August 2015 – Tyler Connoley –Ft. Bayard Cross Country Course #722
By Linda Ferrara
I sometimes consider hiking and being in nature to be a spiritual activity. When a friend and I used to hike on Sunday mornings, we would call it “going to church.” So, last year when I witnessed Pastor Tyler Connoley and members of his congregation hiking silently as part of a church service, I knew we were destined to hike together. Happily, my opportunity came one Saturday morning a few weeks ago. Tyler, who was ordained in October 2009, was most recently a hospice chaplain for five and a half years. Three years ago he became the pastor for the newly started Silver City United Church of Christ, which is an inclusive and progressive Christian denomination. Silver City UCC meets in a circle, and begins each meeting by sharing what they are thankful for that week.
Then they discuss opportunities they’ve had to be of service to others, followed by areas of concern.
After praying together, and a break ( which usually includes eating and listening to music), they have a spiritual discussion instead of a sermon, and then end with Communion.
Tyler, who is “half of 90 years old” (don’t you just love it?), hikes a variety of trails; however, he enjoys walking the same trail repeatedly to see the subtle differences the seasons bring. As we discussed this, it reminded him of his faith. “Christianity, for me, has been a matter of finding a spiritual path and walking it every day.” Daily walks give him a break from responsibilities and give him the chance to feel his feet on the ground. He never hikes without two important items: his two dogs, Lexi and Lucia ( pronounced loo- CHEE- ah). The following trail is a favorite because it reminds him of the Zambian savanna where he grew up.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers.
Name: Fort Bayard Cross Country Course #722 Distance: 2.5 miles ( or more)
Directions: Beginning at the light for U. S. Highway 180 and 32nd Street Bypass, drive 4.4 miles to the “Santa Clara City Limits” sign. It is between mm 119 and 120. Turn left and cross the highway to a pull- off / small parking area. Walk around an old locked gate to begin the hike.
Hike Description: This is a short, fairly level hike. At the .25 mile mark, you will come to an intersection of trails. This is where the loop begins.
Start by going to the left. Stop for a photo op of the Twin Sisters at the .75 mm. At 1.16 miles you will reach a signpost pointing to various trails.
Stay on the main trail, to the right. There is another trail intersect at the 1.88 mm. For this hike, stay to the right. ( If you go to the left, you will cross Twin Sisters Creek and swing around to the same trail, making a larger loop.) At the 2.1 mm, you have completed the loop and should take the spur ( to the left) back to the vehicle.
Notes: There are several side trails to explore in this southernmost section of Fort Bayard Game Preserve. One of the side trails will bring you up Twin Sisters Creek; another will bring you over to the parking area off of Arenas Valley Road. You may also reach the Memorial Park at Fort Bayard from this trail system.
While walking, Tyler tells me why he fears snakes. While his family lived in Zambia performing missionary work, his baby sister was left alone in her crib for a few moments one day. When his mother returned, a black mamba ( an extremely venomous snake endemic to sub-Saharan Africa) was in the crib with his sister. His mother’s screaming scared the snake away and his sister was safe, but the memory stayed with him. It is one of the reasons he always wears long pants and close-toed shoes while out for his daily walk.
Pastor Connoley can be reached at johntyler@ connoley. com. The congregation meets every Sunday at 11:11 a.m. at the Woman’s Club in Silver City and anyone is invited to join them.