Let this be your light when all other lights go out…….
Today needs to be a day when I discuss how faith in God and a pocket size version of the Holy Bible can be just that…the light that keeps you going when all other lights go out, and you find yourself alone and isolated. I am going to type this from my experience in hiking into the wilderness alone for the first time.
Two plus years ago as God was tapping on my shoulders consistently to train in survival skills, it became clear that I was to do a “survival hike”. At that time the best definition I can give you was to find a trail in the wilderness located around the East Bay California area that I could hike for 4 days, being dropped off in one location and picked up somewhere else. I would load up a backpack with supplies, hike and camp alone, and emerge on the other side with experience and knowledge of what I did right or painfully wrong.
I researched locations and found a trail called the Mt. Diablo Regional Trail. It started in Round Hill Park up by Brentwood, and then headed south, southwest, by Los Vasqueros, Morgan Territory, and up and over Mt Diablo, ending in Walnut Creek, approx 30 miles later. Then I started assembling the gear, maps, permits, and other tidbits of knowledge to prepare. I was at Any Mountain, it is a sporting goods store a few weeks prior to starting the hike, and for some reason I drifted into Barnes and Noble which was in the same shopping center. Get a journal, get a pocket size bible, I kept hearing in my head, not anything that I had originally planned for my shopping trip. I have learned that sometimes listen to what that voice inside is telling you to do, so I found and purchased them both.
The day came to start the hike. My girlfriend was going to drop me off at the starting point, and pick me up at the end four days later. I had done what at that time I had considered to be a good packing and preparation job. We drove up and arrived at Round Hill’s parking lot. That sudden rush of emotions hit me, what am I doing? Why am I leaving the comforts of civilization, why am I doing this alone, what is wrong with me? Those feelings of doubt, disbelief, and just plain fear gripped me. I hugged and kissed my girlfriend, took a couple pictures, and started down the trail.
Within the first two hours, many of those emotions where leaving me, I actually was enjoying the clean air, smell of the trees, and the peaceful sound of nothing but my feet on the trail. Soon thereafter I began to realize how I was not in as good of physical shape as I thought I was, as I hiked from 300ft elevation up to about 1000ft. As I snacked on my Safeway Sandwich, (I know much better than to pack that type of food now), the rain began. I could see it coming from the top of the mountain ridge lines. Little did I know that most of the rest of the hike would be wet, cold and clammy.
That first day, I was navigating good, trails marked well, and made it to my campsite within 9 hours…good thing because only about an hour of daylight left. This “campsite” was nothing more than a sign, a wricketedy old barbwire fence, with one wooden bench, AKA tree stump. As I quickly tried to set up my one person tent I could hear very distinct howls, and chirps. I had read in my reasearch that coyotes, and mountain loins could be present.
Those howls, and chirps got closer and closer, just as the sun was setting I could hear them behind me, then to my left, then in front. Not more than 50 yards I could see 5 coyotes staring at me. At that moment my comfort came from my 10 inch Bowie knife that I had on my hip. For the next two plus hours I continued to hear the chirping sounds and the howls all around me, but could not see anything do to the night. I was absolutely exhausted from the day’s hike, ate dinner, but no luck with a fire as it was just pouring rain. I had to sleep, got into my tent, closed the door, and kept hearing the coyotes. I reached inside my vest and pulled out my bible. My favorite book is Matthew and I remember just starting to read it. By the time I got through Chapter 6 and Jesus teaching to not worry, I fell asleep.
Morning came, I unzipped the tent, and smelled the damp air, and heard no animal sounds, yea. The second day brought some wonderful stories involving cows, steep hills, and a man named Dick. I will leave those stories for another day, however what I want to discuss is the rain, fog and isolation that hit my body and my soul. I put in about 9 miles of hiking and climbing from about 1200ft to 3000ft elevation in the midst of bad weather the entire day, I found myself thinking what am I doing, why I am out in the middle of nowhere climbing these mountains, slipping, sliding, and getting soaked. When I made it to where I wanted to camp for the second night it was totally wet with standing water everywhere, and so fogged in that I really could not come up with another camp site, so I learned on the fly the art of elevating a camp site from nothing. However, the most difficult part of the hike mentally was taking grip. The feeling of being unsure of my location, miles upon miles away from others, cold, with no ability at that time to light a fire, just an overwhelming depression with doom and gloom sprinkled in. What was I thinking doing this? Curled up in my tent, with some dry base layers on, in my sleeping bag for warmth, I just prayed, and then opened my bible back up. Picking up at Matthew chapter 7 I read outloud till I finished the book. Enough peace and serenity took over me to allow some sleep that night.
The next day it was still raining, for those that have tried to roll up your sleeping bag, pack your tent and bed roll when it is 40 degrees and damp you understand the blight I was in. I was facing at least 20 miles to go, not even at Mt. Diablo yet and just struggling. I was able to use my high efficiency camp stove to get a cup of hot coffee, and started into the book of Romans. EVERY muscle in my body was on FIRE. I thought what if I can’t physically make this? No cell phone signal for sure. I had to try, pray to God for help and a big dose of manna. Down the mud trail once again. This day was spotty rain, I took breaks every hour, just stayed focused on the task at hand, one step at a time. I noticed ahead of me a fence at what my map indicated was the boundary line for Mt Diablo State Park, as I approached the gate…locked. Oh man, what the heck do I do now? I sat down and wept, literally what am I going to do, turn around? So I did what I needed to I crawled on my stomach just low enough to get under the gate, after I had thrown all my gear to the other side. 5 miles later I was at camp inside Mt. Diablo, I leaned some great navigation skills with my compass that day. The gate was locked for a reason because I was about 2 miles north of the gate I was supposed to be at, but everything happens for a reason. My third night was actually peaceful, with a fire and more reading of Romans.
As I made it to the end of the hike, I came across this amazing tree I will call it the tree of wonder. I sat under it and took a nap. My girlfriend picked me up, told me how bad I smelled, and we drove home. I had so many experiences that now I carry with me as a badge of honor and train others with. But to this day I will tell you without God, or my pocket Bible I would have never finished my first Survival Hike!
God Bless You
God Bless America