Bible Christianity contentment Gospel Hope Idolatry Jesus Psalms Reconciliation Rich Mullins Sanctification Seeking soli Deo gloria

Be Still

For the last few weeks, I’ve had this sensation like something was going on. There was movement occurring. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. Maybe I still can’t. 
Any user of social media can tell you that people present causes, ideas, viewpoints, and a host of other things that become points of tension. Sometimes we are witness to the clashes, and sometimes we take part in them. Sometimes we take sides in them and become emotionally invested, spending our energies and time and resources. Sometimes the opportunity for comparison becomes overwhelming and we gives ourselves over to it. Sometimes you are just addicted to the news feed. I’m guilty of all of that. My heart is especially prone to crave the praise of others, and I’m guilty of constantly checking texts, this blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and e-mail hoping for a morsel of that praise. How many followers do I have? How many times have my posts been read? Beyond that, I’m currently struggling with rampant materialism and desire to be satisfied with things. The thing that is consuming my time and thoughts and energies right now is a mountain bike that I don’t even have the money for. It’s suffocating to want things so badly, yet I try to breathe in stuff instead of fresh air. There’s so much noise in life!
“Be still, and know that I am God” reads Psalm 46:10. This is the verse that started whispering to me, beckoning me to quiet myself, about a week ago. Trying to do this, I find that I hate the stillness and quiet. It’s like I’m addicted to noise. I feed on arguments. In a frustrated moment last week, I Tweeted “So many voices in Christianity! Maybe I should just read the Bible instead of blogs.” So noisy, it’s hard to think straight. In sitting down to write this post, I checked out Psalm 46:10 in a few different versions of the Bible -ESV, NLT, and HCSB. I found it interesting to read the HCSB, which translates it as “Stop your fighting – and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” The context of this verse is speaking to the nations, but I believe that can easily be dialed to speak to how I – we – can be in noisy conflict and scattered attentions daily. Mowing the grass today, in the noise, somehow I was quieted.
The first verse that came to mind was 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12. Sticking with the HCSB: “But we encourage you brothers, to do so even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, doing as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” Is this running through my posts and statuses and shares and tweets and pins? I’m convicted that it is not. I’m convicted that my heart loves to act like some dungeon master of noise, versus being still to know the Lord. I love the turmoil, if I’m going to be really honest. This is the fruit of my own hands, and it’s not good. Yet the mere fact that I’ve even become aware of it, which is purely revelation as opposed to self-discovery, gives me hope. Here the law once again crushes me, and it is only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that I am lifted up out of this empire of dirt. It’s not just big sins that Jesus deals with, it’s subtle ones like my life seems to be permeated with. Ones I don’t even see always. That I don’t always see my sins and error is that much more evidence I can only despair of my own goodness and throw myself on the mercy of God, that my sins were paid for by Jesus when he died on the cross, and I have hope for life because Jesus rose again to life and doesn’t remain in the grave. Grace grace grace alone, because by the law alone I’m hopeless.
The final verse that bubbled to life while doing yard work was Psalm 34:8 (HCSB): “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Ultimately, that is why this is even showing up on this blog. The mission statement of what I post here Eternity has been written on your heart. Fight to taste it. Much of that takes place in the wonder of seeing God in creation, but even though creation tells me about the nature of God, displays God’s awesome creativity and testifies to God’s existence, it doesn’t offer me any hope. That is only found in the Bible, the revealed and kept word of God. The mountains and streams cannot quiet the noise for good, but the Lord can. How? By telling us that it is in tasting and seeing that he is good. I want happiness in a hike, in a bike, in a lawn that appeases others, in peoples opinions and praises, in turmoil, in things. Happiness is only found in tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, and taking refuge in him instead of a hike, or a bike, or the praises of others, or things. 
Whatever is happening right now, whatever revelation is coming into view, and whatever sanctification that is so dramatic in my life that I can sense it taking place… that started sitting on a log in my backyard after midnight. It started when I was able to quiet myself. Beneath all the crazy places an things I run to for satisfaction, I know they will never satisfy me. I know, deep deep down in my once dead heart of stone that has been brought to life by the grace of God, that the Lord is the desire of my heart. I know because in Psalm 16:11 says of God “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Do I revel in that? More often than not, I find myself on the judgment end of Jeremiah 2:12-13 – “Be horrified at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled. This is the Lord’s declaration. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” I try to live and find that happiness in researching mountain bikes, or fighting bushes for a waterfall, or gaining the praises of men or more acutely followers on Twitter. God help me to fight to taste the eternity that you’ve prepared, which is full of and out of your goodness!
So what comes out of all this, and how is it working out? I’m going to try and cut back the noise. No deleting any accounts, but definitely a scale back of their use. I’ll be maintaining this blog, still updating it with trip reports from The SC Project. I’m deleting the apps off my phone, because that is a huge source of noise for me. I want to not be so glued to my phone, hoping to scrounge a praise for myself or satisfy the lust for a new notification. I’ll be keeping Facebook Messenger app, so for those who contact me through that can continue to do so. “Oh this is legalism and duty!” you may be thinking. Not really… though I can’t do anything with 100% pure motives (even this post is mixed and there is a level of wanting people to know!), I just want to taste and see that the Lord is good. I want my happiness and joy to be found in Him. I want any adventures I have to merely be arrow that point the praises to the Creator. I want the praise of God to be ever on my lips. Even as I type that out, the thought is savory and satisfying. I want to clear the noise. I want to learn to be still. I want to throw myself into whatever God is stirring in me. I want to deepen and strengthen the relationships around me instead of pollute them with phone distractions. I want to fight to taste the eternity that has been written on my heart so badly that my wife and kids and our friends want to taste it, too. That is what I want.
Asbury Hills Methodist Camp hiking Matthews Creek Moonshine Falls Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area South Carolina The SC Project Trip Reports Waterfalls

