Court Okays Tunneling Pipeline under the Appalachian Trail

APPALACHIAN TRAIL, N.H. (Lakes of the Clouds hikers hut)

U.S. Supreme Court Okays Tunneling Pipeline under the Appalachian Trail

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

(attorney admitted to bars of Texas & Colorado)

AppalachianTrail.hiking-PresidentialRange

APPALACHIAN TRAIL, N.H. (Presidential Range)

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  (Proverbs 3:6)

Earlier this month (June 15, 2020), the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a federal appellate court ruling that previously prohibited the new Atlantic Coast Pipeline from being laid under part of the Appalachian Trail.(1)

Environmentalist groups, as well as hiking enthusiasts, had protested how the proposed “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” would be constructed to run underneath part of the historic Appalachian Trail.(2) The pipeline construction company, however, prevailed in court.

Dominion Energy, which has partnered with Duke Energy, to build the 600-mile pipeline from West Virginia to northeastern North Carolina, welcome the high court’s ruling as an ‘affirmation’. Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby noted that 50 other pipelines ‘have safely crossed under the Trail without disturbing its public use.’ The pipeline will be installed hundreds of feet below the trail’s surface, he said, and emerge more than a half-mile away on either side.(2)

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (“Appalachian Trail”), which is older than the USA, is perhaps the most famous and best-loved of America’s hiking trails. Hiking trails, as this author has recently reported, provide wonderful opportunities for appreciating God’s creation.(3)

pipeline-map.AppalachianTrail-crossing

But what relevance to Biblical Christians is there to an environmental lawsuit about flowing petroleum products under a famous mountain hiking trail?

The proposed subterranean pipeline involves some $8 billion in projected costs, to convey natural gas across part of the commonwealth of Virginia.(2) All of the physical land (in controversy) belongs the U.S. government—specifically, the land in question is allocated (by Congress) to the George Washington National Forest in central Virginia. The U.S. Forest System is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.(4)

As such, the legal presumption is that such federal land can be used for commercial purposes, if doing so is a responsible “wise use” of the land, providing public benefit and avoiding reckless waste of resources.(1),(4)

U.S. Forest Service-managed lands routinely lease to private businesses, for timber and other commercial uses, so long as the U.S. government benefits from the contracted uses. So, there is no big surprise when part of a national forest is contractually leased to a private business (for ranching, timber, or petroleum operations), so long as the government contracting system benefits the USA.(4)

However, the complicating legal factor, in this equation, is that a segment of the multi-state Appalachian Trail cuts through the George Washington National Forest. That historic trial is itself declared—by congressional action—as a natural resource to be administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.(2)

Federal “park” lands are not the same as federal “forest” lands. Federal lands assigned to the U.S. Park Service are not routinely leased, for subterranean activities, to private businesses for commercial development.(1),(4)

Unsurprisingly, the multi-purpose “wise use” standards used in federal forests (by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) are not the usual “preservationist” property use norms applied by National Park Service (of the U.S. Department of the Interior), so there is a jurisdictional overlap that complicates how the federal government can manage the physical trail-within-forest land involved.(1),(4)

Further complicating this multi-agency “turf” dispute is the combination of federal statutes (i.e., laws passed by Congress) that conditionally permit and/or prohibit what uses can be made of “lands” managed by the Forest Service, versus those administered by the Park Service.(1)

Meanwhile an $8 billion project pivoted on this terminology question:  is the Appalachian Trail a long piece of federal “land” assigned to the Park Service?(2)

In short, the majority vote in the U.S. Supreme Court decision said No, thereby determining that the pipeline could pass underneath the Appalachian Trail, because the scenic hiking trail was not itself a physical piece of “land”.

We are tasked with determining whether the Leasing Act [of 1920] enables the Forest Service to grant a subterranean pipeline right-of-way some 600 feet under the Appalachian Trail. To do this, we first focus on the distinction between the lands that the Trail traverses and the Trail itself, because the lands (not the Trail) are the object of the relevant statutes.(1)

Rather, the trail was deemed a passage-way through (and over) land, what the law calls an “easement” (or “right-of-way”)—similar to how rural streets are access-ways that separate neighbors, but the physical land itself (under the traveled road) is considered to be owned by the property-tax-paying landowners who border the roadway. (This was the law, in 1968, when the Forest Service granted a trail-administering “right-of-way” easement unto the Park Service.)

