This past summer Shaner and I joined something called the Canyon Climbers Club. Basically, you pay a fee, ($10 I think), and you get a card to be punched as you complete the 4 “canyon climbs” of the state of Georgia: Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, Providence Canyon, and Tallulah Gorge – all of this leading to the reward of a T-Shirt which will proudly display one’s canyon climbing prowess to the world. So far we’ve completed Tallulah Gorge and Amicalola Falls. We completed the Amicalola portion of the challenge just this past Thursday, the 7th of April.
We left the house about 2:00 or 2:30, thinking we’d enjoy a nice leisurely afternoon soaking in God’s beautiful creation and getting a little much-needed exercise. We arrived at the park at about 3:30, and went into the check-in station’s front desk to inquire about where we needed to begin. We’d both been to the falls before and done most of the hiking and stairs, we’d just never done it all at once or in order.
“You’ll need to drive up to the bottom of the pathway that leads to the stairs, climb all 604, and then come back down here to this desk,” the nice man informed us. “Oh, and you’ll need to do it by 5:00 if you want your card punched, that’s when we close.”
Having never climbed the staircase all at once or from bottom to top, my stress level jumped. My thoughts were, “I don’t know if we can do it in that time, We’ve never done it all at once. It took us over an hour to get here, I don’t want to waste this trip… and I certainly don’t want to waste the effort of climbing 604 steps, (1208 round trip).”
“Well, Honey… we gotta move!” I told Shaner as we hustled to the jeep and drove to the base of the trail. We strapped on our daypacks and started the climb, trying to keep a decent pace and moving around families with kids who just didn’t seem to share our urgency. I hurried Shaner along whenever we took short breaks and kept a close eye on my watch to keep track of how we were doing. We weaved in between people posing for family photos as we crossed the bridge over the falls, thinking “get out of the way, people! We have a time-limit here!”
Once we reached the top and paused for a breather and a drink of water, I noticed that our ascent had taken a little less than a half-hour. Assuming our descent would take the same amount of time or less, we’d be back to the front desk about 4:30. I breathed a sigh of relief and stared out over the falls. That’s when I began thinking about what had just taken place.
Hiking is near the top of the list of things my wife and I love to do. We adore being out in God’s creation, especially in the mountains. What would usually be a great time shared between God, my wife, and me, was ultimately a stress-filled, taxing sprint up 604 stairs. As we began walking back down, one of the first things I saw was a father and his young daughter, (which we had impatiently passed on the way up) sitting on one of the benches and laughing as she played with a stick she had picked up out of the woods. They hadn’t even made it to the top yet, and judging by the speed they were traveling when we passed them, they had been going at their climb for quite a while.
There were more families taking pictures on the bridge as we arrived the second time, and this time I watched as they smiled and laughed in the mist of the waterfall (one of God’s underappreciated blessings on this warm day). We waited behind them until they were finished, and then took a few photos of our own in front of the impressive waterfall.
We reached the front desk in plenty of time (4:33 PM if I remember correctly), and the lady at the desk happily punched our cards. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the top of the mountain (we drove this time) and walking a couple of the shorter trails they have in the park.
Are we so worried about the clock and achieving our goals that we miss out on God being a part of the ascent? I missed out on what could have been a beautiful climb with God and my wife, but instead I had a stressful, tiresome climb with my wife who was surely annoyed by my efforts to hurry things along. Thankfully we were able to slow down and enjoy the climb back down and the rest of the after noon at the park. But here’s the thing: we’re not guaranteed the trip back down. We don’t know what tomorrow may hold. We may not get the chance to slow down and soak in God’s beauty later.
Sure, it’s good to have goals, and sometimes reaching those goals can be stressful. But in those times may we look for God in the journey. May we work hard toward our goals without excluding God. May we not procrastinate our time to enjoy being with our Father until the descent. Let’s seek God in the ascent as well. Let’s enjoy the climb.