While hiking a few years back, I was admiring some really nice big poplar trees and a fellow hiker told me about the poplars at the Joyce Kilmer National Forest. He told me enough about it that I knew I wanted to go and when I got home I googled it.
The Joyce Kilmer National Forest is located in the Nantahala National Forest in southwestern North Carolina. And it was our destination.
It was hot and humid but lush and damp. Every shade of green was present.
This memorial forest was dedicated to Joyce Kilmer in July 30, 1936, after the Veterans of Foreign War petitioned the government to set aside a forested area to stand as a living memorial to Kilmer. After considering forest throughout the country, the Forest Service decided on an uncut 3,800 acre area along Little Santeetlah Creek. This virgin forest that had been saved due to the decline in lumber during the great depression.
Joyce Kilmer was a man.
A sergeant in the Fighting 69th regiment in WWI.
He was this type of solider: “Though he was eligible for commission as an officer and often recommended for such posts during the course of the war, Kilmer refused, stating that he would rather be a sergeant in the Fighting 69th than an officer in any other regiment.”
He was also a poet.
He wrote this when he was 27 while looking out an upstairs window upon a wooded hill.
Sadly he was killed in France by a sniper. He was 31. Leaving a wife and small children behind.
The trail is a little over 2 miles and steps through a thick forest with sunlight slipping through occasionally. Massive American Chestnuts lay on the forest floor devastated by a blight some hundred years ago. Still.
Thick, lush, green. Running water can be heard and sometimes seen.
The further back into the second loop the huge 400 year old Yellow Poplars can be seen. Little trails lead off the main trail inviting you to get closer and you can’t help but reach out to touch them.
Each one looks bigger than the last.
It was a spiritually place. But don’t we always find God in nature, especially in nature.
Although this was our ultimate destination, we found so many other beautiful places while exploring. Waterfalls, swinging bridges, dams, scenic drives and well-worn but deserted trails.
We even saw the World’s Largest 10 Commandments at “Field of the Wood”. This religious park is outside of Murphy. The Church of God of Prophesy built it in the 1940’s.
When we arrived at Field of the Wood there was a group assembled under a pavilion singing. I recognized Victory in Jesus wafting thru the air. I wanted to join them, but didn’t. While walking up the 350+ steps to the top of the ten commandments the “preaching” began… maybe it was more in line with screaming. It actually was more threatening sounding. I was so glad I didn’t join them.
There are many monuments and much to see here. When we came down from the Ten Commandments, they had several baptisms. We watched three generations be baptized.
Our last morning before heading home we took a drive on the Cherohala Skyway. (a beautiful long and scenic highway between North Carolina and Tennessee) We stopped to hike the Huckleberry Knob, a hike recommended by our host.
It was overcast with rain predicted later in the day.
The trail was an old road bed lined with spent flowers that led into a field and back thru the woods again before reaching the knob.
Near the top of the knob was a gravesite of a lumberjack lost and froze to death in the winter of 1899. Slowing down to read the gravestone I saw something peeking out from underneath the stone. I thought it might be a geocache.
“Interested to know if you are blessed by this gift to you. Text or email me. Be blessed. Darren.”
I read it to Kevin. I decided to tuck the bible back and leave it for the next person. When I stood up there was a rainbow in the distance. That was not there moments ago. I stepped back a few feet to take a picture and I set my backpack down and there was a four-leaf clover at my foot.
I had been looking for one several times along the way to the top with no luck. I decided to tuck it into the bible and decided on Psalms 23. I read the verses before closing it up and replacing. I hope the next finder might also take the time to read these verses.
A universal passage for all.
I looked back at my photos and the time stamp and this all happened in 5 minutes. I text Darren and heard back from him. I hope he hears from the next finder too.
We turned to hike back to our car and it began to rain.
In retrospect I think about all these experiences. The religious park and the screaming preacher, Joyce Kilmer’s poem about God’s trees and Darren, a hiker, sharing a bible.
I prefer the quiet and reserved, simple but meaningful. It brought to mind the quote about preaching the gospel and if necessary use words.
God is found in quiet places.
I’m now encouraged to share God in quiet places too.
Look for ways to share God in your quiet places.