I love adventure. My favorite people are the ones who will invite me on their adventures…or humor me as I drag them along. With COVID, I haven’t been able to get out to run races, so I thought a nice substitute would be to go explore some of the local state parks. My initial weekend plan would have included a solo drive up to Rickett’s Glen to do some kayaking in the lake, and maybe some light hiking.

Friday, I got a text from my friend Sarah, who invited me on a trek through R.B. Winter State park, which is literally just down the road from her house. She had to complete a virtual half marathon, and I jumped at the chance. I had done plenty of long road races, and a couple tricky trail trots, so I thought, “How hard could hiking a half be?” We would go on Sunday, which would give me a day to prepare.

Do you know what I love even MORE than adventure? Music! And it just so happened that Saturday night was Switchfoot’s live stream of the Fantastic NOT Traveling Music Show. So in between songs, I was scavenging for hiking supplies, and trying to make mental notes of things I shouldn’t forget–like RunGoo, the anti-blister cream I use for long runs.

Also, I will note that I am trying desperately not to punctuate this blog post with foot and rock puns. Because there are a lot of them.

Now, ideally, before a half or a full marathon, I would be carbed-up and well rested. But I had been following a new 16/8 intermittent fasting plan for a week, and stopped eating at 4 pm on Saturday. Plus, I was up until after 10 pm watching the concert, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, but the one side-effect I’ve had from fasting is a crazy alertness. So I’m laying in bed at 11 still awake, deep in thought.

During the concert, Jon was talking about writing songs from difficult personal experiences (which, funny, is how I end up writing music as well). This got me thinking about my song Through It All, which was written back in the early 2000’s for my family. My dad had just received the news that my Uncle Garry was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Reflecting back on my own battle with CIDP, I wrote Through It All for them.

So I’m laying there thinking about the lyrics to the second verse of Through It All:

The winding road is rough ahead

The path is rocky where your feet must tread

But don’t lose hope, you’ll make it through

‘Cause He’ll be by your side in all you do

Where the heck did I get THAT analogy? I mean, battling a life-threatening illness must be like a winding road with a rocky path, I’m assuming? Have I ever even encountered a rocky path? Is it as crippling as CIDP, or as treacherous a road as cancer? Oh well, I guess it makes sense. I mean, this song is beloved by tens of people and nobody’s questioned the lyrics.

Well, I will tell you that one curse of being a songwriter is that your lyrics can come back to haunt you. Mine did around 10:30 am Sunday morning.

We started our hike on a fairly neat trail, similar to what I had been accustomed to with running the Humdinger races outside Danville. I thought, “Oh good, I can handle 13 miles of this… a few rocks here, a few roots there.” Not bad at all. I was definitely glad I had worn my trail running shoes, though.

As we started down the second trail though, it was clear this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The path suddenly got VERY rocky. Rocks in the path going both uphill and downhill. I didn’t recall ever hiking a trail like this before, and I got scared. Of course, I wasn’t going to admit how terrified I was to Sarah, because she was counting on me to finish this course, in a given time. If I was mentally and physically tough enough to finish two marathons, I could surely do this!

And then, those lyrics came to mind again…

The winding road is rough ahead

The path is rocky where your feet must tread

But don’t lose hope, you’ll make it through

‘Cause He’ll be by your side in all you do

Rocky paths can be very scary to someone with…uh…not the greatest balance…who was once paralyzed. I am probably the WORST yogi to ever attempt the tree pose, as my yoga instructor would probably tell you. So as we’re going along, I’m making all kinds of delightful noises as I try to maintain some semblance of balance over these unstable rocks. Did you know that rocks…rock? Back and forth when you step on them? Yeah, they like to do that.

 I am also alternating between praying for protection, and asking God why He had to create so many of these stupid shifting sedimentary statues. And moss. Although, in the proper place, moss makes a nice, cushy carpeting. And funny thing…I actually COLLECT rocks as a hobby!

Instead of enjoying this beautiful day, with the gorgeous scenery, flitting butterflies and melodic birdcalls, I am watching every single step my feet take (as I get whacked in the face several times with low-hanging branches). My body and mind are in full agreement that I’m not going to be able to hack 13 miles of this terrain. You know how I said I couldn’t get to sleep the night before? I was running on about 3 hours of sleep, plus only the fuel from a Zipfizz and a peanut butter waffle for breakfast. My stomach was churning because of the heat, so it was hard to take in nourishment on the trail.

Fortunately, Sarah was a good sport, and we turned around, doing about 8 miles in total. I was able to find a very nice walking stick, which helped immensely during the remainder of the hike.

My souvenirs from this adventure include 3 pictures, a rock (which I will make into a very fitting “medal”), blisters on the entire bottom of my left big toe, and on the outer sides of both heels, one mosquito bite and VERY sore legs. Oh, and a dead tick (thank you DEET!). But best of all, I have the memories of the experience, and the proof that rocky roads are tougher than the ice cream flavor name would have you believe. There is no marshmallow or almonds.

As difficult as that hike was for me, I’m glad I did it. After all, whether the rocks in the road are figurative or literal, my life has proven that God doesn’t forsake those with broken souls, or SOLES (I was dying to get a foot pun in here, people!). Sometimes, we human beings make stupid choices, and take ourselves down paths that our Maker wouldn’t have chosen for us. I guess that’s why free will is so important. Our mistakes might break us, but we can learn from them, and go on to write songs, or blog posts to encourage others on their own journeys (my role, if you will).

And since I can apparently write things into being with my lyrics, my next song will be about exploring the Great Barrier Reef (#1 on my bucket list).

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