Tag Archives: outdoors

All Who Wander

“Dad, you know the Tolkien quote,” I started hesitantly.  My dad and I were about 45 minutes into our hike up to Lake Johnson and the trail had just vanished in an open meadow.

“Yeah, the one where Frodo sings, ‘The Road Goes Ever on and on, Down from the door where it began.  Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where man paths and errands meet.  And wither then?  I cannot say.'”

Fortunately my dad did not sing, but unfortunately he’d said the wrong quote.  “No, Tolkien says, ‘not all who wander are lost.'”

“Yeah,” answered my dad.

“We’re wandering and we’re lost.”  Roads might go ever on, but ours was dead in the grass, consumed in the wild.  And if we wandered much longer, my 40 pound pack was going to be the death of me.

My dad pulled out his map and I plopped off my backpack.  It looked like the trail was supposed to be leading to the West, but the fire road we’d tried after the original trail petered out was going East.  After a brief discussion about what we should do, I walked ahead, sans my pack, to check and see what was ahead.  The path vanished again, only to reappear a little higher up the hill.  After five minutes I knew this was no good.

We turned around and tried a trail that cut a sharp edge up the mountain.  Sadly, as promising as this trail seemed, it was the wrong one.  An hour and a-half in to what was supposed to be a 12 mile hike, my dad turned us back around and walked us back to the trailhead.

It was annoying to be back at the start, but I didn’t want to wander around and not reach Lake Johnson, so I followed.

Tolkien’s words repeating in my head, “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”  There are things unseen in the seen world, which I believe is a key part of Living Spiritually.  If I take everything for face value, I’ll miss the grand adventure God has for me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t want to see the deeper meaning of wandering.  I just wanted to be on the correct trail and to see my friends.

Maybe what the quote is really saying is, the point of life is in the journey, not just the destination.  Maybe we can wander if our goal isn’t the destination, but loving the moments we are in while we are wandering and feeling lost.

I took a deep breath and placed one foot in front of the other.  Quickly the trailhead slid behind us.  The sun was hot and my mood was still low.  We turned left at the fork in the trail, which meant taking the trail up to Stewart Lake instead of Lake Johnson.  We knew the trails should meet up, but that hadn’t been our plan.

As I moved mindlessly over the ground, passing Aspen trees and beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers, a quote from Jack Kerouac sprang to mind.  “Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by . . . Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak . . . just like life.”

Keep your head down and just keep going, I thought.

With my eyes glued to the trail I smacked head first into my dad’s pack.  He’d stopped for some reason.  “Hey!” said a familiar voice.  It was Philip, my friend we were hiking up to see.  He was on his way down the trail to pick up his brother from the airport.  He’s no nymph, but seeing him was very other worldly.  I’d felt lost and dejected as I hauled my pack up the trail, but he confirmed that we were going the correct way and that we’d see him the next day at camp.

Kerouac is dead wrong, I countered.  I can’t live life with my eyes closed to the magical world around me.  I don’t want to glide along until the trail ends or my life is over.  I want to keep my eyes open, even if what I see let’s me down.  Even if I get lost along the way.  After running in to Philip the trail opened up and the hike became easier.  And definitely prettier.

And so the road went ever on, to Stewart Lake and then to Lake Johnson.  My dad was right, though we were lost, we were still on the same road that led out of our front door, we were connected to the grater adventure along the way.  And while we hiked I kept my eyes open and saw covey of grouse, Indian Paintbrushes, and a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years.

Tolkien is right, not all who wander are lost.

As the Neighborhood Cafe closes down at the end of the month you can keep reading what Brendan Scott writes on his Adventures in Guatemala blog.  Just make sure you subscribe by selecting the subscribe button on the right hand side of his blog!  He writes regularly about his adventures and how he saw God working through his daily life and would love for you all to be a part of his adventure.  He is very thankful for all of the readers here at the Cafe.  

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Hiking Through Grace

Last week I hiked up into the heart of the Pecos Wilderness with my dad and some old friends.  It had been over a decade since I’d truly backpacked, not counting my winter hunting trips.  It was great to set up the tent, cast the rod and catch some fish, and to renew old friendships.

