My Birthday Journey

Alternatively titled, “The Time I Didn’t Die”

Thank you so much for the ways you have responded to my last post.  We have the best people.  As we begin our new chapter and especially as we enter this week of purposeful Thanksgiving, I really want to try to share some stories from the ways the Lord has provided for us.  Because so many of our prayers were answered long before we knew to pray them.  And so many of the blessings have been more about bringing our hearts along on the journey.  Here is just one of those testimonies.

For my birthday this year, I only asked for one thing: Time to hike alone.  As things tend to go, we got busy and just didn’t set it up.  Until on Monday before my bday when RRL said “please, just go do it”.  So, I booked a room via AirBnB only 45 minutes from my house, but far enough away to feel I was escaping.

That was Monday.  On Tuesday we found out that this would be the weekend relinquishment papers would be signed.  It was the sweetest gift that I already had these plans.

As I did some last minute research on Friday night, I found this article which promised me the best hikes in Dallas.

The 6 Best Hikes in Dallas

So perfect!  Who knew we had all of these amazing spots?  So I headed out to find the beautiful scene pictured at the top of the article and a day of adventure.  I got what I asked for.  Plus some.

This is my hiking journal.  Before you go to any of the places mentioned in the article, you might want to read this.  And then ask me if I think you should go alone. 

9:20 AM I arrive in Dallas and follow directions to Piedmont Ridge. Wind up in the middle of a neighborhood. No trails. 

9:40 AM after more in the car research, I arrive at Gateway Park. There is an unmarked trail behind the tennis courts. Take it for a while. It leads nowhere except to more piles of empty beer cans.

10 AM back in my car. Pretty sure everyone who saw me get out of my car with my backpack on 20 minutes ago, looking like I didn’t belong here, is now laughing. A bit more research and I think the trail is across the street.

10:10 I find a trailhead. Not THE trailhead, but according to the articles I’ve found, I’m pretty sure they are connected somehow.  Regardless, I’m ready to start hiking and head out.


10:14 AM walk from a trail in the woods straight out onto a golf course. Oops must’ve missed the turn. Head back toward where I came out of the woods and see a little orange/red tie in the trees. Maybe it’s marking the trail?9_20-am-i-arrive-in-dallas-and-follow-directions-to-piedmont-ridge-2

10:21 a cool bench is a good sign I’m on an actual traveled trail.

And an actual trail sign along the way helps


The leaves  on the floor make it impossible to know where the trail is.  I’m increasingly thankful for these ties which I can now tell are definitely trail markers and also signs indicating different branches of the trail.  Praying for whoever took time to leave them. Find myself thinking about ways people who have gone on other “trails” ahead of me guided me from their experience.  Even though I’m alone I’m not lonely.  I’m also thinking about how hard it is when the path I’m on doesn’t seem to have been traveled before. That is lonely.

10:45 um this is concerning.


10:47 So. Seconds after I convince myself that a slashed open stuffed spider isn’t scary…  I met the person who hung him there.  Same person who marked the trails.  One of the top scariest seconds of my life when I heard a voice call “so good to see someone using my trail”.  I’m not sure why I didn’t run.  

Instead, I met Jeff. Jeff and I walked and talked.  He explained about making a Halloween adventure for his 16-year-old and friends last night (Thus the stuffed spider hanging dead from the tree, the large man he was carrying under his arm and the scary mask on his pack).


He got me on track, pointed the way to the “scyene overlook”, and emailed me a hand drawn map of “hiss” trails.


Dear Jeff, I’m sorry I lied. Maybe it wasn’t a lie completely. You asked if I was familiar with the area. I did Google the area this morning so technically I was a little familiar. But I was also terribly lost. In my defense, please recall that you were carrying a large stuffed body and I was hiking alone.

Sincerely- ABL, the hiker you helped/terrified

Found the open field leading to Scyene overlook



11:40 AM I have finally found the elusive Piedmont Ridge Trail, my original destination, nearly 3 hours later. Number 4 on the list actually IS in Grover Keeton Park, just like the article claimed, but at the very front of the park where you’d miss it if you didn’t have a trusty Jeff map.  Which I now do!


And I found the bench with a veiw.  The deep slant of the bench meant it wasn’t quite the comfortable spot I hoped based on the article description. 9_20-am-i-arrive-in-dallas-and-follow-directions-to-piedmont-ridge-8

But the view was peaceful.  And I was alone.  Exactly how I hoped to spend the day. So, I sat for a while on the famous bench. thinking. 


12:15 I’ve decided to not heed Jeff’s warning about overgrown trails and try to get to the last 2 overlooks.  I’m especially thankful for his markers now bc he was right- this trail is very overgrown.

I see a promising path.  No red marks but looks like it might be a path to a view. It was not and I slid through rocks and thorns coming back to the marked path. 


A few minutes later I found the extraordinary view of Dallas.  This is why I hike.  This feeling of being alone, removed from the busyness that I know lies below that skyline.


Unfortunately, as i relished that view, I also lost the trail. irrecoverably this time. 

I have my phone and using the map I know which direction I need to head.  I think I’ll just walk that way.

So.  Now I’ve spent the last hour pushing through, stepping over and crawling under thorny brush. I discovered that a briar patch is a for real thing that a person can actually get stuck in. 


I lost my favorite sunglasses trying to crawl out.  Got plenty of “adventure badges” on my legs to prove my error. 

9_20-am-i-arrive-in-dallas-and-follow-directions-to-piedmont-ridge-12I just got back on the trail and definitely kissed the first red marker I see.  I look at the picture and can see the dirt in my hair, face and neck from crawling through the woods.


