Theodore Hard (Dad), Sterling with Indiana Jones hat, David Baiocchi in blue, Rodney Hard in cammo, and Joel Dufour resting on the Appalachian Trail.

Monks at Haeinsa Temple where Buddha's writings are stored.

Pagoda on temple grounds.

Below these granite carvings of Buddha and associates you can see the entrance to the underground tunnels

Our cabin on Chiri Mountain

Dr. Rodney T. Hard

​                                  HIKING WITH DAD

By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

Though there were not that many occasions due to his busy schedule, I always enjoyed hiking with my dad. 

As a small child hiking along mountain paths far above our house, I enjoyed the thrill of trying to keep up with my father and listening to common sense things he would teach about the outdoors.

Hiking up mountains to visit old Buddhist temples or monasteries was always an adventure.  We once visited a monastery and were invited to eat at the table with the head monk.  We were given a tour of tunnels carved below ground in solid granite.  There were small rooms cut into the rock along the tunnels in which the only access was a small hole about four feet off of the floor that a man could crawl through.  We were told that monks would go into the little pitch black rooms carved out of rock and stay for a year at a time.  They meditated and worked on astral projection.

Once, we parked and hiked up to Haeinsa Temple where the 13th Century Tripitaka Buddhist scriptures carved on 81,258 wooden printing blocks was stored.  With some persuasion of the monks by my father, we were allowed to visit the library, and Sterling and I got to actually hold one of the tablets.  I hear that, now, no one but a few chosen monks can touch or even go near the collection. 

We had a small cabin get-away high up on Chiri Mountain along with other missionaries.  It was a long hike up and everything used up there had to be carried up.  I hiked up with slip-on rubber shoes with no laces and wearing no socks.  Even as a teenager I could not keep up with my dad.

When my father was retired and back in the United States, I invited him to go on a hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail above Brandenburg, Tennessee.  David Baiocchi, Rob Erwin, and I had hiked this trail several times before and knew the ropes.  We had all of the best and most up to date hiking boots, packs, sleeping bags, and other equipment.  Dad cobbled together whatever he could and wore some old tennis shoes that had holes in the toes. 

My older brother Sterling had borrowed a sleeping bag from our younger brother Greg and met us in Brandenburg.  Due to food allergy problems, Sterling had a very limited diet.  He bought a dozen eggs in a Styrofoam container and carried those in a plastic bag on our hike.  By the time we reached our first campsite, almost half of those eggs were broken.

With holes in his shoes and carrying all of his own equipment, my father, in his 70’s, led out front the whole way and only stopped to rest when the rest of us wanted to rest.  I must say, he put me to shame with his stamina.

The first night we stayed in a stone bear shelter with a chain link front to keep the hungry bears at bay.  At that altitude, the temperature dropped to near freezing at night.  The sleeping bag Sterling had borrowed was not rated for that low of a temperature and so he tossed and turned and shivered for several hours trying to get warm.  Finally he got up and went outside to start a camp fire. 

He grumbled, mumbled, and stumbled around in the dark while trying to build a fire with wet kindling covered in frost.  Well, by then we were all awake and went out to help.  Though I had some Trioxane fire starter, Sterling would have none of it.  He was tired, cold, and angry and wanted to prove he could do it on his own.  So, the rest of us just stood around watching with amusement until he finally got a fire started.  We had no other choice but to stand around the fire and swap stories for the rest of the night. 

David Baiocchi’s cousin, Joel Dufour, got into a long conversation about religions and theology with my father while hiking.  Joel extolled the virtues of the Hindu and Buddhist religions.  He went on and on about the Dalai Lama, the Indian gurus, and reincarnation.  My father finally had enough.  He asked Joel, “If the people of India are so advanced spiritually and keep reincarnating at a higher state of existence, why is India such a backwards, impoverished, hell hole?” 

My father went on to tell Joel that he had studied Sanskrit in India and had read the Hindu and Buddhist religious texts.  He told Joel that he taught comparative religions at several seminaries.  He then told Joel he had met the Dalai Lama and was invited into his home to peruse his personal library.  “You met the Dalai Lama?” Joel asked awe struck.  That pretty much ended the conversation and all of Joel’s bluster.  My dad did have a tendency to name drop on occasion when it suited his purposes.

Now that he has passed on, I sure do miss those hikes with my dad.  I will see you soon, Dad.  My faith and hope is in Jesus Christ as was yours.  We will be re-united someday and enjoy more hikes together.


Tripitaka tablets storage library.