I recently went to Colorado in search of a particular waterfall I saw when I was a little girl. I had no idea which waterfall; I don’t even have a picture. All I have is a fuzzy memory of going there with my family when I was eight. I remember it because that was the first time I recall being overcome with God’s glory and grandeur. Even as a child, I knew that such exquisite, natural beauty was no accident, and I felt God’s presence surrounding me. I remember my daddy standing behind me, touching my shoulder, and asking me what I thought about the view. We shared a moment of true, pure worship. I said a prayer in my heart that someday, I’d return.
Fast forward nearly forty years . . . my daddy’s not here any more. My mother remembers staying near Telluride for part of that trip. My older brother remembers La Plata National Canyon. And my Uncle Weldon told me that particular waterfall was near Ouray. A map of Colorado shows dozens of waterfalls in those areas.
After viewing pictures online, I excavated my memories and narrowed the possibilities. One contender was a picture of Mystic Falls. So off we went, and I learned that day why those falls were given that name. They’re very hard to find. Since I remember an easy walk, I knew about two minutes into my hike this wasn’t my destination. But we were there, so why not see some pretty falls, right? I had an excellent guide, so I felt pretty secure.
Easier said than done. We hiked down a steep mountainside to get to the stream, so we could follow it up to the falls. With every step, rocks crumbled and fell beneath my hiking boots. Several times, I slipped and slid, using tree branches and elevated roots as anchors. When we found the stream, it rushed fiercely from all the recent snowfall. A couple of slick fallen logs offered a wobbly bridge to the other side, but I managed to cross and stay dry. I was quite proud of myself for that.
We picked and pressed until finally, the canyon walls closed in on either side of the stream. We didn’t have the equipment to climb a vertical canyon, and the water was too deep and fierce to navigate. We’d have to backtrack.
So downstream we pushed. More falling rocks, more tree roots. Back to the fallen logs. This time I felt pretty confident. I’d done this already. I am woman, hear me . . . splash.
Yes I did. I fell in the river. At least it was only knee deep at that point, and I got out with only the cost of a wet boot and a slightly damaged ego. Back up the mountain we went. Did you know it’s a bit harder to go up a steep mountain than down it?
So up I climbed. I was feeling quite rugged, grabbing those tree roots and hoisting myself up, inch by inch, rocky step by rocky step, until finally I made it back to (somewhat) level ground. This time, we trekked through thick woods, sometimes walking along the edge of a canyon that would have sent me to certain death, or at least some broken parts, if I’d fallen. But it was so beautiful! I saw the most exquisite displays of nature, from wild columbines to blue mountain spruce to all sorts of things I don’t know how to name. All the while, the distant roar of the falls grew louder and louder, and we knew we were getting closer until finally, after more than an hour, there they were! Like a parting of the clouds, the woods just seemed to open up to a stunning display of water falling over rock, spilling over the side of the canyon a hundred feet below us. It was breathtaking.
We were at the top of the falls looking down, and up ahead we saw a shallow place with a big boulder on the other side. We wanted to sit on that boulder. So we crossed, and lo and behold, we heard another roar, louder than the first. We followed it a few hundred yards to find a second waterfall, on the opposite side of the canyon! Little did we know the canyon split, and the river with it. The water fell at two different places! The second falls plunged straight down, over a hundred feet before it crashed below. We could barely see the bottom as we tiptoed as close as we dared to the edge. My heart used the inside of my chest as a punching bag! It took my breath away.
What a bonus! What an extra blessing! I felt like the winner of So-You-Think-You-Can-Hike as I stood between those two falls. After a while, we found our way back to the big boulder and rested.
When we finally got ready to leave, I ripped my pants on the rock. So worth it.
Life is a hike, isn’t it? The path is bumpy. Sometimes we have to backtrack, and sometimes we fall in the river. But we have an excellent Guide. He may lead us through some valleys. We may encounter some steep climbs and jagged rocks along the way. But if we stay close to Him, if we trust Him and follow the path He lays out for us, oh, what great and unspeakable blessings wait in store. They will take our breath away.
If I had chosen my own path, my life would have been much easier than it has been. I’d have stayed on low, steady ground with green grass and flower-filled meadows. But if I’d had my way, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am. I might have missed the heart-pounding, glorious mountaintop moments God wanted to show me.
“For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him And the valleys will be split, Like wax before the fire, Like water poured down a steep place,” Micah 1:3-4.