Asbury Hills and Moonshine Falls

It had been raining Saturday night, and looked cold and wet still on Sunday morning. I got the call before church to find out if the hike was still on. “The precip is supposed to drop to 30% after noon, and I think it’ll clear up. So if TJ’s still up for it, we’re still going.” He was up to it, so after church TJ and I headed up to the South Carolina mountains. We had been planning this trip together for several months, and I considered several locations. Finally, I settled on Moonshine Falls located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of South Carolina. Getting there via the Naturaland Trust Trail would be more than I was willing to take on today, so we went in via the Asbury Hills Methodist Camp. It’d still be 2.6 miles one way to the falls, but by looking at the topography it looked pretty moderate, which is exactly what it was.

In my research of Moonshine Falls, I found out that you have to get permission to hike through Asbury Hills. In fact, the camp is gated. You have to have the gate access code (which you can get by calling 864-836-3711). I wasn’t sure of the exact route to take to get to the trailhead, but we stayed on the main drive and found ourselves at the parking area in not too long. Asbury Hills looks like a sweet camp, nestled in the Dismal Forest at the base of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness. Four different blazes start here, but we stayed on the main red blaze, which is the Asbury Trail. Along the way, and I have no idea how he spotted it, TJ caught glimpse of a salamander on the trail. At best, it was 5/8″ long. I looked for several seconds as he pointed toward it and I still didn’t see it until it started moving. Eventually the other blazes left the trees and we crossed over a few creeks until we finally got to the cable bridge crossing at Matthews Creek.

There used to be a cable bridge crossing Matthews Creek further upstream where the Dismal Trail meets Naturaland Trust on the (difficult) lollipop loop to the Cathedral and suspension bridge over Raven Cliff Falls. Last I heard, the trees holding that bridge had fallen. As we were leaving Asbury Hills, the tree on the eastern bank for this cable bridge has definitely seen better days. The west side tree didn’t look too bad. I love a cable bridge crossing. Lots of fun! There’s an element of insecurity to it, especially as the cable can be slippery from water spray. But hold on to the top cable and you’ll be fine. Check it out: Matthews Creek cable bridge crossing

We came out at the intersection to the Naturaland Trust Trail, which indicated Raven Cliff Falls was 1.7 miles to the left, and 276 was 2.9 miles to the right. The trail got considerably more rough once we left Asbury Hills, but was still easy to follow. At one point, the trail became a creek, thanks to our evening rain. There was an obvious side trail to avoid the new creek, which we took. On this side path, we found a red eft (juvenile newt) and took a few pictures of it.

