Sometimes we face enormous challenges. The climb is steep. The obstacles immense. We think we can’t continue. But that’s just when it begins to get interesting.
For example, last Sunday, I talked about Doing the WaIk. And that’s just what Mike and I have done almost every day since we’ve been in Colorado. But … I think we may have gotten a little over-confident.
We’ve loved hiking while here in the Rockies. So Tuesday we decided to do a climb. Not a climb as in rock-climbing, but a climb as in climbing up and over miles of rocks.
We had heard of two beautiful lakes on top of our mountain. The hike was only supposed to take an hour and half one way. We were up for it.
We started out on our beautiful forest trail.
We crossed over one bridge. (This is usually where our daily hikes have stopped—about 30 minutes up.) The little foot bridge would take us to places we’d never been before.
And soon crossed back over the stream on a second bridge.
The rushing water over the huge boulders was breathtaking.
Little did we know that our breaths would literally be taken away. We were at 9,200 feet and climbing. (I had an app on my iPhone that could tell me my current elevation.)
And climbing straight up. Away from the little path that we had come to know and love. Away from the companionship of our mountain stream. In fact, we couldn’t hear the sound of running water at all. We were now deep into the forest climbing a long, steep, dry, dusty, rocky staircase.
And up and up and up we climbed. Over more piles of loose rocks. This is when you are so grateful you invested in a pair of great hiking boots and hiking poles.
For probably an hour, the high altitude combined with the steep incline forced us to keep the following rhythm: Walk for 60 steps. Stop. Rest for 60 seconds. Go. Walk for 60 steps. Stop. Rest for 60 seconds. Go. Over and over. Our hearts were pounding right out of our chests. Our lungs felt like they were on fire. Our legs felt like they were lead weights.
We had to stop and sit down about every 15 minutes just so we wouldn’t fall over.
Never in my life had we attempted anything so exhausting. Our legs just didn’t want move.
We said things like this to each other: “We must have taken a wrong turn.” “This can’t be right.” ”Should we listen to our bodies?” They’re saying STOP.” “What if one of us breaks a leg? How could we haul each other out of here?” “What if we get stranded up here all night.” On and on and on and on went our thoughts.
But on another level we KNEW it would be worth it. Our climb was supposed to take an hour and half. We had to be close. But, by the time we’d reached that limit, there was STILL no end to “up” in sight.
Thankfully, the dusty, rocky trail came to an end, and we heard the sound of running water again. Now we MUST be close..
We saw water. “Great, that must be coming straight off the lake!!” We were so glad we didn’t bail.
We saw more water. Lots of beautiful water, tumbling and playing among huge, moss-covered boulders.
But still no end in sight. Only more “up.” And now, “up” with snow!? We had not prepared for snow. When we saw what looked like bear tracks in the snow we started to get scared all over again.
After two hours—well past the hour and a half prediction, we stopped to re-evaluate. The sun was going down behind the mountain top, and we were afraid our descent would be in the dark. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, afraid and discouraged and didn’t know how much more our bodies could take. They were were screeming STOP.
We seriously contemplated turning around. I mean, we truly had accomplished more than we ever had before. We saw some gorgeous sites. We had no regrets.
But would we?
As we stood there, going back and forth in our minds, the thought came to us to call our friend Randy Elrod who had made this climb before. Thankfully my cell phone was able to connect to him—though spotty. We told him where we were and of our struggle. We told him we were completely exhausted, discouraged and even a little scared. As we described our surroundings, he said, “You’ve got to be so close.” “I just know it.”
He was able to find out the elevation of the Lakes. I told him my iPhone app showed we were at 10,224 feet. Randy said, “You’re only about 100 feet away. You’re SO close. ”
“But what about the sunset I said?” (It was about 5pm by this point.)
He assured us, “I’ve made that climb over 30 times!” And I’ve come down after 7:00pm before. You have nothing to worry about. You’ll have plenty of light. Go for it. You can do it. You won’t be sorry.”
So we did—with his voice ringing in our ears, “You can do it”—we squared our shoulders, grabbed our poles and climbed some more.
Within five minutes we saw the landmark we had been waiting for: The Colorado Trail sign.
We turned left and knew the lakes were only a few more steps away. (FYI, if we would have kept straight, we could have climbed one of Colorado’s 14-footers … NO THANKS.)
All of a sudden, within two more minutes, we got our first glimpse. We immediately recognized the patten of snow, cascading downward, as the mountain directly above our cabin. Surely we hadn’t climbed THAT far???
With each step we saw more and more.
Mike whipped out the camera (which felt like it weighed about 100 pounds by this time!) and began snapping away. We found new energy.
THIS is what we saw. Indescribable beauty. Up so high only the eagles saw it everyday.
The lake was FULL of trout.
It was a little tough to get a photo of the trout but there are two in this picture.
We happened to be there right at their feeding time (I think it’s called a hatch.) and the lake looked like a giant bowl of popcorn with fish popping up and down all over the place. That frenzy lasted all of about five minutes. As abruptly as it started, it stopped. Then the lake was as smooth as glass. If ONLY we had brought a fishing pole!
After soaking up as much as we possibly could, we headed back down the mountain for home.
Down. Out of the lush, snow patched woods. Back to the rocks.
Down that rocky staircase, once again. It was SO much easier going down. My heart and my lungs … and my heart, were very happy now.
Soon we were back to our familiar little foot bridge.
And back on our familiar little path.
One and a half hours later (four and a half hours after we had started our climb) we were back to our familiar little cabin. (Shaved off one hour coming down. Yay!!)
Before going inside, I turned around and looked up. This is how far we had climbed? All that snow was heading down into the “bowl” where the lakes are located. We had been way up there. Glory be to God.
Was it worth it?
A resounding YESsirree!
As I lay on the couch, feet elevated, Ibuprofen now in my system, I had some time to ask myself what could I take away from this adventure. Like most things in life, if we pay close attention, we’ll see that God is always teaching us. Here are three things I learned from our climb:
1. Set your sights high.
Sometimes we determine to do something or go somewhere and have no idea what it will require of us. But sometimes what you don’t know can help you. I don’t think we’d ever have attempted that climb if we would have known how difficult it would be. But now, on the other side of it, I have NO regrets. I am full of gratitude that I could succeed at something that was so above my comfort level.
2. Call on someone who’s successfully met this challenge before.
When you feel lost in the woods and you feel scared and exhausted of all your resources—like you can’t go another step, call on someone who has walked this road before. That person can tell you if it truly is worth it. They can tell you how to navigate the rough spots. They’ve been there. They’ve done it. They can give you perspective. They can give you the encouragement you need to believe you can make it, and give you concrete steps to make it to the end.
3. Invest what you learn into the lives of others.
The confidence and wisdom you gain, from pushing through the resistance, are qualities that strengthen and mature you. It should be no surprise, then, when one day you get a phone call from a friend who is exhausted, scared and can’t take another step. You can be their “Randy” who’s been down that road before and can help them get to the other side.
So, now my admonishment to you is:
Do The Climb.
What is your Climb? You can do it. Don’t loose heart. It will be so worth it.