Our third day of backpacking on Isle Royale did not start off well. It had rained off and on during the night, though it had stopped just before we got up. However, before we could finish breakfast, the rain began again and continued as we broke camp and began another ten mile trek to our next campsite. All of our stuff got wet which made it heavier. The rocks, bridges and steeper parts of the trail were slippery and by this point in our trek, we were a good twenty miles from help if one of us should fall and get hurt. My friend Dave is an experienced backpacker and he took the lead that morning. He was on a mission to cover the next three miles as fast as he could and get to the shelter of a fire tower at Ishpaming Point. It was all I could do to try to keep up and not slip and fall on the wet trail. Though we had faced many difficulties and less than ideal weather conditions, we had also been privileged to see some awe inspiring sunsets, eleven moose, beautiful forested areas, flowers, and other aspects of creation that amazed us. The distance between Dave and I continued to grow, and despite the miserable conditions, I began to sing praises to God. Dave was far enough ahead of me that he couldn’t hear me, so I felt quite comfortable just breaking out in song. After singing for a while, I began contemplating some of the spiritual lessons I had learned from our experience on the trail and even formulated a sermon in my mind as I hiked. When we arrived at the fire tower, we were surprised to find another hiker was already there. There were not very many people on the island, and this was the first backpacker we had encountered on the trail in three days. The man’s name was Paul, and he opened up to us right away. We were all cold and wet. Paul was soloing and he told us what a dark, morbid morning he had been experiencing. Besides the poor weather, he was alone with his thoughts. Paul told us he was fifty-six years old and that just before he had left for his backpacking trip, his wife had informed him that she was no longer sure she wanted to be married to him. He also told us of his disappointment in organized religion (he had belonged to a liberal church and it became obvious to us he did not understand and had never been born again.
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior