Winter is the best season to hike in Arkansas. We don't have the bitter, everlasting feet of snow. The insects, snakes, and humidity are nearly nonexistent. The landscape is a bit barren but all the tree burls, deer, and waterways can be easily seen. And, the sun doesn't scorch.
This is why we bundle in multiple layers, that can be removed as needed, and head out. The common question in the middle of the week is "Where do we want to hike Saturday?" My husband's response is usually, "You pick." While a bit frustrating, he never complains about getting up early, driving a couple of hours, packing all the gear, etc. We really do enjoy our time together outdoors, exploring the countryside.
We both love seeing God in his creations along the way. On this last trip, we took a break after about 3.5 miles and sat on a fallen tree to eat an orange. It didn't take long to hear the click, click, click of deer hooves on dried leaves, moving quickly through the woods. One of the largest bucks we've seen was following a group of 5 does. Apparently, he had a girlfriend or two in the herd who needed his services. Kent made a couple of grunt calls to get his attention and they all paused to search out the potential competitor.
Even our dog was stock-still as we watched them watching us. The buck sized us up and decided while we weren't competition, we could be a threat and moved his ladies away from us. It didn't last long but the encounter was both magical and spiritual. Unfortunately, neither of us had a camera at the ready so the moment lives only in our memory.
Getting out into God's creation reminds us we are a part of it and it's the journey, rather than the destination, that matters. We walk, seeking whatever God wants to reveal to us that day. This time it was creation in the form of deer. Other times, it has been how we need community as we hiked with a group. Still another, it was a reminder of our fragility as we both suffered stress and pain. We had to look for God's grace when things weren't idyllic.
Despite the cold, we're already looking to our next hike pilgrimage and, as always, I get to pick.