Zion’s “Narrows” – Stepping Confidently

“Become familiar with the warning signs for flooding.  People have drowned inside the narrows from unexpected storms.”

Gulp.

One of Zion’s rangers sent us a shock as she described the danger of through-hiking the Narrows.

“But don’t worry,” she said. “Step with confidence and you’ll be fine. The biggest trouble people have is tripping on rocks while in the river. Even when you can’t see the bottom, you need to step hard. You got this.”

Comforting…

Zion3

Approaching the mouth of “The Narrows,” one will witness the red sandstone cliffs standing resolute over the river’s neighboring greenery.

The next day, my bride and I went on the greatest adventure of our honeymoon. About sixty percent of our sixteen-mile hike was spent in the Virgin River. The surrounding sandstone walls seemed ablaze as they towered over our trail, made of flowing water.

And all the while, we learned the meaning of the ranger’s advice to step with confidence. When waist deep, we often could not see the rocks below our feet.

Stepping timidly, pawing for security in our landing, often ended poorly. This shy approach proved frictionless upon contact with the rocky river bed.

But when we lifted our feet high through the water, believing our soles would land firm into what we could not see, we moved quickly. Stepping with confidence became the victorious approach.

Zion2

In places inside “The Narrows,” light barely grazes the surface of the water.

In life, we too cannot always see where our feet will land next or what adventure lies ahead. When faced with such uncertainty, sometimes the best approach for our feet is to plunge them forward, stepping faithfully into the secure landing prepared for them. And like Laura and I experienced on our hike, choosing to step confidently is completely worth the journey.

For those of us who believe in God, this idea is part of the promise we receive.  When faced with the unknown, whether into blessings or hardship, we must step confidently and faithfully.  We can do this because we believe that our good God has prepared each step of our way, sustaining and encouraging us along the adventure.

With eyes wide open,

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Zion1

The Virgin River flows steadily through the maze of red sandstone cliffs, standing 2,000 feet above the canyon floor.

Wind-Whipped and Soul-Struck

On a cool November morning almost exactly one year ago, my husband and I woke up to the sounds of rustling sleeping bags as a few of our fellow hut-dwellers slithered out of their bunks, grabbed their cameras, and headed out to catch the dawn. We had hiked nearly straight up the aptly named “Billy Goat Track” in pouring rain the afternoon before, gaining 2,000 feet in elevation in less than four miles. We’d managed to dry most of our things in the backcountry hut beneath the summit, but needless to say, leaving our mummy bags to venture out into the pre-dawn chill sounded less than appealing.

Given the previous day’s weather, our hopes of watching the sunrise seemed slim at best, but I crawled over to the window to check the sky anyway. At first glance, the uninterrupted hazy grayness suggested heavy cloud cover, and I almost rolled back into bed. But then, in the upper corner of the window, I glimpsed a morning star, shining out from the haze just above the horizon, beckoning us out into the cold. And we had no choice but to follow.

LinneaPic1

 

“I can see a star,” I whispered to Alec. “It’s clear. We need to hurry.” He knew I was right, and we both rushed to pull on our coats, boots, and headlamps. The last stage of the trek to the summit was a sheer climb straight up the Pinnacles themselves, a towering rocky crag jutting up from the mountain with views stretching all the way across New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. If we wanted to beat the coming dawn, we’d have to make the 40-minute climb in 25.

So we ran till the altitude took our breath away, then walked, then ran again until we reached the base of the Pinnacles, where we started to climb. As I shimmied up the metal ladders fixed to the rock, I felt distinctly thankful this ascent wasn’t in the rain. We reached the summit faster than we’d expected––those estimated hiking times are pretty generous, aren’t they––and as we scrambled to the top of the crag, I thought I’d climbed straight into heaven.

