Must… go… hiking!
The only “spring break” my school provided for me and my class was Good Friday, Easter Weekend and the Monday after. Four days in total where some of those days are holidays anyway. However, I am thankful for the little we get. I decided to make the most of it and go hiking for the majority of the time I had off. This is how it went.
Preparation: Lots of it. I had scoped out a very exciting loop trail that I wanted to hike. It is called the 7 Devils’ Loop and would not be too challenging to do in four days. However, when I called the rangers to get some updates on the trail they told me there is still a lot of snow up there and pretty hard to get to in the first place. Since I still do not have a proper tent for winter camping I decided to look elsewhere. I found a couple books on my shelf that described a hike along Snake River through the deepest canyon in the United States: Hell’s Canyon. With no better options and quite intrigued by the name of the place I decided to go. I was warned of rattle snakes, Poison Ivy, falling rocks and more. So I packed some extra food, added some extra items to my first aid kit and made sure I had means to become visible if things turned out bad. It is also good practice to tell at least one other person where you are going in case something happens.
I got up early on Friday morning, made some breakfast and headed south. The ride took me about five or six hours and the last portion was on some very winding, gravel mountain road. I was using my friend’s car to get to the trail head and since that car had a working stereo system I could listen to some of my favorite albums on the road down knowing that I will not have any access to music or any sort of electronic entertainment for the next few days. This is one of the reasons why getting out in the wild is a good place to be to find yourself. I always look forward to the point when you go out for a longer trip when you just don’t care about staying updated on Facebook, emails or text messages. You simply need to realize that those things are out of my reach and that it is only a waste of energy to worry about the things I may or may not miss out on while I am out. I look forward to the point when I realize on hikes like this that the best thing I can do is to enjoy the here and now and to make the best of it in that moment. This trip would be a bit special, because I had never been out for this long in terrain I was not familiar with alone. I finally when I reached the river I arranged my backpack one last time before I set out.
I had never hiked in nature quite like this before. The entire hike was along Snake River with mountains on either side. Although there were some parts that were flat and quite grassy, large portions of the hike was on paths that went across the slope of steep hillsides or were carved out from the rugged cliffs. There was definitely enough variation in the terrain to not get bored. The names of the different locations along the trail made the place very intriguing also. Hell’s Canyon, Snake River, the Seven Devils, Suicide point… One could wonder if this was an appropriate place to wander around in on the weekend that is designated to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, his eternal sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. This trail undoubtedly reminded me more about the death aspect of Easter which was a good reminder in of itself. Also, when wandering around on your own in a wilderness it is easy to start psyching yourself out about your circumstances. It is easy to get caught up in some thought that will cause some irrational fear. I was constantly reminded of and encouraged by the scripture verse that says that “even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death (in my metaphorical mind this translated to Hell’s Canyon), I shall fear no evil”.
Seeking solitude in the wilderness served a great purpose in my life. It provides a place for contemplation, for prayer, for appreciating the small things in life, to rest from the stress of everyday life and also to very evidently understand that you have limits. The beauty of being out for several days is that it takes time for some of these purposes to really sink in. A day hike is nice now and then, but knowing that I have emails to answer when I get back home that evening robs me of some of the things mentioned above. It was not until the third day of the hike that I really understood that I was very much alone with God. The only encouragement I found was in company with Him as a didn’t see a single soul that day. My legs and feet were aching from the day before and I knew I had a long way to go. The path took me through rain and hail, sunshine and heat as I felt how my body slowly started to respond less to my will in fatigue. My boots gave up on me and the sole started separating from the leather. I started thinking that maybe I am about to reach my breaking point, but I had nowhere to sleep on that rocky cliff and I had to go on. As soon as I found some flat grassy patches along the trail I thought that maybe I should stop for the rest of the day, but to force myself onward towards my goal I entered a new section of rocky terrain and was left with no other choice than to go onward to find another spot.
I don’t know how to describe the relief I felt when I finally found the historic ranch just about before the sun started hiding behind the mountains. I lay down on the soft grass and in exhaustion. In a little while I felt how the cool wind started making its way through the mesh of my wool shirt and understood that I needed some proper shelter. Since it was so painful to stand on my feet and my bones were tired, I set up my tent by crawling around on my knees. I was quite amazed by how tired I felt. It was good to be humbled in such a way and realizing that I do have a breaking point. I am not actually invincible as I foolishly think sometimes. I remember how I had pronounced God’s name in every breath climbing up towards suicide point. I was glad that I actually was not alone that day.
It was indeed very interesting to see how one’s motivation, morale and endurance when there are no people around to encourage you or walk the walk with you. I remember the times at a bible school I went to years back when I when I was a part of an outdoor/adventure team. We would push each other much harder than what I did in Hell’s Canyon, but I guess the encouragement you get from companions really can make that difference. It was great to be outside for four days by myself for the sake of solitude, but if I could choose to have someone with me I most probably would.
I’m not completely sure where this post landed and the topics were kind of all over the place. In a way that is how my mind wanders when I am hiking. I also felt the pressure to post something after being absent for almost two months. Hope you enjoyed. I have been very busy with school lately and have not had very much time to post things. More updates on life and adventures are to come soon!