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My daughter and I left for an overnight backpacking trip on the Flat Laurel Creek Trail near Canton, N.C. We hadn’t backpacked in 19 years. She had aged. So had I. We planned to set up camp after three miles, then pack a day bag and hike to a nearby mountain bald boasting 360-degree views.

Making good time, we arrived at our campsite, set up our tent, hung our food, prepared a day bag, and set out for the bald. The weather forecast called for thunderstorms, and we could already hear the thunder rolling across some of the nearby mountains.

Climbing to the mountain summit involved a 1,000-foot elevation change and scaling many large rocks, but we made it. The view was spectacular—for about 10 minutes. No sooner had we taken our pictures than dark clouds socked in the mountains and their valleys. We, along with other sightseers, headed for cover.

When we reached the loop trail on our way down from the summit, we headed for a parking lot, which had a porta-potty. As we looked at the trail sign, trying to find the starting point for the loop trail we sought, the storms arrived. We had no place to take shelter except the small overhang leading into the porta-potty. Eventually, we had to open the porta-potty door and stand inside—not a welcome smell.

We spent 45 minutes in that smelly place before the storm moved on. A fellow hiker pointed us to the trailhead we sought, and we headed the one-and-a-half miles back to our tent. The rain had turned the trail into a river, and we plodded through.

As we walked, I heard a strange noise coming from my left boot. I looked down to see the sole had separated. When I picked up my foot, the sole fell off. Another few yards down the trail, I heard a sound coming from my right boot. Same thing. All of a sudden, I was wet and soleless.

After looking at the trail, we wondered whether our tent was still intact and dry inside. Though the tent remained, everything in it was soaked. Having plenty of daylight left, we decided to pack up and head back home.

When I remarked that it seemed as if both a real and a symbolic dark cloud hung over us during our hike, my daughter came to her optimistic rescue. God had allowed us to see from the bald for 10 minutes before the clouds obscured the mountains. God had provided a porta-potty for shelter when we needed it. Our tent had not blown away. We saw many beautiful wildflowers along the way. Even though I was soleless, I still had a semblance of a shoe on. And we had a wonderful adventure such as we had never experienced before.

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