Pursuant to the Trails Act, the Forest Service entered into “right-of-way” agreements with the National Park Service “for [the] approximately 780 miles of Appalachian Trail route within national forests,” including the George Washington National Forest. … A right-of-way is a type of easement. In 1968, as now, principles of property law defined a right-of-way easement as granting a nonowner a limited privilege to “use the lands of another.” … Specifically, a right-of-way grants the limited “right to pass … through the estate of another.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1489 (4th ed. 1968). Courts at the time of the Trails Act’s enactment acknowledged that easements grant only nonpossessory rights of use limited to the purposes specified in the easement agreement. … Stated more plainly, easements are not land, they merely burden land that continues to be owned by another.(1)

Here is how the judicial majority summarily explained their decision:

In sum, read in light of basic property law principles, the plain language of the Trails Act and the agreement between the two agencies did not divest the Forest Service of jurisdiction over the lands that the Trail crosses. It gave the Department of the Interior (and by delegation the National Park Service) an easement for the specified and limited purpose of establishing and administering a Trail, but the land itself remained under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service. To restate this conclusion in the parlance of the Leasing Act, the lands that the Trail crosses are still “Federal lands” … and the Forest Service may grant a pipeline right-of-way through them—just as it granted a right-of-way for the Trail. Sometimes a complicated regulatory scheme may cause us to miss the forest for the trees, but at bottom, these cases boil down to a simple proposition: A trail is a trail, and land is land.(1)

Now, there is an aspect of this analysis that should catch the attention of Biblical Christians—this ruling reminds us that forested land (“real property”) may be itself physical matter, yet the right or opportunity to travel through that forested land is not itself physical material.

An entitlement to hike along (i.e., upon) a particular trail is an “easement” (a/k/a “right-of-way”), a non-physical right to travel under certain conditions (such as traveling without causing waste, during certain timeframes, etc.). But the opportunity to hike on a mountain trail is not itself a physical thing, like a rock or tree or hard-packed soil.

JJSJ-eating-crawdads-in-Mississippi

Appreciating biogenetic family history (wearing Texas Czech Genealogical Society shirt, while eating crawdads in Mississippi)

Likewise, our human lives—as living creatures specially created in God’s image—are more than just our physical bodies. Yes, part of us is physical—God made us from dust of the earth. Yet God added to that physical stuff non-physical personal lives—which can be described by words like soul, spirit, personality, etc.—which is the part of us finite creatures that somehow shows a hint of our infinite God.(5)

So, when you take your next nature hike—take time to observe the wide and wild variety of physical animals (like bees, bunnies, and butterflies—or June-bugs, jaybirds, and jaguarundis)—interacting with physical plant-life (like trees, bushes, grasses, flowers)—within the geophysical environment (including rocks, soils, sunlight, rain, freshwater streams). Appreciate God’s caring handiwork!(3)

JJSJ-Ohio.AD2005-foresthike

Ohio forest hiking, AD2005 (wearing Glattfelder family history shirt)

But don’t stop there! Appreciate also your own human activity of walking, hiking, strolling.

A simple nature walk in your neighborhood—or hiking a mountain trail—is an opportunity to be grateful for that moment that God has given you.(3),(4),(5)

That very opportunity is taken (or neglected) within a physical context of time and space, yet the opportunity itself is not physical. The opportunities that God gives to us are intangible blessings—they are like easements—we can use them or lose them, but they are not physical stuff that we can store inside a garage.

