After getting to know our fellow lodgers a bit and eating a hearty breakfast, Stewart and I packed our gear and headed out. We had originally planned to start at a certain trail but upon talking to a park ranger, we changed our course. He pointed us in the direction of Mary's Rock.
We had a very informative guidebook that was provided by the Innkeepers where we were staying. Each trail in the area is mapped out and described so we felt confident that we could climb to Mary's Rock summit without too much problem. The informative guidebook describes the challenge of the trail this way... "sometimes level, sometimes steep, but always exciting."
On the way up to Mary's Rock summit, I stopped quite a few times to enjoy just how exciting it really was. We're talking throat tightening, heart pounding, chest gripping, sweat dripping excitement! Wait. What? That wasn't from excitement? Um... No! I have never before welcomed a seat made of jagged stone in my life until today! Despite losing quite a bit of weight and semi-regularly walking 5K, I am woefully out of shape.
If I hadn't been committed to reaching the top, I would've quit about a quarter of the way up. My backpack, which weighed about 10 pounds, was digging trenches into my shoulders. My neck was aching. My lower back developed a kink. One of the times I stopped to
We finally reached the summit! There were about a dozen or so people already up there, eating lunch, taking pictures, enjoying the view. The plateau where we stood was gravely and safe. The last bit to the peak was craggy rock and not safe. After seeing several people coming back down that part, I decided that the almost certain face plant at the base wasn't worth the risk. Everyone had a different approach to their descent, from coming down backward on all fours to terrified tripping to one little boy who did this chimpanzee type run down one of the sharp edges. I gave him a "10" for creativity!
Now it was time to go down the mountain. The easy part! The hardly informative guidebook said "To return to your starting point, simply retrace your steps." Simply? Again... Um... No! The climb was difficult but the descent was painful! Hips, knees, ankles, toes. All took a severe beating. On the way up I had plenty of opportunity to choose my next step. The obstacles were there but I could see where sure footing was possible. On the way down, not so much! At times I felt like I was free-falling, my weight propelling me much faster than I was prepared for.
Since I have a condition in both ankles called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (described to me as much like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but in the ankles rather than the wrists) I am always very aware of the surfaces where I walk. Thankfully I had on hiking boots which offered a slight bit of support. But I still landed wrong a couple times and felt that old familiar stab of pain. My toes were crammed up against the front of my boots as if I had bought them 3 sizes too small.
Finally we made it back to the car. My boots and socks were immediately removed and my feet propped up on the dashboard. There was so much heat coming off my dogs that a large circle of "fog" developed on the windshield above them! Oh, but it was worth it! Every. Single. Step. We ate a few bites of food and, yes, decided on our next trail.
Pass Mountain Trail. Described in the not-at-all informative guidebook as "a fairly easy climb". I looked at the path and thought it seemed easy enough. Look again! Um... No! This climb, though less rocky, was much more steep, or so it seemed to me. To make a long story short (I know, we passed "short" a long time ago. Bear with me.) We reached the top then "simply" retraced our steps back to the bottom. Now back to the inn. I was bathed and back in my pjs by 5:30 in the evening. Charlie horses threatening me with every move I made!
As I was walking the trails, my husband and I laughing at each other periodically for our not-so-reverent observations, I kept thinking of all of the faith applications this trip held. Perseverance? Yep! Preparation? Yep! The majesty of creation? Yep! Overcoming fear? Yep! Bearing burdens? That, too, and many more. But one of the things that kept creeping to mind was that it is our difficulties, not our ease, that reveal what needs to be strengthened. A friend of mine often says "Crisis reveals character". Just like these trails showed me that I need to amp up my exercise program (who am I kidding? I knew it beforehand!) trials and temptations expose where I need to reinforce my spirit. And I'll never get to the point where I can stop training if I expect to meet the next challenge.
I would be remiss if I didn't tell you... we hadn't read the entire description of the hike up to Mary's Rock Summit until we got back to our room. At the bottom of the page we read that there was an alternate, more difficult route... the one we were on! So it wasn't the extremely informative guidebook's fault that we were caught off guard, it was because we hadn't read it well enough! Hm....