Adventure on the Appalachian Trail:  Our Continuing Education Adventure – The Road Less Traveled


I had backpacked several sections of the Appalachian Trail before, so I wasn’t surprised when Pastor Bill Bernau asked me to lead a group of pastors for a week.   What did surprise me was that we would use this hike as an opportunity for continuing education where we would be studying the “mountain-top faith stories”.

Believing we could make this an annual event, we recruited a group of pastors who would serve as “guinea pigs” for this first year.   Our group consisted of Pastor Bill Bernau, Grace, Adel, and his son, Joe; Pastor David Burling, Memorial, Nevada; Pastor Todd Hunter, St. Matthew, Davenport; Pastor Nate Montover, Gloria Dei, Durant; and myself, Mt. Olivet, Perry.

Our adventure began following worship on Sunday, July 29th.   We took two days to drive to Pearisburg, Virginia where we spent the night at Woods Hole Hostel before starting this epic journey into the wilderness.

Our week-long backpacking trek took us to stunning vistas such as the continental divide, Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed places on the Appalachian Trail.

But there were many challenges along the way as well.   We endured rain storms that plagued us night and day.   We hiked into the night before reaching camp on an especially hard day.   We suffered through blisters and fatigue.

The hardships we endured helped us to better understand the lives of the people we examined in our Bible study from the “mountain-top faith stories”.   And our theme verse from Psalm 121 reminded us to face this rugged expedition with faith and commitment… “I lift up my eyes to the hills –  where does my help come from?   My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Each day brought new challenges… physically, mentally, and spiritually.   However, nothing can sum up the trip better than a comment I heard from one of the participants as we drove back to Iowa… “This was the toughest thing I’ve ever done!   Let’s do it again next year!”

The planning has already begun!

Written by Pr. Mark Holmes, Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in Perry, IA

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