A short, true story with a moral lesson.
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As a boy I always enjoyed getting outdoors. I recall the first backpacking trip my dad took my older brother and I on when I was about twelve. It was to last three days. At the end of our road there was a large tract of forested land. A high ridge there had one side removed by dynamite to mine coal. It was named Fults Hill. The dynamite left a vertical wall on one side about 100 feet high. We creatively referred to it as the High Wall.
The top of the High Wall was the highest point for a few miles around and offered great views. My family often drove our 4x4 out there on Friday evening to watch the sun set. On this occasion we set out on foot for the High Wall and surrounding wilderness for our weekend escapade.
But before anyone can go on such a trip, they must prepare. The closest store that carried backpacking equipment was the Larry's Army & Navy Surplus Store in Monteagle, Tennessee. We selected nice packs with built-in, detachable daypacks. We picked out warm, down sleeping bags since we were going in colder weather. They weren't the lightest sleeping bags but they would keep us warm.
After my dad gathered other necessities, we headed home to pack. My father, in his wisdom, decided to let my brother and I pack our own backpacks. We had both been in Pathfinders (a youth outdoors club) and had some camping experience. I was very excited and started piling up everything I might need on the trip!
I got a set of clothes for each day, my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, pocket knife, fixed blade knife, folding shovel, base layers, warm jacket and pants, rain gear and extra wool socks. Then I gathered other essentials including my blue camping plate and bowl, compass, flashlight, extra batteries, first aid kit, matches, and a new bottle of bug spray and sunscreen.
As I packed I began thinking about all the things I had used when camping. I realized I only had some of them. 'What if I need to cut fire wood or what if something breaks?' I thought to myself. So I put in my hatchet and multi-tool with built in pliers and screwdrivers. Then another thought occurred to me, 'what if I rip my clothes?' I had learned to sew patches on my Pathfinder sash. So I put a needle and thread in the pile. I also added a role of duct tape because it is good for fixing many things.
'Oh a pot!' I remembered I would need that for cooking and boiling water. Going into the kitchen I got an old pot my mom didn't use very often. On the way back I spotted my brother putting rope in his backpack. I thought to myself that I should bring some too, so I put it a large roll of rope. I worked on gathering stuff for an hour or two.
I am not sure how I fit everything I gathered into that pack. But after stuffing and cramming I fit everything in, including food and water. There was no space left. As my brother carried his pack into the living room I saw he had his machete strapped to the outside. 'What if I need to cut branches out of the way on the trail?' I thought. 'I better take my machete too.' So I tied mine onto the outside of the pack and half carried, half dragged it to the living room. There my dad had a scale so we could weight our packs.
"Sixty-eight pounds," he said. "Wow, that's a lot, good thing I am strong," I said and took my pack to put in the van. What I didn't know is that for a three-day trip, my pack should have weighted half of that.
The next morning was chilly. I put on my polypropylene base layer under my regular clothes to keep warm. The temperature was in the low forty degrees Fahrenheit. Then I put on my hat, jacket, and boots. As I put my backpack on I noticed for the first time how heavy it was. I tried not to think about it. After praying for our trip, we set out towards our campsite destination near the High Wall.
As we hiked the sun continued to rise along with the temperature. Hiking with an extra heavy load made me hot very quickly. About a mile into our hike I had to stop. Sweat was pouring down my face. I had to take my hat and base layer off because I was too hot. My dad kindly pointed out my mistake. "When you are about to begin hiking, you need to start with just enough clothes to keep you warm while hiking," he said. I had started with enough layers to keep me warm while standing still. But when hiking with a heavy backpack they made me too hot.
Experienced hikers know it is better to shed extra clothes just before you start, even if you are a little cold, because you will quickly warm up. My mistake had one positive. Fore just as I was putting my extra clothes into my pack, my dad said, "Shhh" and pointed to a deer about ten feet away. We stood still and quiet. Then its baby fawn came into view. My dad snapped some pictures.
At the end of the first day, I was ready to go home. I was sore and tired from carrying my heavy backpack. Supper that evening tasted better than any I had before. Also, we had a good view. One of the joys of backpacking is all the exercise makes meals taste so much better, especially when there is a good view of God's creation.
On the last day, as we returned home, my dad asked me how much of my stuff I had actually used. Thinking it over, I began to realize that a lot of it stayed in my backpack the whole trip. My shovel and hatchet stayed in because my dad and brother brought theirs and we shared. I only wore half the clothes I brought because my clothes were clean enough to be warn multiple days. I only used a small amount of the sunscreen and bug spray I brought.
My dad's lesson is still ingrained in me today. Only carry what you need. If I had talked with my dad and brother about what they were bringing, I would have found out that we could share equipment. I would have learned what things I really needed and what things I didn't. But instead I chose to try and figure it out on my own and ended up carrying a much bigger burden than I needed too.
It is the same in our Spiritual walk. Like Christian the character in Pilgrims Progress, we often don't even realize what burdens we are carrying until we come to Jesus. If we let Him, if we read His Word and spend time with Him, He promises to make our burdens light. Matthew 11:28-30 says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." NLT.