So I don’t wander off in this blog, like my dad and I did on our trek up to Stewart Lake, I’m going to graciously trek right to the point.  Though fishing was great, hiking was breathtaking, and reforming friendships over conversations about faith and serving in our own community was refreshing, what really hit me was the weather.

Yep, I’m going to talk about the weather.  Okay, I promise that my next blog will hike back into the realm of backpacking and what a joy it is to wander, especially when discovering challenging conversations of faith and community.

I want to talk about weather, because I want to talk about grace.  As my dad and I hiked up the sun slowly baked us.  It was hot, and it stayed hot all week long.  The last time we’d been up in the Pecos Wilderness it had rained non stop.  I remember it being so wet we had a river in our tent.  Not this time.

It was weird that it didn’t rain.  I really didn’t mind the lack of rain, but it just felt weird.

As we hiked 9 miles down out of the wild it was so hot my feet started to burn.  I had to walk on my toes so my heals wouldn’t blister up.

What little water I had left at the end of the trail I dumped on my head just to cool off.  It felt amazing.  A little water can really be gracious on a hot day.

The water dripped off my bare head and shoulders onto the dry ground, evaporating immediately.

It wasn’t until we drove out of Las Vegas, NM that we felt the first drop of rain.  Or at least the Nisan Titan felt the rain.  The rain clouds looked like hands dragging their long fingers along the dry mesa tops as if they were scraping for last crumbs.

It was gorgeous.  But inside the cab I still felt parched.  We’d brought along two Dublin Dr Peppers for a celebratory drink at the end of the hike, but, as they’d been sitting in the hot truck all week, we were forced to wait until they could be cooled down with ice.   As we sep north on I-25 I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I popped open our two Dublin Dr Peppers.  They were ice cold.  As I swigged down the real sugar drink, I knew I’d just broken my sugar fast, but after the dry hike it was worth it.  Mine tasted phenomenal.  Probably as good as rain does after a long dry summer.

As we drove through Pueblo, Colorado the rain was coming down in sheets.  I was thankful we hadn’t faced this type of rain on our trip, ’cause now I was safe inside the cab of the truck with the AC blasting and no need for rain to cool me down.

Inside the cab we were listening to U2’s album All That You Can’t Leave Behind and as the rain died down the album came to a close.  Bono was singing about Grace.

Grace, she takes the blame.  She covers the shame. Removes the blame.  It could be her name.

It hit me, not like the soft rain we’d driven through in New Mexico, but like the drowning rain in Pueblo, we need grace just as we needed water on our hot hike.  I had to press repeat on my iPod so I could listen to it again.  It made me think, am I showing grace to the people around me or am I like the hot dusty trail I hiked on?

Am I a thirst quenching Dr Pepper or am I a hot pair of boots rubbing blisters?

Bono says, “Grace finds beauty in everything.  Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”

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My Adventure up Mt. Elbert

The Wakeup Call

“Good morning, Sally.  I’ll be right out.  I just woke up and I need to shower.”  It was 3:44am and my brain was having a hard time registering the voice at the other end of the phone.  The caller ID said, “Sally,” but it sure sounded like a man.  “We’ll wait for you outside,” replied Cliff Hutchison.

Fortunately, I had packed all of my gear the night before, which made waking up five minutes before the estimated departure time a little easier.  It’s still not a great idea to wake up minutes before driving three hours into the mountains for a hike, especially Mt. Elbert.

The Mountain

Located in Lake County about 10 miles southwest of Leadville, Colorado in the Sawatch Range, Mt. Elbert climbs all the way up to 14,433 feet tall, but I’ve heard unofficially that it is 14,440.  Either way, it’s the tallest mountain in Colorado, and the second tallest in all of the continental United States, making it a formable hiking foe.

The Trailhead

My alarm’s little stunt didn’t slow us down.  We made it all the way from Denver to the Half Moon trailhead in two hours.  Showered in golden sunlight, our feet hit the trail at 6:30am.  We’d been warned not to start later than 5:30 if we wanted to summit before 12.  It’s always a good idea to summit before noon, because after noon the weather can get really crappy.  However, being young and strong and athletic and confident and amazing, we didn’t listen to that advice.

