By Scott Nelson – Lead Pastor
Thoughts from the Trail 2021
When I am blessed to be able to backpack, I take some time to write out thoughts. This year, Ben and I backpacked part of the John Muir Trail in Yosemite, going from Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles, and going up Half Dome. This turned out to be more challenging that I thought it would be. God got us through it, and we made some great memories. Below are the thoughts I wrote down on my phone during the hike (usually in the evening or morning). Hopefully these thoughts will be a blessing and inspiration to you as we follow our Savior together.
- Uncompressed Space. One of the things I love best about backpacking is the amount of time I have to think. This does not mean that every minute on the trail is thinking time. Sometimes I am talking with Ben, and other times I am completely focused on the rigors of the trail. Yet there are times on the trail where I have experienced such clarity of mind—for problems that I am facing, for projects that are coming, for relationships, and more. In the evening or morning, while I sit in my hammock or beside an alpine lake, so many thoughts come rushing to my head. I need uncompressed space in my life—down the mountain as well. This is when I lead best and when many ideas find inspiration. Having uncompressed space will mean I won’t be able to do as much, but what I do will have greater impact.
- Hold Plans Loosely. We needed to change our plan a couple of miles in. We were supposed to go up an additional peak, but we didn’t have the energy for it. I realized again that the goal of the trip was not to conquer every summit but to have time with God and my son. I like to plan; planning helps me emotionally prepare for what is ahead. But I have learned—on the trial and in life—to hold my plans loosely, and appreciate each step of the journey.
- Experiencing Peace. As I sit here with the sun rising, hearing nothing but the sounds of the forest, I am experiencing God’s peace. I remember that my worth is not measured by what I accomplish. I am a loved, redeemed child of God. There is a lot to do every day while backpacking: moving your camp every day requires a lot of work and chores. Hiking takes time and is exhausting. But there are sacred moments to be still—in creation with the Creator. It is in these moments that I truly sense His peace. Even with all the pain of backpacking, these moments are what I love best—they continually draw me back. I don’t think backpacking is for everyone, but I do believe that our Creator quietly invites everyone into nature to experience wonder and peace.
- The Ascent. Climbing Half Dome was really hard. I guess it figures: it is really hard making a steep ascent. Anytime I go through physical or emotional pain like this, I focus on Christ and all He suffered for me and the world. And I kept reminding myself, as I stopped for breath every few feet, that the ascent is worth it. The reward comes from the perspective gained on top of the mountain. But the deeper reward is the inner fulfillment. That changes how I see life, faith, limits, and challenges. The ascent was harder than I thought it would be, but I never really considered going back because I have learned the ascent is worth the pain.