact that I was not physically in the best of shape I thought to choose the most gradual incline of the five trails that lead to Mt LeConte.  Trillium Gap Trail is a 6.5 mile trail and gains 3,300ft in elevation.  From what I had read it gained the least in elevation, so I thought it would be the best on my knees and body.

There was twelve of us that hiked together that Friday morning.  Before I lost sight of the parking lot I was already winded, and I knew this was going to be a long day.  So I kept a pace that was steady, but not really as fast as the others.  The first part of the hike was not too bad, but by the time we stopped at the half way point for a snack my knees were already hurting.

It wasn’t long after we started the second half that my left knee gave out.  So to compensate I used more of the right leg, but I also noticed that I was falling further behind the rest of the gang.  By now the weather was also turning colder with rain becoming more steady, but the mountain trail was beautiful.Trillium cross roads

Then if that were not bad enough I started getting a Charley horse in my calf – actually both calves!  I was in pain!  Apparently I had not drunk enough water at the beginning of the hike, and it was now showing in these muscle cramps.  I could not go 10 minutes until one calf or the other was convulsing in a Charley horse.  All I could do was wait for the pain to go away and try to keep slowly hiking.

Danielle stayed with me to encourage me to keep me going – she was a trooper.  But it was not long until she was getting frustrated with my misery and offered to carry my backpack.  Not only are my legs hurting really bad, now my pride is hurting because this 40 something year old man is needing his 20 something year old daughter to carry his pack.  But I did concede and let her carry it for a few minutes because I was in so much pain.

I look up and the rest of the gang is long gone by now, but our group leader Keenan came back to check on us.  He saw the pain I was in and offered to hike on to the top, drop his pack, and come back to help me.  I was in no shape to deny the help, so he took off while Danielle and I kept on moving slowly.  I tried to keep a positive attitude because I was enjoying the scenery, smells and adventure.  I was also thankful that Danielle was keeping such a good attitude through all my trials.

I am not sure how long he was gone, but about a half mile out from the top he met us again with a couple of guys with him to help me out.  I was about in tears because I needed the help, and these guys had come to assist me.  I was totally humbled at that point and glad to let Keenan carry my pack the rest of the way to the cabin.

LeConte cabins
LeConte cabins

Once we got to the top we met the rest of the hikers along with another group that came up another trail.  One of them was a friend Mike who saw what kind of shape I was in and helped me to our cabin.  Mike also went to get me some warm hot chocolate from the kitchen to warm me up (LeConte Lodge is famous for their hot chocolate!).  Over the next hour as I sat in the cabin resting and trying to figure out just how I was going to walk around on the top of this mountain the rest of the night, Mike would come by every so often to check on me offering anything I would need.

Of course, the next morning would be a hike down the mountain with another set of pains to endure.  But as I sat there before supper reflecting on the day’s events I was overcome with gratitude and humility.

I am so Thankful

I was totally humbled by my lack of physical ability to hike to the top of the mountain like I thought I could.  Thinking back on my experienced days with the 10th Mountain I realized they were close to 25 years ago.  My mind was strong, but my body had become weak.

I was also overcome with such gratitude for those who helped me especially Danielle, Keenan and Mike.  They gave so sacrificially and graciously to my aid that I just could not thank them enough.

It reminded me of Joshua fighting in Exodus 17.  While Joshua and Israel fought Amalek and his people, Moses would hold up his hands.  When his hands were raised Joshua would win, but as soon as he let them down Amalek would win.  So Moses had Aaron and Hur help hold his hands up so Joshua and the Israelites could win the battle.  Those three helped me win the battle of Mt LeConte against my body.  I did victoriously see the mountain top!

My thanksgivings

Thanksgiving table

It should go without saying that I am thankful, but then again sometimes it should go with saying that I am thankful and just what I am thankful for.  I find it healthy to verbalize these things and to give thanks to God for the rich blessings He has given me.

So today I made a short list of some of the things I am thankful for:

First off I am thankful for my Savior Jesus who came to this earth as a man, lived a perfect life as an example for me, and then sacrificed His life for my salvation.

