Day 1 into the beautiful 10th Mountain Hut System….
You can’t tell from the photos, but I was being oddly emotional.
I felt far from my family, far from the familiar, and far from stability. I realize this sounds quite over-dramatic to you regular adventurers, but this was my state.
We loaded our packs into the truck and drove to Leadville. I knew mine was too heavy. I didn’t care.
On our way, I got a call from my husband.
“Is today the day you’re supposed to sign Ajay up for preschool?” My heart sunk into my stomach. I knew this from years previous…if we didn’t get him signed up today, he’d likely not get in…possibly for months, possibly not at all. Why hadn’t I remembered?
“It’s ok…”, he said, “Justin’s got to go up there and sign his son up too. I’ll go with him. Also, we’re completely out of propane. The guy won’t just come fill it up…says he’s got to….”
I stopped being able to listen. I always take care of the propane. How had I let it get to this point? Why hadn’t I checked it in SO long? And now, Matt’s scrambling to cover things I should’ve taken care of, on top of taking care of 3 kids and working his very stressful job.
I felt like a terrible person.
Matt assured me he’d get everything taken care of and encouraged me to go out there and enjoy the adventure. I hung up and wanted to cry.
We pulled up to our parking space, which we wouldn’t see again till we hiked out, and I wanted to cry.
A lady who works with the hut system drove us up to our trailhead. We disembarked, she drove away, and I felt rather panicky. “There’s no way home now but through the forest,” I thought.
So, through the forest we went. I should’ve enjoyed the wildflowers, the freshness of the mountain air, the bright green moss on the trees.
Instead, I fought that lump in my throat…for hours. I kept thinking that every step I took was a step away from my family…whom I had let down.
The going felt hard. The uphills felt especially hard. I knew we’d be hiking in between 11,000 and 12,000 feet the entire time, and I (as you know by now) had trained hard to be able to handle this. I felt like I was the only one struggling up the uphills and barely recovering on the flats or downhills.
I found myself getting a bit panicky the further we went. So, I did what my Papa had taught me to do with panic: recited Psalm 23 over and over in my mind. I contemplated each word and contemplated each rock, bringing the big world down to something I could handle taking in. With every wave of panic, the tears would well up…and I would shout in my mind, “I will not be afraid, for You are with me”.
This was my existence for about 5 hours. I know my girls checked on me; I know we talked; I know we stopped for view breaks and bathroom breaks and snack breaks. I just don’t remember any of that. Not a bit. And it really is a shame…I’m sure it was beautiful. My fear stole that day away.
We made surprisingly good time, and arrived at our first hut by 1:00pm. We were met outside by a couple very nice people, who were very concerned that we might come up to the hut. They wanted us to give them a bit more time…there was a large group of people up there, and they just wanted to do “one more dance”.
“No problem,” we said.
They seemed rather shaken that we had arrived that early. However, convinced that we understood they wanted us to keep our distance, they turned back around and walked quickly back to the hut.
We were slightly creeped out, but it did strike us all as rather funny. My mood lifted a bit…we’d made it to the first hut. We were 1/3 of the way done already! And for the rest of the day, we could just relax. Maybe I wasn’t going to die out here after all. We sat down and had lunch outside, taking in the amazing view. I do remember that one…
The dancers left, and we walked into the hut to find it surprisingly clean. We went upstairs, unloaded our packs and changed into comfy clothes. Then we went downstairs to relax and look around a bit.
I wandered around the cabin, looking at avalanche posters, a photo of a poor young girl who had been struck by lightning in that very forest, and books about wildflowers and climbing accidents.
And then I saw this:
I called to Francesca, and explained in a very shaky voice what I’d been doing all morning to survive my situation. Her eyes widened and brimmed with tears, and mine finally burst into full-on sob mode.
And I know…you’re probably rolling your eyes at my dramatics. Heck, I’m rolling my eyes at myself. But do you know what this little print-up meant to me?
My Shepherd really saw me. He saw me. And He was with me as I preached the words “For He is with me” over and over to myself.
And He was with my family.
And He covers my screw-ups.
And He would be with me every step of the way, throughout the remainder of our adventure.
You know, those other posters and the photo of that sweet young girl and the wildflower and climbing books…they were all present in our second hut.
But Psalm 23 was not.
This was more than mere coincidence, friends. And so is everything.
If you’ve never seen God’s hand reach right into your life…never heard His voice say to your heart, “I see YOU”, I am praying right now that you will.
In the meantime, when you wake in the middle of the night and fear grips you; when you’re driving through a snowstorm; when your child falls ill; whatever mountain you find yourself on….
Please remember that the Lord is your Shepherd, who gives you everything you need. He makes you lie down in green pastures, He leads you beside quite waters, He restores your soul. He guides you in paths of righteousness for the honor of His name. Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you don’t have to be afraid…for He is with you. His rod and staff will comfort you. He prepares a feast for you right in front of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil, and your cup overflows. Surely, His goodness and love follow you all the days of your life. And you will dwell in His house forever. – (Psalm 23, prayed over YOU)
God’s word is powerful. Even as I pray this over you, reader, I feel the peace and comfort wash over me that I always have experienced as I’ve prayed it.
And you know what? Papa prayed this psalm while on a U.S. Army airplane, and was the only one who did not get sick on that flight. I do not know why the others became ill, but I do know that he was untouched. I am not suggesting that this is a magic psalm that will cure what ails you. I am merely stating the facts. Coincidence? Or God’s hand in response to desperate prayer? You can decide.
As for me and Papa, we believe.