Lessons Learned While Hiking
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Lessons Learned While Hiking

On April 29, 2013 I had the opportunity to take two short hikes.  Each was about a mile and a half, not long and not too steep except for a couple of short climbs.  I had no hiking buddy (not necessarily recommended) to converse with, no iPod or radio plugged into my ears, just me and the trails.  I found many thoughts coming to me as I walked along.  (And thank goodness for a smart phone which allowed me to jot down all these little tidbits as they came to me! I'd never have remembered all of them, otherwise.)

Our journey here on earth is a trail, a series of paths to achieving the goals we set.  Now I have the advantage, or I think of it as an advantage, that when I hike, I donít just go to hike to somewhere and hike back.  I have several stops along the way with a specific goal at each of those stops.  Here are the observations I made while hiking.

Starting off near the Highland "H".

* Sometimes there is no trail. As I got close to my first goal for the day, I could see it was up quite a steep hill, but there was no path visible.  As I did not want to bushwhack my way up the hill, I changed plans and put this goal on hold.

* Sometimes a trail appears when you least expect it.  On my way back from my second stop, I saw a trail that I had not seen going there.  It headed up the hill to that first goal that hadnít had a trail.  This was a fairly steep hill.  I'm certainly not a mountain goat type hiker.  I looked at it again! Did I want to try to tackle this? How important was reaching that peak?  I decided I wanted to give it a try.  

* Sometimes it is slow-going and many stops are made to catch your breath.  As I struggled to get up this steep little hill, I made MANY stops to catch my breath, to give my legs a break, and to take a drink of water, sometimes second guessing my decision to tackle going up that slope.

* Sometimes you have to go back.  When I got to the top of the hill, I sat on a nicely placed rock to rest.  As I set my pack down, my water bottle fell out, rolling back down the hill a little way.  So I had to retrace my steps a bit, rescue the water bottle, then come back up to my resting place.

* Sometimes part of the path is hidden from view.  From my resting place, I could see my next goal at the top of a short, not nearly so steep, little hill.  But there were lots of bushes along the trail, obscuring it somewhat - and it would be even more hidden in a few weeks after all the leaves come out.  But I knew the trail was there, and while it wasnít a straight shot to the top of the hill, around each little curve the trail was still clearly visible and easy to follow.

* Sometimes new goals present themselves.  After getting to that little peak and returning to my rocky resting place, I realized there was another goal just up the hill on the opposite side.  It was just about as far as the last one had been, but a little steeper and higher.  Was it worth the effort?  I decided it was and up I went.

* Sometimes your pace is different than someone elseís.  As I was coming back down from that little jaunt, I met a lady on the trail who was running up the same slope I had just come up.  I told her I had gone up just about as slowly as I was coming down and admired her for being able to run up that hill.  She smiled and said she wasnít sure how long it would last - but she was going to keep it up as long as she could.

* Going downhill can be just as tricky as going uphill.  Just when you think it is going to be easier because you get to go downhill, you realize it is just as tricky in its own way.  You use different leg muscles going down than going up - it is harder on your knees, especially ones that are over 60!!  The rocky path seems much more slippery going down than it is going up and you have to watch very carefully to make sure your footing is safe and that the branch you grab to help steady yourself is firmly rooted and able to bear your weight.

* Sometimes there are lots of paths.  Looking down from that current vantage point, I could see that there were several trails on the hills.  Some led to other hills beyond the one I was on. Some wound their way back to the bottom where Iíd started from.  These were all good trails.  They all led to a goal - I just had to choose which one fitted my needs at that moment.  

* Sometimes you do need to go alone.  While hiking alone is generally discouraged, especially in more remote or more rugged areas than where I was, being on my own for these short ďcity hikesĒ was a chance to reflect on my life, where I was going, and what I needed to do.

* Sometimes you need to change goals.  As I had earlier done, I found that a stop I was going to make again seemed to have no path to it - either coming or going.  So I had to change plans and abandon that goal.  When I did though, I found another goal was closer than I had realized and was able to reach that one in short order.

* You work and sweat even when you donít realize it.  It was a nice day, about 70°, and I never felt like I was sweating or working really hard.  Well, except that one steep slope!  But when I licked my lips and tasted salt, I knew I had been sweating even though I didnít realize it.

* You need water.  Essential on a hike to keep hydrated.   

* Be prepared with a guide.  Whether your guide is a map, a GPS unit, or a phone with maps available, it is good to have guidance on the way - and the way back.  That also means making sure you have backups just in case.

* Sometimes your ears get plugged up. At one point I had kind of a dull ringing in my ears and realized that even with the small altitude changes Iíd been making, that my ears were plugged up.

