Walking in Tension

Crossing the empty parking lot, I zipped my fleece jacket to my chin and drew my fingers into my sleeves. It was August and already the mountain morning air held heavy hints of the coming autumn–known in Yellowstone as “early winter.” Side by side, my dad and I climbed the sloping path to Tower Fall. During my growing up years, Tower had always been a regular stop when my family visited Yellowstone. That first year, its 132-foot plunge impressed me but it was the large boulder perched at the brink that held my attention. I was sure it, like us, {Continue Reading}

All We Need is a Little Light

My husband and I have been hiking for years. Years. Still, we don’t always get it right out on the trail. We knew it we would be cutting it close. But, we hopped out at the picnic area, grabbed a late lunch, and prepared to hit the trail to Harney Peak, the highest point in the Black Hills. My husband filled our hydration packs while I reached into our well-stocked supply of both nutritious and just-for-fun trail food. And then, at 3:00 in the afternoon, after an evening and part of a long day in the vehicle, we set out {Continue Reading}

What We Already Know About Navigating by Faith

Leaving the comforting bustle of the crowd, I stepped off the boardwalk onto the geyserite-strewn path. This was my first solo hike. I was leaving from the Old Faithful area, where I lived and worked, to make a six-mile round trip journey to a backcountry waterfall. The first section of the trail skirted the edge of the Upper Geyser Basin before crossing a highway, passing through another geyser basin, and entering deep forest. I breathed deep, inhaling the strong scents of sulfur and pine mingling in the crisp morning air. Just beyond the boardwalk, I stopped at the trailhead sign, {Continue Reading}

One Truth for Navigating Unfamiliar Terrain by Faith

From the trailhead, the narrow, uneven path took us up a short, steep incline between towering pines. The road below and the river beyond were visible between their trunks. Lodgepoles, their growing habits produced tall, straight poles topped by comparatively tiny Christmas trees and created a sheltering canopy over the trail. At the top of the slope the path turned away from the traffic and entered an entirely different forest, this one dense and silent. Here the trees were young and full to the ground—all born from Yellowstone’s Fires of 1988. We walked—my husband and I—side-by-side on an earthen path {Continue Reading}

Three Small Steps for Walking by Faith

Twenty-three Decembers ago, my husband, our one-year-old son, and I moved to Pella, Iowa. When we were still in the shall-we-or-shall-we-not phase of the process, my dad mentioned that he thought that bald eagles wintered in that area. In a word, I was shocked. I’d grown up a mere hour-and-a-half from Pella and never, not once, had we gone to see these eagles. And we were that family, the one that pulled over on the side of the road to gawk at eagles—whether they were soaring in the sky or perched on an electrical pole. So, of course, a couple {Continue Reading}

Do You Need to Turn Around?

It was one of the first hikes we took together, my husband and I. It wasn’t long—only a few miles, but the one stretch was steep. The descent wasn’t bad. The destination—a steel suspension bridge spanning a canyon in the middle of wilderness—was worth the trip down and even back up. Still, that thigh-burning return trip reigns in my memory, especially when we consider taking any trail with the word “steep” in its description. Draped across the slope like twinkle lights on a Christmas tree, switchbacks supposedly moderated the mountain face into a more manageable grade. I trudged up one {Continue Reading}

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}

Walking by Faith | Using the Right Muscles

We left our car at the pullout, walked past the bungalow-sized glacial boulder, and started down an easy path. Short, flat, and offering a good view, the Cascade Overlook Trail promised to be a good wakeup hike. Enveloped in a thick evergreen wood, we relished the rhythm of quiet conversation and companionable silence mingled with the crunching rock under our feet and the rustling trees above our heads. Before long, the trail emerged from the trees, and there was the Grand Canyon, not of Arizona but of the Yellowstone River. We took careful steps along the curving rim of the {Continue Reading}