Walking by Faith Through Tough Terrain

The first trail—as in, an unpeopled, into the wilderness, marked-by-blazes-instead-of-a-worn-path trail—I remember taking was to the petrified forest in Yellowstone. I was fourteen, with my family, on our second visit to the park, and we’d finally stopped believing that we would be consumed by a bear if we left the crowded boardwalks and entered the quiet woods. It was not an easy hike. Oh, the walking part was fine. It was the finding the destination part that was the problem. Some trails through the wilderness are worn dirt paths, threadbare lines leading from where you’ve been to where you want {Continue Reading}

Five Surprising Tips for Walking by Faith from Hiking in the Dark

We set off, a dozen trainees, gravel crunching under our feet, toward the foreboding forest. We’d congregated at twilight to learn to hike in the dark. Like the rest of the greenhorns, I’d shown up with my flashlight because, obviously, we would need to something to light the way.  What we needed, according to our trainer, was time, not a torch. He said we would have all the light we needed—from the moon. After thirty to forty-five minute adjustment period, our night vision would kick in and we would be able to see well enough to find our way in {Continue Reading}

Two Ways of Waiting

Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn gift shop hummed like a hive. All the time. Except when Old Faithful was about to erupt.  Then, every visitor in the area was out on the boardwalk, waiting. After a short lull, the gift shop—site of my summer job between high school and college—began to fill with customers. They came first in a trickle, then in a torrent. Milling around, they searched for some thing to take home or some way to pass the time until the next eruption. Then, as if in response to a silent summons, they turned in unison and brought their {Continue Reading}

Walking When You’d Rather Wait

A couple of Mays ago, our family was in Yellowstone, standing in line at the Visitor Education Center at Mammoth Hot Springs, waiting to find out if a trail was open. Because the wait was long, we ended up eavesdropping as a ranger recommended the Sepulcher Mountain Trail to the older couple in front of us.  My husband and son were looking for a hike to take, one for just the two of them and, in terms of destination, location, difficulty, and length, it was just what they had in mind. When our turn came, my husband asked the ranger {Continue Reading}

For When We Find Ourselves Waiting

Bundled against the sub-zero temperatures, we left the cozy warmth of our cabin to brave Yellowstone’s deep winter chill. At twelve below zero, the temperature was up seven degrees already that morning from the previous afternoon’s negative nineteen. After fumbling over my own thick, clumsy fingers to fasten snowshoes to boots, I wondered what kind of people would take their children into the woods in such weather. My husband and I, apparently. We set off across the expanse of barren parking lots and abandoned roads toward the pines on the other side, snowshoes slapping the ground under our feet. As we {Continue Reading}

The Spiritual Discipline of Expecting Delays and Great Scenery

Because of the invisible cord that ties writing to life, it is with some trepidation I acknowledge that my anticipated writing topics for the coming months center around a theme which can be summarized by a road sign, especially a road sign in a construction zone bearing this kind of verbiage: Expect delays and great scenery. Oh, I’m all about the scenery.  I’m just not fond of delays. I don’t want to wait. For anything. That the roads we wander will need repair is a given. That there will be delays, an inconvenient fact. That they will occur at nearly {Continue Reading}

Sparkling in an Unfamiliar Life

My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden. She grew the flowers and vegetables that graced her table. She picked the berries that topped our ice cream. Once in a while I helped her in the garden or the berry patch and it always shocked me when she showed up wearing slacks. The garden was the only place I ever saw her dressed that way and even there she wore a dress over them, with a long-sleeved shirt and a wide-brimmed hat. She was dressed to work. Right there are four important lessons she taught with her life: {Continue Reading}

What Gives Her Away

  Elyse was four when she first showed us how brave she was—and what mattered enough to bring that bravery out. We’d moved, pulling into the driveway at a new house after dark on a Sunday night and popping out for a pre-school visit at nine the very next morning. During our tour she cast clandestine glances at the other children and when they invited her to stay for their Valentine’s Day party, she smiled and took a chair at their table. It was her smile that gave her away. Elyse is known for her smile. It’s ready and open {Continue Reading}

Waiting For What We Can’t See

 Along the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and  Cooke City, the meadows are open and greening, quite in agreement with the calendar: spring has arrived. Leave the dry, temperate north end of Yellowstone and try to head into the interior, though,  and you’ll see a place still in waiting. The most obvious sign: You can’t actually get there. Many of the roads are covered in snow. And closed. It’s too bad, because there’s something there I want to see and never will. In winter, the Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River develops a cone of ice, constructed by cold air and the mist {Continue Reading}