Hiking 101

Still Creek Road Collage

Moving to the Pacific Northwest has been, in some ways, like going away to college all over again – the University of Real Life. My favorite class is Hiking. No matter how warm, cold, wet, muddy, dusty, or buggy it is, I have never been on a hike here where I haven’t learned something.

For example –

  1. If you don’t get the fruit you want, come at it from a different direction. It’ll change your perspective.

My hiking professor/buddy, Cari, loves to make freezer jam. But to do that, we have to have berries. And while many jam-makers are content to go to the grocery store or the farm stand, Cari and I prefer to pick our berries. Not long ago, we grabbed a bucket and headed out to her favorite secret berry-picking spot, and found that, alas, salmonberries were ripe and abundant. We picked. And we picked. And we picked. And we picked. And now, we have delicious, golden-red salmonberry-raspberry jam in both of our freezers. But something that I quickly noticed on that cool, berry-picking day, is that many times, I would walk away from a thicket, thinking I’d gotten all of the berries, only to turn around and see that once I was looking from a different angle, there were actually several more berries hiding under leaves. I just needed to look at it from a different direction.

  1. Just because you can hear the rain doesn’t mean it will hit you. And if it does, it may just refresh you.

When I first started visiting the Pacific Northwest, my friend Nick, told me that something I needed to learn quickly was that you can’t wait for the rain to stop here – because if you do, you’ll never get anything accomplished. I believed him when he said it, but now that I live it, I really realize the truth of it. But when you’re hiking in the mountains, there are actually times that the forest is so dense above your head that while you know it’s raining and can hear the raindrops above your head on the leaves, it never actually reaches you. And as nice as it is to sometimes be protected from the rain, when you’re tired and hot and have had a long, hard hike, there’s something very refreshing about cool raindrops on your skin. Sure, we all love the sun, but too much of it burns. Sometimes, rain is welcome.

  1. Just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean it’s safe.

To me, one of the prettiest wildflowers of spring is foxglove. It comes in lovely shades of white, blue, violet, and purple. And I look forward to seeing it each spring and summer, up on Mt. Hood. But with as beautiful as it is, it’s also poisonous and deadly. That reminds me of a lot of things in my life… relationships I’ve been in that from the outside looked beautiful, but behind closed doors were toxic…

  1. You don’t have to be in a building that calls itself a church for God to speak.

When I lived on the East Coast, I loved to go to the ocean because I could hear God so clearly there. But now that I spend more time hiking in the mountains, I’ve found that God speaks to me there just as clearly. Like Much-Afraid of Hinds’ Feet on High Places, I hear God’s voice in the birds, the creeks, the waterfalls, and the rain on the leaves.

  1. Hike the trail with someone who knows it better than you.

I’ve tried to walk alone far too much in my life. I thought I had to. I thought that I was a bother or a hindrance to people. I didn’t want to slow them down. But more, I didn’t want them to get close enough to see how weak and slow and out-of-shape I really was. Pride. It’s foolish. Because what happened was that when I got to the steep or rocky places, I would fall and hurt myself, and my voice wasn’t always strong enough to be heard when I asked for help. But one of the first things that Cari taught me in Hiking 101 is that you don’t just go out on unknown trails by yourself. You walk with those who are wiser than you, stronger than you, more familiar with the terrain, and who can help you over rocks and lift you over obstacles on the trail that you could never get over by yourself.

God, tonight, I thank You for never abandoning me on the trail. I thank You for those you have sent to help me along the trail – the ones who have walked silently, holding my hand, as well as the ones who have sung with me on the journey. I thank You for those who have hung back with me during my slowest, weakest moments, when my knees were almost too shaky to stand, but they didn’t judge me. They just passed me the canteen and said, “You can do this.” I thank You for the ones who have pointed out beauty to me at times when I thought I was going to die on the barren, dusty path. And I thank You for my newest traveling partners – I keep thinking that I can’t possibly give more love than I’ve given already, but I keep getting proven wrong. And I keep getting loved back, in return. What an amazing view You’ve given me! What a journey!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Beautiful photos, Sarah, and perfect lessons. God is so good!

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