The Last Thing on My Mind

We met God on Mount Katahdin.

On October 10th, eight young men began their hike up Mt. Katahdin, in Maine. We had come for the beautiful scenery, a strenuous hike, and the most daunting Knife Edge -- a ridgeline trail winding through the clouds with its narrowest trail-width at 3 ft.

Many of the men, myself included, were determined to summit our first mountain together.

However, plans changed when at the trailhead, the ranger warned us against hiking Knife Edge because of 13-degree windchills and rhine ice from rain the day before. The majority of the group decided that unless the weather let up, we were going to attempt to summit the mountain (Baxter Peak) and avoid Knife Edge by going back down the way we came. Dismayed, I began to fear that my expectations had been too lofty.

But I figured it wouldn't hurt to pray.

As we climbed up out of the tree line towards Hamlin Peak, we were hit by 55 mph winds that knocked a few of us over. We had to scamper from rock to rock in order to shield ourselves from the roaring gusts.

Upon summiting Hamlin Peak, we were enveloped in a cloud and had to huddle beside a sheltering rock for warmth. We had completely unexpected the cold and the clouds, and some of us had to turn back.

Michael May, CEO of Crowley's Tea gave me his tea mug and told me, "I'll only go back on one condition - take pictures for Crowley's!"

Shivering, I yelled back over the howling wind, "Michael, tea is the last thing on my mind right now!"

And so was Knife Edge.

Five of us continued on, setting our sights on Baxter Peak, the highest point on the mountain. The winds and the clouds were persistent, and we accidentally took the wrong trail for an entire mile in what seemed to be an arctic wasteland.

At this point, the more experienced hikers were sure that Baxter Peak was no longer an option.

We had driven 10 hours from New Jersey only to be met by bad weather on an unrelenting mountain -- everything seemed to be going wrong.

Now I found myself praying that we could just summit Baxter somehow.

We retraced our steps, found the correct trail and descended below the hoary stormcloud. Stopping at a junction, we knew it was time to decide whether or not we were going to attempt Baxter Peak. We knew that if we were to go, we would have to hike back in the dark. We were very tired, sore, and discouraged.

Four out of five of us voted "no," but no three people said "no" at the same time. When one person was about to say "no," another was beginning to say, "Well, I would go if everyone else went." Perhaps nobody wanted to be "that guy" who made everyone hike back down!

In any case, we threw caution to the wind and gave it a go!

One mile and another thousand feet in elevation later, we found ourselves out of breath at the top of Mt. Katahdin. Our first taste of victory.

A couple minutes later, a middle-aged couple appeared on the summit from the other direction -- the direction of Knife Edge. Their words were like that of angels to our ears: "It was great, you guys should go!"

Nobody hesitated this time. We quickly huddled together and prayed the Redneck Prayer: "Dear God, we are about to do something stupid. Please protect us. Amen."

Full of newfound energy, we began hiking down the jagged rocks that made up the narrow trail of Knife Edge.

The wind had died down a little more, and when the clouds broke, we were met with stunning views for miles in every direction. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

We were all floored.

We did not meet any other hikers on the trail, but if we had, they would have heard us howling like wolves and shouting hallelujahs.

11 miles and 12.5 hours all said and done, we soon found ourselves all united once again, warming by a campfire and sharing stories. We were all amazed by how, had we taken the correct trail on Hamlin Peak, we never would have met that couple and had the courage to hike Knife Edge. We came to one conclusion:

God does what we cannot, pushes us to heights we can't climb, and gives us stories we can't write.


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