Two Roads Diverged


As I am wont to do, I got up and went for a hike on Green Mountain last Friday morning.

I’ve really made a daily hike a priority lately, as a way of keeping discipline while I’m not working, getting some exercise, and having a regular quiet time for prayer or meditation.

That last one is an interesting one. I talk to God a lot on the hiking trail. Sometimes He shares things with me. And sometimes He uses the trail itself, the hiking experience, to teach me things.

There was the time I got on the trail later in the day that I realized, later in the year than I should have, and it got dark while I was still in mid-hike. And on a cloudy night under the tree cover, that’s pretty dark. The trail disappeared into darkness pretty quickly ahead of me, and for a brief moment, I was afraid I was lost. Worst-case scenario, I could have just pointed in the right-ish direction and followed the road noises when I was close enough, but cutting through the underbrush is nasty when you can’t see it. Thankfully, I realized that, while visibility was pretty limited, I could see the next step or two. And, ultimately, that’s all I needed. And, yes, the application for my life was pretty blatant. Stop worrying about the path you can’t see; take the steps you can.

Another time, I hiked in the snow, and lost the trail. I walked on in the direction I thought it was heading, but couldn’t find it again. I tried again, and again. No luck. Finally, I gave up, and turned around to go back. When I did, I saw two trails ahead of me. The one I’d came from, and the way that I was trying to go, which had doubled back at the point the snow obscured it. The message was a little esoteric, but no less fitting for the time — just because you think you’re going forward, it doesn’t mean you are, and sometimes you have to go backward to move on.

The day before the story I’m trying to get around to telling, I’d had another of those hikes. It had started sprinkling. I’d hiked in the rain a few weeks earlier, and had loved it, and so even though I was done and back in my car when it started sprinkling, I got back out and started the trail again. I prayed for some real rain. I decided that I would hike to a certain point, and if it still wasn’t pouring by that point, I would turn around and head back. So I started onto the trail. And it kept sprinkling half-heartedly. And I got about halfway to the point I had decided on, and stopped. I continued to pray for real rain, but all I got was some impressive thunder and unimpressive sprinkles. I was about to turn back. But, as I was about to, I stopped myself. No, I had said, regardless, I was going to keep pushing on to that point. So I did. And it kept sprinkling. But, as I neared that point, after I would have been off the trail if I’d turned back, it started raining in earnest. Beautifully and gloriously. It was an amazing hike. And one I would have missed if I’d given up on rain, given up on my prayer when I was first tempted to.

So, finally, Friday. I was hiking. And I was a little ways into the trail, when I noticed a divergent path. I’d never seen it before. In fact, though I found it again easily and took it a second time Friday, I’ve not seen it since, though I’ve not been really consciously looking at the right time, apparently. It was fresh, laid out with dirt but still rough. There were no official signs yet, but there were orange ribbons tied to trees along the way. So, of course, I followed it. I wanted to know where it went, if it, in fact, went anywhere yet.

And, sure enough, after following it for a bit, the trail ended. There was dirt, and then there was grass and underbrush. But as I turned around to go back, I noticed more orange ribbons tied to trees. So I followed them. At one point, I thought they ended, but, again, spotted them continuing onward at an odd angle, and kept going. Finally, they stopped again. I looked, every way I could think of, but no more ribbons. As I was about to turn around, I looked down — trail. Not fresh trail, worn trail. Looking around again, I realized that I knew exactly where I was.

Right now, with my job situation and other things in my life, I’m off the trail I thought I was following. I’m on a new path, and one that’s not marked particularly well. Friday, I had a choice of whether to follow that trail. In real life, I don’t.

But sometimes, that unmarked trail still takes us where we need to be.