The morning of our last day broke slowly with low dark snow clouds, poor visibility and a fresh five inches of blowing and drifting snow on the road. Following a bright orange state snow plow out of Stanley, ID we were fortunate to make it over the Galena Summit pass (8700 feet) on Hwy 75 as it twisted its way up and down the mountain sides of the Sawtooth National Forest into Sun Valley. Not an easy road to travel in any condition, it was especially treacherous now. Traffic however was light… 🙂
We knew the views and the majesty of Sun Valley Idaho must be epic… given the rich ski history and popularity of the area for winter and summer tourism, but we had to take that on faith as our view was confined to a block or two of retro styled retail buildings and trendy condo -ranch estates blanketed with a fresh layer of powdered snow. Perfect for skiers, it was not so great for roadtripping and photography hounds like us. We pulled into a McDonald’s for some fresh coffee and breakfast as we pondered our options for the last day.
Again, Brian smugly and stubbornly insisted it was “up to me bro…since you forced me to make all the decisions last year”… Irritated I didn’t reply, Sipping my marvelously hot coffee and taking large bites out of my breakfast burritos instead. I was frustrated and weary of the seemingly endless grey sub-atmosphere we had suffered under for most of this trip… I was tired of the cold rain, the damp clinging fog, relentless snow and the ever-present vague but oppressive sense of blah… of no color, of life on dull.
I had really been excited, hopeful this trip would refresh and renew and inspire me and us for the next eleven months of parenting, ministry and work. So far it had revealed some glimpses of encouragement and confirmation, but nothing truly “Epic” or “Awe inspiring”. As I got a refill of my McCafe… I felt like maybe… we should attempt to re-trace our steps today. To link back east and follow a scenic byway on Hwy 20 past Craters of the Moon National Monument and head North on Hwy 93 again back to Montana. It showed on our map that this route would essentially force us to totally retrace our steps back the way we had come the day before. Given the brief glimpses of Idaho mountain glory we had enjoyed outside of Salmon ID, we were hungry for more.
It would be a LONG haul for sure. It was way back to Sandpoint ID and Spokane WA (where our Southwest flight would leave from) from here, and the obvious route was to drive due north up interstate 84 to Boise and then to Spokane directly and just be done with this trip. Maybe it was time to concede the point that the sunshine was elsewhere for the duration and although not epic, this trip was fun and it’s always great to just spend a week with my best friend and comrade on the road away from the grind of life… but something deeper was nagging at me… at us. Calling to us to risk to dare to believe… to try one more time. So we did.
Heading east on Hwy 20 was like entering the “twilight zone” in black and white… I could almost see Rod Serling waiting on the roadside in the desolate setting, ready to tell us a creepy story while the fog swirled around and hid us from view. CREEPY. Fog was thick, like soup as we drove in several inches of wet and soppy snow that caused our Edge to slip and slide all over the two lane as we headed back into the past.
Twenty minutes into this grand gamble, I felt like an idiot. Here we were driving an extra four hundred miles out of our way on the last day of our “restful roadtrip” in the vain hope to find sunlight where forecasters and common sense could easily explain there “was none” to be found. I muttered under my breath a half serious, half-joking prayer…. “God, it would be nice if you could just part this fog and open up a little patch of blue sky and sunshine for our last day“…
Within thirty seconds, the most amazing thing happened… it got worse, darker. The fog went from bad, to almost impenetrable. Slowing the car to 25 mph I had to drop the high beams to low to see the road and once again we were totally surrounded by a familiar grey and ghostly world. I muttered something cynical about how “that prayer didn’t get very far“… when Brian eagerly pointed forward through the windshield to a small piece of blue sky starting to grow in the immediate horizon.
NO freaking way! I felt like a 90-year-old Sarah being told she was going to have a baby!
But it was there, clear blue sky and sunshine and it followed us through the entire morning and well into the day! Like a personal escort of good cheer and beauty, the only patch of dry sky and clarity in the entire state it seemed, went ahead of and behind us in a five-mile swath of color and beauty. It followed us up the Craters to Peak Scenic Byway (hwy 20 and 93) and it followed us into Salmon ID (Where Sacajawea was born and Lewis and Clark journeyed) it followed us into Montana and over three mountain passes and into one amazing river valley after another, brushed with ice and sand and snow. It escorted us into pristine alpine forests and air as transparent as crystal, our roads were somehow kept clear and as we went, it forced back storm after storm from our path all day.
It became like a beacon of courage for us, when after the fifth or sixth super intense snow squall / sleet storm hit us in less than two hours … Brian confidently predicted… “don’t worry bro, this too will soon fade . The sun and clear skies will be back in five minutes, these storms have no power over us today.” (my paraphrase of course:) But it was true, we were repeatedly hit by one intense downpour after another, all as ferocious and dark and oppressive as the previous six days had been, but we pushed on and forward and found the storms bark were much worse than their bite. Each were very brief and weak in their ability to consistently block our blessed path of sunshine and clear skies. With each and ever storm, the sun returned in its fullest intensity within five or ten minutes unphased by the ferocity of the weather around us.
Laughing we made our way from one picturesque vista to another, winding our way over the very same territory we had just wandered aimlessly in the day before. God had come through.. God had cleared the way for us, it was obvious that something supernatural was around us and with us as we literally felt like we were crossing the Red Sea or something. It seemed that God had parted the way through the darkness and gloom of our circumstances and brought the light and clarity of God’s presence with us wherever we went.
That’s as beautiful of a picture as I could ever hope to describe…. It bookended our trip in a way that was immensely encouraging and practical. 2012 it seems will be a year of struggle, of going forward through the storms of our lives, persisting when the rain and the clouds and skies won’t part for long periods and seasons of dull will persist. But God has promised, the sunshine is coming and the road although familiar to us, will be seen in a brand new light. We just have to persist in staying on the course we know He’s asked us to travel… that takes faith and conviction and confidence that God is with you, that He will not leave you.
Peace out dear families. Carry on and keep on. God will be there with you, regardless of how it seems, He is right beside you keeping pace in 2012… as you pass each mile marker along the way.