Hike in the Woods

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; (Psalms 31:3 ESV)

During High School I participated in a week long hike of the Appalachian Trail. I was young. The mountains were beautiful and the rattlesnakes abundant. That week long hike was a once in a lifetime experience not to be equaled. Sometimes I thought I got close.

One Sunday afternoon, while on a church retreat, we decided to enjoy a hike in the forest surrounding the little village of Baden. A castle ruin near the retreat site beckoned for a visit. I, and a few others, decided to pay it a visit.

Our Austrian friend took the lead. He was an accomplished outdoors-man, native to the land and all around a nice guy. We started our hike to the castle. Our trail blazing guide said it was only twenty minutes away.

An hour later we discovered there were many paths through the forest not clearly marked on the trail map. The landmarks appeared to be taking the day off. Turning the map round and round, trying to figure which way was which our intrepid leader said, “Maybe it’s this way,” and pointed to another trail heading into the deep dark forest.

In spite of being lost, in a foreign land, in the deep dark forest with a confused guide, the day was beautiful and cool. The conversation was delightful and jokes abounded.

We looked like an international hiking club. A mixture of Nigerian, German, Austrian, Filipino and American explored the wild together. These were good friends to be with when lost in the forest on a sunny day.

At the top of the tower in Rauchenstein by Baden in Austria

At the top of the tower in Rauchenstein by Baden in Austria

We were so far off the beaten path we figured we would soon cross the border into Slovakia. Despite our guides claim to understand the trail map we doubted his abilities after the first hour. However, we trudged onward, upward, downward and around many a bend in the trail. After almost two hours we finally arrived at Rauhenstein.

The castle sat on one side of a mountain pass. Across the valley sat another castle. The two were situated to guard the pass and defend the valley from attack.

We figured our next trip to the area we’d hike up to the other castle and take more pictures. Maybe by then I’d learn how to read the trail map myself. If I’m going to get lost, I want to lead the way.

In the end we arrived at a great spiritual revelation. Never accept a seasoned outdoors-man as your guide through the Wienerwald . . . even with a map in hand!

As a Christian I try to lead others as they follow the narrow way. Sometimes I read the map well. Sometimes I take a wrong turn. Fortunately Jesus is a better guide and never takes me down the wrong trail when I follow Him.


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