My family and I spent last week in Olympia National Park in Washington State. On the day after setting up camp, we hiked up a steep trail called Hurricane Ridge. It promised a pretty view in just a little over a mile and a half.
We set out in the late afternoon. Other hikers passed us going in both directions. We stopped to take pictures, to admire the trees, the flowers and the increasingly dramatic view. It was a steady walk up a path lined on either side with wildflowers.
Hiking is a metaphor for the creative life, and this hike was no exception. It was much steeper than I thought, and therefore harder to walk. In the beginning, I was optimistic and full of energy. Midway, it got rockier and I had to watch every step. I was sure we’d taken a wrong turn: this hike seemed to lead away from the summit. My feet were sore and I was winded. Toward the end I was convinced—no, determined—that the apex was around each corner, and every time I was wrong.
I started to imagine that there was no actual top, or that it would be too dark when we finally got there. There would be no payoff. No satisfaction.
Each step drove home a reminder of the qualities I lacked: Persistence. Patience. Faith, and more faith.
Finally, the corner did yield to the top, and the promise of the hike’s view was fulfilled in abundance.
The top is a ridge, like a spine along the back of a great beast. On the northern side, we saw across the craggy snow fields to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Canada.
On the other side was a broad view of the Olympic Range. Snow capped mountains atop misty forests. Green river valleys slanting with late sunlight. Marmots shuffling and deer grazing.
Lesson learned. Again.