1:50 PM finally made it back to Barton Road. And for the first time in hours I’m thinking about something other than the step (or crawl) in front of me.  I’m thinking about her and what she’s having to push through emotionally to get to Denton today to sign.  I choke back tears as I praise the Lord for giving me something hard to do during these hours.  What if I had been anywhere else?

5 miles and much time later, I finally make it back to the Trailhead.  

Dear Piedmont Ridge, me and you are breaking up. It’s not you. It’s definitely me.  Adios.


2:20 after sitting at the car for a while, I am heading toward cedar ridge preserve.

3:05 Drove through Dallas, arrive at cedar ridge preserve. Upside I can already tell it is much better marked and from the trailhead map I can tell there is lots of mileage to explore.  Downside- lots of people agree with me. Parking lot is packed, trailhead is crowded.



3:20 after talking to photographer “Enrique” in the parking lot, changing shoes, going potty— I’m off.. just as I get started at a good pace, I get the message “she signed”.  I don’t stop to even acknowledge it right away.  Too many people.  Up and down rocky hills I hike.


Then I find a bench alone.  I call RRL and text our tribe who has been praying.  Not sure I can fully digest it.  This day, this moment, I will never forget.


I have really enjoyed the last couple of hours at cedar ridge. 



Not so thrilled about this, though…


Pollination habitat. Walking the other way now.

If I squint maybe these two hills by the pond would look like the maroon bells over maroon lake.

I laugh thinking about our uphill biking adventure and the view we never saw.  I’m so thankful, as today marks another epic adventure beginning, for traveling with him.

5:40 pm dinner.  Some bdays call for special restaurants. Some for sitting in a park bench alone.  I asked for an adventure alone today before I knew what today would hold.  I needed to be alone today.   I needed to do something hard.  I needed to exercise my body and rest my spirit.


After dinner I walk slowly back to my car.  But there is still one section of trails in the preserve I hadn’t hit. My gut told me if I ran it I’d get a good sunset.  So I unloaded as much weight from my backpack as I could and took off down the trail again. My gut, which I believe was divinely prompted, did not disappoint.  About halfway down there was a bird watching stand.


As I climb to the top, I call out loud to the Lord “THANK YOU”.  In the moment I am thanking him for this tiny slice of provision- a perch facing west over the lake.  But also most certainly for His goodness.  The ways he laces even the hardest things with sweetness of love and tender mercy.  The things he has created on this earth to remind us of his ultimate redemption story.  The promise of days that will end and new beginnings that will rise.  


From my perch alone above the trees, i watched the sun set on a most unforgettable birthday.

I Read Psalm 118

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

And finally, for the first time today, I cry. All the tears.  By an act of God I am completely alone, with a clear view of his provision, when those tears come.  This is no small thing.

7:00 pm I smell terrible, my legs look like I’ve been whipped and I’m sooooo tired.  But I’m also hungry.  Even though I claimed tuna was my dinner, I think I will going to buy myself one Sushi roll on the way to my overnight stop. 

Sunday 8:30 am so- last night I tried my first airbnb.  Success! good night sleep, wake up just sore enough to smile and want a little more of the aloneness of the trails. So i’ve packed up and I’m headed out again.

9:20 am- Arrive at Cedar mountain preserve. This is a pick of my own- not included in the article.


Short paved path and then an open field along the highway. I am not in the mood for another trailhead hunt this morning.


Just as I think I don’t have it in me, I see a white arrow. Hopefully this is not the beginning of another crazy adventure.


Path marked clearly with white arrows. Makes me think of white blazes and the AT.  Maybe another birthday.  Someday.


Here I am completely alone. The sun is peeking through and animals singing. And it is good to be alone for a little while before going back.  It feels like true worship to just walk. And be.

I set up the timer and take a picture of myself on a fallen tree. I realize I look tired. I feel tired.


As I come across another view of the busyness I’m removed from, I also realized I haven’t really been thinking.  Anything.  Just walking. Mission accomplished. 


I’ve got to be home by 12:30. I have time for one more stop. And it sounds lovely. 

10:46am  Drive onto a dead end. There is another empty trailmap holder ahead.  Great.  But in the spirit of adventure, I push on. 

At the end of the bridge a clear path heads left and goes along the ridge, but not into the woods. I walk a way and them decide it’s not correct and head back.  Another lesser trail is obvious to me walking back this direction, but it isn’t marked at all.  Ah well. I’m here.  SO I might as well give it a whirl.



I never even made it off of the paved trail and onto the natural path because the paved part was so overgrown and had fallen trees across much of it.



At least I found the “amazing” Trinity River overlook just in time to watch a train pass.  So, there’s that. Yeah, beautiful, huh?  But quiet at least.


Doesn’t quite make up for the fact that I ran most of the way through the Jurassic Park-like area because I was so uncomfortable.  I even texted RRL at one point just to make sure he knew where I was…just in case.

11:15am  I’m already back at my car and disappointed.  The Buckeye Trail, number 3 on the list, was the most disappointing stop because I could tell it was once great, but not maintained.  And I didn’t feel like I could even really make it to the areas the article talked about.

So.  There you have it.  That’s 4 of the best of Dallas.  Dear Dallas, you sure tried hard.  
I mentally drafted a little note to the editor.  Something simple and to the point:
Dear D Magazine:  Please update this article and/or take it down.  I didn’t die.  But could have.
Hiker led astray
 But I didn’t send it.  Because honestly, this article lead me so far astray that I was exactly where I needed to be.  I found a slice of the metroplex in which I could be alone, cover a lot of hiking ground (about 13 miles altogether), and do something hard.  I could never have planned this.  It was my own little piece of the redemption puzzle, a sweetness personalized for me during these days of transition.
I drove home renewed.  Ready.  Thankful.
Exactly why I went.
Updated: November 22, 2016 — 4:32 pm

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