* Sometimes the goal isnít where you expect it to be.  As I approached my last stop of the day, I could see the path ahead, and a short hill at the end of the trail.  So that is where I expected to end up.  However, as I got closer, I realized the goal was off to the left a little bit along another trail that had not been visible from my previous perspective. This was a nice realization, because it meant I didnít need to climb that last little hill.

Last stop of the day - a braver woman would have tackled that next hill!

* Sometimes the goal isnít what you expect it to be - it is much better.  That last stop put a smile on my face as it was totally not what I expected.  It was a great way to end my efforts for the day and made it all worthwhile.

* The views are incredible!!!  From my many stops that day, I could see the whole Salt Lake Valley, from Antelope Island to Point of the Mountain.  I could see 3 temples (Draper was hidden).  I could see the Great Salt Lake, the Oquirrh Mountains, the Wasatch Mountains.  A surprise at that last stop was that as I looked west, I could just make out a pillar atop a peak a couple of miles away.  Could that be Ensign Peak? I decided it was, and later was able to verify that indeed it was Ensign Peak.  The views in and of themselves made the efforts of the day worthwhile.

Ensign Peak with its monument about two miles from the end of my hike.

I am sure that you have already associated some or all of these items as they relate to your own life and the Gospel.  Our goal is to return to our Heavenly Father.  I do not think the final judgement will be a tally of things checked off our to-do lists.  Yes, they are important.  Yes, we need to pray, read our scriptures, have family home evening, study the words of the living prophets, attend our Church meetings, give service, attend the temple, do our visiting teaching, do missionary work, do family history, ... oh yes, the list goes on and on!! Some are much more important than others.  Some in a way are minimum daily, weekly, or monthly requirements. Some we need to make time for no matter how busy our lives get, or how tired we are, even if we donít fully understand why we do it.   

In the end, what will be important is who we have become.  Did we become the person God wanted us to be?  Did we submit our will to His to do all He wanted us to do?  Did we give of ourselves, even when that was hard, to accomplish the mission that Heavenly Father gave us?  So what did I learn from these observations along the trail about myself and about the spiritual paths we follow.

* When there is no trail.  We may have a goal that appears to currently have no trail.  You single sisters have a desire to be married to an eternal companion, yet the opportunity has not been there for you.  Stay the course - a chance may present itself when you least expect it. For others it may be a job opportunity, a new house.  You may have to wait until a way to reach that goal appears in your life.

* It can be slow-going.  Heavenly Father knows there will be times we need to slow down or even stop briefly to catch our breath. We need to acknowledge that everything may not happen when we want it to, that it will be in the Lordís time and we might need to exercise some patience in waiting for some blessings. The friend who introduced me to hiking is wonderful.  My first hike with her was 9 miles! I thought I was going to die.  But she (and the group with us) very patiently waited as I caught up with them, never once seeming to begrudge my snailís pace and apologies for making them wait. Our Heavenly Father also is there to encourage us when the going is slow and we need a boost.

* We may need to go back - to help a loved one, to help rescue someone who has lost the way.  In its own way spiritually, you continue to go forward as you figuratively go back to serve and to help someone who needs it.

* We have to have faith even when the trail or the goal is lost to our view.  We trust that the Lord will open up the way further as we take the steps on the path we can see, and that the way will be made clear to us.

* We should take advantage of good opportunities that come our way.  Many chances to increase our talents, to serve in unexpected ways will present themselves.  We should be ready to embrace those opportunities.  We also need to make sure we notice all the good things along the way, not be so busy that we miss them.

    This magpie was waiting for me as I came up to
    a view of the Oquirrh Mountains.

Even weeds have their own hidden beauty on the trail.

* Donít compare yourself to someone who is going faster - or slower - than you are.  We all are at different stages in our Gospel knowledge and cannot judge ourselves or anyone else on how much we know or do compared to anyone else.

* Donít become complacent in your Gospel knowledge and activity.  Even the seemingly easy times in our life have their own perils, temptations, and hazards.  It can become easy to justify missing a few church meetings, rationalize not paying a full tithing, or feel we are too busy to fulfill assignments we have been given.

* Your path will be different than everyone elseís.  Each personís choices create a unique path as they work their way to that goal of the celestial kingdom.  Paths may cross, and you may be on the same path for a while, but be ready to follow your own directions.  We may find in life that we hit trails that have a dead end, that donít bring us to where we want to be.  So, we turn around, head back to the known good trail and carry on.

Lots of trails crisscrossing the hills, with the trail up the hill getting lost in the brush.

* The goal might change.  As I realized that my goal was not going to be reached, I immediately thought of our sweet bishop and his family.  For many years their goal was to have children.  They finally realized that goal was not going to happen in their lives.  But there was the blessing of adoption, a goal that presented itself to them twice.  Now in their case, a pathway opened up to allow them the blessing of their own child, but in most cases, that doesnít happen.

