Saturday, June 5, 2010

All We Needed Was a Lion

It was bound to happen. After six months of hiking Bays Mountain nearly every week, we had tempted fate long enough. On Friday, June 4, 2010, Paige and I experienced our first bear encounter. More on that in a minute.

This morning, we set out to accomplish a goal. We have hiked every trail around the nature center, many several times, from the radio towers to the fire tower, all around the lake and from ridge to ridge. The left side of our official Bays Mountain Park map, however, had nary a highlighted trail. We had limited ourselves to radii that could be achieved within two hours, mainly because we were too busy to give it any more time than that. But today we were going to through hike from Bays Mountain to Laurel Run Park. We had previously hiked the Laurel Run Trail up to where it joins the Kiner Hollow Trail, but that was as far as we had made it. We drove down to Laurel Run and parked Paige’s car and then headed up to Bays Mountain in my truck.

For those that care, our trail route was as follows: Lakeside, Sweet Gum, Lake Road, River Mountain Road, Bear Run (should have been our first clue), Indian Pipes, Pretty Ridge, Kiner Hollow, Laurel Run Trail. Everything was hunky dory on all the trails leading up to Bear Run, as we had traveled those many times. Bear Run was not as well marked and we nearly missed it, but caught it in time. After connecting to Indian Pipes, we met another couple and exchanged pleasantries with them as we assured each other that all the spider webs had been collected along our respective journeys and that it would be clear sailing from there on.

Not quite.

Within a few minutes, it happened. We were walking along and heard the sound of rustling branches and leaves nearby. Paige was leading the way because she always complains that she can’t see anything when she is following me (imagine that). I reached out to grab her when we both saw and heard what it was. A mother black bear and what appeared to be two cubs clawing at a tree just 20 yards in front of us. They did not hear or see us. Of course we froze and then began to back up.  I unzipped my hip-don’t-call-it-a-fanny-pack so that I could access my equalizer if need be, but then we came to our senses and decided to do what they always tell you to do- make noise in hopes of chasing them off. I yelled and Paige clapped her hands. Heads raised as we caught their gaze and we stared at them. For a split second it was a standoff. Praise the Lord, a second later, momma took off and the cubs were on her heels. With renewed vigor, we continued on, looking back over our shoulders for the next mile or so. All we were missing was a lion and we would have fulfilled the song, “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!”

I have always imagined what that might be like. It was a definite rush and I will live a long and happy life if it never happens again, but, I have to say, I really felt like we were living life to the fullest in those brief moments. It reminded me of the great canoe trip of 2008. I blogged about that too if you want to search the archive. If my momma had anything to do with it, I would never have hiked the first time for fear of finding the wolves that escaped or, yes, even finding a bear.  But if I chose to give into fears — or even the fears of others — Paige and I would have missed some of the most precious moments of our marriage hiking together over the past six months.

There are spiritual applications for this too. If I you want to play it safe with your faith and never face rejection or anger from people, then by all means, don’t tell anyone about Jesus. However, if you want a blessing unlike any other, and if you want to live in obedience, take a chance. Share your faith. Give a word of testimony. You just may end up helping someone find what they were always looking for in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways: A relationship with their Creator through Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we try to be too safe in life. Maybe we try too hard to NOT have to depend on God to protect and provide. When we let go and live- not with reckless abandon- but abandon our lives to Him, we just may find that abundant life that Jesus promises us.

As Nike says--- Just Do It!