We awoke to another frigid dawn. (33F with frost on our car windows and reports of snow in the mountain passes) Less surprised than the day before…we armed ourselves with fresh purchases of warm hoodies and winter hats.
We hit the road west, and ate a quick breakfast on the go… noticing the skyline clearing as the elevation rose steadily on our drive up to Grand Teton National Park.
Everyone knew what was coming next… we had discussed our group plans for a serious hike for almost a week. Reviewing the safety precautions (bear spray, making noise as we hiked to avoid startling a grizzly etc…) and talking about the epic views, what it would be like to go into the unknown.
Trusting the weather to stay clear… we set off to hike the famous “Cascade Canyon Trail“… a good 12-13 mile round trip hike with over 1000 vertical feet. Rated “Strenuous” it would be hard for sure…especially for us flatlanders! (folks who don’t live in the mountains)
Everyone was a bit nervous to get started. We loaded up our backpacks at the Jenny Lake visitors center, water bottles and an exotic assortment of cliff bars as we talked about all the ‘what if’s’ of hiking in real wilderness.
I noticed Tanner was unusually quiet as we all got our gear together. She seemed to be shrinking into her flannel shirt as the moment grew near. I could tell she was afraid, the frustration from our day at Yellowstone still cloudy in her eyes. She pushed her lips tight and grunted a shy reply… she didn’t want to go. Intimidated she couldn’t make it up the steep trail and as our designated fashionista she wasn’t really ‘into’ wilderness stuff. I gently encouraged her that we were ‘all’ going together and promised we wouldn’t leave her behind if she got winded on the climb.
Reluctantly… she got up and started moving slowly to Jenny Lake. The others excitedly babbling about seeing a bear or a moose, and Tanner just tucked her head a little deeper into her collar, head down… wishing she could be anywhere but here, with us.
But things were about to change…
We headed across the crystal clear mountain lake, using the shuttle boat (I highly recommend) to reach the trail head to the very popular Inspiration Point (tourist hordes) and the Cascade Canyon Trail, (much higher, longer and less traveled) which was our destination. We had a good 5-6 hours of hiking ahead and according to the rangers at the trail-head, bear and moose were active on the trail. I felt Tanner withdrawing even deeper… so far from her comfort zone. I sympathized… remembering how I felt in New York City.
An hour later we were reaching the crest of the first major climb, a brutal 55 minute ascent. Tanner was head down (between her knees) with puffy eyes and tears. Wheezing, and ranting her anger at being forced to go on this hike from hell. I tried to encourage her, explaining the worst of the hike was over… and how proud I was of her sticking it out. She huffed at me. So I moved on, silently asking God to ‘show up’ for Tanner.
30 minutes later she flew by me almost skipping… laughter and Broadway strains of Les Miserables flowing off her lips. No tears, no sadness… just exuberant joy! What the heck… ?
I stared in amazement as Tanner was leading everyone else up this canyon trail. Full of happiness and energy, pushing us all to keep up! She and Addy climbing rocks, investigating the sights and sounds of a pristine alpine ecosystem with the unrestrained enthusiasm of a ten-year old! Whoa….
Some prayers get answered right away… I guess ? Wow.
By the end of the day, Tanner was a convert. Already planning her next adventure…. and excited that she had tried something so ‘un-like’ her! What a surprise… she was more than she seemed, not just an urban diva… she was a woodland mountain climbing machine ! WoooHoo 🙂
I couldn’t have been happier for her if it was my own daughter. I cried a little as she ran and ran… and ran! Like some kind of dam had burst inside of her, freeing something vital and life-giving. Something precious and pure.
The mountains do that…. the beauty of creation invades our minds and breaks through our broken hearts. Restoring and renewing even our darkest places and spaces.
God was in these mountains… whispering. Calling, answering… touching.
Alexis saw her elusive moose… drinking quietly from the cascade creek, sandwiched between the Grand Teton peaks as if we were in some kind of surreal postcard come to life. God’s gentle reminder… He wants to satisfy our deepest desires and most intimate longings. The moose a long-term bucket list item for Alexis… and here in this remote corner of creation, God was speaking. Affirming His presence.
The trail to Cascade Canyon is one of my most favorite places in the world…. it was and always is a life-changing experience for all who make the journey.
Kind of like life…
Peace out, Pastor B.
PS – and “Flannel Up” is now a code word for those of us who made the iShine Road Trip of a lifetime together... coined by our very own Tanner 🙂 It’s a symbol of how we can choose to trust God – when we get put in awkward or uncomfortable positions and choose to stay in them, believing He will in time make something awful – become incredibly beautiful! Thanks Tanner for being such a courageous and amazing young woman!