Clear blue skies overhead, the sun shining bright, the air a crisp 65 degrees, and the scent of sun-warmed pine all around. It was the perfect day for a hike.
Our destination was Ramona Falls, a nine-mile round trip hike up Oregon’s Mt. Hood. My husband and I had been planning this trip for a while, choosing which trail to take, what gear to pack, how much water and food we’d need, and most importantly, how to not get lost in the Pacific Northwest wilderness.
It was a spectacular trail for two native Nebraskans who are more used to fields of soybeans and corn than towering trees and mountains. The trail took us past boulders and creeks, meadows of soft green moss, and steep, rocky cliffs that had been sheared away by Mother Nature.
I enjoyed the first several miles of our hike, snapping pictures of the glorious beauty surrounding us. My husband walked ahead, alerting me of roots or rocks that we could trip on. He cautioned me when we reached a particularly narrow part of the trail that beheld a gorgeous view of the river below, separated from us by a few hundred feet of a near-ninety degree drop off littered with fallen trees.
At one point, we reached a river crossing, criss-crossed with logs but no visible bridge. A native hiker we had met when we started out told us the bridge had been taken down earlier in the season due to flooding, but that we could shimmy across the logs to continue our trek up to the falls. It was exhilarating (and a bit scary!) to creep across that fallen log, see the swirling cold water of the Sandy River below, and make it safely to the other side, like a modern day Indiana Jones!
Of course, as we trekked ever higher up the mountain, fatigue began to set in. We stopped to rest more and more frequently, and I had to unlace my boots at one point because of a blister forming on my heel. We ate some energy bars and kept going.
But after three hours of hiking, I’ll admit, I was feeling defeated. I had prepared my body all summer for the rigors of hiking, but the trail was taking it’s toll. I felt drained, my heel hurt, I could feel blood in my sock, and I didn’t know if I could make it another step. We had no idea how close we were to the falls, but we knew by the distance we had covered that they had to be close.
I sat down on a rock next to trail, and put my head between my knees.
My husband sat down next to me, and just said, “we’re really close, I know it. I’ll turn around now, if you want to, because going downhill will be easier, but I know you can do it.”
I was tired and in pain, but he was right: I could do it! I got up and continued hiking and you know what? After about two more minutes of walking, we heard a sound through the trees: rushing water. The temperature suddenly felt 10 degrees cooler. And then just around the bend: Ramona Falls!
As I was writing this, I was thinking of 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I don’t know about you, but I think a hike is more appropriate (and not just because I hate running).
Get a map: The Word of God is the best tool we have for navigating the trail of life.
Be prepared: Make sure your gear includes your map, plenty of prayer, and hopefully a good hiking partner (or two or three) to help you along the way.
Enjoy the scenery: The old Victorian term that “life is just a veil of tears” is not true! God has blessed you in so many ways, maybe some that are easy to see, like the majesty of his creation, or others that might be hidden, like stepping closer to see the differing shades of green moss next to a brook.
Watch your step along the narrow paths: Like the narrow parts of the trail, there may be times when you have to walk a narrow road, whether that means guarding your heart against something that is socially acceptable, or making unpopular decisions. It’s difficult to not fall off the edge!
Precarious crossings: Sometimes, God asks us to do things that make us uncomfortable, or that could be dangerous. But he always provides a bridge to help us cross, and He’s always got us in the palm of his hands.
Reaching your destination: The hike of life might be short or long. Even if you have a map, sometimes the end of the trail could sneak up on you. You never quite know when the journey will end, but you need to keep going until you reach your Heavenly destination. The sight of it will take your breath away.