The trail to Mill Lake is
long—3.5 miles. It doesn’t sound like that great a distance to walk. An
hour’s work at the most. On flat land. But in the Rocky Mountains, 3.5
miles means up, and switching back and forth on narrow trails. I have
no proof, but I think the distance is measured according to
As with all mountain hikes the
thin air of the 11,000-plus feet taxes our lungs which are used to the
1000-foot elevation of Kansas. We have to stop often and gasp for air,
breathing deeply until our lungs stop burning and our legs stop aching.
All to begin again for the next
leg of the trail.
It’s hard. It’s a strain. So why
have we repeatedly subjected ourselves to such torture, every summer
for over forty years?
There are three reasons. Number
one, because of the utter accomplishment of it. It’s like writing a
book, I don’t necessarily like writing, but I like “having written” and
reaching the goal. I don’t necessarily like hiking but I like having
hiked, and reaching the goal.
The second reason we keep
torturing ourselves is the silence. We like to take the hikes early,
while most Colorado vacationers are just waking up or standing in line
at Mountain Home to have biscuits and gravy, coffee, and enormous
cinnamon rolls. We usually have the trail to ourselves and only see
people hours later, on the way down, when they are on their way up.
The natural perfection of the
trail continues to inspire. Even when there are downed trees it’s like
they are meant to be that way, for God placed them there. The
wildflowers finding life in the crevices of rocks, the chipmunks
darting past, the heady smell of pines, and the clouds slowly floating
by speak of perfection beyond what mere humans can attain. Nowhere do I
feel closer to God than on the trail, in this place that always was and
always will be, a place He designs and cares for when night falls and
we humans leave. For the wilderness is His. We only get to visit.
Yet we have to stop walking to
notice all this. While we are hiking our ears are assailed with the
sound of the crunching of our feet upon the dirt and pebble path, our
huffing as we test our lungs…It reminds me that in my daily life I need
to stop more. Listen more. Take deep breaths, and let my body
recalibrate and get a second wind before moving on—no matter what
altitude I’m at. I need to notice the world around me with all its
details, using all five senses. Too often I let it rush by. Too often I
forget the forest.
The third reason I hike are the
rocks. Boulders actually. The car- and house-sized pebbles of the
Almighty that He tossed into place and arranged just-so. We have our
favorites along these familiar trails, the boulders we need to climb
upon as part of our ritual. It’s while standing on top of those rocks
that we know why we’re here—why we exist.
It’s different up there. For
while we are down on the path, pebbles move under our feet, we have
stones and tree roots to step over, and the crossing of a tiny stream
makes the going slippery. But climbing onto the rocks makes us feel
stable and safe. The rocks are always ready to support us, lifting us
to high ground, with dry boots, where we can see the big picture. It
forces us to stop looking down (as we have to do both coming up and
going down the trail) and makes us look up and out, to see the world in
a different way, to see the bigger picture beyond what’s close by. It
helps us see God and how He’s layered the vistas together to create a
magnificent whole. I thank God that He is there to support me, share
with me, and be my rock.
Mountains or prairie, city or
village, He is the rock upon which we stand.
hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
Hope is Built on Nothing
(1834 Edward Mote)