On day two of my time at Village Creek, I made my way to Beaver Creek Valley State Park about 50 miles northwest of the camp outside of Caledonia, MN. What a gem of a state park! I had read about their 6.2 mile trail in a magazine article about the ten “easiest hikes in Minnesota” while waiting in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago. When I spoke with the park ranger, she informed me that the Minnesota state park system has a Hiking Club (lifetime membership for only $14.95; you get stamps, a stickers, have to find the secret password in each part, can win fabulous prizes, etc.) – each of the 74+ parks has a designated hiking trail that is part of this club. Of the 6.2 miles on the hike I discovered that about four miles of this trail were flat, but about two miles of it go up and down through the bluffs and two peaks – one on each side of the Beaver Creek Valley. The ranger informed me that a rather fit person can do these two miles in about 40 minutes.
Thinking that I would enjoy the scenery of the bluffs, I decided to take on the difficult park of the trail first and made my way to Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, aptly named as I found out.
As I discovered about ten steps into the trail, my ambition and my body were not in sync with my plan. However, I am stubborn. I proceeded to make the initial climb fully confident that I would complete this 6.2 mile hike and get my sticker or stamp or whatever. I did not join the club prior to the hike; however, the park ranger gave me a post-it note with a stamp on it and room for the password so that the next park could give me credit for this hike.
Did I mention that when I arrived at the park I bought a one year all Minnesota park pass rather than a day pass? Ambitious was I.
I don’t really know how long it took me to get to the top of the bluff – longer than a fit person for sure, but I did enjoy the breath-taking views.
Not long after I sat down to rest and take in the beauty, a feeling of dread started to sink in. I was tired, no doubt, but not so tired that dread should overcome me. As I contemplated what I was feeling, I realized that I dreaded the descent back into the valley. While the trip down itself would be difficult (I get shaky walking down hills and fear falling without being able to stop myself), that was not what bothered me. I was simply content to be on the top of the bluff. I wanted to stay there. I wanted to remain in the beauty of that moment.
And then I realized: It was not the trip down that I dreaded but the valley itself.
Surely the valley could not compare in beauty to what I could see atop the “mountain.” Birds of prey soaring, green foliage, a wondrous blue sky accented with white, wispy clouds – this was worth seeing. How could the valley compare?
I was so wrong.
Once in the valley, I found lush foliage, beautiful moss, a spring that begins Beaver Creek, cool breezes, and soothing shade. The contrast between the top of the bluff and the valley surprised me. In the heat at the top of the bluff, I had used my shirt as a towel to “mop my brow” earlier. In contrast, I walked calmly in the valley without the intensity I had in the ascension to the bluff. I found myself realizing that, though the top of the bluff had spectacular views, the cool refreshment of the valley invited me to linger.
1THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD; I SHALL NOT WANT.
2…He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley…,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Like civilizations before me, I like to climb to the top. Structures such as the Tower of Babel, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Empire State Building reveal humanity’s need to climb and reach for something higher or beyond us. In the US, we talk about “climbing the corporate ladder. ” We speak about people at the top as having “made it” while those at the bottom are somehow missing out on something.
What I realized yesterday was that, while the view from the top was spectacular, I discovered as much or more beauty in the valley. I want to believe that, when he penned Psalm 23, David understood this. I want to believe that he had been atop a mountain, had seen the spectacular views, had wanted to stay there, and had dreaded the valley. I want to believe that, like I did, David had found refreshment and restoration in the valley that he had feared so much.
As I shared these thoughts with a new acquaintance at camp last night, she asked me, “So what is it that you are striving for?” And more importantly, I thought, Why am I not content wherever I am? If the Lord is my shepherd and He promises to be with me in the valley, where better to be?
**Orthodoxy alert: if I am wrong or have taken too much liberty with the David statements, I am sure that my huz (aka “the pastor”) will correct me.