It has taken me a weekend of herding preschoolers at Vacation Bible School, a cross country plane trip, the view of land and sea from 30,000 ft., and one inspirational book to finally process my hiking trip. The mountains do something to me, for me. Like a mutualistic relationship, they offer an escape and challenge me to turn my fears into courage and confidence. In return they receive respect and reverent awe of their Creator. My Creator, my God. His fingerprints are on every part of these mountains, from the delicate, white petals of the Mountain Sandwort to the sharp, jagged granite boulder fields. Every breath I inhaled and exhaled had me thinking of Him, thanking Him. My prayers were continuous from the moment we arrived, departed, and returned to Pinkham Notch. Sometimes, those prayers were said with a little more desperation and need than others.
We arrived at Joe Dodge Lodge at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on Monday night. The ride was filled with laughter, stories of our summer trips, and catching up on the details of what has been happening in our lives. A few of us hadn’t seen each other in weeks and one in months. There was a lot to talk about during the three hour trip and not one lull in the conversation. And the weather was good, which made me very happy.
When I put my pack down on the floor of the pine wood “Yellow Birch” room at Joe Dodge Lodge, I was feeling a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and anxiousness. Anticipation for time away, time with God, and a time I knew would change me in some way. (Exactly in what way or ways, I was not sure.) Excitement because I couldn’t wait to hit the trail, explore the paths, summit new mountains, and to experience new things. And anxiousness because I had heard and read some scary things about the mountains we were about to climb. Including some sobering facts about intense weather and fatality statistics. What made me the most nervous was the possibility of fast changing and wild weather on Mount Washington and the surrounding mountains. I was worried about hiking over wet, slippery rocks while pushing forwards in high wind speeds.
My mind kept going back to a conversation I had before I left. On Sunday, before we left, I had to pick up a few things at Dick’s Sporting Goods. A very helpful, bearded associate (one who I found in the hunting section and kept talking with for at least 45 minutes+ when I found out he was a survival guide who led hikes through the Whites) enlightened me about a place called “Thunderstorm Junction,” what to do when lightning strikes, and the importance of having a leader who knew what she was doing in the wilderness. The wilderness trails where we might be hiking. “Make sure she has an ax,” he said. “It’s steep,” he said. “Have fun!” he said. His words combined with what was already in my head had my mind going and imagination running in full gear.
We left our packs in the room to explore the Lodge and headed over to the dining room for dinner. One of the many things I love about staying at a AMC hut or lodge is the food. Breakfast and dinner come with your stay and there is plenty of food and enough choices for everyone. They accommodate special diets and there isn’t a reason to leave the dining room hungry or not satisfied. As we filled our plates and ate our fill, the skies darkened and started rumbling. The rumbling increased and then the skies opened and poured buckets and buckets of water over the lodge and mountains. I tried my best not to let the rain and thoughts of hiking over those wet, slippery rocks take away from my excitement and add to my anxiousness. I put on a brave face but underneath the face my fears of the unknown and my confidence in my abilities was starting to fester and falter.
Later that night, after I had unpacked and repacked my pack one last time, I sat up in my top bunk listening to the thunderstorms and the rain pouring off the roof. My hiking journal was in my lap and I stared at the empty page. What could I write as my first entry of this trip? What would set the tone for an adventure to read of years later?
I had bought a card and postcard at the lodge’s store and planned to mail them the post office on top of Mount Washington. On those cards, I had already wrote some details of the trip- the name of the room, the food I ate, the overall itinerary of the trip, how I was feeling. General descriptions, surface details but nothing to deep to the heart of the matter. I planned to add the card to my journal when I received it back at home.
When none of my own words came to mind, I choose to write scripture. I copied down passages that spoke to me. Passages I thought I would think about, focus on, and need their comfort throughout the trip. Peace came to me as I wrote the following words.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.- Isaiah 40:26 (ESV)
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. –Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)
I read and reread what I wrote and just before I closed my journal and shut off the light, I added a benediction of four words to the bottom of the page. I wrote them in capital letters and marked them with an exclamation mark. This benediction foreshadowed what was to come on the next days’s hike up Mount Washington.
The words were:
PICK UP YOUR FEET!