Take a Zero

Remember the Sabbath ~ Exodus 20:8

The sun was out, and it was hot. Several thru hikers gathered under the shade of two small trees in an otherwise open meadow. There was a man, his wife and their friend from Napa, California. He told his party while looking at his watch, “We’ve got ten minutes to rest before we start walking again.” His friend looked at him, “Just 10 minutes?” “10 minutes,” he reiterated.

Bushwack (her trail name), a recent high school graduate from Rochester, New York, said, “Isn’t this Horseshoe Gulch? If it is, this is the one-hundred-mile mark on the Colorado Trail.”

“Yeah,” most of us mumbled with little or no enthusiasm. The Napa guy said, “They should have some type of marker if this is one hundred miles.” Bushwack walked up the trail and Napa walked down the trail to look for a marker. The rest of us were too tired to move or just didn’t care, and the shade was comfortable.

“Here it is!” yelled Napa. “100 MILES! Honey, bring the camera!”

Oh well, all of us got up and walked over to Napa. Sure enough, someone had spelled out “100” with random rocks. We took turns taking pictures of one another. Why is a hundred miles any more or less significant than ninety or one hundred and twenty-three? Nevertheless, Ro and I took a picture.

Bushwack yipped, “100! I’m going to take a ZERO in Breckenridge!” Napa chimed in, “We’re taking a ZERO as well! Ro and Ro’s Dad (Nobody knew my name on the trail. I was just Ro’s Dad) are you taking a ZERO?”

“Uh, we don’t know yet.” I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what a ZERO was yet.

Napa and Bushwack talked about where they were staying in Breckenridge, what food they would eat (pizza), and how good a hot shower would feel. I gathered that a “zero” was a day off the trail where hikers walked zero miles and simply enjoyed a day of relative luxury.

Walking fourteen to eighteen miles a day up and down passes in sunny and stormy weather was one of the most honest experiences of my life. The body does not lie, especially our feet. When we got tired and sore, we had to take a ZERO or we would fall apart and get injured.

Wayne Muller in his book Sabbath writes, “All life requires a rhythm of rest. There is a rhythm in the way day dissolves into night, and night into morning. There is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter. The heart rests after each life-giving beat; the lungs rest between the exhale and the inhale.”

There is a rhythm on the trail. Thru hikers put in the miles every day and sleep long hours at night. And after four days or seven days of walking, the body says, “Stop! Rest! Take a Zero!” Ro and I met so many hikers on the trail and nobody, absolutely nobody, refuted the need to take a day and rest deeply.

Muller says, “Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something—anything—is better than doing nothing. Because we do not rest, we lose our way.”

We do not remember the sabbath and keep it holy. The consequences are dire. We run frantically from one problem to the next. We live from crisis to crisis. “Our lack of rest and reflection” colors our day-to-day life says Muller. “With a few notable exceptions, the way problems are solved is frantically, desperately, reactively, and badly.” We live in a constant survival mode, frantic desperation.

“If certain plant species do not lie dormant for winter, they will not bear fruit in the spring. If this continues for more than a season, the plant begins to die,” says Muller.

Are we any different? Do we remember the Sabbath? Do we practice Sabbath? Is there wisdom that can only be found in dormancy? “Peace, be still,” Jesus says.

After leaving the “100” mile marker, Ro and I walked to Colorado Highway 9 which is four miles north of Breckenridge. There was not a place to camp, but there was a free shuttle into “Breck.”

“What do you think Ro? Should we just move on?” “How ‘bout a ZERO?” he said. “That sounds great!”

We found a room at the River Mountain Lodge. After long hot showers, we walked downtown to the local pizza parlor and ordered bread sticks, side salads, and two large pizzas—the Philly for me and Chicken BBQ for Ro. The waiter brought us a pitcher of ice-cold water, an IPA for Ro, and a Pepsi for me.

We celebrated over one-hundred miles of walking on the Colorado Trail, and we slept like logs that night. The ZERO refreshed our bodies, our minds, and our spirit.

“Sabbath time is time off the wheel (or the trail), time when we take our hand off the plow and let God and the earth care for things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight,” says Muller.

Sabbath restores us and gives us “peace” of mind.

Blessings and peace,