Part of storing up treasures in Heaven involves recognizing and using our God-given opportunities to honor the Lord Jesus Christ here on Earth.(6),(7)

Even taking a walk, where you are now, can become an opportunity to see God’s glory in the so-called little things—details of His magnificent creation.  It’s not necessary to go hike the Appalachian Trail to see God’s artistry in what He has made.(7)

Lakes-of-the-Clouds-Hut.boy-on-trial-near-hut

APPALACHIAN TRAIL, N.H. (Lakes of the Clouds hikers hut)

References

  1. U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, 2020 WL 3146692, ___ S.Ct. ___ (June 15, 2020), reversing 911 F.3d 150 (4th Cir. 2018). Justice Thomas used this comparison: “If analyzed as a right-of-way between two private landowners, determining whether any land had been transferred would be simple. If a rancher granted a neighbor an easement across his land for a horse trail, no one would think that the rancher had conveyed ownership over that land. Nor would anyone think that the rancher had ceded his own right to use his land in other ways, including by running a water line underneath the trail that connects to his house. … Likewise, when a company obtains a right-of-way to lay a segment of pipeline through a private owner’s land, no one would think that the company had obtained ownership over the land through which the pipeline passes. Although the Federal Government owns all lands involved here, the same general principles apply.”
  2. Wheeler, T. B. 2020. Supreme Court Rules Pipeline Can Cross Under Appalachian Trail. Chesapeake Bay Journal (June 16, 2020), posted at https://www.bayjournal.com/news/energy/supreme-court-rules-pipeline-can-cross-under-appalachian-trail/article_531842f4-afd0-11ea-8bd4-cf3bc0da0e9a.html .
  3. Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Sweden’s Fun in the Sun, Nature Hiking. Creation Science Update (June 5, 2020), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/sweden-fun-in-the-sun-nature-hiking .
  4. Johnson, J. J. S. 1995. Introduction to Environmental Studies, An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Applied Ecology, Conservation Policy, and Environmental Ethics. Dallas: NWQD Press, LeTourneau University. Regarding the roles of the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, see especially pages 57-76.  Regarding hiking the Appalachian Trail, see pages 1-9 of Appendix F.
  5. Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 102:18. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2012. Grackles and Gratitude. Acts & Facts, 41(7):8-10, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/grackles-gratitude/ .
  6. Matthew 6:19-21.
  7. Revelation 4:11.
JJSJ-in-Alaska.bus-ride

Alaska adventure, en route from Seward to Anchorage

ALPINE TREK ALONG THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.  (JUDE 1:24-25)

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Alpine  Trek   Along   the Appalachian Trail

James J. S. Johnson

 [from a New Hampshire hike in August AD1997, composed 9-17-AD1997]

  I.  DAY ONE

An epic, this is, of a venture begun

Of a hike, that was, by a father and son,

In greenest New Hampshire, to hike for three days

The Appalachian Trail, in rain or sun-rays.

Equipped for hiking, with water and snacks

Two guys prepared to tote their backpacks

Pausing by the trailhead — for goodbyes and prayer

Hearing wifely concerns — and motherly care

From near Crawford Depot; it’s too late to veto …

This is the time, the moment of truth

We’ll hike three days, as father and youth,

Through trees and tundra, — hot, warm, and chilling

And finish at Pinkham, if God be willing …

This was the plan — of the boy and the man

Time to be strong — to endure high and long;

A time to hike on — to be tough as a team,

A time to grow up — to incarnate a dream.

Upward and onward, and into the green

In instants the trailhead is no longer seen;

‘Twas now or never, hike up to the hut,

Mizpah was aimed for, no “if”, “and”, or “but”.

Crawford Path climbed up, up, – and rocks replaced dirt,

Footwork was critical, each step threatened hurt;

Other perils, latent, would also appear,

Such as the crossroads, some far, some near;

A wrong turn at this point — could spell out great loss,

Even if corrected, — ‘twould be at great cost;

Hardwoods, so plentiful, — so thick it’s half-dark,

Sun-rays, by filtering, — flicker on the tree-bark;

This world of green, through which the path’s cut,

Where will it end?  where is Mizpah Hut?

