“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers,
against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)
There was a disturbance surrounding the campsite. I sensed it immediately, as did my dog. I didn’t want to call it out, but in the end, it reared its ugly head. The truth I came to understand: I was not meant to have company on this journey. The friend I mentioned who was supposed to camp across Appalachia with me, arrived very under the weather and could only withstand a couple of nights of discomfort, so they left. Afterward, things were peaceful, however, not without my coming up against some crazy stuff! You have no idea how grateful I was to survive the cold, the mishaps, and the critter visit that occurred all in one single day!
Cold, crisp, mountain air
My friend tried to help me pop the new tent I brought; using the instructions given by the manufacturer was a complete fail. They missed it by 10 miles and I recalled seeing reviews of people complaining about this when I researched the tent. After what seemed like an hour or more of attempting to get it up using said instructions, I had an epiphany or a hunch so stopped, undid everything, and started over. My friend was staring at me like I was nuts, but I told him that the tent was constructed just like my smaller tent; I could put it up by myself in 15-20 minutes. So, I decided to follow my memory in putting my small tent up, in putting up the new one. Thank goodness it worked like a charm! I got it popped, alone, in about 25 minutes. It took that long because the tent was simply too cumbersome for one person. But, I needed to be able to pop it without help! I told my friend, “I’m a problem solver, that’s all there is to my determination.”
To say I was slightly perturbed by the amount of propane the “eco-friendly” camp stove/heater I bought guzzled is an understatement. The first night in my tent, the temperature outside dipped into the low 30s. I am from Ohio – it gets darn cold there during the winter, so I know how to deal with cold. But, that mountain air was something different! I do not think I have ever experienced the type of bone-chilling cold as I did that night. I awoke multiple times to find that the heater had gone out, my teeth chattering and I was so cold I couldn’t move! I was terribly worried my dog would freeze but thankful I’d brought him two warm blankets. I won’t mince words, I asked Yahweh what He wanted from me to put us in this position. Surely, He didn’t intend for me and my dog to freeze to death! But, I said, ‘if You intend for me to withstand this cold, I’ll tough it out’!
The heater blew through two 16oz cans of propane that night. I didn’t expect it to use nearly that much and I needed propane to cook with as well for the next several days. After my friend left, I drove to Walmart in Abingdon, Virginia to buy more propane and have a look at the weather online since I could get a data signal.
That morning, the campground host left a letter on our picnic table stating there were bears sighted in the area. With this in mind, I made certain to put all of my food and such in the SUV before taking off down the mountain. On the way back from Abingdon I stopped at a trailhead for the Virginia Creeper Trail, near Beartree. It is a very flat trail with lots of small rocks (asphalt rocks at that) all over it. You’d think I could walk a straight line without an issue…you’d be incorrect! After a mile and a half down the trail, a trail that has very heavy bicycle traffic, I somehow managed to literally fall flat on my face. I had a busted lip to prove it for days.
I must have had the wind knocked out of me (I had my day hiking pack on my back so that landed on top of me) because I couldn’t move for a few minutes. But you’d better believe I could still call for my dog! This silly pup…anytime, anything bad happens to me (like a fall) with him, he freaks out and runs away. Because I know his history, I also understand that he has past trauma that causes this reaction. Thankfully, even though I was completely embarrassed, there was a big group of cyclers coming in my direction as I fell. They were concerned for me but I was most grateful they caught “C” and brought him to me.
One of the men was a doctor. He and his wife stayed with me; he asked the normal ER-type questions about how I felt. They were so warm and kind. I was “okay” even though that was just my determination speaking again. I was, but I think this incident triggered trauma hiding in my body from a fall about a year prior while hiking. Busted lip, limp and all, I went on my way down the trail – with a freaked out, misbehaving dog in tow. Despite some discomfort in my body, I’m glad we went further – it was so worth it (see photos).
I was pretty exhausted after two nights with little sleep and this incident didn’t add to that. I was rather bummed because it was a beautiful day and all I wanted to do was enjoy it, and let my pup do the same. He had been through quite the ordeal while moving my mom and was such a trooper. He deserved some fun and freedom after being stuck in a small moving van seat and in close quarters with his “brother cat” and two bickering adults for two weeks. He loved all the people on the cycling trail but it was not an ideal setting for us to roam and have freedom. We made our way back to the SUV and drove back to camp.
Bear fodder and stumps
Having a cargo carrier attached to the back of my SUV meant I needed to take extra precautions driving, especially backing out of parking spaces. Finagling the rear of the SUV into the campsite was not easy. I had to watch that I didn’t back into the tent and topple it, while also maneuvering around a large protruding tree stump in the middle of the parking space. I’m telling you, that particular day of my life just got better by the minute. As I was backing into the site, I couldn’t really see the stump to my right…and then I heard a strange noise. I put the SUV into park, jumped out, and walked around to see that part of my SUV had been taken off by the stump. Thankfully, it is an aesthetic part that didn’t hurt the function but it was not a happy moment. I didn’t get mad, I just looked up and asked, “what next?”
Well, I quickly found out what could have been next. I noticed that a stump next to my campsite which had been perfectly intact when I left that morning, appeared to have become the setting of a bear’s bug-finding expedition. It had been clawed to shreds. Talk about thanking Yahweh for protecting us from what could have been! But, I’m either brave or stupid because I wasn’t freaked out, just more aware. I also proceeded to book the site for a couple of more days instead of checking out the next day. I’d had a one-on-one with a bear (a yearling) while hiking solo in the Smokies in 2021 and survived. I could deal with it again if one happened to come near. Despite this little incident, the site was beautiful and peaceful…plus, I really did not want to wrestle with that tent again so soon! 😀
But, all was not well with my soul. I was getting discouraged after nearly freezing three nights in a row, little sleep, and the occurrences of the day. I felt very depleted and didn’t want to get to the point of feeling defeated, so I drove down the mountain to get a cell signal and reached out to a couple of my sisters in Christ for prayer. I also had a good cry! Prayer is a really powerful tool, friends. My life has depended on it for so many things and He is in every single detail – who better to reach out to when the going gets tough? That night it was warmer, I slept like a log (probably not the one the bear shredded) and woke up refreshed, restored, and ready to deal with the days ahead. Hallelujah!