It was typically rocky and rooted and somewhat soggy trail through some lovely green forest until we made it to our turn, a large rock cairn along the Naturaland Trust Trail. Not far beyond it, was a Hot Spot sign, indicating that we were off the main trail, and this is a place where people can become lost. This wasn’t really my concern. The sign also indicated Moonshine Falls was this way, which was my concern. The trail wound it’s way through the lush ferned forest and at the second rock cairn, we started passing by some really cool overhangs. Not caves quite, and not a large area, but still neat scenery. Descending the ridge, we could hear Moonshine Falls. You can see it from the top of the ridge, and we took the trail down. Definitely a cool area here!

The descent trail is not very long, but it got more soggy here. What was forest turned into jungle. There’s a large overhang, with remnants of how the falls got its namesake. Several old 55gallon drums and moonshine stills are rusting away in the overhang. To think of the history that may have happened here, and what those moonshiners might have done to 2 lone hikers that wandered into their operation when it was in action probably wouldn’t have been as pleasant as the time we had. We took a few selfies, and explored around the area getting views and photos from different angles. Moonshine Falls itself falls over the edge of the overhang, so you’re completely behind it while in the overhang. We didn’t climb down to the base here, as it was muddy and the rocks were very slick. There’s a side trail not far from the mouth of the overhang, which takes you to the base of the falls, though you have to do some rock hopping here to get a clear view of it.

We poked around the area a little bit more, looking for a few other things, but we were already past our turnback time so further explorations would have to wait for another day. We went back out the way we came in. The hike back was very enjoyable. We saw a few large snails along the trail, and a finger-sized slug. The palmsized fauna was out today, which was nice for us. None of the rhododendron was blooming. A few teaberries were out, but not too much was blooming. I can imagine what this hike would have looked like not just in it’s brilliant carolina jungle greens, but illuminated with flashes of wildflower colors would really make this a great sight!

Overall, we had a great hike, that was moderate in difficulty. To Moonshine Falls and back was about 5.2 miles, without any extreme elevation changes. TJ and I had a great time, and we discovered one more reason to play in South Carolina!

Ability Adventure Belief Gear hiking Outdoor skills

So You Want To Be An Adventurer

You’ve seen the pictures on social media. You’ve heard the stories from friends or acquaintances or co-workers of great places and amazing sights. Somewhere and somehow, someone presented you with the idea of an adventure. I would define adventure as an event or span of time where one is able to behold something in wonder and marvel. Within that, there are many broad opportunities that may be overlooked. 

But there’s a barrier, isn’t there?

It could be many things, but the ones that immediately come to mind are these: (1) Ability (2) Company (3) Equipment. I believe for the most part, there is one root that these 3 barriers grow out of: Belief. Let’s look at the sub-barriers, first.

This probably looks like: I don’t think I can do it. What if I get lost? I need to get in shape before I go hiking. I’m not very adventurous. I don’t know where to go.

Everybody’s abilities will be different, but that doesn’t mean adventure can’t be for everybody. An adventure can be as small as exploring the backyard with your kids, as easy as a scenic drive, and as difficult as you could imagine. An important part of going on an adventure is being honest about your abilities. We are not all going to be cave divers. We are not all going to summit the highest mountain on every continent. We are not all going to jump from the edge of space. Don’t buy into the lies of comparison. Not everything is for everyone, and you always have to weigh your priorities as far as what you can and can’t do, what you should and shouldn’t do.

