"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps." Proverbs 16:9.
We started in Damascus, VA, one of the towns dissected by the 2,193 mile Appalachian Trail. In fact, Damascus is often considered a favorite among thru-hikers of the trail. Another trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail -- primarily a biking trail -- also passes through Damascus and the two trails actually share the same real estate in a couple of places.
The beginning of our hike was upon one of those places which is both Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT) and Appalachian Trail (AT.) The scenery was a gorgeous smattering of fresh green foliage with a happy creek bubbling along beside the trail. The weather was perfect, not too cool, not yet hot, with a nice breeze blowing. It was only about a mile before we came to the staircase which marked
the separation of the two trails. Climbing the stairs and beginning the ascent beyond, it was obvious we had left the gentle VCT for more challenging terrain.
In spite of the climb, our hike was going well and we stopped at a lovely brook to gather and filter water for the rest of the day. Shortly afterward we found signs on the trail that a bridge ahead had been washed out and we were detoured back to the VCT.
At the trailhead to the Virginia Creeper, we took advantage of a bench provided, slipped off our heavy packs and surveyed our maps. The detour signs had stated the way would be well marked, and we had clearly seen those marks up to now, but didn't see a marker here at the trailhead. We set out in the direction we thought was best, ". . .a man's heart deviseth his way."
It was several miles before we realized not only were we going the wrong way on this 34 mile trail, we were actually heading back to Damascus! This changed all our plans. ". . .but the Lord directeth his steps."
We had only a limited amount of time for this hike and had planned to go out a certain distance and on the third day, turn back. Now we had lost precious time. We continued along the Creeper until it was time to camp for the night. We found a lovely campsite on the banks of the creek and let its bubbling and swirling lull us to sleep.
The next morning we hiked back into Damascus. We sent some messages to our daughter (because there is NO cell phone service on the trail.) Then we turned around, and for the third time, hiked this portion of the combined trails.
The missing of the trail at the detour changed our plans. We hiked another portion of the Appalachian Trail and then hiked to the end of the Creeper Trail. The Creeper ends at the Virginia/North Carolina border, so we took a couple steps into North Carolina for good measure. Then we changed directions and hiked the 18 miles back to Damascus.
We had made our plans, and they were good plans. But the Lord had other ideas for us. We enjoyed our hike on the Creeper and now have plans to go back and finish the remaining 16 miles. It was not something I would have planned myself, but I am so glad we did it. It was an enjoyable hike, giving us our greatest mileage in one day, 23.17 miles. We saw things we had never seen before, such as the fox who stopped to give us a once-over as he crossed the trail, the beaver who scuttled faster than I would have imagined, across a meadow toward the creek, and bear tracks at a campsite we declined to use for obvious reasons.
The Lord intends for us to use our minds as we plan for our future, but He doesn't intend for us to lean on our own finite understanding. He wants us to always be open to the possibility that we have missed the trail, or that there may be something else He wants us to do. Thankfully, He is so magnificent He can work even our wrong turns into something wonderfully good for us.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him
and He shall direct thy paths.
Be not wise in thine own eyes;
fear the Lord, and depart from evil."
Proverbs 3: 5-7
"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it,
when ye turn to the right hand and
when ye turn to the left."