Yesterday was plain awful...

You can say that again!


We were n the Sisters Wilderness, 4.2 miles from camp...

"I'm not going any further. I'm staying right here," June sat down and she meant it.

The first I heard of the altercation was Monica yelling June's name, "June Marie!"

June had fallen, and cut her elbow. Monica had tried to help, but June had angrily pushed her away. Monica, having confirmed June would be okay, hurt by the slight, went on with the other three at my urging.

"June, we can't stay here, but we can walk in to camp as late as you want, I will wait here with you." It was a little more than two and a half hours from darkness.

"You go."

"How can I leave my fourteen year old daughter, that I love, alone in the woods?"

"You can stay with me if you want."

"How can I let them be nervous and scared for us all night? We can't stay here and leave them out there without knowing."

Nothing was working. We had walked from 5:30 am to beat the heat across the lava beds. 23 miles for the day so far. June had a point. It had been a long day.

There is a saying on the trail: "the trail provides".

I believe it to be true, if by "trail" we mean the intensely personal and interested Provider. In the tradition of Paul among the Athenians, sure, let's say "Trail".

Two days before that moment when June and I sat deadlocked we had come into Big Lake Youth Camp. We stumbled in is more apt. At midnight we came to the end of the mile long spur trail after leaving the PCT 28.4 miles from where we had started that morning.

Monica's feet had been hurting badly all day. We had spent the day walking three to four hours till she was near or beyond tears then rest for an hour to an hour and a half. She would massage and rest her feet and we would get a few more. Brian and Jana and family gave us a happy surprise near days end, driving two and a half hours to meet us with chicken, French fries, pie, and toilet paper. We left near dark to finish the five to seven miles.

Feet are primary. And the shoes need to fit the feet. Altra is the most popular shoe on the trail. I started with Altra's, they just fit. Well, not really a fit anymore. Fitniche found me the only remaining 2017 size sixteen Lone Peak 3.5's in the country (you have to size up on long trails for toe strikes and swelling feet), and I loved them. When they couldn't find any 2018's I was moved to New Balance, and... shin splints. Monica's feet, on the other hand, do not like Altra's. When we stumbled into Big Lake she had one job. Rest. Thankfully, just like her mother, she refused and went to the hiker hut to help with laundry. It was a madhouse. The northbound and southbound hiker's bubbles are colliding, and the hiker boxes are brimming (many trail stops have a "box" for hikers to leave unwanted items potentially useful to other hikers). In this box, a pair of Hoka's just like Aiden and June's caught her eye. She spent the day testing them.

The shoes were almost worn out, but a far better fit for her feet. She crossed miles of lava beds the next day without pain.  Have you walked on lava rock? Without pain?

"Trail" provides.

It was after this long lava walk, after a spur trail overlooking a glacier, after too long a day that June and I sat, stuck. She, crying on a log. I, across the trail from her, out of hope to persuade.  Several hikers passed.

"How are you doing?"

"Good, how about you?" I lied.

I got tired of lying after we sat for more than an hour.

"Not that great. We are having a cry, how about you?"

"Oh, I have at least one of those a day," said one northbounder giving her hiking partner a knowing look.

As it stood we would arrive in camp after dark IF we started walking then, and fast.

After a few more long minutes, around the corner came So Good, a hiker we had met in Big Lake. She asked "Is everything okay?" with sincerity in her voice.

"June is having a tough day," I responded.

 "Your name is June? Okay, you are going to have to forgive me, because some people don't take this as a compliment, but I really mean it that way. June is the name of my favorite goat. I used to keep 35 milk goats and she was the Queen. She's was a handful, but she was my favorite."

If you know my June, you know she is a handful, you know she loves goats, and you know she is the Queen goat.

Five minutes later we were up and walking at a pace that brought us in just under the fading light.

During the walk I tried to pontificate June to perfection. It wasn't working and I thought, "Of course not, she is not a project, she is your daughter, her heart and soul are more important than your getting her to do your bidding you selfish jackass."

I began to listen, and she began to talk about not being able to forgive her mom for a car accident. She said she has a hard time trusting God, because "Why would he let that happen?" 

We prayed before we arrived in camp that she would face her mom with the courage to repent. I prayed that Monica's heart would be softened to forgive. Monica met her at a run, it was like the prodigal come home.

"Trail" provides.

Later, I rejoiced with June and confessed that one of my first prayers for this hike has been that she and Monica's relationship would be restored. "Trail" is battering away the defences, unearthing underlying problems.

Lest you think we are swimming around in childish naivete, we know it is a process. Well, that, and 2 days later, a tired and angry June refused again, repeated the "I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying right here." This time ahe dropped her pack and ran up the trail northbound. She ran off trail into the trees, sat down, and angrily cried. I sat at a distance to give her space but make sure she didn't get lost. After a few minutes, Georgie came around the corner to announce that two hikers just said there was "Trail magic" 2.8 miles down trail. 

I walked to June, sat with her, and said "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that God is trying to invite you to trust and hope in him." She said, "Why does God have to make it so hard?"

When you are stretched to your limit over a long period of time without end in sight it can begin to scrape at the fabric of who you are.  For us, today, this trail is serving as the pressure cooker that is exposing, humiliating, restoring, and enlivening us.

Later that night June offered unsolicited repentance for the way she had acted. Miraculous.

THE "Trail" provides.