When we walk in faith, each breath is a prayer

Doe Mountain Trailhead, near Sedona, AZ. SJG photo.

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from.”  – C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Over the past four days visiting the beautiful red rock country surrounding Sedona, Arizona, Sue and I have taken a hike each day. It’s easy to do here, for there are trailheads at the end of just about every road and many, many hikes of varying lengths and difficulty from which to choose. So, whether you are occasional enthusiasts like us looking for “easy to moderate” trails, or more experienced (and fit!) folks looking for something much more challenging, Sedona is a wonderful place to put one foot in front of the other and take a hike.

Our hikes generally have been in the realm of a few hours, either “loop trails” that begin and end at the same trailhead or “out and backs” that lead us to a place of great vista and beauty before retracing our steps and heading back to the car. We’re under no illusion that we’re great hikers, but we enjoy these daily walks that for us are a great leap forward — in terms of difficulty and endurance required — from our usual suburban walks around our neighborhood or local parks or conservation areas in Missouri.

Fay Canyon Trail, near Sedona, AZ. SJG photo.

Our first few days brought us a couple of relatively easy “out and backs,” wending our way along red dust and stony trails to meet and walk around walls of enormous red rock. On Tuesday at the end of Fay Canyon Trail, we ventured just beyond the “End of Maintained Trail” sign and scrambled a bit up a pile of rocks leading toward a larger rock monument. There we stopped, caught our breath, and considered — along with a few other hikers about our age — whether we should go on or not. We talked of bad knees and the possibility of turned ankles. We joked about the fact that there would have been no question about it 20 years ago. We said our farewells, turned around, and made our way back to the “maintained trail.” One (older than us) man from New Zealand stayed and considered it longer, so we’re not sure if he continued on or not. It’s hell to get old, but the journey is good.

Yesterday we chose a slightly tougher trail (an increase from “easy” to “moderate” on the trail map.) Doe Mountain Trail was described as a roughly half-mile series of switchback trails leading to the top of a flat-topped landform where a path followed the edge of the mesa and allowed for spectacular views in all directions. We were hooked. How tough could that first half mile be?

We drove to the trailhead, parked and looked up. It didn’t seem possible, honestly, that two 58-year-old inexperienced hikers would even be able to make it up the side of the mountain. It was daunting and impossible to judge the difficulty from where we stood. We knew the only way to know was to move forward, one step at a time. Such is hiking and such is life. The trail began with relatively easy, gently rising paths sweeping back and forth on the lower parts of the mountain, but soon they narrowed and became steeper. Occasionally they became formations of rocks that needed to be scrambled up, selecting each step carefully to avoid those turned ankles or knees. We stopped several times along the way to catch our breaths, drink some water, and let some faster (not always younger!) hikers pass. It was a bit like eating a huge plate of pasta: You keep eating but the pasta keeps spreading on the plate and it looks like you haven’t touched your food. Looking up, we began to doubt we would reach the top.

Looking back from whence we came. Doe Mountain Trail. SJG photo.

But looking back down the hill, it was easy to see our progress. The parking lot seemed far in the distance and an expanse of brown and green shrubs dotted the red rocks and dust of the trail we had already climbed. We began again and before long we were approaching the crest, scrambling up a series of rocks and boulders the last 15-20 feet. We paused there on the edge and looked back. We were astonished by the view and astounded by the fact that we made it to the top. We were perhaps a bit nervous about the return trip and its effect on our knees, but we now knew it was possible. What goes up must come down, right?

We crossed to the far side of the mesa and were rewarded amply for our climb to the top. In some ways, the views were similar to those of the Grand Canyon (although I suppose not quite as grand) but we had earned this one. There is only one trail up and down Doe Mountain and we had climbed it, and there is something in that, of course.

Sitting at the top, I couldn’t help but make the connection back to my days of disease and treatment, when I was constantly asked how I was feeling and doing. Regularly, I heard some form of the question, “How are you making it through it all?”

View from top of Doe Mountain. SJG photo.

The answer of course, no matter what we are facing, is the same: One step at a time, one day at a time, one breath and one prayer at a time. We keep walking and moving, even when the view in front of us is steep and rugged, when the view behind us reminds us of where we have been. We keep walking, even when we are reminded how much easier this was when we were younger and healthier. We keep moving because it’s much better than standing still and doing nothing. We climb because we’ve been promised something good at the top.

When we walk in such faith, each breath is a prayer, each look back a moment of gratitude, each doubt a chance to find God in the rough patches and move forward. It’s the only way to go.

To see a video of the view from the top of Doe Mountain, click on the link below:

video at top

Tags: , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to "When we walk in faith, each breath is a prayer"

Leave a Comment