If you are wanting to grow your abilities, some of the things you can do are learn how to read a topography map and learn basic navigation skills like how to read a compass with the map. When reading a map, try to match the map with what your senses are telling you (e.g. “I hear water, we must be near X”) What I did was pick one area to explore (Linville Gorge), and I studied the maps, learned the landmarks and trails, and then did my best to mentally match the paper to the place when I was actually there. Eventually, I was able to navigate there without a map. For areas I’m not so familiar with and off-trail excursions, I still use a map and compass and sometimes I use GPS for navigation.

Really, as far as ability goes, the best thing I can tell you is that nothing will prep you for hiking like hiking. Just get out there! Look on websites like All Trails or other local sites, and some trail that’s described as steep, and walk up it. I personally feel like Linville Gorge has put steel in my spine for most hikes. What trail could possibly be as much of a demoralizing grind as Pinch In Trail? After that, everything else seems like a pumpy cakewalk.

But if conditioning yourself for that strenuous trail doesn’t sound like it’s up your alley, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers amazing views from the car with several overlooks you can stop at. Or find a guidebook at a local outfitter for somewhere in your area, and find what sounds best for you.
Just don’t sell yourself short.

This probably looks like: I don’t have anyone to go with. Nobody invites me. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone. 

One of the options I have drawn from in this area is social network hiking groups. It started with the bi-annual Gorge Rat Gathering organized at, where everyone on the forum is invited to “infest” the Gorge and join on hikes. Facebook has proven to actually be a social network with some of the groups I have joined there, like the Linville Gorge Facebook Group, Exploring Panthertown Valley, and though I haven’t participated, there’s been group activity at the Wilson Creek Facebook Group. Most people that participate in groups like these are more than willing to have new hiking buddies. One note is that not all hikes are for every ability, so you may get some ability and comfort level questions out of care for you so you aren’t thrown in the deep in of the pool, so to speak. There are typically hikes for every skill level.

If you read this blog at all, you may have noticed I recently began The SC Project, which is dedicated to exploring and discovering the wonders in South Carolina. I typically hike with an open invite.

This probably looks like: I don’t own any gear. I don’t have a tent. I don’t have the money for an adventure hobby.

Advertisers are at work, surely. Granted, you are likely to be more comfortable in a $200 ultralight inflatable air mattress than a $7 closed cell foam blue mattress. But you don’t have to have the expensive gear. We can’t all afford standup paddle boards, sea kayaks, carbon fiber mountain bikes, a full rack of trad climbing gear, or scuba equipment (let alone the ability to do all those things).

In all honesty, you don’t really need any of that for an adventure. Some of my best times have been base camping/car camping, and then dayhiking with nothing more gear wise than a water bottle and 1st aid kit. I’ve used that setup in difficult and scratchy off-trail terrain, too. It’s all in what you’re comfortable with. 

If I was going to tell you to splurge on one thing, it’d be your shoes. What you wear on your feet can make or break your trip by giving you blisters, hot spots, smashed toes, etc. The soles of your footwear will also make a difference, depending on what you’re doing. But for dayhike adventures, which is what I mostly do, there’s nothing wrong with wear a pair of comfortable sneakers that you don’t mind dirtying up. You don’t have to have the expensive closet of gear to enjoy the outdoors.

What does all that stuff matter, though, if you don’t think you can do it? You have to believe you can do it. When I first started off, if someone had told me I was going to bike 30 miles on Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Trail, or see 20 waterfalls in 20 miles of hiking at Panthertown, or I was going to bushwhack the Lower North Carolina Wall to the Sphinx in Linville Gorge, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I started slow and small, and sometimes put myself in physically demanding situations. One of my methods for adventures has been to “throw myself into a hole so I have to get out of it.” You can walk 2 miles on a treadmill then get off. You hike in 2 miles, you have to hike out 2 miles (unless you’re hiking a loop). In Linville Gorge, it’s what goes down, must come up. I had always been against doing hard things, so this motto was my way of forcing myself to do hard things. I did what I believed I could do, and as I did, my belief grew. Feel like you need to be in shape? Walk a half mile. Then walk a mile. Then walk uphill a mile. You can do it.
In my recent hike to Moonshine Falls, it had been raining that morning. When I talked to my first time hiker friend in the morning, I gave him the option to call it off for rain. Nope. He wanted to go. You have to want to do it, and that will overcome many of the barriers in this post. 
This is not the most articulate, well thought out, or gathered post. I just don’t want anyone to wish they were having an adventure but think they can’t. I’ll close with one final thought.
In the photo at the top of this page, my son Link is 2 years old. He has very little ability, a very small social circle (me, his mom, and his sister), and he doesn’t have any special gear. What is it that will allow him to have a grand adventure? He wants to do it. That is what it takes. You want to have an adventure.
If you’re looking for a light adventure, allow me to suggest you read a post of mine from a couple years ago:
Falls Creek Falls Greenville County Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area Slickum Creek South Carolina The SC Project Waterfalls

The SC Project Kickoff: Falls Creek Falls, Plus Some!

This trip was the official start of The SC Project, my focus to explore the wilds and wonders, highs and lows of South Carolina. What better way to start with a waterfalls that’s been on my bucket list for 2 years running? My friend Chris and I headed up to the mountains to meet Todd, who you’re already familiar with if you read this blog with any regularity. 

I’ve been trying to do some online recon for a while, and what I came up with is that the trail to Falls Creek Falls is strenuous and rocky, climbing 1000′ in 1.7 miles. The sign at the trailhead indicated a 2 hour hike, one way, to Falls Creek Falls. Having hiked several times in Linville Gorge, I scoffed at this number and dismissed it. While the FCF Trail is not LG’s PinchIn Trail, it’s still pretty pumpy and will give your legs a workout! I would rate it as more difficult than the neighboring trail to Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap. It is not overly rocky, though there’s a few ruts in it. Definitely not a beginners trail. 

The scenery along the Falls Creek Falls Trail was pretty: glowing green with new spring leaves and spattered with the white blooms of mountain laurel. I love the Carolinas. One thing of definite note here is to watch the blazes on the trail. It’s well marked with purple blazes, but there are several side trails. Double blazes indicate an intersection, so it’s easy enough to stay on the right path.  While hiking, though, I noted several areas that really spiked the “I-wonder-what’s-over-there?” side of my internal off-trail exploration meter. Another adventure for another day. 

45 minutes after our start time, Chris and I were standing at Falls Creek Falls. The trail brings you to the middle of the falls, and we took the lower fork to get the whole scene in. Very impressive. I walked out just a little ways on the rocks and caught that there was a just as huge upper section of the falls. Even more impressive! That’s the picture that tops this post, by the way. I’m just guessing that it’s at least 100′ high, from bottom to top. I haven’t looked up the specifics of it.

We had gotten to the trailhead a little late, and Todd had headed up to the falls ahead of us. I gave a “whoooooooooo!!” hollar, and hoped that it would cut through the roar of the waterfall. A couple minutes later, Todd is coming down the trail. Good to see you again, bro!!

If you’re a SC resident and haven’t been to Falls Creek Falls yet, you are missing out. You can get here from Greenville in about the time it’d take you to drive Woodruff Rd from Laurens Rd to 14 on a busy day. Maybe less time than Woodruff Rd. It took me 20 minutes to get there from Traveler’s Rest, and it’s outside of the Smstate park, so there’s no typical $2 fee. Only a couple places to park, though. Just be ready to pump those legs, and bring a couple bottles of water or Gatorade with you. It’s worth it at the end, I promise. PLEASE be careful at the falls, though. As Todd said while we were there, “That’d be a bad waterslide.”

We hung out for a while, cooled down from the hike up, and just soaked in the restorative quality that comes from being in the mist of a waterfall. The hike down was quick and easy. We were back at the cars in no time. We had hiked to Falls Creek Falls and back in 2 hours 10 minutes. A nice sweet hike, indeed.

Having some time still, I suggested we go poke around Highway11 a little. We stopped at Wildcat Wayside (the waterfall you can see by the road that usually has a boiled peanuts stand nearby on the pulloff). 

Pretty nice there at Lower Wildcat Falls, and climbing up to Middle Wildcat Falls, I noted there had been several improvements to the area since I had last stopped here a few years ago.

 It’s an easy rock hop across the creek. There’s a big kiosk just beyond Middle Wildcat Falls indicating some further info about the trail. We took the right fork of the lollipop loop and passed by a low flow waterfall that was only labeled “falls” but didn’t stop too long to admire. I’d never been to Upper Wildcat Falls, and it was less than a mile round trip, so off we went. What you’ll find here is well made trail on fairly easy and steady elevation that takes you through typical Carolina forest. Very nice for a family hike, actually, as long as you remain cautious. 

Last year, a man died at Upper Wildcat Falls, and there were a couple DANGER signs nearby, indicating it wasn’t one to mess around with. There is a really cool crack in the rock that the waterfall flows down. Just don’t climb the waterfall.

Back to the car, I had one more waterfall nearby I was dying to check out. It’s been a whole since I’d been to sweet Thing on Slickum, and come to find out the trail has been marked and blazed green at the trailhead. Passing by one waterfall on Slickum Creek that I’m not sure the name of, we made it to Sweet Thing on Slickum in no time. Someone has definitely done some work on this trail! When I first came through a few years ago, the trail was sloughing off and you had to crawl through rhododendron tangles to get back to the falls. There’s still some erosion on the trail, but it’s much improved. The rhodo tangle is gone, thank God. And thank you, whoever cut that stuff out of there!

Sweet Thing on Slickum is an 18-20′ waterfall located in a grotto. It’s one of my personal favorite waterfalls in South Carolina, and I love being there. Too bad I was now pushing the limits of my time windows, and I had to start heading back home.

Definitely a great day out in the woods. A huge thanks to Chris and Todd for going out there with me. Not to bad to see 7 waterfalls in 3.5 hours worth of hiking. 

South Carolina, you definitely treated us well today. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you some more, and hopefully we’ll both be making new introductions.

hiking South Carolina TheSCProject Trip Planning

The SC Project

(Mountain Lake @ Paris Mountain State Park)
The SC Project is something that’s been rattling around in my mind and planning for a while. I live in Greenville County, South Carolina. The majority of my hiking has taken me through the mountains of the Upstate, past Table Rock, Cesaer’s Head, Jones Gap, Lake Keowee, Lake Jocasee, Paris Mountain, The Foothills Trail, and numerous preserves. These are all things I’ve driven past in order to get to my favorite hotspots like Linville Gorge and Panthertown Valley. In starting this project, I’ve pretty much just been telling people that I’m going to focus on exploring what’s in my own backyard.
This doesn’t mean I plan to abandon Linville Gorge, Panthertown, DuPont, the Blue Ridge Parkway, etc. What this really boils down to is contentment. What have I been given, and why am I not happy with it? I’ve made several comments about moving to Nebo, Morganton, Brevard, Asheville… Why would I not be happy with Greenville? What a silly thing. On top of all the great hiking destinations, we have the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is a world class greenway that’s made a huge economic impact on the area, fantastic fishing (so I hear, even though I’m a below novice fisherman), and kayaking. The economy in Greenville is pretty good, combined with the plentiful outdoor opportunities, and it seems very silly that I would not be content with where God’s placed me and my family.
Will I be devoting a huge amount of energy to this and be all-consumed by it? I’m certain it will be a struggle just as it has been with all adventures, but this isn’t an addition to what I’ve already been doing. It’s a redirection. I’m hoping it will allow me to do the hard work in discovering new places, but also build relationships with people I actually llive near and am in local community with. This refocus will also be a better steward of my time, as it will allow for more time to be spent looking for waterfalls, hiking trails, seeing amazing things, than spent in the car for up to 6 hours a day (I’m talking to you, Table Rock Parking Lot at Linville Gorge). This can also afford short trips, that do not consume as much time, allowing me to spend more time with my family.
So, what IS The SC Project? It is one man’s attempt to explore, discover, and document South Carolina.
Hopefully I’ll see you on the trail someday soon.