Bumps & blessings along the trail
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
My husband dreamed up backpacking in the Olympic National Park for our 14th anniversary. “It’s one of the top 10 places to backpack in the WORLD,” he persuasively pitched.
He checked out stacks of guide books from the library, printed maps and stared out the window conjuring up a plan. I could see his wild excitement, and tried to set a few parameters – like the number of days and miles.
We decided on a four day hike (including the lengthy drive to and from the park) and a 28 mile trip. We’d need a bear can to store our food, as it’s required by the park since we’d be in the heart of bear country, and we’d need to pack smart.
Even with the best guide books around, adventures can’t be planned precisely … we have to bend and go with the flow as new situations come up. It’s just like life. Thus, I fully anticipated bumps in the “trail” – and we had a few (even before the trailhead!). Looking back, those bumps made the trip memorable, challenging and even more rewarding. I’m genuinely thankful for the bumpy experiences!
The hiking days allowed for quiet thoughts. That’s a rarity in my life, so I enjoyed every moment. Here are a few lessons learned:
- When facing a log jam, step up your mindset.
About 40 slain trees jumbled the trail over a short distance. Many of these fallen giants measured 6 ft. in diameter. At times we climbed logs on top of logs. It slowed us down and forced us to concentrate. We scrambled over 36 of them and stooped low under 8 (yes, we counted). And twice they served as bridges to cross the river. Having a positive mindset (a.k.a. pretending I was a Ninja Warrior) made this one of my favorite parts of the trail – it was an authentic obstacle course created by Mother Nature. On our return trip, we talked with a Trail Maintenance crew member who said many people turn around when they arrive at the log jam. I’m thankful for a hubby who doesn’t flinch when a log lands in his path. He pulls his pack tighter and tackles the trail.
- Our roots aren’t made to trip us up.
The trail’s terrain changed along the way. Sometimes it stood smooth and packed down, sometimes sand cushioned, sometimes fresh scented cedar chips collected in one spot, and often the path was formed solely by uneven rocks. No matter what, trees stood to each side and roots from the gigantic old growth popped across our path. We had to pay attention and use them as steps, so they didn’t trip us up. We all have family roots – family situations both positive and negative that make up our unique family trees – and as I walked the thought came to me that our family roots are not intended to trip us up, but to persuade us to step up. Then we walked by a tree’s roots that blew my mind. It was love at first sight – and I felt pulled into its core immediately. When I popped inside, it framed me. Yup, that’s what our roots can ultimately do – they can frame us. We get to look at our family roots and allow them to influence us for good or not. During our lifetime, we get a turn to stand, centered in our family tree, and grow on our own accord and speed.
- The highest blessings often come after the lowest moments.
I had a horrible night when we reached our destination of the Enchanted Valley (long story – but it involved an upset stomach, and a growing and very nearby forest fire), so the next morning we were up and out of camp bright and early – even without breakfast. The world stood still, quiet, fogged over and sleepy – until we heard an alarm clock like no other. It was bugling. Elk bugling. We bushwhacked our way to a dry river bed just in time to see a herd of Roosevelt Elk –males, females and at least 40 of these royal creatures. It was the highlight of the trip … and it directly followed the low point. After watching a while, we returned to the trail in hopes of catching up with the elk once more. No luck. Then I took a dumb step – landing in a stream with one foot. My soaked sock and shoe forced us to break before we had really gotten started … I felt frustrated with myself, recognizing it wasn’t a great way to initiate an 11-mile day …. And then Alex saw them. In the trees across the stream and up the bank was the herd (and with a BIG DADDY BULL in full view!). It seems the low and high were directly connected yet again – and trying to teach me something. God sees all. He knows what’s coming next. I must make it through the dark night, because the blessings of the still morning will come. I must realize that my missteps can be the perfect set up for a more perfect perspective. God is not a God of chaos – He is orchestrating everything beautifully. Trust Him.
- Give it a try – you might be more capable than you realize.
I know Heavenly Father strengthened and enabled my body so I could make this trip. I hadn’t trained and it ended up being even longer than anticipated. A landslide washed out the road leading to the trail, and another part of the trail washed out and we had to be redirected – this added several miles of hiking. In fact, the journey ended up totaling more than 35 miles. As we walked out of the woods, I left feeling more capable than before. Stronger than before. Braver than before. That capability and strength actually existed before the journey – but I didn’t know it.
Like so many bygone stories, our trail seemed uphill both ways. No, really – it did! We came home from our vacation totally exhausted … and fulfilled. I think our life is a lot like that – it’s uphill both ways, exhausting and completely fulfilling … at least, it can be, as our eyes and heart are opened to His lessons along the trail.
PS – This trip also taught me just how much I love to follow my husband. I’ll follow him nearly anywhere! 🙂