Last weekend my sweetheart and I decided to embark on a day hike in the national forest. An article in the local newspaper suggested a five-mile trek along a canyon and included a drawing of a crude map and detailed instructions for each twist and turn along the way.
With excitement in our hearts, after waiting all winter for this chance to get out and enjoy the wilds, we drove to the gate, our day packs filled with water, snacks and binoculars. We were looking forward to a beautiful afternoon walk through the woods, fresh air, exercise and a shared experience.
Just like in the beginning, when we had first met and began our relationship, we looked forward to the journey ahead — not knowing what twists and turns might crop up in the future — but willing to take the risks that might lead to happiness.
After about an hour of walking, we discovered that the expected trail was different from what the article said it would be. Uncertainty about landmarks and paths led us to make our own decisions on which way to go. The further we walked, the less helpful the prescribed plan on newsprint was that I kept pulling out of my pocket. In fact, nothing in the article seemed accurate. It was obvious we had to make our own way on this journey.
We came upon a jeep road and weren’t sure if we should go left or right. We elected to take the left trail because our instincts told us that was the direction we needed to go in order to get back to the trail head.
As it turned out we took the wrong turn and eventually ran out of trail along the canyon. We had to turn around and retrace our steps. At this point we realized our newspaper instructions were completely worthless. The person who wrote the article must have been in another dimension!
We returned to the point where the jeep road intersected with our previous path and debated what to do. Should we go back the way we came or try to find the loop and enjoy some new scenery?
Some relationships tend to grow mundane after a while, and couples stay on the familiar pathways of life, never venturing further to discover new perspectives about one another. Not the two of us — we are constantly looking for new ways of exploring life together. Our interests are broad and we love sharing with one another new opportunities, spontaneous day trips, thoughts about our world, and our time together is always thrilling.
We decided to plunge forth and try to finish the journey we’d set out on. We continued down the jeep road rather than retrace our steps. We hoped the road might wind its way to our point of origin. We walked on and on... and our feet and legs were starting to grow weary.
There came a point late in the afternoon when we decided we had to stop and turn around. Both of us concluded that we were headed in the wrong direction and the sun was getting lower in the west.
Our relationship is solid. We make decisions together, based on our experience and respect and love for each other. Neither of us blamed the other for making a mistake. We both understood that we were on this journey together and had every intention of remaining together.
We backtracked to our path off the jeep road and were so involved, talking about a problem with one of our friends, that somehow we missed the turn that we’d come from. By the time we realized what we had done, we had gotten way off course and we found ourselves at the canyon once again.
Sometimes in relationships we get side-tracked by events in our lives and when other people interfere. But we caught ourselves in time and immediately headed back from where we had veered. At this point we knew we had to get back on track or we would be spending the night in the woods without flashlights, matches of adequate clothing.
Both of us were hurting after five hours of hiking — not yet used to it after the long winter. This would have been a good time for a panic attack to set in, but because we trust each other, we stuck together and plodded onward.
It was a long haul, but the two of us stayed cheerful despite our soreness and fatigue. We remembered a particular Ponderosa pine we’d seen on the trail shortly after we’d started out on our adventure. It was bent over, close to the ground, and had grown in that horizontal position perhaps for decades. It was our benchmark of knowing we would soon be back at the trail head. We stopped when we reached the tree and he took my picture beside it.
Relationships endure when there is love, respect, patience and trust. We kept on going, knowing that our chance of making it was better if we worked together in support of one another during the challenges.
It was half an hour before sundown when we finally emerged from the forest to our waiting truck. We’d made it! And I know our relationship also will make it... and it grows stronger each day as we face the challenges ahead, taking each twist and turn as it comes.
I have learned that it not the end of the journey or the accomplishment, but rather the enjoyment of each step along the way.