Ignoring the rules of hiking can be dangerous. I found that out when I became lost and alone at 7,000 feet while hiking in Yosemite National Park. Though I had initially followed markers and footprints, they had long since disappeared. I had followed the terrain downward, but it was now so steep and rocky it was difficult to walk. Having hiked for six hours over strenuous trails, I was exhausted. My water supply was low. The sun was cooking me over a slow fire.
I had started out in the cool predawn darkness, following a flashlight beam to get an early start. Slowly, I made my ascent, first up a steep granite trail, then through sparse pines. The route required a 4,000 foot climb. After visiting my goal of the bald peak of North Dome, I climbed to a granite rise—and made my mistake.
Failing to consult any of my three maps, I began following markers and footprints, confident that I could never lose the trail. After all, I had never lost my way before. But I was in a hurry, tiring rapidly, and anxious to get back to the valley floor. The terrain gradually got steeper, the markers fewer, until there were no markers or footprints at all. I didn’t understand their absence, but assumed there must be more to come and continued downward.
Ultimately I had to face the fact that I was off the trail and had put myself in a bad position. Finally resorting to a map, I could see that I had gone in almost the opposite direction from the trail.
How could I regain the path? One option was to climb steeply uphill the way I had come. But it was going to be a difficult task over the loose rock surface. A second option was to cut cross-country, seeking to avoid a mile or two of trail. But I did not know what chasms or impassable points might be ahead. A third option was to cut back on a slant and try to intercept the trail.
None of the alternatives would be easy since I was overtired. I picked the third option, and angled steeply uphill, fighting the brush. I had to use a great deal of energy I did not think I had—energy born not of strength, but of fear and danger. I had to put myself back on the map.
Joy replaced fear when, scratched and panting, I finally regained a narrow dirt path. By following it, I soon discovered that it was the trail I’d lost. I resumed my journey, reveling in the water, food, and rest that lay at the end of the trail. The anticipation bordered on ecstasy, I was connected.
But there was still a long way to go. The strain of recovering the trail made the last three hours of my hike an ordeal. My back and shoulders ached from the pack. My body seemed drained of fluids as I parceled out the little water I had. I well remember my arrival back on the valley floor, completely spent.
I learned some valuable lessons from my experience, not only for hiking but for life. Losing the trail in Yosemite is not nearly as dangerous as losing God’s path for living. If you are like me, you lose it often. May I share from my learning some suggestions for following the Lord’s detailed trail map, the Bible?
Present yourself to God as ready to go in the way He directs.
Find a time daily when you can read the Bible for your own nurture and direction. Ask God to search your paths and to reveal error.
Agree with Him when the direction you’re taking is wrong.
Beware the heavily footprinted path of the world. It only leads downward.
Travel with him. Make the most of His presence with you in the daily journey.
Following wise guidelines for hiking and living can bring not only the shout of victory at the top of the mountain, but wisdom and resources for life’s journey.
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world