Yesterday I went on a hike near the Palisades Reservoir, up Little Elk Creek. I intended on summiting Mt. Baird, the highest point in the Snake River Range. I knew it was going to be a good challenge – 9 miles roundtrip with 4200 ft in elevation gain. Well, as I neared the mountain, the grade got crazy steep. I found myself using all four appendages as I scrambled up a ravine that probably had some glacier remnants just a couple weeks ago. Normally, I look at going up also as going down – I will eventually need to come back down whatever I go up – and I usually proceed conservatively. In this situation, had I remained true to my historical decision making, I would’ve stopped well short of the higher point of the mountain. Yesterday, however, I was determined to conquer Mt. Baird, so I decided I would just deal with it.
Once I reached my destination (just below the highest point of 10,025 ft – I didn’t feel like going up a vertical wall), I wondered if there was another route down a different ravine that would prove easier (a big storm had saturated the area the night before and the west side of the mountain I came up on was still very soft, so I thought trying the north side would add some great stability benefits). I was a little freaked out because I have an awkward relationship with heights. So, I said a prayer (FYI - I’m gonna get churchy in this blog). I had made a decision to try another path and asked the Lord if He would confirm that that was what I should do (D&C 9:8-9). I felt the confirmation come, so I began making my way down the north side of Mt. Baird.
Sure enough, this alternate route was much more manageable. However, about 300 yards or so down the mountain (just when I was expecting to put all the steep stuff behind me), I discovered that the entire side of the mountain I had chosen just dropped off, with no other viable route visible. So, I traversed across to try to find another way and wound up putting myself in a precarious situation – there was no other way down, and going back across to retrace my route up would’ve been ludicrous. So, I had to go straight up. Somehow, the next 100 yards of the climb were easily the most difficult of the afternoon. But it was during this stretch that I learned the most (actually, many of these lessons were simply reminders, but I’m sure you get my drift):
- Fear is not faith; I had asked the Lord to help me get off the mountain safely, and I knew that that would happen. I had to do my part, though, and overcome my fear of heights so that I was able to remain focused on what I needed to do.
- Prayer is real, and it works – anytime and anywhere (Alma 34:17-27). Because I prayed to and relied on the Lord, I received the peace that I needed. I also received direction, particularly the reminder that I needed to take care of myself with food and drink so that my body would function properly.
- As I looked for one hold after another, I thought of two principles: cling to the Rock (Christ) and have a firm foundation. In one instance, I used what looked like a solid rock for a foothold, only to have it give out under me. Thankfully, I had both hands on a larger rock up above and was able to hoist myself up. Holding to a firm rock on the side of Mt. Baird was a very vivid reminder of the eternal principle of relying on Christ.
- In some situations you need to focus on just one step at a time, but in other situations it’s critical to see the big picture. I made life more “interesting” for myself on several occasions yesterday because I neglected to balance out those two principles.
I truly feared for my life during a couple brief moments. At one particularly stressful time, the calm assurance came over me that my days are numbered and that my work on this earth isn’t done, so all would be well (D&C 122:9; Alma 14:13). I can’t describe how important it was to have that on my mind.
- Sometimes the path gets harder before it gets easier. Once I reached my destination (the first time) and sat down to eat lunch, I thought that I had completed the most arduous part of my day. Yeah, I was way off. But even though I didn’t think I could do anything more difficult, I did. And because I experienced more trying circumstances, I received more schooling.
- Lastly, I learned that sometimes the Lord employs unconventional teaching methods. I know that I was directed to go down the side of the mountain that ultimately proved to be a 90 minute detour (I wound up where I ate lunch and then went back down the west side of the mountain). Why the detour? It was only during that phase of my expedition that most of these principles came to me.
Looking back on it, I’m grateful for what I went through yesterday. I believe we all need significant, powerful experiences on occasion that will stay with us over time. I’m glad the Lord saw fit to send me on a detour.