What is it about hiking along a roaring stream high in the Rocky Mountains that mesmerizes human beings? Is it the continual roar of the stream assaulting the ear or perhaps the unique scent of a billion fallen pine needles decomposing to moist loam? Maybe it is the ability to gaze skyward, allowing the eye to follow the towering line of massive evergreens until they merge with blue sky.
Recently I enjoyed a late afternoon mountain hike with two friends after we finished an all day teacher seminar. As we picked our way up the mountain behind the conference ground looking for some real nature, I appreciated how gardeners had blended natural elements into the condominium landscape.
Pines, firs, and aspens fit into the scene so naturally it appeared the construction crew simply built around them, but as we hiked away from the complex, I saw details not included in the condominium landscaping.
Alpine wildflowers dotted the mountainside. From delicate violets to brazen orange-red columbine, we found treasure after treasure we had not discovered during our village walks.
As we played a simple game moving from one wildflower patch to another, a kind of alpine dot to dot, our ears picked up a new sound--a distant roar. Finding the source of the roar challenged us.
Huffing in the thin air, we climbed upward, noting ab increasing volume. Finally we spotted a stream tumbling wildly down the mountainside. In late June, melting snows feed these freshets, adding power and majesty as foaming water eats its way down the mountain to merge into the Arkansas.
This stream raced down the mountain and anything that fell in would experience a perilous course over large rocks and small boulders. In addition, the stream had overflowed its banks, eroding dirt away from roots of ancient firs. Some of these trees stood a good thirty feet tall, while water nibbled and sucked the dirt away from roots like someone cleaning a chicken bone before sucking the marrow.
Water raced, forcing small trees and bushes to dance to its tune. In fact, some large firs and thin aspens had succumbed, scattering trunks and limbs to create patches of turbulence.
After climbing a bit higher, we stood on the bank and marveled that some of those trees still stood. So much dirt had washed away in the current that daylight glimmered through the root system. One tree’s entire base appeared suspended above the foam except for a huge root that disappeared into the foaming depths.
I examined that fir suspended upright above the rushing water. It would require an amazing root to face such an onslaught.
This example of natural force reminded me that humans who survive onslaught after onslaught in life are much like that tree. They too have an anchor to allow them to stand tall in life’s torrents.
Each of us must find what gives us strength to make it from day to day. Finding that tree made me think about how my own support system strengthens my life.