campmcdowellI love to go hiking.   The only problem is I get lost almost every time I go.

I get distracted by the trees, the flowers, the birds and the butterflies.  I love to smell the pine and feel the breeze by streams of water.  But I forget about the little painted marks on the side of trees showing the way.  Hiking maps are a mystery to me.

And so last week at Heartsong, it happened again.

Heartsong staff members—Wes, Gina, Jeff, and I had free time on Tuesday afternoon and decided to explore some of the 1100 acres of the beautiful and secluded woods, streams, and canyons on Camp McDowell’s land.  As we walked, two of our Heartsong participants, Cleveland and Robert, saw us walking and asked if they could come along.

I was concerned about Cleveland’s overall health and wondered if he could keep up.  I tried to discourage him by saying, “Now Cleveland, we’re probably going to be walking for a couple of hours or so.  Are you sure you can make it?”  “No problem,” he responded with his childlike voice.  I secretly shook my head, and off we went.

Swinging bridge with other folks crossing.Before long, we found the swinging bridge and needed to cross to the other side over the creek. It’s a little scary to walk over water when the bridge is moving up and down, side to side, every time you take a step.  Add 5 or 6 people walking on it at the same time, and you get the picture.

Robert wasn’t so sure about crossing on the swinging bridge as he watched all of us go to the other side.  “Come on Robert, you can do it!” we encouraged.  He was obviously nervous and uncomfortable, but he trusted his friends and slowly made his way across one step at a time.  We clapped and yelled encouragement.

One of the beautiful canyons and waterfalls on our hiking journey.We continued on the trail and stopped by a cavern with a waterfall that was cool and refreshing.  We talked with an experienced Camp McDowell staff member we ran into on the trail, and he explained all of the options we had for various trails ahead of us.

He gave us so many options that as we walked away, I was hoping someone else listened better than I. They didn’t.

We expected the trail to loop around to our original starting point and after walking for an hour and a half, Jeff and I began to wonder out loud, “Is this the right trail?  Where are we on the map?  We should be closer by now.”

And then Cleveland spoke up, who by the way was keeping up with the group better than anyone expected.  He said innocently,  “Do you think we ought to go back the way we know?

I responded, “Maybe it’s just a little further down this trail, come on Cleveland you can do it.”  We kept walking, and walking, and walking.  Nothing on the map matched the trail we were on.

Time was getting short and I was nervous.  Two of the four workshop leaders for the afternoon were with us and if we didn’t make it back soon, the whole retreat would be off schedule.

ClevelandAnother fifteen minutes went by and it wasn’t getting any better.  Cleveland repeated his question, “Do you think we ought to go back the way we know?”   I was out of ideas.

Jeff (a Cub Scout leader, but not an Eagle Scout he kept reminding us) and I looked at one another, nodded and said, “Cleveland, we think you are right.  Let’s go back the way we know.”  He grinned from ear to ear.

I was aware of the time the whole way back, beating myself up for being so stubborn earlier.

After pushing ourselves a little,  we made it back with 5 minutes to spare.  Gina and Wes walked into their workshops and began without missing a beat.

And me?  I learned a few things about life.

  1. Trust your friends when your steps are unsteady.
  2. Be open to learning from everyone, you may be surprised.
  3. Enjoy the beauty of the journey, while looking for signs along the way.
  4. When lost,  retrace familiar steps to get back home.
  5. Keep exploring, getting lost is worth it.

Thanks Cleveland, I’m glad you came along for the journey.