To be able to see the variety of God’s wonderful creation and all the beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit.Guatemala volcano

To be able to tell my family “I love you” to their face, and be so open to them.  Also for the great family that surrounds me.

Friends who are truly friends no matter what, and will be there for me under any circumstance.  I count just a few people in the world with this description.  I also love it when I can call one of these guys up after a long break from seeing each other and start off cutting up like we just spoke yesterday.

The special friends who showed me what it was like to follow Jesus at an early age, and those who still do it today.

Those people who tell me they are thankful for me.

The mistakes I have made – now that they are behind me.  I have learned so much from them and they have formed me to be the man I am today.

The gifts and talents God has blessed me with and the times I am fortunate enough to use them.

I hope you will take some time today to give thanks for the blessings in your life as well.

Happy Thanksgiving yall!

The Rest We All Need

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

I read this scripture again a few weeks ago and realized something significant – God rested.  Wow!  The creator of our universe, who is without boundaries or limitations rested.  Why on earth would God do that?

I think he rested to provide an example for us to follow in our lives.  We have to rest or our body will shut down on its own.  Sometimes we think there is no time for rest because there is so much to do.  Or does that just happen to me?

I’ll admit, I have so much to do at times that I really feel rest is a waste of time.  It doesn’t get me anywhere.  It just lets me, well ……. wind down –  recharge  –   refocus.              Oh yeah … rest.

I need rest in my life for no other reason that to refocus at times.  I get so wound up with the things in my life I think must be accomplished.  I also am a bit of a perfectionist at times.  I think some things I do have to be absolutely finished and completely right before I can stop or let it go.  Now sometimes that is a good thing of course, but sometimes it just drives me to the end of my physical and mental usefulness.

River
Peace like a River

Three kinds of rest we need

Daily

I don’t know about you, but my body needs 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep every day.  It would be awesome if I could keep a consistent rhythm of getting that much sleep every day, but I usually don’t.  And when I get behind on a good night sleep it seems to affect me in a lot of ways.  I find it hard at times to just quit what I am doing and go to bed – I have so much more to do!  But what I make up in productive activity … I lose in rest.  My body will suffer as a result.  So only when I get wise do I lay things down and get a good nights rest.

Weekly

Here is the Biblical example we are given – to take a weekly rest.  Some call it a Sabbath day, the Lord’s day or even the day of rest.  For my family it is Sunday.  That is the day we set aside to rest from work and worship our Savior.  I will do everything I can to keep this day set aside and not work.  I don’t like to do business on this day if I can help it.  I also like to spend Sundays visiting with family.  We usually eat lunch with family members on Sunday and it is so good to recharge those relationships during those times.  I also like to get in a good Sunday afternoon nap.  For me that nap gives my body  that extra rest that I missed during the week.  It also gives me peace knowing all is well with my family that I can check out for an hour or so to just rest.

Yearly

One of the best ways we rest is with a good vacation.

Think about the best vacation you have ever had.  Was it a fun vacation?  Was it a restful vacation?  Usually the two are not the same.  During the season of our lives when we have young kids – rest is the furthest thing from a vacation.  However, I have felt the releasing of tension from work and my hustle/bustle life.  I may not have rested in the sense I would like, but my mind let go long enough to recalibrate the priorities in life.  Like spending time with family.

So for six days God worked.  I hope I showed you last week that work is actually a good thing.  Then God rested.  So let’s think about a couple of things.  God cannot be a part of anything evil.  So if God is in rest, then it must be a wonderful thing.  Notice that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.  What God did was declare the seventh day good and set apart.  Since work was also good, God gave a separate time and weight to resting.

For me God speaks to me and says that I need that same time of rest.  I need a break from work to let my mind and body separate the activities.  Both work and rest are good and they both are something we all need.

Note to reader:  I finished this blog one night and thought I had it complete.  I went to bed and after resting had some more insight to this topic.  So I included it this morning before posting.  The overnight rest gave me a more clear picture to describe rest.  I hope this topic is as beneficial to you as it has been for me.

Are you heartily at work?

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men – Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work. Did you ever think of that?

