November 10, 2010

The Trail Up Boney Mountain

I HAD BIG PLANS. DURING AN UPCOMING VACATION TO ZION NATIONAL PARK in Utah, I was going to climb a towering rock in the park’s canyon. Getting to the top involves climbing up a trail that winds back and forth up the side of the tall canyon wall, which then leads to a narrow path with plunging cliffs on both sides. Holding onto a chain, climbers cautiously walk across a land bridge and then hike to a rocky perch called Angels Landing. The rock is so tall that the tour buses 1,200 feet below look about an inch long.
It had been awhile since I’d done any hiking, so I decided to get into shape. If I could climb nearby Boney Mountain two or three times, I thought, I should be in great shape for the climb to Angels Landing.
I got up early one Sunday and started collecting my gear. I was going to be prepared. I filled my flask with water, packed a small towel to use to cool myself, and bought some trail snacks.

By the time I arrived at Boney Mountain it wasn’t so early anymore, but it was a beautiful summer day with a cool breeze. I followed the trail across a large meadow and over small hills, and then it started climbing. By then it was noon and getting hot.
I met a woman named Jane, who also was climbing the mountain, and we decided to walk together. Jane told me she goes to the gym every day to work out and that this climb was a treat for her.
There was no longer much shade, and wiping down my sweaty face didn’t help for long. When I stopped to rest under an oak tree, Jane decided to go on. I finally stood to leave but found I was still very tired and hot. This hike isn’t going to be as easy as I had imagined, I thought. I nibbled on some trail mix, drank more water, and donned my hat. But after just a few agonizing minutes of walking, I conceded that I would not make it up the mountain that day and started back down the trail.
On the return trip I passed fellow hikers. One person was busy with his camera equipment and didn’t see me. Then came a jogger, who obviously was better prepared than I for the trip. Others were walking, but moving more quickly than I was. But I kept plugging along and finally reached my car.
After this experience I still was looking forward to the climb to Angels Landing, but I realized it was going to take more than the right supplies and a trip or two up Old Boney to get me ready.

This brought to mind my journey to heaven. The supplies and equipment I’m using to help get me there are varied. I attend church every Sabbath. I help others. I avoid harmful habits and behaviors. But I’ve underestimated what it takes to prepare to meet Jesus. My good practices and visits to church are good—God expects them from me—but it’s going to take more conditioning than that. God wants me to go to the “gym” every day by walking with Him in every detail of my life, talking with Him, and doing His errands. Only then will I find the trip to heaven to be a “treat.”
I decided that I was going to be ready for that climb up Angels Landing by making room in my life for the daily activities it would require to get me to that point. As I believe that God will be with me as I prepare for my climb, I also feel assured that He will be with me as I walk with Him every day in preparation for the really big trip—to heaven.
Art Kharns (pictured above) is a systems analyst writing from Simi Valley, California. This article was published November 11, 2010.