* It is all hard work.  The popular saying is that the Lord never said it would be easy, He only said it would be worth it.  This life is hard work - it has easier times and harder times - but it is work, even when we donít realize it.  We just keep doing the best we can and have faith that with the Lordís help it is enough.

* We need to physically and spiritually replenish ourselves.  We need to take care of our bodies the best we can and also partake of the living water of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

* What if we should lose our guide?  On the trail, the wind can blow away a map and the batteries on the GPS can run low.  If we donít have a backup we could easily lose our way.  Spiritually, we have the scriptures, conference talks, leaders, and family.  But above all, we always have our Heavenly Father to turn to for guidance through the gift of the Holy Ghost.  We always have somewhere to turn to know which direction our lives should follow.  

*  We need to make sure our spiritual ears are open and listening to the promptings being given to us.  Sometimes itís hard to recognize them.  We can be sure, though, that every good thought, idea, or prompting comes from our Heavenly Father, even if it feels like it is our own idea.

* The goal might not be where you expect it.  Heavenly Father has His own timetable and His own ways of presenting us with challenges and problems that result in answers and blessings we never anticipated.  It might be harder than we had planned, it might be in a totally different place than we had planned.  Growing up, I never pictured myself living anywhere but the Intermountain West. But plans changed, and I got to live in Texas, England, New Mexico, England again, and Las Vegas.  Each move gave me life-changing and wonderful opportunities.

The back side of the "H" was NOT what I expected!

* I donít think any of us can even begin to imagine what the Celestial Kingdom will be like.  We know it will be wonderful - we know it is a goal worth working toward, but I think it will not be anything like what we imagine.  It will be much better.  It will be well worth all the tears, sorrow, heartache, and hard work we put forth.  It will reflect many times over all the good times, joy, and happiness we feel here on earth.  It will be incredible!  

Consecrating our lives to our Heavenly Father, obeying the commandments, giving service, striving to be the kind of person we know we should be, those paths and those goals will lead us to celestial glory.  They are worth it!!

The views made all the work well worth the efforts!


In October 2014, Layne and I hiked the bottom part of the Mount Olympus trail.  My log for a Geocache found on that hike says:  "We only made it a mile up the trail, but the missus has a bee in her bonnet now about getting to the top soon! Thanks for one along the way."

That call from the mountain to get to the top only heightened. (OK - pun fully intended!!)  I spent many, many hours and miles on trails the following spring and summer in preparation for climbing Mount Olympus on September 19, 2015, in celebration of my 65th birthday.  Thanks to my hiking/caching buddies Daphne (daphm), Chris (HikingSeal), Jan (gotwings), and my niece, Susan (scarecrowvet) for their encouragement and patience as I worked toward this crazy goal!  Thanks to my mom who was so supportive of the time I spent on the trails; and to hubby, Layne, who has eaten many meals alone, that he cooked himself, while I was out gallivanting!! and for his support of my goal.  He hiked the mountain several times in his much younger years, and often expresses a wish to do it again, but it didn't happen this year.  One day a few months ago, the mountain beckoned and I hiked the first 2 miles in 2 hours, but that was only 1600 feet of the 4000 needed to get to the top.  That means that in the last mile and a half there is still a 2400 foot elevation gain!!  Though not the highest peak in the Salt Lake Valley at only 9,026 feet, the hike took me much longer than most people take.  Whew -  just putting one foot in front of the other - at a steep angle.  It took me about 4-1/2 hours to get to the top, with many rest stops on the way. I was very grateful to family and geocaching buddies who hiked with me that day.  We had a group of 6 of us at the top.  My sister, Terri, waited at the saddle.  (The guy in the tan shirt was 76 when we did this hike.  In his 60s, he hiked this mountain every month one year.  He was also very supportive and accompanied me on one of my training hikes.  Thanks Stan!)  I have also hiked to the second highest peak behind us, and almost to the top of the highest one behind us.  These were awesome hikes with my niece, Susan, on the right in this picture with the sunglasses.

The next Saturday I hiked Mount Timpanogos, 11,663 feet at the top, but, it is a much longer, much easier trail.  We left at 2 a.m. and made it to the saddle for sunrise, then hiked up the rest of the way to the summit after the sun came up.  It took about the same amount of time to hike the 7 miles to the top of Timpanogos as it took to hike the 3-1/2 miles to the top of Mt. Olympus the week before.  Coming down, and looking back at where we'd been, my niece and I commented that if we had seen where we needed to go, and how far it was, we might not have finished the hike! But in the dark, we just followed the trail and the headlamps of all the fellow hikers on the trail with us. SO glad we did!

At the saddle of Mt. Timpanogos at sunrise.

North side of Timpanogos from the summit.