One of my husband Stevenís favorite things to do is to camp and hike. He did it as a teenager, and he gave it up to raise our family. As years passed, his desire to take the family on such outings grew. Spending the night in the wilderness is not something I would choose for myself, but I could not deny him something he had such a passion for.
He had been all over the country with scouting, and he had been to the gates of Yosemite National Park, but because of snow fall, he had never been in. I had seen the massive mountains and lush green meadows from the back seat of my parentsí car. I knew that he would treasure the opportunity to see them up close, to smell the fresh air and come face to face with the majesty of this remarkable park. We had the opportunity to vacation without the children, and a few days away from the hustle and bustle of daily life was appealing, so we began to negotiate the trip.
We made arrangements to spend four nights in the park. He wanted to backpack through the back country. I preferred the lodge. We settled on an organized campground.
In his research about what to do in the park, Steven decided he would love to take some hiking trips. One that caught his eye was the 8.4 mile trail to the top of Half Dome. This mountain is a beautiful sight, but the thought of climbing up (and down) 4500 feet over a distance of 17 miles in one day was quite intimidating for me. He does so much for me I had to at least try this for him.
We began our hike before dawn, and I was surprised by how quickly the trail became very difficult. I can walk long distances without getting too tired, but I was not prepared for the uphill grade or the altitude. Steven was looking forward to this, and I would not disappoint him.
A little more than an hour into the hike, we encountered the Mist Trail. The rocks we were climbing were half my height, the wall we were climbing went straight up several hundred feet, everything was wet and slick from the nearby waterfall. Everything in me wanted to quit. Steven encouraged me that we could make the top of the waterfall if we would work together.
I began to move forward again, trying to observe what was going on around me. I was keeping my mind focused on anything other than how hard this was, trying hard to appreciate the incredible beauty of what I was experiencing outside of myself! The trees were taller than any I had ever seen. The sky was intensely blue, and the contrast of the dark green leaves on the red trees looked like a painting. Shorter periods of breathlessness caused me to stop. With Steven encouraging me to breathe deeply, we reached the top of the first waterfall. Success gave me a second wind!
We sat overlooking the trail we had just climbed. We shared breakfast and marveled at where we were. We shared that small step in this process together, admired the beauty of the eerily still, silvery pool followed by a rushing waterfall, plummeting over the wall we had just climbed, and determined to forge ahead.
The second leg was just as difficult, but with Stevenís continuing encouragement, we made it to the top of the next waterfall, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I had struggled, but he had helped me. It had been the most difficult physical task I had ever undertaken, and I had made it this far. We were now four hours into the hike, and the next leg was through a valley. This was easy. We talked, we laughed, we enjoyed each otherís company and just enjoyed the solitude and the beauty we were experiencing. We were seeing things most people only see in pictures. We were doing something most people never even attempt. I felt rejuvenated.
After a three-mile hike through the valley, the trail became very steep again. We could see our destination from where we were, and it was massive. We had about a mile and a half left in distance, but that distance had to cover an elevation change of nearly 2000 feet. We sat. We talked. I could not go on. The heat, the late hour, the necessity of the journey back down, and the tiredness we were experiencing caused concern about proceeding. Ultimately, it was the concern over our safety that caused us to turn back.
My initial thoughts were that I had failed. Steven would hear nothing of that. Only after we turned back did he open up about how he had been feeling and reveal his expectations he had for our journey. He told me how hard this hike had been for him, and how tired he was. He assured me that we were not turning back because I had failed, but because we, as a team, had made it as far as we could go safely.
At this point, he admitted to me his goal for the hike was the top of the second waterfall. He had resolved to not let me give up before that landmark. He was content with the journey where it was, and we had achieved the goal he had realistically set for us.
It was time for us to enjoy our victory together and begin the journey back down the mountain. We had a different trail to take us back down, so we began to look forward to the sights we would see as we returned to civilization.
The lessons I learned apply not only to mountain climbing, but to daily life, and especially to marriage. Too many times, I get wrapped up in myself, and I miss the beauty of the things around me. Too many times I am so busy being right I donít give enough weight to what others say, think or want.
I learned my husband is the best teammate for me. If I will listen to him and rely on his expertise in areas where I have none, he will protect me, and I will get to experience things I would not choose for myself. I also learned how much he values me. He could have complained I slowed him down. He could have made the summit without me. Yet his love for me and commitment to being my partner and teammate kept him by my side, encouraging me to gain every second of enjoyment I could from where we were at any given moment, regardless of the outcome.
So the next time I find myself bogged down and wanting to sit with my face in my hands and cry, I will remember that day. I will remember God gave me the man who is my perfect teammate. I will reflect on the beauty of the things He created around me, the love of the people in my life, the joy of the journey, and the value of teamwork.