How Did I Come to Be a Hiker?

It occurs to me that at this point some of you who occasionally read this blog may be wondering how I ever came to be someone who hikes, much less backpacks. While I'd walked a few trails on vacations and at 4H or Girl Scout camp in the past, I never would have called myself an avid hiker until just a few years ago. And I suppose several things just coincided in my life at that time to cause me to hit the trails.

We moved to Arizona from Texas in 2005. Up to that point I had been a runner, a swimmer, an aerobics enthusiasts, and a golfer, but never a hiker. But in Arizona hiking trails are about as common as kudzu is in the East. Seems like if you want to see the state, you have to get on a trail to do it.

I remember when we first flew out here, I heard several people talking on the airplane about where they would be hiking. Sounded like you either came to Arizona to play golf, go to spas, or hike. I can't afford spas at all and a round of golf is a once-in-a-while treat, so hiking is definitely more up my alley. We like our entertainment and recreation to be as cheap as possible in the Harms family.

So the Harms started hiking. We did a few trails in the Huachucas and then ventured over to the Chiricahuas. I was hooked. So of course I had to get the right gear. As I've said before and I'll say again until I die, if I'm going to take up a new recreational hobby, I'm going to dress the part so I can look good doing it! So we bought hiking boots.

The next thing that contributed to my passion for hiking was a visit with my Aunt Ida. At one time my aunt had lived just off the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. I remember visiting her and my uncle there and being enthralled with the idea of the AT, which snaked through the tall mountains just behind their house.

My Aunt now lived in Georgia, but she had section-hiked several portions of the AT in recent years. On one of my visits home after I had recently purchased my hiking boots, I listened to my aunt and my sister-in-law talk about a three or four day backpacking trip they had just taken or were about to take on the AT. As I listened to these two women talk about their gear and preparations, I began to get the bug. I could do that! If they could backpack on the AT, I could too.

When I expressed some tentative interest, my aunt pounced on it like a mountain lion. Before I knew it she was giving me books and mail order catalogs full of hiking info and paraphernalia. By the time I got on the airplane to head back to Arizona I was nervously considering how I would approach my husband with my new desire to hike the AT with 40 pounds strapped to my back.

I have a feeling James didn't take me too seriously at first. He probably thought this hairbrained idea would die as soon as I got busy with everyday life. He should have known better, and he probably does now. Ideas like this take root with me and grow like dandelions. I'm not one to let a good idea die in the shade.

Before long I enlisted my friend Kim to join me in this AT dream. She grows dandelions even faster than I do and if I were ever going to back out on this new adventure before, I certainly wasn't going to now. It became a passion for both of us and we were pursuing it with fervor.

We began slowly accumulating the gear we would need. Kim scouted the Web for the best deals. We received sleeping bags, trekking poles, headlamps, backpacks, and hiking pants for Christmas, birthdays, and Mother's Day. To prepare for the hike, we read books, scoured web sites, did new exercises, took our daily walks with canned food in our backpacks, and walked around in our boots as much as possible.

Well fast forward to the big backpacking trip. We LOVED it. We hiked 30+ miles with my aunt in April-May of 2007. I promise I'll fill you in with more details than you care to hear in future blog posts, but suffice it to say we were permanently slain with backpacking fever.

My foray into hiking and backpacking reminds me that even the most unsuspecting people can end up on the trail. I'm not a tomboy or especially athletic. Nor do I just love spending four days in the outdoors with no running water or toilets. I like my daily bath, my morning coffee, and my own bed. But, go figure, I love hiking, whether it's a local day hike or a section of the AT.

Consider all the little things that led to me getting on the hiking trails. I simply overheard some things, my interest was piqued by my aunt's passion, she invited me to join her on the trail, and she gave me all the information I'd need to know how to travel the path well. Hmm.

That kind of reminds me of how most people come to be followers of Jesus. Doesn't God often plant a seed in someone's heart through circumstances or an overheard conversation? Perhaps, like me, they experience a shift in their life that opens up new possibilities, new trails. Then isn't it often someone else's excitement and passion about their own journey that serves to pique their interest in what it means to be a Christ follower, kind of like my aunt's stories about her own exploits? And then a simple invitation seals the deal, especially if that invitation is given with the same enthusiasm that my aunt used in urging me to do the AT with her. And once the new follower has committed to "the trail" those who have been on it a while simply need to supply a little training to help them get started well.

I'm glad a few circumstances and an invitation by my aunt led me to this new adventure of hiking and backpacking. I'm even more thrilled that God arranged the circumstances to draw my interest toward Him, and that someone was passionate enough about their own journey to invite me to join them on this narrow path.

Makes me wonder though. Who have I shared my passion with? Not my passion for hiking, but my love for God, my desire for holy living, and my fervor for serving Him in this life on earth. What about you? Are you sharing your passion with others? Has anyone joined the "trail" at your invitation? Let's commit to bringing others with us. We could all use another trail buddy or two. And even the most unlikely person could become the most avid follower of all.

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