It is often said that life is a journey. Sometimes that journey seems like a plane trip. You hop on, sit back and relax and, before you know it you’ve arrived somewhere great. Other times it’s more like a road trip—by turns fun and tedious, depending on the countryside you’re traveling through and the people you’re traveling with.
And sometimes it’s more like a hike. You have to spend a lot of energy and a lot of effort and the progress isn’t nearly as quick or easy as with other forms of transportation. And again, your traveling companions and the people you meet along the way can make a huge difference in your trip.
Last week, I hiked to Cascade Falls with our ward young women. It was our annual Girls’ Camp hike. It was a little longer than most of our hikes and not without its challenges. As I hiked along the trail, I had the opportunity to reflect on how much it was like our journey through life.
Having never hiked this trail before, we really weren’t sure what to expect. We looked at the map and read about it in the hiking guide, but as with most things in life, we couldn’t really know what it was like until we hit the trail.
Parts of the trail were broad and flat and followed along lush meadows and beautiful streams and we could meander along side by side, talking and laughing and enjoying one another’s company. But other parts of the trail were rocky and narrow and we had to walk through those parts alone without our friends by our side. Though we couldn’t walk together and the rougher, steeper trainer required much more effort, we knew our friends were never far away.
Along the way, we met other hikers. On this particular day, the average age of the other hikers we met was 78. For some, these older hikers were an inspiration. We would watch them coming down the trail with seemingly little effort despite being several times the age of most of our young women and it would remind them that, if the older hikers could make it, they could too. As these other hikers passed they offered us encouragement. They had already hiked to our destination so they shared their knowledge of the trail and assured us our efforts would be worthwhile.
There were stopping places along our journey, tempting us to leave the trail or call it enough because it was a pretty spot with space to rest and beautiful scenery to delight our eyes. And while some lingered in the stopping places, they soon remembered it was not their goal and eventually returned to the path to continue on.
Challenges and obstacles arose along the way. At one point, our hikers encountered a large mountain goat grazing his way along the path. For some, it was a frightening obstacle, enough that they might have turned around and given up but for their friends who encouraged them along. For others, it was a delightful surprise, a bonus for their hiking effort.
As we neared our destination, the trail became much narrower and steeper, with a long, rocky drop-off on one side and a high, unyielding cliff on the other. In some areas the trail hugged the cliff and in others, you could see evidence that some had hiked as close to that rocky edge as possible.
And then we arrived. We ended up at the top of the falls where the river danced over rocks and created beautiful clear and inviting pools of (very cold) water where we could rest and refresh ourselves. We could have just as easily chosen another fork and ended up at the base of the falls with a different but equally spectacular view of the river, but we will save that destination for another journey.
And so it is with life. Sometimes it is easy and we have many companions to lighten the load. Sometimes it is challenging and rocky and we feel like we are alone. Others who have traveled the path before us can offer wisdom and encouragement and inspire us to carry on.
And the path of life is full of distractions to pull us away from our goal, and obstacles so challenging we will want to give up. Even in those times we are never alone unless we choose to be. Even when we don’t have the company of good friends and family to encourage us along and to remind us of our goals, we have our Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ and the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost, sharing knowledge of the trail and assuring us our efforts are worthwhile because our destination is worth it.
We can’t really know what our lives will be like until we begin the journey. And even then, we won’t know everything. But we know enough to continue moving forward in our faith.
Yes, the journey of life is often a hike.