Each turn in the trail, has maples and birch,

With myriad branches for songbirds to perch;

Myriad stepping-stones, — oft broken, jagged,

Multiple resting-stops, — when feeling ragged;

Some rocks are striated, others are wrinkled,

Sky clouds are darkening, then it soon sprinkled …

Enough to wear ponchos?  Now hard it rains —

The rocky path flushes, as rain-flow it drains,

The path being steep, now washed as rains run,

A cascade-like stream, it now has become;

So up through the mud, as our legs wane weak,

The foot-path floods o’er, as it’s now a creek;

Beech, oak, and cherry, — drink in the rain,

As we two stumble and climb up again;

The trail is a run-off ditch, — step and beware!

Don’t slide, slip, or stumble, now, — climb on with care!

Despite our rain-ponchos, with which we are cloaked,

Rain-sponged our backpacks hang, as we trudge on soaked …

The rain became drizzle, and drizzle to mere drops,

Chartreuse forest glistening, as for now, the rain stops;

But then, it sprinkles, then pours down more rain,

And soon, cascading, it’s “ponchos on” again;

There’s no point in stopping, except for a rest,

So onward and upward, just give it your best —

As rainfall washes us, — it’s soaking our stuff,

We keep on, trusting God, — to make us be tough …

But, wait, here come hikers —

From where we now aim,

Let’s ask them how far —

To wherefrom they came …

 “You are just about through

About one mile or two —

And, as you go, do enjoy the view!

Be sure, as you go, to enjoy the view!”

 Though the hikers oft said “one or two” —

(And we made sure we enjoyed each view)

The miles seemed like more

I think — three or four.

At last, it’s stopped raining, — the steepness is less,

The trail’s switching back now, — it turns here, I guess!

The trail still is muddy, — step and beware!

Don’t slide, slip, or stumble, — canter with care!

The forest then opes, to a window-like clearing,

Is that our first hut, that we see (and are nearing)?

A light-hued roof, on rocks built with wood,

Mizpah Spring Hut! — how timely and good!

Smiling, — in a “milestone” mood,

Checked in, — for some rest and food;

Relief at last! — off to our bunk-room,

But then, aghast, — breathed we the funk-fume!

I climbed up to my bunk, atop layer three,

I switched on my flashlight, so that I could see;

Then pillow-placed my backpack, — tonight it must suffice,

Tomorrow ’twill be here soon, — with trees and rocks of gneiss;

Our rain-soaked clothing, below was hung

From makeshift clothesline, on hook and rung;

Some were snoring, — others shivered and coughed,

Body odors, — hovering, wafted aloft …

No cleansing breeze or ‘lectric lights,

Co-lodging as if troglodytes

(Should we sleep out — on bryophytes?

Beneath the stars — our acolytes?)

A dozen hikers, they and we —

Assigned to bunk-beds, layered three,

In our bunks — dark, damp, and dank,

We unbathed suitemates slept and stank.

mizpahspringhut-goodearl-photo

II. DAY TWO

Voices, voices, coming down the hall —

Singing, singing, as a wake-up call;

“You’re so bright, you coulda been a candle …”

(I’m climbing down, if I could find a handle …)

Time to wake up, pack all gear,

‘Twill soon be time, to leave from here;

Lace up those boots, after donning new thick socks

Foot-care is key, to challenge those gray rocks;

So, onto our breakfast, — served at crowded tables,

Then re-yoke our backpacks, — tied with bungee-cables;

How ’bout that breakfast, and coffee-like beverage?

(When did I last eat — <uh!> — something so average?)

How can backpacks gain weight o’ernight?

There’s no retreat, so scale the height —

So, are we, again, ready, — to ascend montane trails?

To stair-step bumpy boulders — which foliage-blanket veils?

Let’s stop, right here — my lungs need air,

Okay, let’s go, — on as a pair;

Onward, upward, using hands and feet, — yet always with due care,

The pathway twists and turns — a labyrinthine stair;

So, up the twisted staircase — yes, it’s hiking time,

As boreal forest’s summer — turns subalpine clime;

While red spruce branches brush us, and also balsam firs,

The forest has awakened, a squirrel looks and stirs …

Tree-limbs brush us on each side,

Each step gravity defied;

A twisted staircase, — gray weathered rocks,

Some broken, some smooth, — some chunky blocks;

Notice how the broadleafs have thinned,

Now it’s moss, conifers, and wind;

Is this now the Hudsonian zone?