 

LinneaPic2

 

The sun was just peeking over the Hauraki Gulf, and as we watched, the black mountains faded into a rich green and the grayish clouds turned a brilliant rosy pink. We stood and marveled with the half-dozen other brave souls who had wisely given themselves a bit more time to reach the top. No one spoke. Not a word. We stood in silent communion, wind-whipped and soul-struck. A moment earlier, I’d been scrambling in the darkness for hand- and footholds with a vague hope of reaching the sun. Now here it was, in all its glory, blinding and brilliant and painting the world with living color.

Standing there, light on my face, hope in my heart, my thoughts turned to another risen Son I almost didn’t chase after, and I thanked Him for showing me this one. Who are we, I thought, stuck in the hazy pre-dawn of reality, to say the sky is clouded over? How can we let ourselves ignore the morning star that so clearly tells of the coming dawn? When we start out after it, do we run until we lose our breath, then walk, then run some more? And when the path turns into a sheer upward climb, do we keep scrambling, hand over hand, holding on to that faint hope of the glory that awaits our arrival?

LinneaPic3

 

Guest Writer: Linnea Peckham Geno

In The Network 5.12, many of us have experienced nature in a way that has sparred on our spiritual growth.  Hence, guest-writing is welcomed on our site.  Linnea’s journey  is a beautiful example of how your simple stories can encourage our network.  Please feel free to submit your own via http://thenetwork512.com/contact/.

 

Icicles and Rattlesnakes

A year ago, hiking just wasn’t “intense” enough for me.  If you are a climber too, maybe you can relate.  If you are not a climber, you now think I am a tool, haha…just keep reading.

I had always hiked for the end reward:  To get to a grandiose view that would blow my face off.  But recently, through hiking more often, I’m learning there is more to a trail than just its destination.  Trails can unpack so many lessons for us.  For now, I’m gonna focus on 2: Icicles and rattlesnakes.

Icicles.

That was only 15 seconds out of a hike in Yosemite National Park.  Now I dare you to do something.  Watch it again.  But this time, pick out anything that you see as beautiful.  See if you can make a list of 5 things.  Or maybe you’re a boss and grab 32.  I don’t know, but watch it again.

My point is this:

Beauty and awe are not only found in perfection or the extravagant.  These icicles and their distorted shapes took my breath away.  I saw God in them.  He was just as present in 15 seconds of icicles as He was in the hour-long view I had at the top.  In that moment, I soaked up their reflection, the surrounding rock, and the babbling of the water.  What if we lived like this?  What if we refused to be enslaved to tunnel vision towards our journey’s end?  What if we always noticed the little things?

Rattlesnakes.

On a recent trip to California, I was blessed to stay with the Greens.  Now Paul (their son) was an expert on noticing little things.  He and his dad, Doug, took me on a hike in Crystal Cove State Park.  Paul would regularly stop to marvel at a swooping bird or a rabbit hopping off-trail (as rabbits tend to do).  But the speed of our thumping hearts doubled when the sole of Paul’s foot came inches away from an emerging baby rattlesnake!  One more step would have turned our hike ugly.  To add even more drama, a baby rattler cannot control the amount of venom it releases, so a bite from this little guy would be more deadly than one that was fully grown.

Disclaimer: Paul, I am sorry.  The next sentence reveals me as a coward.

I’m glad that it was him who “almost” stepped on the snake!  Not because I would want Paul to get bit, but because he DIDN’T actually step on it!  I think I would have.  I’m not as disciplined in noticing the little things.  I would’ve gotten bit!

Closing.

So what do we learn from icicles and rattlesnakes?  Our lives are so much richer when we live in awe and vigilance.  We notice and count our blessings, the God-given little things that fill our lives with peace and joy, and we avoid the things that could stone-cold stop us from ever reaching the destination that’s been set before us.  Let’s go notice the little things.

Thanks for reading!  If you want to get updates on our future posts, you can subscribe on the right side of the page.  Love you all.  God bless.

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

Plug for a friend.

If you enjoy hiking and want to learn alongside a friend of mine, Kern Ducote, who just hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, check out his documentary Walk North.  He will be releasing it soon!