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  • Eric Kampmann

March Madness

See Psalm 104:10–13

In the spring of each year, hundreds, if not thousands, of enthusiastic hikers take their first steps on a 2,193-mile journey on the Appalachian Trail. Months of preparation have led to this moment. They have read guidebooks, bought equipment, packed food, and talked to those who have hiked before them. They have diligently studied every aspect of the journey to come, and now they stand under the stone portal as they prepare to ascend Springer Mountain, the true starting point of the trail.

Yet no amount of study can prepare these hikers for what lies ahead. Nature is beautiful and alluring and very hard. Hikers can expect sore knees, turned ankles, persistent thirst, lonely nights, and lingering doubts. They will be slowed by blizzards in the Smokies, startled by lightning strikes in Virginia, exhausted by searing summer heat in Pennsylvania, drenched by chilling downpours in New Hampshire, and tested by everything in Maine.

But as they walk the trail and become hardened by its challenges, hikers will experience a change of heart and mind. With time and miles, a veteran slowly emerges; the novice at Springer becomes the confident and knowledgeable Thru-Hiker who will keep on striving to achieve victory over every large and small adversity. The postcard landscape of the armchair hiker has given way to a deeper understanding of living outside of the normal comforts of civilized life. What began as toil and trouble has become something akin to joy.

The seasoned hiker overcomes through endurance and perseverance. He has encountered unexpected obstacles time and again, but he forges on because he has a defined purpose, an endgame that over time draws ever closer. And as he closes in on the last peak, the last big challenge, a new energy flows into and through his body as the final pinnacle finally comes into sight. He has reached the summit ... and tomorrow is another day.

—Eric Kampmann, Signposts

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