The trial’s a mix of pine and stone;

A plateau opening — and what a view!

A valley vista — of emerald hue;

On this table-top of rock, we see our first rock cairn,

‘Twill be a welcome sight hereon, for me and my sole bairn…

O’er peaks and vales the sun does shine

Our second milestone:  timberline!

Let’s sit a moment, — my breathing’s fierce!

Almost we’ve made it, — to Mount Pierce …

On the winding path we two grope,

Oft scratchèd by scrub spruce;

Pressing, curving, o’er montane slope

On stepping-stones oft loose;

Oh, Lord, please guard our ankles, now,

This is no place for harm;

The piney path weaves in and out,

Throughout heath cover charm …

Through clearings leads the path, — the evergreens grow low,

Mountain-slopes the horizon spans, — pierced by a flying crow;

Crowberry and black spruce carpet, — like needly mats appear,

Snowberry and lingonberry, — like garden crops grow here …

This White Mountain panorama,

Our Creator’s art and drama —

Let’s rest awhile, — refresh our souls,

It’s breezy here, — in this krummholz ….

See those birds, sooty-hued, with furry necks like snow?

Stark black eyes, eyeing us, as if we were for show?

Canadian jays, perching so still, — watch us from firs of balsam,

I watch amazed, such alpine birds, — I must say they are awesome.

God’s own fingerwork lives here —  His Creatorship us astounds,

Throughout this ecology, —  with His artistry He surrounds;

Thank You, God, for this summer trek, — here at timberline,

(Of course, You know all this place, — even at winter-time !)

Look, the path descends — to my strained lungs’ relief,

Although, when it does, — ’twill only be so brief;

For descent now means “up” later,

In this montane “elevator”;

And up-down we go — dragging our frames,

As if we were playing — elevation games;

At four-thousand now, — one-thousand more later,

We seem stuck on “up” — in this elevator!

Don’t you feel tired, — you ready to eat?

I’m ready for snacks, — to get off my feet!

Let’s get past this curve, and rest on that boulder,

I’ll don another shirt, for I’m getting colder;

So, close to timberline, — at a bit past midday,

We stopped for lunch, — had we yet gone half-way?

Time for water and food bars, —  what else did we bring?

Time to change socks and rest some, —  and photo something …

But, wait, here come hikers —

From where we now aim,

Let’s ask them how far —

To wherefrom they came …

“You are just about through

About one mile or two —

And, as you go, do enjoy the view!

Be sure, as you go, to enjoy the view!”

Though the hikers oft said “one or two” —

(And we made sure we enjoyed each view)

The miles seemed like more

I think — three or four.

On felsenmeer, a sea of cracked stone,

We curved along the montane “backbone”;

So, on and up, — trudged on we two,

Along the path’s gravelly queue;

As beyond stretched the ridgeline footpath, markèd by each cairn,

We two trekked the alpine tundra, father and his bairn —

Sphagnum moss and dwarf shrubs, — patched in tundra-quilt,

Sedges, heaths, and lichens, — mixed with rocks rough-built;

Tracing the Presidential Ridge,

Trudging to Eisenhower’s mount;

Rocks form a meandering bridge,

More footsteps than any would count;

Find that next rock-cairn, that’s where the Crawford Path swerves,

It zigzags some crags, — then by Eisenhower it curves;

From switch-backs to ditch-cracks, — hike on!

From each rock-tier to felsenmeer, — hike on!

Throughout krummholz and stone atolls, — hike on!

Past ecotone edges and tundra sedges, — hike on!

By alpine-mead grasses and mica-rock masses — hike on!

Follow that rock-cairn, — keep hiking, my bairn!

And then, — a cairn, as if a pyramid-tower

We’re here, — atop, wind-blown on Mount Eisenhower!

Forty-seven sixty-one — is its elevation,

Swivel-view the mountainside, — what a great creation!

