This past week, Mel and I hiked a breathtakingly beautiful trail up Casper Mountain in Wyoming. One thing about Wyoming I love is that we still have mountains and lakes and rivers and trails–all kinds of beauty–but fewer people crowd these sites than you might see in Colorado. Also, if we avoid Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we also avoid some of the more dangerous wild animals. As far as I know, there are no grizzlies in South-Central Wyoming.
The trail we hiked began with a lot of rocks. I saw other visitors walking over those rocks with their flip-flops, and I cringed at the thought of broken and sprained ankles. In a few moments we left those visitors behind and climbed up and into the forest. The few people we met there had more sensible shoes on. Also, the trail became much less steep because the builders of this trail had made switchbacks, which were covered in pine needles and made a lovely, scenic tour of the mountain. Switchbacks increase the length of your hike–or your drive, if you’re driving mountain roads–but they make the whole hike possible. There’s no way I could climb straight up a mountain.
I asked Mel how he might compare the switchbacks we were traversing to the switchbacks in life. Sometimes a switchback will take us back down in elevation for a while to avoid something too difficult to climb, such as a rocky cliff face. We can see that more easily on the trail than we can in our lives. Have you had a drastic change in your life recently? Job change? Move? Even illness? Mel and I have both experienced all these things in our lives, especially these past years. I’m just trusting that these switchbacks have kept us from something that might have dislodged us from our path completely, and the extra time it’s taken us to accomplish what we want is keeping us from dangers ahead.
We were near the top of Casper Mountain and feeling quite accomplished on our hike when clouds darkened the sky and thunder echoed. We hesitated, but then decided to continue to the top. No sooner had we started up than I felt rain on my arms. I told Mel, and we immediately pivoted, giving up our hope of reaching the top and going down another way. I don’t like to return on a trail the same way I came. I want to see new trees, new trail, new flowers and rocks. But I had just read how dangerous it was to hike in the mountains during thunder and lightning. There is also the issue of chilling, though we were close enough to the trailhead that unless we had a major, cold downpour, we were fine in our hiking vests. Nevertheless, I’ve been caught in the rain far from my car, and had my core temperature drop dangerously low. I knew the dangers firsthand.
Sometimes we have to give up a dream, or put it off for another day. It’s so frustrating, even painful, when our highest hopes are dashed. But really, if we keep reaching for that dream, we might find that the actual journey is as rewarding as seeing that dream come true. It all depends on our mindset.
What are the switchbacks in your life? I’m not talking about the avalanches–that would be the tragedies of death and horrible loss. I’m talking about being forced to face a new direction in order to continue on your journey. I’ve learned to try to welcome mine and trust that God has good reason to make me walk farther, try harder, push forward to reach the end.