Friday, December 22, 2023

House Mountain Hike #187, 12-20-2023: Inspired by Two Young Men (published 12-22-2023; article #446)


Seasonal greetings, to you, dear reader! Wednesday, 12/20/2023, was my 187th (51st “bionic”) hike, on House Mountain. This brief preface will first update three recent “life, such as it is,” events.

The preface, in the 12/1/2023 article, mentions the first two. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman's good first cousin, Mike, is much improved. Family members have been caring for him, as needed. Molly, our eight-year-old puppy, is well, despite the scar, on her left ear.

In the latest news, my wife had another mild case of RRC. Mild recurrences seem to flair up, about every six months. (The humorous acronym, RRC, which I invented, stands for recurring, relentless “corony.” The 30 articles, under the “Corona Myopia” topic section, are my serious commentary, on the new cold virus, which is in my rear view mirror.) RCC is a mild virus. She came down with it, again, on Monday, the day before her six-month physical examination. She has overcome another round. Her two-week Christmas break started yesterday. Today, still yielding to the crass commercialization of Christmas, she joined the rush of procrastinating shoppers, to buy gifts, for three family members. Before her mild case of RRC, she'd already purchased gifts, for other family members. What do I want for Christmas? The gift can't be bought, in a store. The conclusion will explain.

I'd hoped to hike “My Mountain” several more times, before Wednesday. My last hike was on 11/29/2023 (the 12/1/2023 article). Helping care for Mike, however, took priority.


This article is for fellow hikers and for all, who are fighting the good fight, in the ongoing struggle to advance the biblical worldview! This is the 59th entry, under the "hiking” topic section, and the 17th, under "worldviews in conflict.”

My unexpected and pleasant conversation, with two young men, below the west bluff, explains why I was inspired. But first, let's hike up the west trail, on House Mountain!

Hiking Up to the West Bluff

I'd enjoyed playful activity, with Molly, before leaving. That's what delayed the start. I touched the marker, to start hiking, at 1:43 PM. The morning low was 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature was in the low 40 degree range, during the hike. The weather was mostly sunny, with a cool breeze. As a veteran hiker, my rookie mistake was to add a light outer layer. The T-shirt and sweatshirt would have been sufficient. I sweated more that I should have.

I challenge myself. It's me against me. While enjoying the hike, I noted the times, at key junctures. With the four lower switchbacks behind me and just before the first of the six upper switchbacks, I realized that I had taken 14 minutes, to reach that fallen tree. (That's about two minutes slower than my usual “pre-bionic” time.) The time was 1:57 PM. Undaunted, I hiked up the six upper switchbacks, in ten minutes. The time, at the sixth switchback, was 2:07 PM.

In “pre-bionic” hikes, I could hike from the base, to the west bluff, in 24 minutes. On this hike, it took me 24 minutes, to get from the base, to the sixth upper switchback. The trail, heading west, below the ridgeline, is just over two-tenths of a mile. It's rugged, narrow, and has some treacherous areas. I've never timed myself, until this hike, from that sixth switchback, to the west bluff. It took me 15 minutes, to hike that final segment! I reached the west bluff, touching the rock, to mark my time, at 2:22 PM.

My self-analysis indicates that I should not be so overly cautious, as I hike below the ridgeline, toward the west bluff. My surgically reconstructed right knee and foot are able to travel faster and safely, even up and across the treacherous areas. I still lack the mental confidence to move faster. I must discipline myself, not to be so overly cautious. Eventually, Lord willing, I will win, in the me versus me struggle. The goal is to hike, from the base to the west bluff, in about 25 minutes, as a norm.

I'd taken the photograph, below, at 2:30 PM. It's the only one that I took, on this hike.

I am sitting on the rock outcropping, on the west bluff. The sun is behind me. Mike's “Delta Saloon, Suicide Table” cap (mentioned, in the 10/26/2023 article) and my trusty canteen are hanging, where the fallen tree is regrowing. A few years ago, a strong wind must have snapped the trunk. The living roots are generating new growth. Can you understand the life lesson, to which I allude? I thought so.

At 3:31 PM, about an hour after the photograph, I started hiking back down and out, on the same west trail, up which I'd hiked. The next section recounts the conversation, of about an hour, with two young men.

