It was the kind of autumn afternoon when foolish hope was the only reason you expect the sun to break through the clouds. The mass of fluff hung grey and low. With each step the clouds moved that much more within my reach.
Soon I wandered through a forest of tall trees draped in lichen and dark, grey fog. As the mist touched my cheek, I breathed in and breathed out feelings of contentment for no particular reason.
“No,” I said to myself, “there will be no sightings of Mt. Hood today.” I breathed in the moist and cool air content with being outdoors. “The yellow fall leaves clinging to forest floor will be my sunshine,” I smiled to no one in particular.
Traversing a rocky and brush-infested segment of my path, my eyes watched each footfall. Emerging into a clearing, I lifted my eyes. Abruptly welcomed by Mt. Hood and a sunbeam dancing above the trees and clouds I exclaimed, “Whoa!” to the divine one in particular.
I didn’t plan well. I didn’t think about the difference one-week makes at the top of Oregon. The result was my double-nickel aged fingers could barely move by the time my short, two-hour hike in the alpine areas of Mt. Hood ended.
There is something about the mountaintop. The divinity surrounds and I feel compelled to climb higher and higher. As I moved up from the trailhead in the breezy thirty-seven degrees I soon came upon snow. It began as polka dots on rock and vegetation but soon a half-inch covered my path. The gullies were filled to the brim with fluffy white mocha.
My fingers complained, cowering inside my pockets but my spirit kept climbing. The lingering red vegetation of fall contrasted with the sparkling white skyfall from overnight. In the brisk pilgrimage through fog forecast to be inches of snow later in the day, the divine warmed me.
From now on my eyes will be open and my ears will pay attention to the prayers offered in this place. (2 Chronicles 7:15 CEB)
Every hike has a moment. In each hike there comes a moment that makes the strained muscles, the perspiration, and the overall effort worth the journey. As I journeyed a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail (near Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood), the moment came when I rounded a bend, slogged up an incline, and came upon a view of a deep chasm and Mt. Hood.
But this post is not about The Moment. It is about the bonus moments that some trails offer up with divine abundance. The waterfall reached by a scramble up a canyon filled with rocks, gravel, sand, and boulder was just such a bonus moment offered by the Pacific Crest Trail near Timberline Lodge. The challenging scramble forced me to move from one side and again the other of rushing snowmelt. The bonus moment was worth the risk of landing in icy water.
But this post is not about that bonus moment, either. It is about those bonus moments that distract me from thoughts of well-prepared food and a shower as my trip nears its end. They are parting gifts that often bring a tear to my eye.
This post is about the creature that I caught in my peripheral vision as I moved through a canyon. The movement of the orange mammal was a divine gift as I was returning to the trailhead and thinking about filling my belly. It was the Just One More Bonus Moment that crowned my ten mile hike with a golden glow.
Sometimes hiking with God can be confusing. You don’t even realize God is with you at first. You may have a crowd of thoughts and worries pushing against you threatening to knock you off the path. But God? It seems like everyone but God is on that trail.
One step. One step more.
As you trudge along on your hike with God, the crowd trudges with you. Then, you notice an elaborate web spun across an old tree stump.
You pause, fascinated by the intricate work until that nag in your head pushes you, “C’mon, no time to look at bugs!” You continue on your way. The crowd that piled out of the car with you at the trailhead is still with you. But God? God’s nowhere to be found.
The carping crew breeds doubts. “Maybe I should turn around,” you tell yourself. But you don’t.
One step. One step more.
As you continue hiking with God, you wonder why it’s so hard. The ensemble in tow begins to whine as the trail gets steeper and steeper. Pausing for a sip of water, you realize your heart is working hard to keep you moving upward on the winding trail. You notice your breathing and check your heart rate as the trail gets more difficult.
As you hike with God, you start calculating how far you’ve gone. You wonder how long it would take to get back to civilization should your phone ring. “Go ahead! Look at it! You know you want to,” cajoles the crowd. Reaching into your pocket you pull your phone out, glance at the time. As you’re about to open your email, you hear a rustle at the side of the trail.
That’s when you notice the funky flower. It is a flower isn’t it? The mob sneers and taps their fingers on their wrists. You don’t care. They can wait. It’s amazing. On your knees, you get closer to see it.
A smile on your face, you finally get off the ground. As you’re wondering what other flowers bloom on this trail, you notice the impatient crowd seems to have thinned. Maybe they went on ahead without you? Went back to the car?
One step. One step more.
Hiking with God, you find yourself getting deeper and deeper into the woods. The nattering naysayers that began the journey with you, though noticeably fewer, remind you of stories of an experienced hiker who fell off a cliff. They remind you of coyote sightings and of your dry mouth.
That’s when you notice the moss getting heavier on the rocks. Pausing, you pull out your water, take a sip, smell, and listen. The air smells more humid and, yes, that’s the sound of rushing water in nearby.
One step. One step more.
When you hike with God, your band of worldliness eventually gives up on you. One by one they leave you and that’s when you find holy ground. Sitting, you pause when you come upon the sacred cleansing waters. Later, when you reflect on your time here, you realize that those waters are preparing you for what is yet to be.
Rested, you continue your hike with God. Your eyes begin to see amazing things. A miniature waterfall dribbling onto the trail, purple flowers that reach upward where the canopy breaks, and gnarled post-growth trees that provide a home for so many small creatures.
One step, one more gentle step.
You’re walking gingerly now. You’re on sacred ground. You’re reaching the top of the canopy now. The vestiges of the battalion that began the journey slowly begin to fall away. Anxious for the pinnacle, you take a side trail looking for that which you seek. “Watch out for poison vines,” offers the last of the nega-teers.
When you’re hiking with God, negativity is but information. You look at the sacred ground upon which you take each gentle step.
One gentle step, one anticipatory step more.
That’s when you see a single flower. Dressed in royalty, the flower — like you — yearns for the One.
The only one of its kind, the flower beckons you to look in the direction in which it points.
You jump in joy!
You dance like David before the Lord! (2 Samuel 6: 14) You cry out, “Ooh! Ooh! I was looking the wrong way!” You play your tambourine and dance back to the main trail — your path — just as Miriam danced (Exodus 15: 20).
One joyful dance step and another. And another.
When you hike with God, you dance until you come to a clearing where the sunshine warms your skin. Your dancing slows. You settle beneath a tree. This tree is for you. Beneath the sacred evergreen you rest from the journey and gaze at a mountain.
When you hike with God, you rest under your tree. You sleep. You wake. You sob. You laugh. You find peace. You pray and meditate. When you hike with God, you return to the trailhead and daily living, wanting to love as extravagantly as the One.