Footlogs and Phobias

“What’s a footlog?” I asked Dean. I was soon to find out.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—Where does my help come from? – Psalm 121:1 NIV

One of the trails my husband and I hiked on our camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains was the Kephart Prong Trail. Littered with golden leaves, it wound through the forest two miles up a mountain along a gurgling creek and several waterfalls to a hiking shelter near the summit.

The trail crossed the creek at several places—four to be exact. Bridge number one was a nice one-lane footbridge constructed of wooden planks with a log railing on one side. I crossed it no problem.

The first foot bridge. I didn’t know what was ahead.

 

Then we got to the second bridge, but it wasn’t called a bridge—it was called a “footlog”—a split log about 25 feet long spanning the creek 10 feet below. It, also, had a log railing on one side only, which in places arched away from the bridge.

I’ve always had a fear of heights. When I was nine, my father had to peel me off the second landing of a fire tower because I was screaming and clinging to the steel grate step in terror. I never overcame my acrophobia.

On the first bridge I was fine. I felt secure on the wooden planks. But stepping on a narrow log with moss growing on it was another story.

While my sweet hubby was too busy taking pictures of this historic event to be of any help should I fall into the rushing stream below and knock myself out on a rock, I focused on a point on the log about three feet in front of me, put one hiking boot in front of the other, used my walking stick for balance, and counted my steps aloud. And, of course, ignored Shutterbug behind me.

Baby steps

“Don’t look down!” Dean told me. I didn’t. He took this picture.

Then we came to the second footlog—green with moss, gray with age and missing chunks of wood—scarier than the first one. Using my focus and counting technique and ignoring the fear, I made it across, even though the couple behind us turned back when the woman refused to cross it.

The second footlog. Notice the wood missing and how the railing arches away from the walkway.

 

Halfway across! Notice how well I am concentrating.

The third (and nice) footlog

The third footlog looked newer, like it had just been built. It should have been a piece of cake by then, but I was still scared.

I wasn’t any less afraid crossing the footlogs on the return trip as I had been going up.

But I learned something. No, I didn’t overcome my fear—I walked through it.

We all set out on a trail called life. It goes up and down, winds over rocky and smooth terrain. Along the way we encounter our fears.

But we don’t have to turn back. We don’t have to overcome our fear, either—indeed, sometimes you can’t.

Made it!

But by taking one step at a time, focusing on what’s just ahead, using God’s Word for balance, and having faith in what’s at the end of your journey, you can walk through it.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? From You, Father God, the maker of the mountains and my guide through this hike called life. Amen.

 

Read and reflect on Psalm 121.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God. © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Two Rocks Don’t Make a Duck

Cairn at Acadia National Park
September 23, 2013

My God is my rock. – Psalm 18:2 (NIV)

When my husband and I visited the Acadia National Park Visitors Center, informational placards lined the uphill walkway from the parking lot to the building. Of course, I had to read them all. Not only because I needed to catch my breath from climbing the hundred-plus steps, either. Maybe it’s the teacher in me. Or my insatiable curiosity. Or both.

Since Dean’s impatience at my frequent stops was starting to show (and it was only the beginning of the day), I took pictures of the placards so I could read them later in the evening when he was asleep in his recliner.

But the cairns intrigued me, and I took my sweet time at each of them.

A cairn is a stone structure built to point the way on a trail. Although cairns come in various shapes and sizes, the ones at Acadia were no more than 18 inches high and were built with four or six large stones: two or four large, square ones on the bottom with one large, rectangular stone spanning them, and a smaller, triangular-shaped one on top, with the tip pointing the direction of the trail.

“Cairns are carefully built and placed to point the way,” one placard read. “When trail blazes are hidden by fog or snow, cairns are essential,” said another.

Another placard warned of tampering with the cairns: “Do not build new cairns or add to existing cairns – you may confuse or endanger hikers.”

Back at the camper, I googled “cairns” to find out more about them. Trail marks in North America, I learned, are often called “ducks” or “duckies” because the point of the top rock resembles a duck’s beak. “The expression ‘two rocks don’t make a duck’ reminds hikers that just one rock resting on another could be the result of accident or nature rather than intentional trail marking.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairn)

Like a path in the woods, the trail of life can be confusing at times, too. The fog of indecision, the snow of fear about the results of our choices may hide the direction we are to go. Sometimes all the paths look good – or bad.

Right now I’m wrestling with a decision of whether or not to proceed with the project of publishing a third book of meditations – compilations of this column. Since I self-publish, the cost upfront comes out of my pocket. I’ve started two or three times to put the book together since my last compilation came out in 2002. But each time I backed out because of finances.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you,” the Bible tells us in James 1:5 (NLT).

And again: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NLT).

God’s cairns are there for the asking. But sometimes we don’t recognize them because, like me, we don’t know what they are.

But when we do, we see that He’s placed them at every point we need direction. We just need eyes to see the duck.

Give me the spiritual sight to see and recognize the cairns You’ve placed along my life’s path, O Lord. Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 13:21–22

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.