I took a hike on a path the other day. It weaved through the woods, trees hanging overhead and around, but I was out of reach. The path dipped and rose. Occasionally it had rocks jutting out of the ground, or piles of leaves engulfing it. Nothing dangerous though. It eventually led to a nice paved road.
The road led us down to a camping site, with pull-ins and hook-ups for trailers and campers. There were picnic tables and fire pits for hikers and campers. Tuttle Lake's upper fingers stretched into the surrounding fields. My paved road receded to gravel as I turned back parallel to the direction I came. A large bridge spanned the water not far in front of me. Should I take the same path back? I only have 20 minutes before I need to be going. Further along the gravel. It's the right direction. Surely there will be another path going into the woods, back to the base.
I'm below the bridge now. It connects to the road I came in on. It's where I want to be. It's where I need to be to get going. But there are no cut paths. Up the hill. Through the trees. Through the branches. My arms and legs catch their scrapes. I begin to sweat. It's practically an army crawl up at this point. Eventually the branches start to have bushy needles on them, which feel much better--but leave their own marks. It smells like Christmas. It starts to clear a little and I rejoice, continuing up until I can finally stand and look out. I'm now above the road, and the path straight down to it is far too steep.
Do I go back down? Taking the short route to the road and walking along it till I reach the turnoff to my car? Or do I keep going forward, alongside the road in the same direction? There are more trees, but I've already climbed this far. If I keep going it will eventually descend back down by the road before my turnoff. But it will be harder. More of an adventure perhaps, but has it been an adventure enough?
Others have made it to the road. I can see them from my point overhead. Most of them have taken the path. It was easier. Maybe smarter. I can't begrudge them though, even while there is thicket around me either way.
How badly do I want to reach the road? I don't even know where it will go, but I won't be alone. I don't feel alone now, standing up above it. Just a little lost. I can't see over the hill through the trees, but I can see the road run along it. Is it worth it? I don't know. But there is something calling me to go forward, not back down--even if I will reach the road faster. Does it make sense? Does it make sense to climb a mountain?
A man can climb a mountain for many reasons I suppose. But the way I see it, a man doesn't climb a mountain for the sense of accomplishment, nor for the adventure of it, nor for the view at the top. No, a man climbs a mountain because there is something inside of him that will not let him stay below. And if he doesn't, that something will die. Oh how many let that die in the plains. Or just take the gondola up. The few climbers below see those cars overhead, and they grimace. And then, well, maybe then maybe later, they smile. Perhaps when they see them at the top. For it was quite a different journey.
Here's to the hike ahead.