Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Another pile of rocks...We're going the right way"

On our trip home from Arizona's meeting with the First Nations Spiritual Elders and members of the US Government to discuss sacred sites, my family stopped at the Grand Canyon and then at Arches National Park.  My six year old son's eyes could not stretch any bigger as he tried to take in the sites.  We broke up the 28 hour drive home with some hiking: I could physically feel the excitement jumping out of Caleb's little body.As we left the Visitor's Center with his Junior Ranger book, he kept asking "how will we know when we get to where we want to go?"  I asked him back: "Where are you trying to go?"  We had no agenda, plenty of water and eager legs to stretch, so we drove through the park, stopping at rock formations that captivated us.  At one stop he pointed to the Utah license plate in the trail head parking lot and said "let's go THERE."  So we headed to the Delicate Arch trail which the pamphlet describes as strenuous 3 mile round trip hike with a steep climb with rock pile "cairns" to mark the way.

The sun was inviting and warm on my arms.  The air had just enough of a cool breeze that I debated whether or not to put on a jacket. As we trudged uphill sipping water, Caleb noticed that the trail became less and less visible.  Then we walked on the sliprock where the trail abruptly ended.  No signs of where to go except a pile of rocks.  These Cairns are built by hikers in the wilderness to help guide the path for others and to help find your way back home.  They are close enough together that you can see the next cairn from the one where you are standing.  When we hiked up Longs Peak in Colorado after nightfall, the cairns were one flashlight beam length apart and these seemed similar distance.

So every few minutes as we'd pass a cairn, we'd hear this sweet voice say "Another pile of rocks...going the right way."  Hours of hiking in near silence except for the wind and this refrain, somehow the trail symbolized our family journey.  There have been cairns along the way that confirmed we were going the right way.  Other periods where we stood looking 360 degrees around us desperately seeking  direction.  There were some "cairns" that were small stacks that we wondered if they were the actual marking or not.  Other confirming moments seemed larger than life and we would take a small rock from that spot that we would add to our rock collection we keep in our home.  On days when I feel crazy and lost, I get out the rock collection we keep in our house and reflect on our journey. Even if I can't remember exactly what each rock meant, the collection is getting larger and that is confirmation enough that we are not alone. God has been so gracious to give us "cairns" along the way and this week served as another confirmation for our family.  Another pile of rocks...we are going the right way.