Friday, January 26, 2007

On the trail

About five years ago I went on a backpacking trip which was a first for me. Oh I've been camping and worked at summer camp for six years so the whole “going without amenities” part was second nature. What truly kicked my butt was the hiking. We hiked FOREVER and I don't say that in a dramatic and stretching the truth way. We seriously covered more miles of trails (and sometimes non-trails) than I thought possible. These also weren't sissy day-hikers’ trails made of packed and groomed dirt. Instead the majority of our time was spent on rough trails of paths worn down only by foot traffic and riddled with obstacles like loose rocks, holes, and roots. It was without a doubt one of the most challenging things I've ever done.

In hiking there is always a destination in mind. Some days we hiked to a new campground down in the valley and other times we were just doing a quick hike to the nearest summit. The thing that got me was that we spent more time hiking than we did at any of our destinations. The majority of our trip was spent on the trails.

Life is like that too. To continue the mountain analogy, we're usually on our way toward a mountain top or a valley in life but the majority of our time is spent on the trail. Those moments spent on the summit of a mountain or the lows of a valley only make up a small fraction of the whole of our life. We spend most of our time on the way to one of these destinations and sometimes those trails take more out of us and teach us more about ourselves than the time spent were we ended up.

The trail isn’t easy, literally or figuratively. On our trip I struggled every step of the way, one because I’m asthmatic, two because I’m clumsy, and three because I wasn’t use to that kind of a physical challenge. Who thought walking would be so hard? It was a battle for me everyday to fight my way up a steep incline without sitting down on the side of the path and giving up. The trip down into the valley wasn’t easy either, as I fought to keep my footing and not stumble all the way down to the bottom.

Life feels the same way sometimes. Each day has its own difficulties and challenges. I struggle because I’m selfish, and prideful, and I mess up daily (actually that should be hourly or even every minute). Who thought living would be so hard? Whether we’re heading up on our way to a mountain top experience or stumbling down into a period in the valley, we’re straining just to live.

Now this isn’t to say that the trail is all about difficulty and hardship. I got to experience some of the best scenery on the trail, to spend time with other people and get to really know them, and I got to spend time with myself. It was as much fun as it was hard. Same goes for life. We go through each day with highs and lows but there is this backdrop of family and friends and experiences that we wouldn’t trade for anything.

As I look back at that backpacking trip I realize that the part that stretched me the most, the part that really changed who I was ended up being the time on the trail. Oh the view from the mountaintops was amazing and the time in the valley when you felt like you were going to collapse from exhaustion (or in my case nursing a seriously twisted ankle wrapped in duct tape) was not all that fun, but the real change came on the trail to those places. On my way up the mountain I had to push myself to keep going, to not give up, to reach that goal and be able to look down on what I had just accomplished. Then on the way down into the valley I had to carefully choose my steps so I didn’t tumble and fall all the way down.

The same idea applies to my life. Those moments I’ve had mountaintop experiences, great success, or amazing spiritual renewal are wonderful, they’re amazing, but there was a long road to get to those. And when I finally get to that point where I’m on top of the mountain I realize that it was the trek up to there that really did the changing. It’s just at the top of the mountain that you get to see the path it took to get there. And the thing about a mountain top experience is that you always have to come down at some point. And that descent is hard at times especially when you end up in the valley or low point of life. Those struggles, hardships, and crises of life sometimes appear out of nowhere but often we’ve traveled a long road to get there. And that trudge is often life changing as well. We stumble but try not to fall as we slip and slide down that slope into the valley. And as we end up there at the bottom we see that there was a lot of life changing on the road down. As with the mountaintop we never stay in the valley forever. Again we are on the trail moving through life.

So maybe I’m realizing that in my life it wasn’t the mountaintops or the valleys that have changed me as much as I thought they did. Maybe it’s the time I’ve spent on the trail going up and down, ascending to the mountain to descend until I come to another mountain or to a valley and then ascend from there to something else.

Now the thing is that this all connects in my head to 828, but I need another post for that so I’ll be getting that up sometime in the near future.


Blogger Stephanie said...

Oh how I miss these posts of yours! I really need to get on here and do my "morning Katie devos"! :)

You know, it's funny, because last night, I was just documenting in my journal all the ways that my (literal) mountaintop experience in Jamaica changed me. But as I was writing, I couldn't figure out at what point, did these changes take place? Did I feel some huge transformation while I was down there? Not really...

Was it before I left? Well, I DID have to change much of myself to take control of all the preparations necessary to get myself to Jamaica, but...

I realized once I read this post, that it was on the way down. I did a LOT of hiking in Jamaica, and it was always the way down that was the hardest for me. I was always so excited and enthusiastic about the trip up: the breathtaking views around me, all the exotic plants to look at, the GETTING TO THE TOP part... it was the way down... the struggle to keep your feet from slipping all the way down on the dirt road which was the hardest part. And I realized just now... it was the way down.

It's almost as if... when I re-entered the states, that I was stripped clean of all the things that I was holding on so hard to, because I just couldn't see any use for them anymore after what I had been just been through. And then, it was after THOSE things were gone, that God REALLY started working on me: on my way down into the valley.

GREAT post, KT! We need to talk again soon! VERY soon! :)

1/29/2007 9:02 AM  
Blogger whaaaat! said...

Great analogy. Sounds like a great sermon.

1/29/2007 1:15 PM  
Blogger Bobby said...

I think you need to be signed to a book deal.

1/31/2007 7:11 AM  
Blogger Deals On Wheels said...

Oh, wow! Great post!

I LOVE hiking. It is one of my most favorite things to do. Trevor and I are always talking about how we'd both love to move to Colorado someday, so we could spend every free moment exploring the mountain tops.

One of my most beloved hikes is just outside Silverton, Colorado (which is about an hour or so north of Durango). It is to a place called the ICE LAKES. The hike (roundtrip) is about 8 to 12 miles (depending, of course, on how much “exploring” you do of the area while you are up there). The first part of the hike is to the lower basin (just above the tree line), which reveals this crystal clear (ice cold) lake in the middle of a field of wild flowers. There are all of these waterfalls and streams that feed this lower lake falling down from above. It is like piece of paradise.

The second part of the hike is torture – so steep that you have to rest every few steps or so. But the view from the upper basin is totally worth it. Up there you feel like you are on top of the world (my profile picture was actually taken from this upper basin). There are several larger (ice) lakes up there, as well as trails leading to other hidden lakes two or three miles away.

There is only one Ice Lake that Trevor and I haven’t been to in that upper basin yet. Not for a lack of trying, however. The trail was washed out in a landslide a couple of years ago, and we’ve always had to turn around when the going became too treacherous. We keep trying, though, and one day we will both finally get to see that one remaining lake. I’ve been dreaming about it for years now, and I know it will be well worth waiting for once we reach it.

Anyway, we are planning on going back up there this August. You and AM should totally join us (RR and JLR won’t go because of their irrational fear of nature). Interested?

1/31/2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Katie the Author.

And just think... I will be able to say that I knew her when she was just a big nerd. :)

Great post... makes me reflect on the mileposts in my life and evaluate when the growth actually occurred.

Good stuff friend.

1/31/2007 4:19 PM  
Blogger Tony Myles said...

Wow... just got done posting something quite similar.

Funny how we're so excited to get somewhere and yet most of our stories about what happened along the way.

2/01/2007 1:08 AM  

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