While on our hike through Baylor Pass in Las Cruces, NM a thought occurred to me. It wasn't something new. I remember the same thought going through my mind in the Rockies on my first hike, and again in the Grand Canyon during my second real hike, and again during my first experience with the Franklin Mountains almost two years ago. I even had the same thought cross my mind in Hawaii when my wife and I hiked the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail near Honolulu, only this time I was somewhat in control of the situation. The thought is this: There are really only two types of hikers. There are those who think only of reaching the top, and there are those who, though they also desire to reach the top, choose to take full advantage of all that the experience has to offer by purposing to give equal attention to the unavoidable journey necessary in getting there.
If you begin at the bottom of a mountain with aspirations of reaching the summit, there are usually several miles of trails between you and your goal. Many hikers recognize this to be the case and so they duck their heads and press forward at staggering speeds trying to get through this necessary evil as quickly as possible. While I understand the desire to get the pain and toil over with, this doesn't make for a very pleasant or in my opinion a very rewarding trek. If you think about it, we always see the peak as the highlight of our trip, but how much of our overall hiking time is actually spent at the top? The vast majority of our time is spent both ascending and descending. What if we determined to get as much fulfillment out of the hike itself as we expect to have waiting on us at the end? How much would that enhance our experience altogether? So, while it has not always been the case, that is the type of hiker I endeavor to be; one that is, at least, as interested in the journey itself as I am in the destination.
That being said, the Lord has refused to allow me to dismiss the lesson to that context alone. If you think about it, life consists of a series of aspirations and goals. In order to fully appreciate this truth you need to look at the measurements of time in your life in the same manner a hiker looks at measurements of distance in a hike. Kids can't wait to be teenagers, teenagers can't wait to be young adults, elementary students can't wait to be college students or through with school all together, single people can't wait to be married, employees can't wait to be the boss, and the list goes on. The one thing that stands between these people and their goals is time. The result is that people recognize this to be the case, duck their heads, speed forward, and wish much of their lives away failing to truly appreciate many of life's most valuable treasures along the way. While these ends in themselves and the desires toward them are not wrong (as a matter of fact most if not all are quite natural), to be so focused on the end that you fail to fully appreciate the process of getting there is somewhat, if not altogether, wasteful.
This truth not only applies to life, but it does so with even more gravity. If I feel I rushed through a hike and therefore missed out on much of what God in nature had to offer, I can always go back. You are only a child once though; you get only one shot at growing up. You court your bride only once. Your children only stay children for so long. You eventually graduate (hopefully) from school and college. Each stage of life lasts for a brief time to be revisited only by memory forever. Determine to focus as much, if not more, on the process as you do the event. I think the process is the most important part.
In my office I have four pictures from various hikes I have been on, only one of which was taken at the top. My favorite pictures, and certainly the majority of all my pictures, from hikes I have been on were taken on the way up (or down). Because I focused as much on the journey as I did on the destination I have much to show for my efforts. The challenging question is, are we approaching life the same way?