Mike and Amber had asked us if we wanted to go on a “little hike” with them to Hope Lake; we said “Sure, that sounds like fun”; well, it was fun, but it was also an adventure.
We had no idea, what lied ahead. The sign at the beginning of the trail head said that the trail was 2.5 miles long, I’m not sure who did the measuring on that, but they were WRONG. We were not prepared at all for what we were about to encounter. Mike and Amber are hikers, so they had some of their hiking gear in the back of their pickup truck, but even they said that they should have had their “real” hiking backpack for this trip. Adriene and I were dressed for any “little walk”; I did have on my hiking boots, but Adriene had on just her tennis shoes that she had. Neither of us was prepared for what we were about to encounter.
It didn’t take long for us to realize, that not only were we not prepared in our attire, we certainly were not prepared physically. I usually walk around the campgrounds that we visit, not only to meet new people, but also to get a little exercise as well. I’m so glad that I have been doing that, because those “campground” miles paid off. I certainly got tired, but while going up the mountain, my second wind kicked in, and it wasn’t too bad. I was praying diligently for Adriene; she endured , but she struggled most of the way. I’m proud that she continued; one step at a time. Mike and Amber went ahead, we lagged behind a bit; I stayed back with Adriene. Mike and Amber were “motivation” from the front, while I was trying to motivate from the back.
One thing that inspired us, is that Mike and Amber, who hike quite a bit, said that this was their most difficult hike, and here we are, hiking with them on our very first hike. We were not prepared, but were excited of the fact, that we were able to do it. Mike was also recovering from a recent fall while he and Amber were on a trail ride on their bikes; so he was still nursing those wounds. Along the way, we told people that it was our very first hike, some of them were pretty astonished that we chose “Hope Lake Trail”, to get our feet wet in hiking. We met lots of people on our way up the mountain; many of them were not too encouraging, telling us how far we still had to go, because they were on their way back down. But, most of the people would tell us that “It will be worth it, when you make it to the lake”. From what we have heard, the common saying in the hiking community is “It’s just around the next bend”. Well, we went around a whole lot of “bends”, more commonly known as “switchbacks”. At one point, a guy told us that we had to go through at least 35 “switchback”, before we would make it to the lake. He may not have realized it, but that was really discouraging for us to hear, especially, with the level of pain that we were enduring at the time. Then there was the guy that said that we were 1/3 of the way there, when we thought we were getting close; that was a “downer” as well.
There was one continual motivation for us, all the way, from the beginning of the trail, to our destination, and that was the views. There were spectacular views all the way, and you know me, I don’t go very far without my camera, so I was making frequent stops to take pictures of "Gods Creation”. There was something spectacular to look at around every turn; from the mountains, to the waterfalls, to the flowers, to the valleys, to the rock formations; even when we saw evidence of previous avalanches. It was so beautiful to see. The views gave us a legitimate “excuse” to stop for a while, to take pictures, and trust me, I got a lot of them. I even took a few pictures of the people heading back down the mountain, as we ascended. There were hikers of all ages; from the baby being carried on mom or dads back in a backpack, to young children, to the teens, to young adults, middle aged hikers, and yes, there were a few “Senior Citizens” on the trail, showing us how it should be done. It wasn’t uncommon for us to encounter dogs on the trail as well, it was a “family affair” for many. Speaking of family, it really surprised us, that as we ascended the mountain, we actually were able to get a “strong” cell phone signal; Adriene and I both took the opportunity to contact our family, to let them know where we were, and that we were safe, and doing great. Adriene actually, took the opportunity to record a “Marco Polo” recording, to send to our daughters.
On one occasion, we were speaking with a few older ladies, during one of our “frequent stops” and they could tell that we were not particularly prepared; they told us to drink plenty of water. We told them the we “should” have enough water for our hike. Well, they walking at little farther down the trail, and a few minutes later, one of the the ladies came back and offered us one of her unopened bottles of water, we were grateful for her generosity, but we didn’t really appreciate her, until later, when that bottle of water was all that we had left to drink. We had gone through the bottle of water that Adriene and I were sharing for our “little walk”; that “angel” with the bottle of water was a Godsend.
We continued our trek up the mountain, until we finally made it to the illustrious “Hope Lake” - We Made It, and yes, it was well worth it. It was amazing to see this majestic lake, up in the mountains at over 11,000 feet above sea level. The water was absolutely beautiful; it could have been fifty feet deep, and you could see the bottom; the water was so clear. With the mountainous backdrop and spots of snow still evident, it was quite picturesque.
I continued to think about all of the “life lessons” that we could attain from our experience of climbing up the mountain; most of which would center around preparation, endurance, steadfastness, and of course, hope.
By the time that we arrived at the lake, and experienced its majesty, it was already 5 p.m., so we knew that we didn’t have much time, before we needed to start heading back down the trail. We knew that it would be getting dark about 8 p.m., and based on how long it took us to get up the hill, we started on our decent. We were certainly optimistic about going back down, but we quickly realized that the “muscle group” that we were using going down, would be pushed to the limit as well. The rough terrain of the trail, required you to continually be looking down to determine where to place your support stick, and subsequently, your foot. Setting your foot down, in the wrong place, could have easily resulted in injury. I’m certain that I was just as prayerful going down the mountain, as I was going up. My prayers were twofold, first that we would make it back without injury, and secondly, that we make it back to the truck before dark. We knew how rough the terrain was, and we didn’t want to traverse that with limited visibility. As a result, there was a lot less photo taking while heading back down.
As we continued our decent, I was confident that going down, was as difficult as going up. Logically, I know that it was easier, but I personally felt more pain in my feet during the decent. We kept pressing our way, and praying that our “test”, would soon be over. Well, we finally got to the point where Amber said, “What a beautiful sight”, she was excited; we looked up, and Adriene thought that we were looking at another patch of snow. It was then that I told her, “That is not snow Babe, that is the parking lot - we made it”. My prayers were answered, we made it back to the truck safely, and before dark. We were all so relieved to make it back; we were sore, but excited. We quickly loaded the few things that we had in the bed of the truck, and lifted our aching bodies into the truck. It was then that we took time to pray, and give thanks to the Lord for His covering, and protection. We then proceeded with the 3 - 4 mile ride, back to Matterhorn Campground, where we were staying.
As difficult as our first hike was, with the elevation, the sun, the steep grades, the switchbacks, the river crossings, the aches, and the pains, I was motivated to prepare myself, get the right gear, and to continue hiking. As this hike showed me, if we prepare ourselves, we can accomplish our goal; through the good, and the bad, the tough, and the not-so-tough.