Most people would not consider a hike that began at 3am as “fun.”
Well…”fun” might not be the best way to describe the experience.
“One of the highlights of my life” would be more accurate.
The purpose of this particular hike was to get to the top of Twin Sisters, a 11,400 foot peak in Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park. No, it’s not a “fourteener.” But it’s quite a challenging hike, nonetheless. Especially if you’re out of shape.
Our family was being refreshed by spending a week at Wind River Ranch near Estes Park. And my 50th birthday was just a few days away. So when I heard about some guests and Ranch staff planning to hike to the top of Twin Sisters to see the sun rise, I decided to join in. Seemed like a great way to begin the celebration of my “Year of Jubilee.”
First challenge: be ready to leave at 3 am. I had lots of unanswered questions such as what to eat in advance of the hike and how to hydrate adequately but not need to stop in the woods along the way. (Sometimes, it would be so much easier to be a guy!)
After questioning my sanity a few times, I joined the rest of the group in the Rocky Mountain darkness. And we headed out into crisp night air, our hike illuminated only by an abundance of stars and a few headlamps.
For maximum expediency, our guides thought it best to go straight into the woods. No sense wasting steps finding the trail. We started our steep incline, and I kept trying not to think about what critters could be lurking in those woods.
It took quite a while for me to become winded. (At least one or two minutes.) The combination of the altitude and the rigor of the hike quickly revealed my poor conditioning.
I was the caboose of the group. Thankfully, one kind staff member walked behind me, and encouraged me every step of the hike. “You’re doing great.” “My mom would never do something like this!” Sort of like my personal Holy Spirit in hiking clothes.
Just ahead of me was my new friend, Nolan. A kind and gentle soul, Nolan was an amazingly gifted artist. He was enthusiastic about the beauty we anticipated at the summit of the mountain. Ever creative, Nolan had taped a glow stick to his walking stick.
I wondered many times if I could complete this hike. But I was determined and refused to give up. Nolan kept encouraging me, as did my rear guard.
As we drew closer to the summit, the vegetation changed. We were above the tree line. And that’s when the hiking really got interesting. Instead of being on our feet, we had to climb on our hands and knees, over piles of rocks.
Eventually, we made it. And the beauty was breathtaking. Awe inspiring. The colors of the sky changed, and we witnessed an amazing sunrise. What a sense of accomplishment!
That hike happened almost a decade ago. Yet, these life lessons from the hike continue to inspire me:
-Life gets hardest as you get closest to the summit. When people draw near the end of their earthly lives, things can become so incredibly difficult, no matter what their age. Just like crawling over those rocks on your hands and knees.
-The view from the summit is indescribable. Never could I have imagined the majesty and incredible beauty I witnessed that morning. And I firmly believe what The Bible promises about Heaven. We ain’t seen nothing yet!
-As we travel through this life, we’re often feel as though we’re heading out “into the dark.” But we’re not really in the dark. Psalm 119:105 says: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” We can find guidance for each step and season of life from God’s Word.
-Encouragement can make all the difference. Without the constant “you can do this” from the hikers on either side of me, I would have given up. I want to be that kind of encourager to others in my life. Community really does matter.
-As hard as life can seem at times, it’s passes so quickly. At times, the hike seemed as though it would never end. I was exhausted. Yet it was an incredible experience that really did pass quickly. Just like life…in two blinks, our lives will be over. Let’s step out of our comfort zones and make them count!
Are you climbing some sort of mountain right now? If so, please remember…you’re not alone. You can do this. It won’t last forever. And I pray that you, too, will experience indescribable beauty when you reach the summit.
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