In Genesis 2:15 we see that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. This means that gathering fruit and vegetables was work, but in a good way. Imagine loving to do work! It brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Digging work
Digging work

Then when sin came along that same work became toilsome. In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles.  You know what they are – competition for healthy plants. God also said that work then would cause us to sweat and make us exert a lot of effort.  Sometimes work is physically hard and sometimes it is just mentally draining.

Most people in our American society look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to. Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name. But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!

In Colossians 3:23 we are instructed to work heartily – just as if working for the Lord instead of humans.  To work heartily means with all your heart, to work genuinely, sincerely and warmly.  Is there anything in your life you do this way?  I know of people with a commitment to a team or cause with this kind of zeal, but not usually to work.  If you think of it, the matter comes down to a heart issue.  I think we need to work from our heart just as we love, play, sing or dance.

So when you work in retail you are obviously serving a customer, but you are also working to please God. If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you. At staff meetings, sales conferences, deliveries and while answering the phone see to it that you are pleasing God with your efforts.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – then do them all in a way that would be pleasing to God!

One of my favorite quotes gives a great description of what somebody looks like who is working heartily:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.     – James A. Michener

So – how heartily are you at your work today?

My Veterans Day salute 2013

Today I would like to do my part in honoring the military veterans of our great country. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice – all gave some and some gave all.

Image

As a veteran, I have several thoughts and reflections that are going through my mind. I served three years as an Infantry mortar man of the 10th Mountain Division in Ft Benning, Georgia. In my 3 years, I earned the rank of Sargent, was Airborne qualified, field medic certified, trained in Alaska and spent many days carrying an oversized rucksack in the field as a light-fighter. I am thankful to God that there was not a military conflict while I was in the service, and so abundantly grateful to those who had engage in combat.

I have at least four veterans that have made a huge impact on my life, and I try to honor them this day when possible.

  • My cousin Chuck is a few years older than me. He was a Marine, and while I was floundering in college he came to visit one time right after his basic training. The change of discipline I saw in him influenced me to see that the military might be a good thing for me.
  • Wes is my buddy and as close as a brother to me. We didn’t know each other before, but joined the 10th Mountain at the same time – from the same hometown. The three years in the Army was only the beginning of a lifetime of friendship. We experienced life in many ways over the years – good and bad times, hard and fun times, even in life and death. Sometimes I would talk to Wes and he would just know what I need – without me asking.
  • Jeff is a friend I met through work around twelve years ago. We were both veterans and had so many things in common with each other. We worked together for years, but were separated by three hours and a state line. Jeff taught me integrity through golf and the value of a friend when needed.

The last person I want to honor is my grandpa – JB Grigsby.JB Grigsby He was the first veteran I ever knew, and the one I never appreciated until after his death in 1990. Grandpa fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, and was among very few who came home alive from his platoon. He never spoke of his military service and I never really asked. Oh how I wish I could ask him just a few questions today, and thank him for the sacrifices he made.  I wish I had took the time to lean from his wisdom, but I was just too foolish at the time.

JB grave

Military service is not for everyone.
For those who do volunteer for service to our county I am grateful. I am thankful that men and women still love this country enough to sacrifice themselves and serve in our military. I also know this fact to be true:

All will give some
Some will give all

Remember freedom isn’t free.
God, please continue to bless and heal this great nation of ours.

Yes, Work is good

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work.  Did you ever realize that?

In Genesis 2:15 we read that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  I think God intended Adam to gather fruit and vegetables daily to provide for nutritional needs.  Harvesting was work, but in a good way.  Imagine loving to do work!  Work brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Then we see that when sin came along that same work became toilsome.  In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles – competition in several ways for healthy plants.  God also said that work then would cause us to sweat – to make us give a lot of effort.  Those same fruits and vegetables now became more difficult to harvest because of the weeds choked them out.

Split Wood
Austin and Spud split wood

Most people in our lifetime look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to doing.  Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name.  But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!  Work is another way to worship God!

So if you work in retail you are serving a customer, but you are working to please God – that’s how He designed you.  If you stack, ship, move or manage for a living – do your tasks to please God.  If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – do them all to be pleasing God!

Below is one of my favorite quotes that gives a great description of what somebody looks like that loves working and is bringing glory to God.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

James A. Michener

Blackberry Wisdom

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