When making plans to hike in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, there are a few things its important to know.
1. The trail map lies about the length and difficulty. Straight up lies. Because if the map told you the truth...you would never do it. So when it says 6.5 miles, you should go ahead and assume that you'll be walking for 10. And the "moderate" label really should read "will be going straight up for at least half of the hike."
2. No matter how in shape you are, the elevation and amount of oxygen will leave you lightheaded and gasping for air. If you're LESS in shape...you may or may not have to stop every 30 steps or so on the vertical sections of the trail, in order to avoid passing out.
3. People on their way down will lie to everyone heading up. They will tell you that you're almost there, even if you're only a mile in.
4. The sense of accomplishment you feel when finishing the 6-that-was-really-10 mile hike will be real, but not as real as the sore muscles and tired feet if you happen to be older than 30.
5. There's no trash anywhere. None. There's a respect for the surroundings and commitment to preserving the beauty of the trails.
The proximity to the wide open sky allowed plenty of time to think, and pray, and reflect. It was interesting to note how many spiritual parallels could be drawn.
1. No one willingly sets out on a trail that they know will be way worse than they think. And really, they'll be grateful they didn't know at the start. They'll also be thankful for their traveling companions to help distract from the gasping for air and morning muscles.
2. We are never, fully, spiritually "prepared" for hard things when they hit us. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be in training at all times. Understanding that hard things are always ahead should make us train more, strengthening our spiritual muscles for the fight.
3. No person can truly equip you for the climb, the struggle. They can try, and sometimes their attempts are helpful. But really, the only One who is able to help is the one who IS breath and strength and courage.
4. You will feel accomplished, relieved even, when you make it through the thing that was way harder than you thought it would be. But...the effects will linger. You will not soon forget the aching, the pain, the struggle.
5. But during the climb, during the struggle, during the pain, as you realize that you're close, so close, to the One who is always with you in the hardest times...you can look around and see purity and beauty, without pollution or garbage. Its just you and Him there on the path, and it's enough. He's enough.
And that's not even close to all you can learn from a mountain...but it's all I have energy for today.