I often find myself thinking of my hikes through the hills and mountains of Georgia and Alabama. In the Fall the weather is cool, the leaves are bright, and the trails are empty. The only sounds are the winds. But I know the reason why I go. I go for the Lookout. A clear Lookout pushes you to finish your journey and dream of the next. What you see is what you take with you, and so with new trails come the hope and expectation of experiencing a new landscape. Word of mouth can yield realistic expectations for your journey, but you might not really know what it will take to get there until you don’t have a choice. You see, on the trail, there are only two choices. You go forward, or you turn around. If you turn around, then you miss the Lookout. You miss what you came for.
When I daydream of hiking, it is hard to remove the mental challenge and strain from my memories. The burning in your legs and the sweat on your brow can come back at any instant. It is just the price one pays. I remember vividly a recent hike that was particularly gruesome. My brother, cousin and I decided to hike a 7 mile loop without our packs. What us Florida boys did not understand was the impact of elevation on our trek. We hiked for what seemed like many hours to finally come to a fork in the trail. What we quickly realized was that we were not near as far as we had believed. The landscape was unfamiliar and did not fit what we were expecting to see. It was the ups and the downs that really took their toll on us and we were literally miles off from where we thought we were. In reality, we had only traveled the first three miles of the trail to the point where the loop would start. Now, we had done so quite quickly; for we were at an aggressive pace even without packs. I remember how frustrated I was that we failed to reach what we thought was worth the sweat. I remember feeling vulnerable as we walked through the crevices, completely exposed to the
We never made it to our Lookout, but we did come across a small river with a crossing and overhang. It was so different than what we have Florida so it was worth it, but I think that the lesson I learned was that sometimes the journey just isn’t what we come to expect. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth taking. Life can come to us like these trails. I think that Life is actually a lot like these trails. Someone gives you a map and says, “go here and you will find what you are looking for.” This means that along the way, you might come across Lookouts, valleys, violent waters and danger. Maybe the worst of those is disappointment. That doesn’t mean the next Lookout isn’t what you waited for. With hope in mind, you trust in the map and move forward.
What other choice do you have?