The More Difficult Path

I was a quarter mile into the trail and began to doubt my choice. Though not as steep nor long lasting as the Starvation Ridge trail across the river, I wondered why I’d chosen this path when an easier, more scenic route to Dog Mountain’s summit was available.

Step by step. Forward and upward I walked.

A mile and a quarter into the trail, I thought about those who eased my journey by maintaining this well-used trail. Though rated the more difficult, the center trail is carefully graded and kept free of creeping vines and underbrush. No fallen trees lay across my journey to the summit. Perhaps, I was not alone on my journey after all.

Step by step. Forward and upward I walked.

I was two and a quarter miles into the trail and my legs ached. I could feel my heart racing and I began to ration my water so that I could make it up and back well-hydrated. And I wondered about those who didn’t choose life’s more difficult path but found themselves on it nonetheless.

How does the journey feel to them? I chose this path; I could’ve turned around. Others struggle along paths with few options. They’re either left behind or continue on unmaintained trails covered with poisonous vines and fallen trees.

Step by step. Forward and upward.

At the fork, I stared at the sign. Feeling confused, I pulled out my map. I sat on a nearby log to contemplate my next choice. Turning right would be a scenic path down to the trailhead where my journey began. It’d be easy and I was tempted. Turning left would be another mile or more to the summit.

Sitting. Contemplating. I rested.

Hearing voices I turned to see two well-dressed, balding men turn right and follow the scenic path to the trailhead. As they passed me, they nodded politely but kept talking to each other about fiscal planning, equity funds, and investments.

Their words jarred me. Their talk of money in the midst of the forest cut into me like a blasphemous knife. This is a holy place!  This is sacred ground where I journey to commune with my God. They defiled it with their fiscal religion. Standing up, I continued my journey to the summit.

Step by step. Forward and upward I walked.

At two and three quarters the trail grew narrow. Seven foot shrubs encroached upon the trail on my left, on my right, and on my left. Their branches reached out to touch my face while their roots softened the ground beneath my feet making each step a challenge. This path is not for the easily dissuaded.

Step by careful step. Forward and upward I walked.

At three and two-quarter miles the tall shrubs gave way. Rock faces beckoned me to climb further to the summit. As I took the final steps to the summit, the trail opened up to a vista of the blue waters below, the green mountains beyond, and the azure skies above. Reaching the summit, I was joined by Mts. Hood and St. Helens. The very breath of God danced on the mountain high above daily life.

Prayer by prayer. Still and calm I listened.

Sitting in the warm sunshine, the winds whispered in my ear pointing out that as I climbed to the summit I was never alone. As I breathed heavily on the steep inclines, the very breath of God entered my lungs and flowed through my blood. Entering my heart, the divine breath reminds me that we are all one. When any of my kindred struggle or weep, my muscles ache and my eyes tear.

Still and calm. Prayer by prayer I know why I chose the more difficult path.

I travel the more difficult path because the One who connects us all calls my name and beguiles me. The One who created each of us with a sprinkle of divinity and a dash of dirt desires us to live into our shared lineage. The One who loves without hesitation, created us as one family.

All photos by Tim Graves. Some rights reserved. 


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