DAY SIX – the end of myself …
It was deceptive – getting me hooked and then pulling all sense of hope out from under me.
It was dangerous – 30 inch cliff trails, loose rock, and not a small fall to my doom.
It was death – pushing me beyond what I thought I was able to do. Taking me to the end of myself. A slow, painful trek that killed my muscles, my ego, and my sanity.
Now, this last hike on my trip was not the hardest I’ve done, but it ranked up there. But this Road Trip has taken a physical toll. Lots of road time (and more to come) and three National Parks in six days so far. Not sleeping all too well. And well, I’m not 30 anymore, by a long shot.
The Guadalupe Mountain Peak hike …
– 8.4 miles in and out (I did over nine with the off trail overlooks, extra exploring, etc.
– 3000+ feet elevation change … all up hill, constantly up hill, forever and ever uphill.
– High wind alert conditions
– I averaged 1 mile an hour up hill. 4 hours up hill!
Now here’s the rub – you start off and head up the trek. As a newbie, I didn’t realize the mountain you are climbing isn’t the right mountain. You go just under a mile – seeing your car/base camp getting smaller and smaller. You think you are doing okay, then near the top, you circle around to the other side of mountain and realize it was a false cliff – there was a bigger, higher, meaner one behind it. Ive got this.
Half way up – panting, sweating, (crying) you begin to ponder if its worth it. You can see the top … it’s so far off … so you slowly continue. Two thirds in – hard but surviving. Almost 3/4ths of the way. Pace slowing down. Then BAM – you circle around to the other side of that mountain and realize the summit is not on that ridge line either. Another circle around. The Guadalupe has got to be running out of summits.
Thoughts of claiming victory now – no one will ever know. But I slowly plod on. Maybe it’s the constant new views, new beauties of nature, or just plain stubbornness … I don’t know. But I plod on.
Now, the couple that started about 20 minutes before me (the only people I’ve seen in three hours) pass me coming down. That may be good, or they may have given up. I stay positive and keep on.
Switchbacks, steps, suffering. Then another couple is on their return journey. They encourage me, tell me it’s close. Two more switchbacks and then you’re there.
20 minutes more – the summit. The agony, the pushing myself, the prayers – I had arrived.
A few minutes to rest, take obligatory photos, grab a rock for my rock collection, eat lunch (I always eat some Beanie Weenies on new summits!) I begin the descent – descents are my jam!
I encourage those I pass on their way up. Share my insight on remaining distance. Tell them I’m proud and excited for them. But there was one hiker I did something that even makes me quander what was I thinking. She was going slow – steady, but very slow. Her boyfriend (?) was a quarter mile up just waiting on her, impatient. He would hike ahead and wait. Kind of brutal really. (They need couple’s therapy in my opinion.) She was discouraged, and thinking of turning around.
I turned around from my descent and walked with her for a bit. (Yes, I walked back up hill – again.) Encouraging her, tell her I believed in her. And then without thinking, prompted by something from within – I gave her my trekking poles. Poles were essential for this hike. Saved my legs, gave stability, and stopped from slipping multiple times – maybe just maybe I could encourage her with this gesture. I explained L for left and R for right (lol) – told her they were a gift and not worry about returning them. Maybe they would get her to the top – maybe my acts of service would encourage her just enough.
Those poles were special to me – a gift from some dear friends. I didn’t think about that – well, not at first – all I thought was I needed to do this. I will get more trekking poles. I but I just did it – a prompting I can’t explain.
Not true – I can explain.
This whole hike was an allegory of one’s Christian journey, or at least my spiritual journey. It’s tough. Almost always uphill. It will take you to the end of oneself and help you find a strength you didn’t realize was there – a strength from above. When you think you’re getting close to the end, you circle the top of the hill before you – you realize God has more, better, higher, and yes, harder, for you. You find that those who went before you (those descending as I continue to ascend) can either just pass by or they can encourage you. It’s the latter that keeps you going. It’s also a reminder that we need to encourage others.
And upon reaching the top – fulfillment and a sense of gratitude.
Last word about the lone hiker who hopefully used the trekking poles to the summit – thank you.
James 1.27 says Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. To visit means to oversee, to care for, to help.
In a way – you were the orphan on the trail. You needed care, encouragement, help. You helped me truly realize there are times I need that and there are times I need to show that. You helped me – thank you.
Readers – Whom are you ‘visiting’? Who is God bring into your life that you need to act to help? Who is the widow or orphan that God is telling you – “HELP THEM”? This is not about you and feeling good in what you do. It is about being the person God wants you to be to help others.