After days of discussing, it was determined that my sister and her family would meet up with me and my boys (Super Spouse had to work), at the Johnston Observatory among the foothills of Mt. St. Helen’s. Each of us would wake early and drive a similar distance to arrive at our appointed destination by mid-morning.
Adventurous, Cautious and I happily drove along, stopping only for food, fuel and a birthday present for my eldest nephew. With periodic check-ins with one another, it was clear that we were all on pace to arrive at nearly the same time. Mere moments after our arrival and a quick stretch to determine the number of layers needed to begin the day’s hike, my sister and her family rolled in too.
Enthusiastic greetings were exchanged with hugs, and each of us began to situate ourselves with our packs and proper shoe wear. The first disappointing discovery came when my sister asked her eldest to get his shoes on. Her dear boy timidly told her that he could not find his shoes… Frustration followed, as his only shoe option appeared to be flip flops. Fortunately, my van is like a home on wheels, as a little bit of everything seems to accumulate inside. I said that I would check to see if we happened to have a spare pair of shoes in our car. Not so surprisingly, Adventurous had neglected to bring in his tennis shoes after camp two weeks ago, so we had a pair available. Never mind that E wears a youth size four and my guys wear a 9.5 in men’s… With some serious cinching and tightening of laces, Big E was a brilliant sport and ready to make it work.
Our first leg of the journey was to actually wander up to the Observatory to pay our park fee and partake in the first glimpse of our incredible view. Park fees paid and potty stops done, we were ready to begin. Single file at times and often clumping in twos, we were on our way. All along our varied terrain, there was much to take in. All four boys were most captivated with chipmunks and conversation, while we adults were readily snapping shots of our spectacular view.
After a while of wandering on the trail, we took a timeout to have lunch. Steep cliffs, jagged peaks, and crystal clear lakes were laid out before us as we took in our terrific surroundings. Smiles surrounded as all enjoyed our company and ambiance.
Cautious had a minor complaint as a callous was forming on his foot, but being an ever prepared boy, he found a large band-aid to prevent further friction.
On we went, making our way ever further from the Observatory and closing in on a closer view of the crystal clear, Spirit Lake. About ten minutes down the trail, Adventurous was overwhelmed with abdominal cramping, and began to panic about his desperate need to defecate. “Can you hold it?”, I asked. Every fiber of his being, screamed NO! Not a bathroom within miles and open spaces all around. What to do? We found a small shrub near an open space, where I rapidly dug a hole with bare hands. I advised Adventurous to squat carefully as he readily released the beast. The burial of said stuff was a bit brutal, but all parties survived the ordeal and were ready to walk on.
Soon, we arrived to a ledge, a sheer shelf really, to traverse single-file. Adventurous was not quite feeling up to his name, as his stomach was still churning and the heights were messing with his mind. He agreed to hold his hiking poles, that I too would hold, and followed closely behind me. Every step we were ever aware of the sheer face that we could fall down if we misstepped. Hugging our left, we slowly stepped forward, ever closing in on the end of the harrowing Harry’s Ledge.
At the end of said ledge, my boys gladly sat down to rest and recover, and take in the terrific view that was spread out before us. Smiles were on every face, as each recognized the accomplishment that had just transpired.
Pictures taken, water sipped, and strength renewed, we prepared to double back and head toward our home base.
The return trip went more quickly, as the frightening was not quite as fear-inducing, with the faint familiarity with said space, and the reminder that it had already been successfully traversed.
Some of my takeaways from the day:
1. Always be prepared. (Again with the shoes…)
2. When in trouble, ask for help. (God does not want us to go it alone, and He cares about our health and well being.)
3. On treacherous trails, do not look and the drop, rather look only for the next step. (Quite symbolic for our walk with Him!)
4. After surviving the scary spaces, take time to see how far He has brought you, and breathe in the blessings of the journey.
5. Though the trail is often frightening, it becomes a bit less so, when we recognize that we have been brought successfully through similar spaces before.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your beautiful creation and for opportunities to enjoy it. Thank You that You never stop speaking to us as we go. Teach us to continue to learn to trust You more, and to hold tightly to Your loving and leading hand. May we move through mountains and valleys with confidence, not in ourselves, but in You who will be ever present on our journey. Lead us to love like You as we follow trails You call us to traverse. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present