The Trail

The Northeast Ridge trail of Mt. Elbert is listed on 14ers.com as an easy hike.  I think what they mean by easy is at no point do you have to scale the cliffs of insanity, swim through eel infested waters, or battle R.O.U.S’s.  

The hike might be easy to the avid hiker, but if you haven’t hiked a 14er before, or if you don’t hike much, I would suggest not starting out with Mt. Elbert.  He’s a beast of a mountain.  We took the standard rout, which starts you out on the Colorado Trail.  Taking this rout will only give you a 4,700 feet of elevation gain.  Easy.

The Wind

The only bad part about the day, other than my alarm trying to keep me from breathing the thinnest air in Colorado, was the wind.  Zane, the only one on our team who had hiked Mt. Elbert before had said something like, “you can’t even feel the wind up at the top because the air was is so thin.”  However, on our way up the trail, through the pine trees that dot their way along the Colorado Trail, the wind bit at our noises.  Even though the first part of the trail was steep, we all trekked on together.  Hiking is more fun when you have a group to traverse and converse with.

We split up a little once we made it past tree-line, which is where the wind got really nasty.  AJ, our youngest hiker, and his dad made it a little more than half way, but decided not to summit.  I’m guessing because the wind was too much.

“That Zane Gordon is full of . . .” The wind blew Andrew’s words away.  Andrew is a giant of a man, and as we climbed past the first false summit even his six foot seven inch frame bowed to the power of the wind.  With the wind pushing against us, we kept trudging further up and further in.

The False Summits

As bad as the wind was, the worst part of the hike were the false summits, which were demoralizing.  My body had geared up for the finish, I’d even started to push a little harder because I knew I was almost done.  But then I came to the crest of the peak and the mountain had grown, we’d reached the first false summit.  Mt. Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado for a reason.

As the rest of our team pushed for the summit I noticed Andrew and Tim slowing down.  I’ve climbed a couple big peaks and know that there’s no shame in slowing down, not sprinting up to the top (the word sprint used here to mean walked uphill at a steady gate).

Sticking with Andrew and Tim was the best part of hiking.  I came on the trip to hike with my friends, rather than coming to take off and reach the summit all by myself.  As we slowed down I kept track of time so we have enough time to reach the summit before the wind blew in the bad weather.

What I didn’t realize was that the mountain was playing tricks on us.  As we crested the second false summit, I could tell my estimated time of arrive was way off.  At the speed we were going we had another hour at least.

Undeterred, I picked out rocks a good distance ahead of us, setting that as our goal to reach before we took our next break.  At each rock I encouraged Tim and Andrew, reminding them that they were doing a great job. Rock by rock we inched closer to the summit.  Or the third false summit.

I was annoyed.  I wanted to reach the top, be able to take pictures as a group, but I also wanted to take a break.  My legs were burning almost as much as my lungs.

I was also sick of criss-crossing with other hikers.  Passing them only to be re-passed.  As we stood at the top of the third false summit, looking up at the real peak, I looked at Andrew and Tim and said “lets go!”  I wanted this hike done.

The Summit

When I thought I couldn’t climb any higher, I was there.  Summiting was a glorious experience.  I reached the top of Colorado and quickly found shelter from the wind.  Not long after, Tim set foot on the summit, with Andrew just behind.  As the two topped off Colorado’s highest peak I jumped up from my spot tucked away from the wind to give them high fives.  Both guys shouted with joy, which wasn’t very loud because it takes having air in your lungs to shout.  Andrew was nearly in tears.  He said this about his experience of summiting, “I felt like I was a zombie.  My legs were moving mindlessly as if something were pulling me, compelling me to reach the summit.”  I guess zombiemode is more than when someone becomes a brain eater.

I really enjoyed my own summit, but I felt true joy watching Andrew and Tim make it to the top of Mt. Elbert.  I was filled with joy because Andrew had worked so hard to climb to the top.  Hiking with friends should feel like that.

On our way down we talked about how hard the climb was.  None of us liked the false summits or the wind, but we agreed that those hardships just made the actual summit that much sweeter.  The whole hike was sweet, because it was hard and we achieved a difficult goal with friends.

I hiked Mt. Elbert on Memorial day with several members of The Neighborhood Church.  This hike is just one of the many great things going on at TNC.  This blog was first posted on my blog, I hope you all enjoyed!

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