I wasn't in a me against me challenge, on the hike out. I still noted the time, at key junctures. Overly cautious hiking, east, along the trail, below the ridgeline, I reached the sixth upper switchback, at 3:46 PM. (That's 15 minutes.) Continuing down the switchbacks, I reached the lowest upper switchback, at 4 PM on the dot. (That's 14 minutes.) Touching the marker, near the enclosed picnic area, at 4:23 PM, ended the hike.

Two hours and forty minutes, in the woods, is better than not having been there! The inspiring conversation is in the next section.

Inspiring Conversation

I'm glad that I decided not to hike east along the ridgeline, to the middle bluff. Standing below and looking up at the west bluff, I was contemplating taking another photograph or recording a video episode. I noticed two young men, hiking up toward where I was standing. Their upper layers were tied around their waists, so they were bare chested, at the time.

We struck up what I thought would be a quick and casual conversation. I summarized my “bionic” story, which started, on 3/29/2016. I related my first hike, as a “bionic man” (mentioned, in the 12/22/2016 article). Both young men are college students. One lives in Florida. He was in, visiting family and friends. The other is local. Conversation turned to geology, the field of study, for one of the young men. I described the location -- a few yards east of the lower middle bluff, below the north side of the ridge trail -- where I think a cave entrance could be. Years ago, I had crawled into the opening far enough, to see where dirt could have sealed a narrow entrance.

Our conversation shifted quickly, to profound dialogue, on worldviews in conflict. About four decades of age separate us; however, mutual affirmation, of the biblical worldview, unite our spirits! The two Christian young men shared their Solid Rock foundation. They are standing and will continue to stand, on that Solid Rock!

In their college years, these young Christians are facing intense and negative pressure, from a majority of their peers, who follow unbiblical worldviews. Those ungodly values tempt, challenge, frustrate, annoy, and harass each of us, on a daily basis. We, who affirm godly values, stand firmly on the sure foundation. The foul winds do not blow us off our course.

We spoke, in agreement, about how this temporal world is a “vale of soul-making.” They mentioned the phrase, with which I am quite familiar. As I stated, in the 12/9/2022 article, “John Keats, the poet, described the earth, filled with both evil and good, as a 'vale of soul-making' (in his April 1819 letter to his brother and sister).” Our conversation was about the so-called problem of evil. (The 12/9/2022 article includes my thoughts on the subject.) Impressively, these brothers in Christ have a depth of knowledge on that important topic.

We placed the looming fall, of this once great nation, in the context of the Old Testament account of the nation of Israel's falls and rises, hinged on allegiance to God. The Book of Judges came to our minds. We expressed prayerful hope that this once great nation will return to the Lord.

We understood our roles -- joining the voices of many and following the example of John the Immerser -- as voices “. . . crying in the wilderness . . . .” (John 1:23, KJV). We strive to share the saving truth of Jesus. We hope that folks hear and heed our words, for their everlasting benefit.

I brought up the maxim that we are either missionaries or mission areas. The two young Christian men are missionaries, as they continue their college studies. College campuses are certainly mission areas.

Our impromptu and reviving conversation concluded, as I encouraged the two young men, to continue to stand their ground. Above all, stand. Stand firmly. Remember, if you are on God's side, then you stand in the majority, even if you are the only one standing. Be encouraged and continue to stand firmly, on the Solid Rock!


So, what do I want for Christmas? The gift can't be bought, in a store. I will explain.

The article of 12/26/2021, almost two years ago, comes to mind. I had been reminded of my social media comment, on 12/21/2013. On that date, ten years ago, I had written:

After having engaged in the secular ritual of almost last minute gift buying, and feeling frustrated by the wanton secularization of the observance of our Lord’s birth, I stopped at a Weigels on the way home.

The older man, in front of me in line, was buying a gallon of milk. As he turned, I noticed his cap: Vietnam War Veteran. I caught his attention, as he turned from the checkout. All I did was look him in the eyes and offer my handshake. I didn’t have to say a word. He saw the words in my eyes. He looked in my eyes, man to man, and said, “Thank you,” as he shook my hand. I respect this man, whom I may never meet again, because he offered his military service, as a sacrifice to this once great nation.

Amidst the gift buying and giving, I pause, in the ultimate level of thankfulness, to “shake the hand” of the One, who sacrificed his all for such a lowly one as I. May I and all in this nation live in respect of the Greatest Gift of all.

That's what I want for Christmas! I want everyone, in this once great nation, to live in respect of the Greatest Gift of all. The gift is free. It's not sold in stores. You must be willing to accept it. Please do, if you haven't.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

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