Trail dust and wind-gusts blow us, forward from there,

Remembering high Trail winds, we must take care;

The vertebral ridgeline winds on and on still,

This curving backbone’s like an ongoing hill …

Lo, the trail divides the grass alpine,

Bordering flagged krummholz timberline;

The trail changes, — here thin, there wide,

The rock-cairns aid, — a sure trail-guide.

Look!  That lichen-“painted” rock!

Flaked crumbly and sulphur-hued,

Parked, as if in bayside dock,

A winged one seeking its food …

Winged in pastel blues and ashen blacks

Camouflaged almost, by craggy cracks —

Rare wingèd one — blue, black, and spry,

It’s a White Mountain butterfly!

While hiking for leisure,

Who’d seek such treasure?

For such winged ones only live here,

In these mounts that shine like a mirror …

So-long, sporadic shrubs of spruce, (I think black spruce dwarfs)

The mica-laden rocks shine out, — mirroring sun like quartz;

Near sedges, grasses, and rushes, — a quilt of tundra covering,

Edgèd by sphagnum moss-mats, — while Oeneis flits by, hovering …

Franklin now crowns the horizon, a jut,

Who knows when we’ll reach the next hiker’s hut?!

The “topo” map shows it, — but when? — and how soon?

Perhaps we’ll arrive there, in the mid-afternoon …

But, wait, here come hikers —

From where we now aim,

Let’s ask them how far —

To wherefrom they came …

 “You are just about through

About one mile or two —

And, as you go, do enjoy the view!

Be sure, as you go, to enjoy the view!”

 Though the hikers oft said “one or two” —

(And we made sure we enjoyed each view)

The miles seemed like more

I think — three or four.

Passing alpine flora, and tundra lichen,

glancing peripherally, — keep on hikin’!

Crawford Path does curve and ramble,

We follow, onward, and amble …

The map guides us right, as we near Monroe’s peak,

‘Tis five-thousand high, so detour-cairns we seek,

There the cairns are, — convoluting down,

(Comfort it is, — when such cairns are found!)

The rock path meanders, to right and to left,

The trail cuts through mica, in boulders now cleft;

A warning sign says, “the tundra … don’t trample!”

We’re on the right track ( — how ’bout a rock sample?)

Let’s see the “topo” map, — where’s “Lakes of the Clouds”?

We’re curving ’round Monroe, — near cumulus shrouds;

Just beyond the bend, — down, where the trail’s cut,

It’s Lakes of the Clouds, — our next hiker’s hut!

In a jog-canter, — off went one revived lad!

So I called, “Hey, wait!” — (but he left behind Dad),

There the light-hued hut waited, — on Mount Washington’s slope,

It’s crude hospitality, — matched our need (and my hope) …

Air those feet out, — so, off with those shoes!

Eat food, no doubt! — then, lie down to snooze;

See th’alpine sunset, — through the glass window pane,

‘Twill soon be day three, — time to hike out again …

presidentialrange-going-uphill

III.  DAY THREE

To woodwind’s tune, we awoke in the morn,

Showerless still, wearing what we had worn;

At least the wind-gusts, blow here with clean verve,

I glanced out the door, to see our trail’s curve …

In order for us to keep up — our own vim, vigor, and verve,

We ate the hut-served breakfast (or as much as we had nerve!);

My son (and others) would discover, — hours later down the trail,

That something served as food, — deserved the garbage-pail!

We began on the path to Bigelow, not knowing ’twas off-track,

A few hundred feet higher we learned this, and so we turnèd back;

Curving east along Davis Path, — we climbed to its high mound,

Hop-scotching felsenmeer and stones, — we rested on tundra ground;

Still arcing east toward Boott Spur, we trudged by rocks and mats,

The winds blew fiercely, near freezing, and we secured our hats;

Fifty-five hundred feet high, — Boott Spur was cumulus-banded,

Blended lichen and boulders, — it was stark (to be quite candid);

Lo, the “topo” map had news — (not abstract, but “concrete”),

The trail would soon be dropping — thirty-two hundred feet!

My lungs dubbed this as good news, — but what about my legs?

Steep drops o’er this felsenmeer — could be like hikin’ eggs!

