There was a moment when I was snowshoeing at Tahquanemon Falls when I thought I was lost. (The fact that I now know how to spell that amazes me.) The trail to the lower falls through a lovely pine forest was well-marked. Someone else had hiked before us. Footprints provided additional reassurance that I was on the right path.
After we passed the lower falls, I lost the trail. For about 15 minutes, I walked around the parking lot trying to find the blue blazes again. I eventually did, but we had to backtrack to get there. Whatever soul had provided their footprints as a guide had not made it to this end of the trail, and I was on my own to navigate. The several feet of snow left only a faint impression of the trail.
Trail blazes are sometimes called confidence markers. I know exactly why. When I see one – especially if I’m not quite sure I’m on the trail – I feel this rush of relief. On this particular trail, there weren’t many markers on the back end of the trail, but I saw them frequently enough that my fear of being lost in the woods in a remote place in the middle of winter subsided at regular intervals. Eventually we got back to a well-worn area, and my worries dissipated completely. So did my attention.
A girlfriend of mine is trying to find a new job and relocate. She’s packing her apartment to ready for her move, but there is no destination in her sights. There are a few likely suspects, but the path to her future is not well-marked. Every now and again, she’ll get a sign or a glimpse of hope that she is heading in the right direction, but it’s a difficult place to be when the trail is not clear. And it’s even scarier when there could be danger ahead.
In hindsight, the back end of that hike was the best part. The silence of that beautiful place, and my adventure with my dog were at once peaceful and exhilarating. The fear rooted me in the present. All of my senses were on high alert. When I think back on that trip, it’s that part of the hike that stands out in my mind. It was a highlight.
There are things that are scary and hard to do in our lives. We can choose safety and never go off the beaten path. But, the lightly trod path with confidence markers here and there speaks to my soul. And should I reach a spot where I feel lost, and I have to trust my intuition, use my resources and make hard choices, I usually look back at that time as the best part of my journey. The journey is not about the trail. The journey is about enlivening and educating my soul.