Tuesday, June 22, 2021

When the path is longer and steeper than you thought

Out to see a mountain waterfall, we paused at the bottom of the trail. “Not too far,” I said glancing at a sign that read “.5 miles.”

Jerry nodded holding on to Lucy who strained a bit at the leash. I decided to change into tennis shoes from my sandals, though.

We had in our minds a leisurely walk to the cascading water where I’d snap a few photos using a new camera I’d received for my birthday.

We were only a couple of hundred feet up the way, when Jerry turned to me, both of us stopping to catch our breath. “Are we going to the top of the falls?”

“I don’t think so.” We hadn’t expected the elevation involved on this trek. Memories from the past rolled in. “This feels like it did when I used to climb Currahee Mountain.” In my youth, I had scaled a winding narrow path up the mountain in North Georgia several times. Emphasis on in my youth.

And we’d both climbed one of the giant peaks in Colorado—back in the day.

“Do you want to turn around?” Jerry asked.

Of course, I did, but more than that I wanted to see those falls. “Let’s keep going.” I hoped paramedics would not be involved. “Lord, help us,” I prayed.


We questioned a young couple passing, “How much farther?”

“Quite a way,” they said.

Not the answer we wanted to hear. We plodded on picking our way over tree roots and rocks—up hill. Lucy panted no longer straining at the leash (By the way, that picture above is not the actual path. I was too oxygen deprived to remember to take a photo at that point).

A little further, we collapsed on a bench, which I imagine was put there for people like us who had no idea what they were getting into.

Later, I read the reviews of the trail, one of which said, “Easy enough for my 5-year-old and the dog to walk.” The words easy and fun showed up often in the reviews. Seriously?

We left the bench, pressed forward, and hoped we didn’t have to carry Lucy. She loved a walk but wasn’t much on strenuous exercise. We drew some comfort that others even younger than us were having to stop and rest, too. And every time we clung to a tree so someone could pass on the narrow path, we asked those same three words, “How much farther?

Gradually the answers became more encouraging. “Only about five more minutes,” a young woman said eyeing us with pity. Her grey-haired mother dressed in hiking shorts and shoes came behind her almost bouncing along the path. Clearly professionals. I was only glad I changed my mind about the dress I wore earlier, and put on shorts.

“It goes up, then down, and you’re there,” she added.

The word “up” was not what I wanted to hear. My inhaler was back in the car. I never dreamed I’d need it. We gathered our courage and continued searching for the “down” part she’d spoken of.

Finally, we hit it, and in another hundred feet we were there gazing up at the lovely falls. We lingered a while snapping pictures and Lucy waded in the stream.




When we started back to the car, I was amazed at how quickly we made the descent. I wasn’t as sore as I thought I’d be the next morning, either, but Lucy shunned us and camped out on her bed most of the day, I suppose making the point she is not an adventure dog.  Jerry informed me the sign I’d glanced at read “.7 miles” not “.5 miles.” The guide said “.9 miles.” It felt like thirty with the elevation.

I was reminded the trail in life is also longer, harder, and steeper than we expect. We think it’s a sprint, but it’s a marathon. And often up hill. We sometimes want to turn around and go back. But God promises to be with us along all our narrow paths, our switchbacks, our steep ascents, when we’re barely holding on, and when it seems we can’t even draw enough oxygen into our lungs. Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His powerful accompanying presence will be with us on any breathless, challenging path we face. His presence is enough for every ascent and is like those cascading falls, a source of refreshment and beauty.

When a daughter, who’s a hiking professional, too, heard about our experience, she asked, “Mom, didn't you know to check the elevation on the trail map before you started?”

Isn’t it annoying when your kids are smarter than you?

And speaking of Currahee, if you haven't read my story set at the base of that lovely peak, it's available HERE.




Here to find books. If you're looking for print, when you reach the page, scroll to look for other formats. 


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