I’ve never climbed a mountain…at least not one without stairs that was in a park somewhere. You know the kind, where there is a lookout of some sort built on top but to get to it you have to climb many, many stairs and when you finally gasp your way to the top you marvel at the view and are thankful that going down will be much easier. These kinds of mountains I have climbed.
I know of one such mountain in Upper Michigan called Silver Mountain. It is really just a big steep-sided rocky hill but for Yoopers, (someone born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), it is about as close to a mountain as we can get. I’ve climbed all of its stairs many times and the view from the top is quite amazing looking over the Sturgeon River valley. The way back down the mountain was even better than the view if you chose to forego the stairs and trail and scale down the rock wall on the backside of the mountain instead. Of course, keep in mind that when I say ‘mountain’ I’m really meaning nothing more than a really steep hill probably not much more than a couple hundred feet high. It is still a much more adventurous way down for those who crave a challenge than taking the stairs. There were parts of the way down that you had to face the rocks as you went down being sure to place your feet in the right places and hold on to the crevices with your hands as you made your way down. There is also a quite impressive sheer cliff wall on one side of the mountain that is often used by climbing clubs for rappelling. I have never been quite that adventurous, though, and the way I usually took down was not really that dangerous since there were plenty of foot falls and hand holds, and while steep it is not like you’re hanging over the edge of a great chasm. The whole descent takes about twenty minutes, maybe a little more if you’re enjoying the view on the way down.
I have always preferred the valley floor to the mountain top anyway, and climbing down this particular mountain was always much more fun than taking the stairs to the top or enjoying the view once there. Silver Mountain is surrounded by miles and miles of maple forests reaching as high as they can with their branches upraised creating a cathedral canopy that is a pure joy to walk beneath, especially in the fall. Conversations become hushed and every step is placed with attention to what is underneath. It is the quiet reverence that one feels just before the curtain opens or that first attempt at some monumental task – the last breath before the dive.
All too soon the little parking lot comes into view and you realize your adventure is over and the real world is waiting. There is a reason the Good Lord created mountain tops; from there we can see where we’ve been and what He’s taken us through and also catch a glimpse of where we are yet to go. We can rest for a moment, catch our breath…and maybe a bit of his…before we journey back into the valley. I do not believe it is by chance that often forest cathedrals surround the mountain. They provide a place for us to ponder and reflect on what we have just seen or experienced and give thanks for having made it safely to where we are. This is the place where we brush off the dust, sit down and empty our shoes of twigs and pebbles from the climb down, breathe deeply one last gasp of fresh mountain air, and then take His hand as we step back into the life He has given us to live.