Bethy and Billy about to set off on their hike.

“Billy and I are hiking 86 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 5 days.”

Bethany spoke with the confidence of an experienced hiker, but this was her first hike. They would not be the first people to have trekked this trail, nor would they be hiking the full 2,184 miles. Although she is an active young lady, this would be the first time she had ever faced the rigors of hiking a dozen or more miles over rugged terrain each day, in whatever weather was occurring, carrying a heavy backpack, eating simple meals, sleeping on the rocky ground, with no bathrooms and no showers.

But Bethy’s new husband loved hiking, especially this trail. Several years before, experiencing the grandeur of creation on this mountainous path had drawn Billy’s prodigal heart back to the Lord. He wanted to share this epiphany with her and she was all for it.

They planned for months, buying hiking boots, clothes and gear for Bethany, planning simple meals they could carry, looking at maps of the trail, determining their stopping points each day. She dreamt of sleeping in a tent, looking for whatever God had to show her and seeing a bear in the wild.

Shortly after they began the hike, reality set in. This was not the same as running on a treadmill or walking their dogs through the neighborhood. The trail was rocky, covered with roots from ancient trees and barely wide enough for one person. Sometimes, the path to their next stopping point was 2 miles up a steep ascent. Even though they had purchased a quality backpack for her, it was heavy.

Determined to persevere, she began naming things she was thankful for. God’s love for her. The beauty of His creation. Her husband. Her parents. Her siblings. Her family. Her friends. Her dogs. Tacos.

On the third morning, she told Billy, “You know what I would love right now? An oatmeal cream cookie.” He laughed and they set out for theirday’s allotted trek. The longer they hiked, the harder it was for her to maintain her joy. Tears came easily. She wanted to go home. She wanted to sit on her couch and sleep in her bed. She wanted a shower.

Finally, they saw a covered pavilion up ahead and agreed to take a break. Stepping into the shade of the pavilion, they began laughing. On a picnic table were cans of soft drinks and packages of oatmeal cream cookies.

Throughout the Appalachian Trail, this is known as “Trail Magic,” where ‘trail angels’ perform random acts of kindness for hikers. For Bethany, it was a simple reminder of God’s hilarious love and what she claimed was, “the best oatmeal cream cookie she had ever eaten.”