By: Kelly Anderson
The name resonates in my brain, and I cry, and laugh, and feel AngerAndHappinessAndPain all at once.
The day before, we had landed in Denver, CO, picked up our rental car, had lunch with a friend that was on our missions trip earlier this year, and then headed off to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was not prepared for the beauty that is Colorado; mountains everywhere! animals everywhere! the coolest summer air ever! Was I in Heaven? I must be...
We camped at the Aspenglen Campground, and it was perfectly perfect in every way. We spent our first night of the trip exploring the park, and I saw my very first elk.
The next morning we got up early, and began our first hike of the trip up the Wild Basin Trail. We felt we were more than ready to tackle a major hike, and that's exactly what we did; sporting really heavy backpacks, jeans, and long flannel shirts.
Being the overzealous hikers that we were, we decided that we wanted to see Thunder Lake. Round Trip, we were signing up for a 14 mile hike, which honestly sounds reasonable. Our legs can handle that, right? How hard can a 14 mile hike really be? We're so in shape, it'll be no problem. In the end, we hiked 16 miles due to a trail closure, and had to double back and walk two extra miles to find the detour to the Lake.
The weather on the Wild Basin trail was chilly, and because I'm weird and get cold instantaneously (even a light breeze can give me a chill, and I immediately put on a winter parka), I wore long jeans and a long shirt. As we hiked, I regretted this decision, and cursed my body for rejecting the cold; while the beginning of the trail was fairly flat and easy to walk, the detour brought us straight uphill. Miles and miles of uphill roads, and sharp switchbacks. When we reached the sign pictured above, I rejoiced inside and shouted, "CALEB! WE MADE IT! WE MADE IT!" not realizing that we had yet another 3.3 miles to conquer. We ate a few granola bars, and then wearily continued on. We were only three point three miles away... we would make it.
One thing we quickly learned was that on this, and every other trail we hiked throughout the rest of the trip, what is said to be three miles feels more like six, and what is said to be six feels like twelve. As we continued on our hike, we became less and less hopeful, and more and more hikers walked past us looking just as defeated as we felt.
Every time I saw another human being, I quickly asked, "How much longer to Thunder Lake?" and each time, I was told that we should turn back because Thunder Lake was no where to be found. Because of the high elevation in the mountains, snow from this past winter had not yet melted, and the trail had become hidden under a deep layer of snow.
Still, we pushed on. And we discovered why every other hiker had accepted defeat. The snow grew deeper and deeper. I slipped, and fell, and cried. We reached a narrow bridge, with cold water rushing underneath. We sat on a snow covered rock and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as we contemplated our hike.
It was decided that Thunder Lake was worth it.
The snow continued to build, and I fell in a hole that brought the snow up to my waist. I cried some more, and got snow in my eyes. A guardian angel disguised as a hobo was walking back from the direction we were headed in, and he assured us that we were on the right path. I cried tears of joy, and got more snow in my eyes. He also informed us that there was a black bear nearby, and I felt a rush of fear and excitement.
Thank you, angel hobo.
Fast forward another mile, more snow, and 20 minutes later, we beheld Thunder Lake. It was still frozen, and I sat on a rock and breathed in the stillness. The Lake was ours. No longer shall we call it Thunder Lake, but Anderson Lake. God is incredible, you know? And here I was, journaling on the side of a glassy lake, and eating a ClifBar, and adding my name to the list of people that persevered.
Between bites of my blueberry ClifBar, I wrote, "I am cold, I am free, I am content." I felt like I could do anything. At that moment, I was basically a superhero.
If you've made it this far into my long story, I congratulate you, and will now add your name to that same list of people that persevered. You may not have hiked 16 miles of snowy trail, but you just read about it. And that is a feat in itself.
I learned a lot of things, but early on, I learned the single most important lesson that carried me through the rest of our two week adventure.
Perseverance is real, and it is hard, and it is messy, and sometimes you fall into a hole and you cry and get snow in your eyes.
Sometimes life sucks, and you fall into deep emotional holes. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones you dug, and now can't crawl out of.
And sometimes you're told that you only have to walk three point three more miles, and it ends up feeling like you have to walk six.
Sometimes you think you've reached the finish line, but it's just a waiting point.
And sometimes, you realize that you're carrying way too much, and even the good things that you packed that you thought you needed to make it to the end, are actually the very things that are holding you down, and making it harder for you to walk.
Throw those things away, baby. They're not worth it.
Thunder Lake, however, is worth it.
It's worth it every time.