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  • Eric Kampmann

White Blazes

See Proverbs 14:12

Don and I had a late start the night before. Touches of winter were in the air even though we were only in the first week of October. By the time we reached Baldpate Shelter, it was night. Others were there preparing for bed, and soon, we too were in our sleeping bags.

The trail in Maine is rough; it is often wet, steep, and rocky. And the hiker also needs to stay alert for moose who occasionally use the trail as a pathway as they forage for food. Around noon, Don and I reached the summit of Baldpate; we spent about an hour there appreciating the fall landscape far below.

From there we descended sharply into Frye Notch. We stopped at a lean-to for a quick lunch and water refill. Don went to fill up his water bottle first; then, as I started to walk down to the stream, he pushed off to ascend Surplus Mountain. I was more concerned about water and paid no attention to Don leaving. But after I packed up, I noticed that two trails departed north from the shelter and neither had any markings. I looked at my map, but it gave no indication that two trails existed.

The Appalachian Trail is well known for its white blazes. Usually these markers are painted on trees every few hundred feet. They are essential for the hiker because often several trails can converge. Without a blaze or some kind of marker, the hiker would be reduced to guessing what way was the right way.

I had no idea which way Don had gone. If I chose the wrong way, I would be heading away from him. Or perhaps he chose the wrong path. If I was wrong, would he continue ahead or come back? Phones did not work, so it was possible that we would end up spending many frustrating hours trying to find each other.

I became troubled because I had to make a choice, which could easily be wrong. I started up the trail to the right, as it seemed more worn. As I ascended, I cried out several times only to be answered by the still silence of the Maine woods. Where are the blazes? Where is Don? Is he up ahead or back at the shelter? Suddenly, I doubted the rightness of every step. I felt lost, and I was angry that I had briefly let my guard down back at the shelter.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, “Stand at the crossroads and look. . .” Almost every day brings us to one or more crossroads. I was careless that October day in the woods of Maine, and I almost took the wrong way. As it turned out, I had made the right decision. Don was at the summit of Surplus Mountain. My worries dissipated, and we moved on to the next challenge.

—Eric Kampmann, Signposts

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