Why is a shoe hanging from a tree on the Appalachian Trail? This sight usually has an entirely different meaning in a city, but here it is a sign that you have either packed too much stuff for the journey or you have the wrong kind of gear. Through hikers heading north usually stop at the Walasi Yi Center (billed as the only covered spot on the trail) located at Neel’s Gap to wash clothes, buy supplies for the long miles ahead, and dump unnecessary gear. It is here that many hikers throw their deeply valued hiking boots up into one of the hemlocks that blanket the gap. Center workers said one backpacker told them she had paid $600 for the pair of leather boots she was leaving behind! This “dumping” comes when hikers realize they have either too much of a good thing or simply the wrong equipment. In many cases it becomes a symbol of letting go of the old and of the “not needed” in order to reach a greater goal.
As I took this photo, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of us continue to carry unnecessary baggage through lifeâ€”baggage that weights us down and prevents us from being all that we can be. Really, we need to be lean hikersâ€”free of worry, anger, frustration, and bitternessâ€”carrying only what is expedient for the tripâ€”love, joy, and forgiveness. Most of the time this requires leaving some personal desire, demand, or “self perceived right” behind. Jesus basically told His disciples: carry only what you need for the journey that I have given you to walk. (Luke 10)