The trail wound steeply up the mountain before me. Large rocks created a natural staircase, but I wanted an escalator. Rain the night before had created numerous slippery mud holes on the rare stretch where the trail flattened out. Late summer blossoms dressed the meadows while rocky peaks, adorned in stunning green forests, rose majestically around me. But most of that went unobserved. Somewhere up ahead lay Eightmile Lake.
The young men I accompanied sprinted tirelessly ahead in what I deemed to be a pointless race to be the first one up the trail. I’m sure their competitive determination to reach the lake first kept them from noticing much of the scenery along the way. Meanwhile, I labored to keep up with them as best I could. But I found myself focusing downward, observing the location of each rock, and carefully planning my next step around it in an effort to preserve my worn out knee. Consequently, I also failed to enjoy much of the natural beauty surrounding me.
Despite my best efforts to maintain the pace of youth, my body dictated that I wend my way along in a more strategic manner which lengthened the gap between me and the young men. Eventually I rounded a bend in the trail to find a small alpine lake and the boys already exploring it.
As I gazed at the lake, I felt a wave of disappointment. It was not the sort of lake I had envisioned. This was more of a giant pond with shores lined by muddy banks that made any close approach problematic if we didn’t want our boots gunked up. I immediately questioned the point of the hike.
The boys, however, seemed to be enjoying themselves. Some had found a snake to catch. Others were climbing out on a precarious fallen tree that extended out into the lake. I sat down on a shady log near the other man who had accompanied us and took out a sandwich to eat. “Not much of a lake,” I observed. “Do you think this is it?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I think there might be more to it around the next bend. Maybe it loops back around that next ridge. I’m considering letting the boys think it is the lake anyway and just call it good.”
We resumed eating our lunches, lounging in the shade and leaving the boys to explore the pond. The snake hunters soon caught their snake. “Nice job guys! But the snake stays here.”
A young couple backpacking with their small son soon appeared along the trail. “Can I get down and play,” the boy inquired as they neared the lake. Continuing along without slowing his pace, the patient father explained, “No, this is Little Eightmile Lake. We want to go to the ‘big’ Eightmile Lake.”
With the question about the lake’s identity firmly resolved, we hastily rounded up the young men and set off once more toward ‘big’ Eightmile Lake. Twenty minutes later we relaxed on giant sun-drenched rocks along the shore of a picturesque alpine lake that matched more closely the image I’d had in my mind. The snake hunters soon transformed into crayfish hunters. Then someone shouted, “I think I’ve found gold!” And with that they were all off to bigger and better adventures.
“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.” – D&C 58:3-4
Our mortal probation has us bivouacked at a little lake. It holds many neat snakes to catch, logs to climb on, and other incredible wonders to explore along its muddy banks. Beauty surrounds it and shady spots offer inviting places to rest and have a bit of lunch. But Little Eightmile Lake wasn’t our intended destination when we left our heavenly home.
“Are there so many fascinating, exciting things to do or so many challenges pressing down upon you that it is hard to keep focused on that which is essential? When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life.” – Elder Richard G. Scott, April 2001
I can’t begin to imagine what the Lord has in store for me if I will push some of the distracting little lake attractions out of my life. The spiritual map I hold shows there’s a much larger and more beautiful lake farther up the trail. If I trust that map and have faith in the Lord who gave it to me, I can continue up the trail He has already blazed and find the true joy and rest I seek.
Shadows lengthened and the time to leave Eightmile Lake neared. Before departing we asked the young men if any of them would have rather stayed back at Little Eightmile Lake instead. We met silence. Not one of us regretted our earlier decision to leave the pond and strike out for the lake. I’m certain if we repeated the hike now we would all feel exactly as the young Father did who’d passed us by earlier in the day. “No, this is Little Eightmile Lake. We want to go to the ‘big’ Eightmile Lake.”
Featured Photo credit, Russell Brier
photo credit, Dale White
photo credit, Matt Lemke