Hiking to the top of mountains is a truly spiritual experience for me…but let me quickly qualify that. I am not saying that I necessarily have this fluffy, feel-good experience with every step I take… because that is certainly not the case. In fact, most steps feel exhausting- as you step higher and higher your legs burn, your breathing speeds up, and your heart races.
That doesn’t sound very spiritual does it?
But if you view your spiritual life as an undertaking toward a glorious end…then you can see how each labored step, each heavy breath, and every racing heartbeat is ultimately worth it.
To me: there is a great story in the hike. Every step has character. Every breath has an emotion. There is an elegant and beautiful antagonism of the elements and the terrain. They confront you and remind you that they can’t be controlled or defeated. They are the great molders and shapers…teaching you respect and cooperation. And though you might be tired, winded, and ready to fold…the trail beckons and summons each determined step and every heartbeat of perseverance until you have arrived.
At the summit you realize that you are a much different person than you were when you started.
That is what our lives are all about. Living day to day and experiencing tough and difficult terrain, catching glimpses of beauty along the way, allowing our difficult and positive experiences to transform us into something new, and partaking in the glory of God when we reach the summit. What an experience!
This perfectly describes my Furnace Mountain ascent.
We left base camp near Madison Run Fire Road in the mid-afternoon without our heavy packs and gear. Even though our plan was to take this exact same trail the next morning to get to our next destination…there was a turn-off on the trail that would take us to the summit of Furnace Mountain and we did not want to take the time to do it the next morning. We had done enough research that indicated it would not be a good idea to hike this portion of Furnace Mountain around noon or early afternoon, so we wanted to wake early the next morning to get through it before the sun was high overhead.
Although we only needed to hike about a mile and a half to the summit of Furnace Mountain, it was all up. In a short stretch we would ascend from 1300 feet to around 2800 feet. To be honest, we may have underestimated how taxing this hike was going to be. Not necessarily because it was a hard hike, but the sun decided to heat up in the late afternoon. I thought I was done sweating for the day…but soon I was pouring sweat. There was only reprieve behind a lone tree or bush. And, of course, no one brought water on this “easy” and “leisurely” hike…hahaha. Furnace Mountain was heating up.
We finally reached the turn-off for the final ascent. This portion was just under a half mile and we picked up the pace. We topped Furnace Mountain and found an absolutely brilliant rock shelf in the shade to rest and take in the majestic view of Austin Mountain and the main ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For the forty-five minutes that we sat there at the summit overlook, I was completely enveloped in the beauty. Green was alive around us. Birds glided by and circled with ease seeming to float passed us. The rocks below us were smooth and cool and just asking us to lie on them. I obliged…and closed my eyes. This was worth the heat, the sweat, and the work.
Climbing High Mountains by Sam Amidon