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Hiking Pine Mountain: Insights on the mountains of life

When I was a second grader we moved "out of town" .  Living life in the country is the ideal way to grow up.  Our closest neighbor was about 1 mile away, and in most directions all you could see was nature.  We spent every spare moment exploring, hiking, blowing in the wind, camping, swimming and painting in nature.  
My job for most of my growing up years, was the kitchen.  There was a big window above the sink, and that window had the best view in the house!  On the north east side of the house, there is a huge mountain.  I can see it from a town about 30 minutes away.  It has a few visible ever-green trees, and because we live in a dessert, where normally only sage brush grows it was named Pine Mountain.   Every day, as I did the dishes, I looked out the window at Pine Mountain and tried to decide the best trail to climb to the top.  I imagined myself sitting on the top ridge looking out at the valley, 100's of times.   I rarely remained in the kitchen mentally.  Physically I was doing dishes.  Mentally I was hurdling sage brush and scaling rock walls on pine mountain.  Lovingly I renamed it "dishes mountain"

This is Indian Paint brush and Sage Brush on the trail.  (when I was little I called it Indian tooth brush)
Scary called me last year, and as we discussed hikes for the summer, we decided to make Pine Mountain a priority.  Why was it essential to climb this mountain, this ugly, barren, trail-less mountain?  It was just one of those things.  You understand, right?

We left at about 6 in the morning, with tons of anticipation and full water bottles.  We had scouted out the trail with Papa Shaffer the night before.  By about 7 we were feeling pretty good and about 100 yards from the top with some ominous looking rock ahead.  I think often in peoples life, they get about 100 yards from the top of their challenges, and think, "that's far enough, this is much to hard, if I would have known it was going to be this hard I never would have even tried".  For that reason, I make it a point never to quit before the job is done.   My kids and I even have a quote that we remind each other of.  "Shaffers never go back".
This means, you can encourage some one to get to where you are.  You can teach them the path, but never stoop or lower your standards to bring them up.  Never give up your footing.  Lift don't push.
Also, never go back on your word.  If you say you will, you will.  If you tell yourself you will, you will.
One day about 5 years ago, I decided I would train for a marathon.  I had 4 little boys (one a new born)  Many people reminded me that it was crazy.  I reminded myself that it was crazy.  It took a little over a year to train.  But, I didn't want to let myself down.  I didn't want to run a 12 mile run and give up.  I had to know that I could do it.
Hiking is the same way.  You get up to the last hill, the one that you think is the top, and then uh-oh, its not.  But, if you turn back, you can never say you conquered that mountain. Conquer the mountain!
Scary and I got almost to the top, and then we saw it.  The face of the mountain was covered with 50 lb. boulders.  They were not secure.  Every step was unsure footing.  At one point I loosed a boulder that could have ended Scary's life.  But, we continued on.  Another 100 yards at a time.  We got to the final rocky ledge, and began scaling it.  We called out what we saw, helping each-other as we went.
Each one of us sisters have had trials in our lives, that have left us feeling scared or stuck, unsure what to do next.  We have reached out, sought companionship, encouragement, and a hand up from those who have been there before us.  The encouragement that we have received, has gotten us through many of our challenges.  People who have been where you want to be are always looking to give advice, a hand up, or knowledge.  Take it, use it.  Don't try to go it alone.
Finally we both reached the summit. Our knees were shaking, and we realized we could not go back the way we had come.  We had committed ourselves to a very difficult hike, and there was no turning back.  At this point it was about 10 AM.  Hiking down was going to be much harder than hiking up had been.
Sometimes in life we face challenges.  We don't know what lies ahead.  We can only rely on our knowledge, and those who have gone before us.  We can only take one step at a time, waiting to be certain that our footing is sure, before taking another step.  Resting on our Laurels does us no good.  We must continue on.
This was the case with this hike.  The view was beautiful, I was grateful to be sharing the experience with my sister.  But, I was scared that any step could be our last.   Soon we began to pray, and wait for confirmation that the path we followed would end well.  We relied heavily on the spirit, as we descended the mountain.  We sang church hymns, made jokes, and tried to encourage each-other down. Most of our descent was covered in boulders that slipped and slid with every step.  The rest of our trip down was covered with grassy dirt at about an 80 degree incline, interspersed with trees that could help to break our fall or sage brush a craggy bushes that would scratch and tear at our exposed skin.  It was a miserable climb down the mountain.  I was reminded of hikes from my youth, where some of the girls from our church group would sit down and say, "I am sorry I just can't go any farther"  Inevitably some one would say, "Well you can't just stay here, and I can't carry you, so you will have to keep going."  At the end of those hikes, the girls that complained, completed the hikes, and enjoyed the completion just as much as the rest of us.  I learned that complaining about the hike did them no good.  It just made it harder for those around them.  How like life is that?  What good does it do for us to complain?  The end of the trial is no closer, the complaint does not make the trial easier, and it effects everyone around us.  Singing has really made not complaining easier for me.  When I start to feel a complaint coming on I start to think of a song to help the trial along.  Whistle while you work. 
We were roughly 1 mile from the car, almost at the end of the descent at about a 60 degree incline, wading through craggy bushes, loose boulders, sage brush, and fallen limbs of old trees.  A rock gave way and Scary went down.  Our legs were scraped and bleading we were exhausted.  We were nervous about possibly seeing rattle snakes or moose.  We thought Scary may have had her knee go out.  Scary had prepared her self much better than I had for this trip.  She had gone on several hiking trips in Utah this spring and summer.  She had built up a stamina that I did not have.  The only advantage I had on her, was some amazing hiking boots.  My Dads hiking boots.  They laced up past my ankles.  The toes were firm, and I had a sure footing.  We started calling my boots the "Paul Bunyan Clod Stompers"  I led the way in my Dad's boots, and we both made it back down the mountain.
As I thought about our shoes, I couldn't help but think of the scripture in Ephesians 6:15.  "Your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace"    If we rely on him Our Heavenly Father, we can climb any mountain, his footing is sure, with out him we will fall.  With God all things are possible.
with love,
-Jo

1 comment:

  1. I love all of the little lessons you found on your hike. Thank you for sharing! =)

    ReplyDelete

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