This week I finished watching season three of Virgin River. The show drew me as much with its location as the romantic story line. While the fictional town of Virgin River is supposed to be in Northern California, many of the scenes are filmed in British Columbia, Canada. Jack’s Bar is on the Sqamish River– a stunning setting. I love the scenes with Mel running through the forest of huge fir trees, that remind me of the solo journey I took to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state in 2008.
That trip did not disappoint. I wrote about it in Chapter VII, “Follow Your Whim: San Juan Islands, Washington State” of my memoir. During my five nights staying in a hostel, I met lots of interesting people including a social worker from California biking from the Olympic Peninsula, a coed from Singapore who’d just worked at Mt. Hood, and a scientist from St. Louis working for the National Park Service. In the day we all headed out to our individual activities and at night we sat around the room and talked about our discoveries.
One morning I walked through rows of lavender plants at Palendabra Lavender Farm. It felt like I was walking through a Monet painting with the light shifting and highlighting the varying hues from light purple to almost black–depending on the shadows. Later I watched for whales at the observation park that posted the time of the latest sightings–which was not my good fortune.
Of all my experiences during that week, the one I go back to the most often is hiking up Mt. Constitution. I’d read that at the top of that mountain, there was a viewing tower that was at the highest point overlooking Puget Sound. The internet reference made a point of saying “it’s the best view of Puget Sound.” That was reason enough to hike to the top of that mountain. I made the assumption that it would be a well-traveled hiking trail. In my mind’s eye, I could see a steady stream of summer hikers, trekking up the 4.2 mile trail that circled the mountain.
The day of my hike up Mt Constitution, I left the hostel early to take the ferry from Friday Harbor to Orcas Island. The website had said there would be trail maps at the base of the mountain that was part of Moran State Park. But when the island shuttle bus pulled away, all that greeted me was an empty bin of trail maps; no park staff, no posted map of the trail, no human in sight save the people swimming at the glacier lake across the road. Then it occurred to me that, unlike me, most people would have a car and just zip to the top of the mountain instead of making that slow climb.
I approached the trail counting on finding white blaze markers on the tree trunks to help guide my way. That’s how it had been on the Appalachian Trail– the only major hiking path I’d ever followed.
Later, I wrote about that experience:
“I stepped cautiously, looking up for the assuring white symbols while trying to avoid stumbling over the exposed tree roots. I couldn’t see or hear anyone, only the sound of a soaring hawk, as I moved further and further along the path that was cushioned with dried needles from the giant fir trees. I felt so small under the canopy of the huge trees, their massive trunks stretching heavenward. Lost in their beauty, admiring the silhouette of a tree branch against a clear blue sky, I tripped over a root and almost fell.” (He Heard My Voice, p. 149)
At that time, I worked as a school nurse and saw lots of kids with sprained ankles. I’d worn athletic shoes since I didn’t have room to pack my hiking boots and knew I’d be more vulnerable to tripping on one of the tree roots. I was so fascinated by those trees–which were more impressive than the ones in the movie, that it was just like me to not watch my step.
I thought about what would happen if I did fall and break my ankle since no one knew where I was, hiking alone almost three-thousand miles from home. I walked slowly and considered what I should do. The safest thing would be to turn around and go back. I could catch an earlier bus and just ditch the idea of hiking the mountain. The words from the website came to mind, the description of the summit as “the prettiest view of Puget Sound.”
How do I know I’ll ever get this chance again, I thought. Surely God would provide someone to help me, a Samaritan stranger in my path.
I kept putting one foot in front of the other, watching more closely for tree trunks listening for the sound of another human on the trail. Eventually I let go of my fear and my steps grew more confident. I stopped to look around at the splendor of that mountain– taking the time to be present in that evergreen-scented place, resting for a few moments instead of trying to hike while looking up and making myself more likely to fall. After a while, I heard the welcomed sound of voices– a young couple followed by a few other hikers. They told me I was getting close to the tower that was just beyond the parking lot.
When I arrived at the summit, I climbed to the top of the tower.
“Oh, my goodness!” I gasped, looking at the gorgeous expanse below of Puget Sound, the glistening water with dots of islands and tiny toy boats traveling between them. Out in the distance, Mt. Baker stood in its snow-capped beauty stretching upward to the bright blue sky.
“Thank you, God that I made it here,” I prayed–relieved. “You’ve created such a lovely place for use to enjoy.”
That trip up the mountain has been a strong memory over the years. It may not have been the best-planned hike, I didn’t use the safety knowledge I had as a nurse or mother of two Eagle Scouts–who’d packed their emergency gear for hikes, but it was an example of literally stepping out in faith and eventually being rewarded.
Last week in the morning devotional for July 26th from Sarah Young’s Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence, she spoke to the issue of ankles turning. She’s written her devotionals as if they’re from the point of view of Jesus, and in that one speaks of how He can alter your path to make your way easier. She includes this scripture:
“You provide a broad path for my feet
So that my ankles do not give way.”
Psalm 18:36 NIV
I thought about my path to the summit of Mt. Constitution. In my faith, I think of God’s limitless ability to be the ultimate ‘time traveler’ and working in the past, present, and future. How does God go ahead of us and prepare the way? How does God broaden the path so that we don’t stumble–whether it’s on a mountain trail or taking the daily steps of our ordinary lives?
We travel by faith, whether on a mountain trail almost three thousand miles from home or through a time of uncertainty in our lives. We can be paralyzed by the fear of falling, or we can step forward in faith–trusting God to broaden that path and to keep us whatever we encounter.
I wish you blessings as you step onto your path and move forward in your journey.