During adversity, our true character shines through. Put one foot in front of the other and don’t stop. On vacation one time, a friend and I decided to go for a hike in the mountains, just outside Big Sky, Montana. It was a beautiful September day, and we didn’t set any specific goals or talk about a particular destination; we just decided to hike three to four hours up the mountain, eat lunch, and hike back, assured as we were that on this well-traveled trail the hike would be easy.
But as we climbed, the air became thinner and breathing became more difficult, to the point where we had to stop walking in order to eat or talk. We followed the trail along a stream, crossed the stream, climbed some more, and then found ourselves in a dazzling meadow brimming with colorful wildflowers and framed by a thick grove of pine trees, with the stream seemingly meandering toward the sky. Suddenly, as if in a dream, there it was: the top of the mountain. In an instant, the goal was obvious to both of us: we had to make it to the summit. We just knew the view from that mountaintop would be beyond description. What had begun as a leisurely hike with no real objective or destination had now become a quest, motivated by our determination to make it to the top.
This mountain was going to be conquered. Sometimes all it takes is a glimpse of the top, a new turn, or a crossing over the stream, and you look up and there’s a whole new perspective—wildflowers, a new challenge, the stream you’ve been following and crossing now appearing to be flowing to the heavens. The challenge looms before you, and you say to yourself, I can get there. The air may become thinner, but it doesn’t matter because you adjust: you stop talking, you stop eating, and you start doing, moving, walking, one foot in front of the other.
The top will never be reached if you never start, or if you start but stop as the breathing gets harder or the work more difficult. So start right now and don’t stop till the summit is at your feet.
Something else I remember about that hike is that the top was farther away than it looked. Distance in the mountains can be difficult to gauge, and often objects are farther off than one assumes. Also, the weather that day changed with no warning: due to the high elevation, the temperature dropped, and as my friend and I climbed we even experienced snow flurries. In other words, even as the path was leading us toward our goal, the conditions were worsening, our environment was changing, and the degree of difficulty was increasing. Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? But we didn’t quit. We kept climbing, with the air thinning, temperatures dropping, snow blowing, and muscles tiring—up and up and up. Our eyes were set on the peak. We knew our view from the top would be so vivid, we never considered turning back.
Once my hiking friend and I had set our goal to reach the top, failure to do so was not acceptable. After continual zigging and zagging, after resting to eat and catch our breath, after following the trail for nine miles, we triumphantly reached the summit. The view was everything we had dreamed it would be and more. The air was crystalline, and we took in breathtaking views for twenty or thirty miles in all directions. But it was so cold we couldn’t stay very long. So, you might ask, was it worth it? Without question. Even if you were to disregard the spectacular view and take into account the hasty retreat, it was worth it . . . because we reached our goal.
Returning to the trailhead was a seemingly endless hike, and since we didn’t have flashlights, we had to keep up the pace to make it back before dark. To celebrate the day’s achievement we went to a local restaurant where we feasted on two big steaks and joyously relived the events of the day.