One visit to San Francisco changed me. I went hiking. (Yep hell hath frozen.)
Eric and I went to SF for our oldest son’s college graduation. It was our first trip to the area so we started with the typical sights. First, there were these seals. (They are technically sea lions, but they said I can call them what I want. So seals.) I stood on Pier 39 and made up full blown conversations between them as they pushed each other off the floating docks. Did you expect anything less?
Then we walked roads that went straight up. (Foreshadowing) We took a ferry to Sausalito and saw houses so high up in the air I’m not sure their inhabitants are still considered residents of earth. (More foreshadowing) We saw the Golden Gate Bridge and my husband’s favorite thing – Alcatraz. Sadly there was lots of evidence of a high crime rate – broken windows on storefronts and vandalized cars. One day when we were having lunch on the patio of a popular dedicated gluten free restaurant (one perk of the area), a naked man loosely draped in a sleeping bag approached us and yelled a bunch of stuff we didn’t understand. I probably should have been more spiritual and prayed for him, but I blanked and considered running. Not sure SF is for me.
But there was much more to come.
Our day at nearby Muir Woods started peacefully. Majestic, old redwood trees reaching towards Heaven greeted us with a breeze. Birds sang. Bubbling water glided over ancient rocks. Nature was interrupted only by the sounds of our footsteps on the boardwalk. Your girl isn’t exactly a nature enthusiast, but I could get used to this, I thought. What a beautiful change from the madness of the streets of San Francisco.
I even wore a cute woodsy outfit – boots, jeans, silk top in a nature-y tone, coordinating scarf for that pop of “I’m here to walk these woods, but in style.” Typical me. Y’all my boots were even those lace up combat style ones. I looked the part. I was in the woods. I was enjoying nature. Go. Me.
Then my darling children suggested we take this one path. Canopy Road to Hell I think they call it. (See photos below.) Why I let them talk me into this I do not know. I completely ignored the alert signage. The sign telling me the distance from this point back to civilization should have been a clue, but I’m like “I’ve got this.” With unusual confidence I stepped off the comfortable, safe boardwalk and onto the initially flat dirt path. That was the last time anything was flat for 3 miles. Maybe it was my almost hiking boots that made me forget I’m not an “off the beaten path” kind of person. They looked the part, but they were not hiking boots. And I am not a hiker.
When I say that I thought I was gonna die on that mountain, I am not exaggerating. What the park sign should have stated was “The next 3 miles will be the last you ever walk. Good luck or good bye.” The wide path quickly became narrow and unrecognizable while continuing straight up. There were massive roots waiting to trip you. There were ditches, caverns and pits of hell to cross over by any means necessary. Once I had to go through a ginormous fallen tree just to proceed up the next back-breaking vertical climb. I begged the Lord to take me. Begged. Out loud. Those poor fellow hikers sped up as they passed me. I tried to die while sitting on a rock. Who willingly does this? The redwoods were far prettier when at ground level on the beautiful boardwalk with benches and streams. Nature was so much better down there. Up here, it’s all trying to kill me.
My cute outfit became all sweaty. I tied the scarf around my head to make me feel like a warrior. Didn’t work. Did get odd looks. Speaking of others, there’s trail etiquette I had to immediately learn. Apparently if you’re as slow as molasses in the winter, you’re supposed to let others behind you pass. Grabbing on to them to be pulled up the path is frowned upon. And if people are coming towards you, you’re also supposed to step aside. But what if there is no “aside”? You flatten yourself against a tree and hope bugs don’t eat your face.
I barely saw a thing along that treacherous uphill (both ways) journey. My kids kept saying only 2.5 miles left… only 2 miles left… “Shut up,” I told them lovingly as I surely thought I had climbed 30 miles by now. And to think I had to go back down was another thing entirely. If I’m climbing this far, it better be to a spa or to heaven itself. They graciously offered me their water since I hadn’t prepared for this off road adventure. It barely relieved my agony. I needed new legs and a nice hot shower. I begged the Lord for a helicopter. I quoted the 23rd Psalm.
“Even though I walk through the valley (er mountain) of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (roots, pits, animals) … for though art with me (wish that was on flat ground). They rod and staff (and that helicopter that’s coming any minute) they comfort me.”
I’m proud to report that we made it back. I’m not currently stuck atop the mountain although I did consider building a home and staying up there versus trekking down. A “very tired, very sore, very determined to never do that again April” got back to the starting point with all limbs and no serious injuries. I was disappointed there was no cheering section, no parade, no one even waiting with water, trophy, sticker, nothing. But I survived a hike up the tallest mountain in the world. Me. I’ll make my own medal to commemorate. My cute boots will never be the same, but alas I will probably burn those less they tempt me to do that again.
What did I learn through that? Well for one, don’t trust my kids and two – read the park signage carefully or just stay away from nature. In all seriousness, I think God is showing me that the path we are on sometimes is beautifully laid out, well marked and easy to travel. The view is amazing and there’s a lot to enjoy. But there are times we need to journey in a different, more difficult direction to get a fresh perspective. As we walk a narrower path with obstacles and challenges, it causes us to go slower, to lean on Him and to ask for help. Nearing the end of the difficult path, we appreciate the return to a smoother walk, but carry with us what we have learned.
I think you could also say that walking with and following God is like that beautiful boardwalk, and taking that dang path up the mountain was me being pulled away by Satan himself. You can decide. LOL.