From Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass, it’s seventy-five miles and a four-day walk, and over the course of these four days, I will climb a total of 18,771 feet, or the equivalent of three and a half miles, and descend 17,711 feet, just less than three and a half miles; it’s going to be a real roller-coaster ride.
I was on the trail by six thirty this morning, and right out of the chute, it was a steep, strenuous three-thousand-foot climb to Ridge Lake. Often, the trail was nothing more than a sinuous line blasted from the side of a cliff, which then followed along the craggy crests before dropping two thousand feet to meadowlands.
The first ten miles of the trail from Snoqualmie Pass to Ridge Lake was popular with day hikers, and there were a lot of them on the trail today. I found it pleasant to visit with each group I passed; many hike with their dogs, which made me a little leery considering the run-in Brownie and I had with the German shepherds several days ago.
Rugged high peaks, steep slopes with trails carved from the side of the mountain, crystal-clear lakes in basins far below the trail, were all reminders of the resplendent beauty of California’s John Muir Trail through the High Sierras.
After traversing the rocky trail along Chikamin Ridge, the trail began a gradual descent to two lakes called the Park Lakes. Before long, I found myself standing at a trail junction, with a Forest Service sign tacked to a tree that read Horse Camp and an arrow pointing off to the left. The trail on either side of the tree was equally well worn into the dirt and either could be the actual PCT. My prior experience with signs that read Horse Camp meant that a special camp had been set aside for equestrians, and riders and horses should proceed there if they wanted to camp for the night.
Normally, it didn’t mean that the official trail went through the camp and continued on.
With that thinking in mind, I opted for the right-hand trail and followed it some distance. As I did so, I noticed that a number of other trails began branching off from the trail I was on and eventually my trail just wandered into the brush and petered out. I now realized that the trail I had been following was not the PCT and I would need to backtrack to get back to the wooden sign nailed to the tree and the trail junction.
This backtracking should take me back along the trail I had just hiked on and return me to the trail junction, only it didn’t. After walking a bit, I passed a small pond that I knew I hadn’t seen when I first descended the trail, which meant I was lost.
Lost – the very thought of the word sent terror spreading through my mind and body. I was experiencing my worst fear concerning my hike; I had read trail journals of other hikers who had been lost and how they just started bushwhacking through the undergrowth until they reconnected with the trail. I know this was not something I could do.
I had passed many trails on my return trek; where I went wrong, I didn’t know, as the trees and bushes all looked the same. I tried to visualize what things looked like when I first descended the trail, and then tried to recreate in my mind how to get back on the same path, but it was hopeless.
There were high, rocky cliffs all around me and the subalpine forest stretched on forever; besides that it was dusk, with not a lot of daylight remaining. I knew I couldn’t spend time frantically searching for the correct trail; I would only become more confused. My thoughts returned to the missing person’s notice I had seen taped to the glass window of the entrance door to the Summit Inn about the eighty-year-old woman who hadn’t been seen in two weeks
I was fearful and knew I must control my rising anxiety. The correct trail couldn’t be far; I just needed to find the right secondary trail that would surely lead me back to the official trail.
There is a famous painting by Arnold Friberg depicting George Washington at Valley Forge; the painting is titled The Prayer at Valley Forge. In the painting, it is winter and Washington is kneeling in the snow in the attitude of prayer and supplication to God, presumably asking for guidance and inspiration with the war effort – the American Revolution. His horse is standing beside him, frosty breath stealing from its nostrils.
I remembered a passage of scripture that has always been an inspiration to me, and it reads:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” (James)
At this moment, I needed wisdom; I needed understanding; I needed inspiration. In short, I needed to know how to get back on the trail, and quickly, before it got any darker, and my anxiety levels went through the roof.
Like Washington, I knelt on the ground, and poured out my heart to my Father in Heaven, pleading for guidance and inspiration, that I might know, without hesitation, which of the secondary trails I needed to take, in order to get back on the official PCT.
I’ve had enough experience with prayer to know that my request would be answered. It may not be in my time frame or in the way I desired it to be answered, but it would be answered, as my Father in Heaven knows what is best for me.