Monday, September 26, 2011

They Shall Renew Their Strength

--
Somehow he looked at me and still thought I could do it. Perhaps he was an angel and I was unaware.

My little brother Chad and I had just entered the lodge at Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park. Since we were both visiting for the first time, we wanted a little guidance to help us decide which trail to choose for our day trip. We asked the quiet, but friendly young man who had been our driver on the 9-mile, 1-hour, 4-wheel-drive climb from the floor of the Ashnola River Valley up some 5400 feet to the lodge which sits at about 6800 feet above sea level. He told us about the popular but difficult Rim Trail, which I knew would be too hard for me right now (I have a bunch of weight to lose and a lingering problem with one foot that has kept me from doing much walking/hiking for the last few months), so we asked him for a less strenuous recommendation. He told us we could take the Glacier Lake Trail part of the way up to the Rim Trail and still get some beautiful views and that it would be a lot more gradual on the way up and then we could do the steeper part of the loop all downhill.

I secretly knew this would still probably be a real test for my foot, but I was so hungry for those mountain views and a day spent in alpine air with my little brother, I was willing to put up with whatever it took to take this hike, and off we went.

As the trail began we were in cool, shady, tree-lined meadows dotted with huge boulders and delicate wildflowers.


We followed our map and turned at the fork to go up to Glacier Lake, where the trail began to climb, gradually at first and a little more steeply the further we went. We made good use of the ski poles my mom and dad had given us to use for the day as they provided added stability and needed leverage to make our way up the sometimes rocky path.


A small flock of elegant whiskey jacks joined us and escorted us part of the way. Curious and friendly, sometimes landing on branches less than a yard away, they seemed completely unafraid and almost eager to show us their world. They were lovely hosts, singing a pretty song to encourage us on our trek.


It didn't take me long to start feeling the effects of the altitude.  I've been living near sea level for so long, my lungs felt extremely out of practice at breathing the thinner air up so high, not to mention the general physical exertion to which I have grown equally unaccustomed. Between the whiskey jacks and wildflowers, I was glad for lots of reasons to stop and catch my breath while I took pictures and just to soak up all the surrounding beauty that was so completely OTHER than the world I live in.




We finally found ourselves above the tree line and the sun was high and hot above us with no shade in sight. For some reason when we got out in the open, the bugs who had been present all along, but manageable, got markedly worse! The mosquitoes seemed to respect the repellent we wore, but the biting black flies were oblivious to anything but taking big chunks out of us at every opportunity. Our only respite seemed to be in staying on the move.  I kept finding myself weighing my need to stop to catch my breath with the need for relief from the flies.

We kept climbing, thinking surely we must be close to Glacier Lake, but every rise we cleared only revealed more to climb with no lake in sight. We stopped next to a big rock on a scenic slope and put down our gear, me with my camera backpack and Chad with his backpack AND our backpack of food packed by my wonderful mother! We tried to rest and drink our water and enjoy something to eat, but the flies made it almost unbearable, so we gathered up our packs and set off again.

By this time, it was getting really difficult for me--I was hot, drenched with sweat, almost desperate to be free of the swarming flies and my foot was hurting more with every step I took, and we weren't even at the lake yet. Although I wasn't about to complain, at one point Chad, seeing my discomfort, asked me if I wanted to just turn around and go back the way we had come.

"No way!" I said emphatically. I knew we had to be close, and there was no way in the world I wanted to turn back short of the goal!!

We pressed on, and finally, gloriously, we caught our first sight of Glacier Lake nestled at the feet of the towering, snow-patched mountains above. What a thrill to have made it! We stopped to take pictures despite the flies and their giant-sized cousins, the nasty horse flies who tried their best to get at us (they did NOT succeed!!)


I don't think I really did justice to the pictures I took up there. I took them in such a rush, fighting off flies between pictures, unable to take near the time or care to think through the shots I wanted to take and different settings to use, but hopefully you can get a sense of why this place is called Cathedral Lakes.  It is a place for worship, a place to bow down, a place to pray, a place to sing and shout for joy, and a place to stand in hushed and holy wonder.



Knowing we had a deadline to be back down at the lodge, and not knowing how long it would take us, we reluctantly left Glacier Lake behind and started our final steep and rocky climb to the top of the ridge before the trail turned sharply downward. My dear, sweet brother offered to carry all three of our backpacks up that last hill--I nearly fell on my nose the first few steps I took without my camera gear on my back.

We thought the hard part was over when we started our descent, but quickly found that the steep downhill trail was hard in a whole different way. Less strenuous in some ways, but demanding of much more concentration, and putting more strain on joints and tendons to carefully hold stable footing for each step down the relentlessly descending trail. It was like going 1000 feet (the actual difference in elevation from top to bottom) down a very uneven staircase, with each step being a rock or a root and sometimes just a smooth, almost slippery slope.

Giving up was not an option. Every step was a test. Every step was a choice. Every step was necessary. Every step was a victory!

Late that night when we got home I told my parents who had gifted us with this amazing experience, "We left it all out on the mountain." It had taken everything in me (and then some!) to complete that hike. I was simultaneously and paradoxically both exhausted and exhilarated--completely spent, but euphoric with the thrill of knowing what we had accomplished, the challenges and obstacles we had overcome, the glories we had seen and experienced and felt up there on top of the world!

One more seeming contradiction--those mountains and the thin mountain air had thoroughly humbled me, showing me in no uncertain terms my limitations and weakness and how incredibly small I am in their shadow, and yet I came away feeling so unbelievably strong!! I had done so much more than I ever thought I could! The last time I felt that way was in the moments after each of my children was born when I thought, "If I can do that, I can do ANYTHING!!"

In reflection, I was so glad I hadn't seen the whole trail beforehand or I never would have taken the first step. I was filled with gratitude for Chad, for his patience, his commiserating, his encouragement, for enjoying it as much as I did, for him carrying part of my load to help me over the roughest part, for his sense of humor and his wonderful calm. He was like the Holy Spirit in skin that day--couldn't have done it without you little brother!! Finally I will always be thankful that our young driver-maybe-angel had more confidence in me than I would have had in myself. It was an amazing experience, an amazing gift from my parents and my Heavenly Father, an amazing day I will never forget!

"but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint."


Do you ever sell yourself short or underestimate what you're capable of?
Ever been surprised by what God can enable you to accomplish/overcome?

___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#776-790
776. Hero Husband who loves us so sacrificially
777. The call from Mom & Daddy letting me know they got home from Washington safe and sound after a great trip!
778. The chance to see Auntie Marilyn & Uncle Ken before they headed home to Iowa!
779. Fun surprises!!
780. Our treadmill
781. That my car was right where I left it for an hour and a half with the keys inside
782. For the two very sweet people who helped me jump start said car
783. For Drummer Boy and She So Sweet who refused to let me beat myself up for the whole silly mishap that turned out so much better than it might have
784. The release of Drummer Boy's EP--so happy for him and proud of him!
785. Finding something to wear to the wedding . . . in my own closet!
786. That a friendship I once thought was over and done has lasted 27 years and counting
787. The fairy tale ending for my good friend that is just the beginning!
788. The gift of remembering!
789. The first feel of fall in the air, and a little rain
790. A big Raider win and sharing it with Hero Husband!

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Laura Boggess for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

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