“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost, American poet, “A Servant to Servants”
We could easily have made a different choice, possibly the wrong choice. Call it Providence, call it an unknown mapmaker’s skills, call it a strong desire not to wind up on a Weather Channel disaster-in-the-woods special. Whatever made us keep going down that mountain earlier this week is something for which we are thankful.
The problem came about halfway down the mountain. We had reached the 5,000-foot-altitude summit by ski lift — no required skill other than the ability to sit quietly. As requested, we had informed the attendant of our plans to hike a cross-country ski trail back to the base rather than returning on the lift. We had followed the diligently-placed green blazes down a rocky-but-not-too-slopey descent for about a mile.
Then, trouble hit in the oddest of places. We emerged from the piney woods into a long, linear meadow. Soft grasses, wild blueberries, butterflies. All good, really good, until we hit bottom. There, at the low point of the meadow, we looked ahead in dismay. The trail ascended — rather steeply, to another summit that seemed at least a mile in the distance.
We stopped. My husband, veteran hiker that he is, insisted we check the trail markers to make sure we hadn’t missed a turn since leaving the woods. We hadn’t. We were on the right path. So, we had to make a choice — climb back up the rocky trail to the chair lift — with an exhausting speed in order to catch the last ride of the day. Or, keep going on a trail in which the only way down was up.
We hunkered in the shade for a moment, drank some water and checked our map. If the markers and map were right, there had to be point at which the trail would veer away from that second summit. We couldn’t see it. All we could see was up hill, all the way. But, the map and the markers and park personnel claimed the trail to home base was there.
And, it was. Right about the time our legs were feeling it — anyone who’s skied this trail has our deep respect — there was a sudden opening into the woods and a rocky-but-entirely-doable descent. We were back at the cabin in time for dinner.
What a life lesson for our family! Sometimes, the road ahead looks discouraging, even impossible. We have to make a choice — go back to what we know, no matter how difficult the path of return, or keep going into what, to us at least, is the unknown. Unless we’re headed down a road to destruction, I’m thinking that, more often than not, we would be better off to keep going.
Let the water of God’s Word refresh us along the way. Let the light of His Word guide our path like the best map ever made. And, let us be plodding on, step after step after step. He’ll surely lead us home!