Day 3 of My Camino de Appalachia

“Lo hace camino andar.”  The way is made by walking.

“Solvitur Ambulando.” It is solved by walking.

These are just two of the many phrases, mantras, and prayers that came across my lips hundreds, if not thousands of times during this 12-day section hike.

After 4 years of section hiking the AT, I finally made it to the 600-mile mark. (I’m laying on the ground beside this stone-fashioned landmark…smiling…with only a few drops of water left in that water bottle!)


Day 3 proved to be my first real battle with water-lessness. I left Jenkins Shelter and had some “cruise-y” hiking until after my lunch stop at the Brushy Mountain Deli (which was closed). But there was a nice canopy nearby to enjoy my lunch under and a brief phone call with Deb.

But there was no more water for the next 10-12 miles of hiking. At the 18-mile mark for the day, I was hoping to hit a water source near the Helvey Mill shelter but it was dry.

I scouted out the creek bed a little further down but all I got was a painful sting from a hornet as I scrambled under rhododendrons looking for any wet spots in the creek.

Rubbing the painful welt on my shoulder blade, I continued down the trail to the Jenny Knob shelter where I finally found this small pool of water collecting in the stream bed after about 23 miles of hiking for the day.

There was actually a deer slurping out of this little oasis when I first arrived which brought Psalm 42:1 to mind…but thankfully she didn’t put up a fight and I was able to “camel up” over the course of the next hour. I had to submerge a small ziplock bag into this pool and then transfer the water to my “dirty” water bladder until I had 2 liters…and then filter that into my “clean” bottles. These are the experiences that make you appreciate clean water on-demand when returning home!

Expressing the relief and gratitude one feels after being thirsty for hours and then finally quenching that thirst is difficult. Perhaps you get a glimpse of that feeling from this last photo of the day.

So what was solved by walking on Day 3? How was my “way” made by walking? What do those phrases mean and how does that translate into off-trail living?

All I really know is that backpacking continues to teach me how to be present…to live in the moment. And to be grateful for simple pleasures

and provisions. When you spend several days just getting from point A to point B, life becomes much more simple than what most of us experience off trail. Being concerned mainly with water, food, and shelter reduces the mental complexities and provides an oasis of sustainability.

There are many days off trail that do NOT feel sustainable…that make me concerned about the pace of life and the impact of stress, fear, and anxiety on my relationships. But spending an extended period of time in the woods immersed in solitude, prayer, and walking reminds me that life is lived one step at a time, one breath at time, one day at a time.

I can do nothing about what happened yesterday. All I can do with the future is trust. Which leaves the present moment to be savored and enjoyed. This WAY is made by walking.

Day 1 of My Camino de Appalachia 2023

The Way Is Made By Walking…

That’s the title of a book by Arthur Paul Boers that I’ve been reading alongside of my Appalachian Trail pilgrimage this year. The book is about his experience on the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. As he tells particular stories about that journey he also weaves in christian lessons on spirituality that I found meaningful and analogous to my own pilgrimage discoveries.

On Sept 1, 2023 I packed all I would need to live in the woods for two weeks and started hiking on the AT right where I left off last year. Mile 545.6 near Atkins, VA.

About 5 minutes into the hike, I felt as though something was missing. My arms were swinging back and forth and it felt strange that I didn’t know what to do with my hands. That’s when it dawned on me that I left my trekking poles leaning against the gas station where I was just dropped off by a shuttle driver.

Thankfully, that was the only time I left my trekking poles behind during this entire trip, which is an improvement over previous years and trips.

Less than two hours into the hike I noticed the 1/4 marker meaning I had finally hike the first 25% of the AT from Georgia to Maine. By about noon my clothes were already drenched with sweat, so at a road crossing, I stopped to eat some lunch and spread out my shirt, socks, etc to dry out a bit. My goal for the first day was to hike about 16.5 miles to the Knot Maul shelter but when I got there, I realized the spring (water source) was dry and I was completely out of water for the day. So I hike a couple more miles to a stream crossing and setup campus at the Lick Creek campsite.

This first day of hiking and the scarcity of water should was setting the stage for one of my biggest hardships and lessons on this year’s hike: hydration.

Thankfully, at the previous shelter, I encountered a couple of day hikers who were about to head back to their vehicle, so they shared an extra water bottle with me. In fact, there was still a bit of ice in it which was a nice bit of “trail magic” early on in the hike.

Trail magic refers to any generosity than one can benefit from while hiking a trail. Often, it comes in the form of snacks and cold beverages left in a cooler near a parking area…or perhaps even someone parked at a road crossing inviting hikers to take a break and enjoy any kind of food or drink.

So on Day 1, some trail magic and then finding a creek to camp near at the 18.5 mile mark brought much-needed relief after the first full day of hiking. A pilgrimage like this is a great place to learn the significance of small acts of kindness and provision. And this is something I want to incorporate into my daily off-trail life. What small acts of kindness can we engage people with that might help lighten their load or encourage them in the midst of their difficult journey?



Reflections On My Calling

Freshman year at AU with some Choir buds

During my freshman year of college at Anderson University in Indiana, as I was majoring in chemistry and physics and looking towards a career in chemical engineering…it happened.

Being called to ministry wasn’t a new idea for me. My dad was pastor. My grandfather had been a pastor. Even my great grandfather had been a pastor and district superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene. But up to this point, although others had encouraged me with comments about considering full-time ministry, I had not directly sensed God was calling me to the rank of clergy.

But then just a few weeks into the second semester of calculus, chemistry, physics and few other fun classes…through some confirmation I experienced within the context of my church community, God made it clear that my path was about to change.

Fast forward about 15 years and I find myself packing up all my books and office accoutrements at Beavercreek (now known as Be Hope) Church of the Nazarene and putting a season of youth ministry in the rear view mirror so to speak. What should’ve been a great final chapter in my youth ministry career at a great church with a fantastic team of people was cut short. For a variety of reasons, we chose to leave Beavercreek after just over a year of ministry there.

And the Calling became quite blurry during the next 12-18 months.

Fast forward again about 15 years. My time in college ministry is about to catch up with the time I spent as a youth pastor.

A couple of nights ago, I found myself at the church that represents the end of my identity as a youth pastor. We celebrated the ordination of several young pastors which included my kids’ current youth pastor, Blake Swanson (at Springdale Nazarene Church). As Blake and these others were prayed over, ordained and commissioned to live lives worthy of the calling, I was re-inspired to consider my own ordination which occurred in Columbus, OH back in 2000. I am still called to preach, teach, evangelize, disciple, and shepherd those whom God entrusts to my care.

Not everyone is “Called” to vocational ministry. But as Os Guiness points out in his book “The Call” all Christians are called to find and fulfill the central purpose of their lives. That is the primary calling, whereas vocation is one’s secondary calling. The primary calling infuses ones secondary calling (your vocation, career, “job”) with significance, meaning and purpose.

As I walked through the doors of Be Hope Church of the Nazarene and drove back to Cincinnati, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s sustained and sustaining Call on my life. Ever since 2006, when I left Beavercreek the first time and began to question my calling, I have wrestled with a sense of failure and regret for that season of life and ministry. But maybe some healing happened there this week as I was reminded of how faithful God has been and how I still want to be like Jesus!


Chris currently serves as the Campus Mission Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene while working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, helping churches engage more effectively and intentionally in college ministry.

To Partner Financially with Chris’ ministry or find out more about InterVarsity: