[CS-FSLUG] Good Friday Oddball Meditation

Ed Hurst ehurst at asisaid.com
Fri Apr 14 21:10:52 CDT 2006

Mighty Deeds

Sometimes, the best of things can be overworked, thoroughly ritualized,
to the point the most beautiful gift of God wearies you. It's the way we
humans are. To refresh you, I offer my Good Friday contemplation, which
has almost nothing to do with Via Dolorosa, Roman whips, or cross beams
-- except the joy of a life bought with such a high price.

I was once part of the AFCENT Marching Team. Military servicemen from
six countries, serving their nations at or attached to AFCENT HQ, a
branch of NATO, joined each year to participate in harsh distance
marching as a team. I was the waterboy, and rode a mountain bike with
six 1.5-liter bottles attached to the rack on the rear, in such a way
they could be easily grabbed as I rode alongside the formation. I was
also the off-season trainer. Anyone joining without an extensive
background in distance hiking would spend time with me during the winter
months going to volksmarches. We progressed from 10km to a 50km event,
then rested a bit with some smaller walks before the official training
season began. There were several major events, beginning the the coast
of Belgium, a two-day march. Over the spring, we went to places like
Amersfoort, Netherlands; Beaufort, Luxemburg; Bern, Switzerland; and
Viborg, Denmark. I had to miss out the one year we added Ireland. It all
culminated in the four-day event in Nijmegen, Netherlands, each day
covering 25km. One year they suspended the support bikes for a day
because of an accident, so I carried the six bottles in a backpack and
hiked with the team.

There's no way to describe all the peripheral memories, like Dutch
military shower tents. When my knees began failing, I wrote an extended
and detailed SOP so whomever took my place could have some idea how to
operate. The team was appreciative of this, and translated it into a
couple other languages. Each event had its own peculiarities and the
procedures were wholly different. For example, in Luxemburg I was
forbidden to stay with the team for much of the course. I shadowed them
on side roads and small trails, often getting better scenery. In
Nijmegen, the bikes had to stay within 10 yards of their team for the
most part. That's tough in a crowded throng of bodies, requiring
mind-numbing steering discipline and slow pacing. Dutch kids thronged
the route, some offering small hand-made gifts with their mailing
address, hoping for an exotic penpal or two. I wrote to all I got, but
only one kept writing until after I left the Army. On the parade the
final day, women gave flower bouquets to men in the marching formations.

The last hike I made in Europe before my knees made it impossible was a
pinnacle experience, in more ways than one. As a reward for Desert Storm
1, all European-based US personnel were given a free vacation to one of
the various US military-run recreation areas in the German Alps,
location chosen at random. We were told to bring our families, and mine
ended up on Berchtesgaden. This was one of those places used as a Nazi
summer retreat, with bunkers and the works. You can tour all the various
historical sites very cheaply. It had been a tourist trap before that,
and has become one again. The heights above Berchtesgaden are called
Obersalzburg, because it's right on the border and looks down on
Salzburg, Austria (think "Sound of Music"). Yes, we saw the sights in
Salzburg, too. However, not everyone comes to spend money. A few are
more interested in spending time and energy, seeing things others miss.
I took my last hike, knees clicking and grinding, from the General
Walker Hotel up to the Eagle's Nest, AKA "Hitler's Tea House." The
original name was Kehlsteinhaus.

The first part is on the narrow road normally reserved for the tour
busses going up to the Nest. It follows the path built for Hitler's
limo. At one point the road branches, and the upaved route is the path
taken by the enlisted men working on and in the Nest. The Nest is
perched atop a stone ridge, which ends suddenly and drops off quite a
height. This ridge extends inward into a bowl formed by a ring of
mountains. In the pocket of the ring is the Königsee, or King's Lake. In
the photos of the Nest taken from the ridgeline above, the Königsee is
on the left a ways, as is the main road up. The right side of the little
jutting ridge is the service route I took. From the dirt path running up
through the forest, you break through the last turn between two thick
trees to a stunning view up the rock face with the Nest in clearly
visible on top. The partially paved path carved into the rock face is a
long series of switchbacks and hairpin turns. I'm still shaking my head
to think there were narrow little trucks which actually made it up the
"road." The top of the path leaves you at the entrance of the tunnel to
the elevator. The old enlisted men's path was damaged from ice wedging
rocks apart that year, which made the path impassable. It was closed
until a full thaw would allow repairs. This was in late March, when
there was still snow in those parts in places. My switchback trail up
required crossing berms of dirty snow and ice at times.

>From the patio behind the Nest, you can see clearly the Königsee along
with most of the entire town of Berchtesgaden, the Walker Hotel, and a
portion of Salzburg far off in the direction from which I had climbed.
Even with the snow and ice still covering parts of the ridge above and
behind the Nest, it was all I could do to keep from taking the
established, but challenging, hiking trail which ran all the way along
the ridge around behind the Königsee and down into the little village on
the Lake. I didn't have another 10 hours of daylight left. Still, the
feeling was like a driving lust, almost. It still brings a tear to my eye.

I may never see the Königsee again. I may never be in shape to do that
climb again, though I have hopes I can recover that much. I will almost
certainly not do the Nijmegan Four Day March again. That's okay. All
such memories of mighty deeds serve in my life merely to remind me how
much He paid to make living worthwhile. Every day with Jesus holds
something of an Eagle's Nest experience if we just stop to notice.

Ed Hurst
Bible Application - http://ed.asisaid.com/bible/index.html
Plain & Simple Computer Help - http://ed.asisaid.com/
Mission, Method & Means - http://ed.asisaid.com/blog/

More information about the Christiansource mailing list