The winds were cold, so we wore ponchos,– as we climbèd down,

The footing was scarce, and quite perilous, — often not so sound;

Miles away from normal help, — a false step would be rued,

Praying for the Lord’s watch-care, — quoting a verse from Jude!

Comforting cairns and then a sign, — we’re rightly headed east,

When we get to Pinkham, D.v., — we’re going to have a feast!

But it’s still morn, with hours to go, — keep your concentration,

It’s felsenmeer, furlongs below, — watch that elevation!

There’re miles yet below us,  — I can’t see the road,

We’re above the clouds still, — I sure feel my load …

Whene’er we arrive, — I’m going to weigh this backpack,

(Assuming we live!) — it’s heavy, but I can’t back-track!

Hey, look north, — see that snow-drift o’er there?

It’s August, — but these mountains don’t care …

It’s krummholz again, see the wind-blown “flags”?

Stunted black spruce, — shrubs shielded in crags?

We’re slowly descending, one step at a time,

Were this some months later, we might be all rime!

It’s hard to imagine, how cold it is now,

In August we’re shivering, near freezing (and how!)

We rest at a large cairn, — as if some memorial,

And glancing, I notice, — alpine is now boreal;

As our elevation — drops step by step,

The biome transition — bolsters our pep …

For our slow descent — through vegetation zones,

Continues to prove — we are “conquering” stones;

We now see green pines, birches, balsam firs, and spruce,

As we focus our footwork — on rocks often loose …

Boott Spur Trail, below treeline meanders wildly,

By contrast, its tundra trail wove only mildly;

When the trail seemed to dissolve, ’twas time to pray,

We’d find a blaze-mark, or a cairn in the way …

Down went the dirt-path, steeply through the thick trees,

So, sometimes branch-holding provided us some ease;

The trail still was rocky, to the very end,

But through tree-branch-holding, each tree was a “friend” …

We were taking our breaks, for rest in the way,

Quite tired, we decided, to eat at mid-day;

We drank our dear water, eating food bars galore,

Our strength somewhat returned, though our muscles were sore …

But, wait, here come hikers —

From where we now aim,

Let’s ask them how far —

To wherefrom they came …

 “You are just about through

About one mile or two —

And, as you go, do enjoy the view!

Be sure, as you go, to enjoy the view!”

Though the hikers oft said “one or two” —

(And we made sure we enjoyed each view)

The miles seemed like more

I think — three or four.

As you (and we) guessed, as we went, in descent,

The hours passed slowly, yet we went, Pinkham-bent!

Though our legs were weary, and threatened to cramp,

There was no safe refuge, in this forest damp …

Just to excite us — (or me, at least),

A squirr’l would startle — (whew! a wee beast!)

Meanwhile, balsam fir blended with spruces,

Then they mixed with hardwoods (oh, what phûsis!)

After some rest-stops, on some felled forest timber,

We knew we must hike, ere we might cease to be limber;

Our goal — Pinkham Notch, — so stumble on we did,

Somewhere’s the trailhead, but for then it was hid …

This meandering path, — somewhere it converges,

With Tuckerman Ravine, — then soon it emerges?

What is that sound, — a water-fall, is it?

Crystal Cascade, — shouldn’t we go visit?

The path is so wide, we must be so close now, —

I’m hobbling as fast  as my legs will allow!

My feet want to rest, — my legs want to cramp,

But, no, here we are, — at Pinkham Notch Camp!

And so, God be thanked, — we checked in for the night,

And ‘phoned “we’re here, safe!” (’cause God gave us both might);

Our stuff secured (in our odorous suite), it was time for dinner!

For our God (by His great providence), made us each a winner.

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IV.  QUEST QUESTION & GRATITUDE

I wonder, how much of this life, — is like that alpine tourney?

And, can we walk by faith with God — enjoying now the journey?

So, I thank Him — “Him that is able to keep you from falling …”

my Lord Jesus Christ, thanks for walking with us!

One day, due to Your grace, we’ll walk into Your presence with joy!

><> JJSJ

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.  (JUDE 1:24-25)

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