Earlier this summer I took a lovely little trip, by myself, to wherever I happened to decide to go on any given day. I had a long term goal of landing somewhere on the Northwest Coast – Oregon-ish – but no real schedule and no commitments. I wanted to follow my heart. I needed to follow my heart.
I randomly set out on a Wednesday morning because that’s how things lined up and decided right away that I would travel through Montana first, and that I would vary my trip from the usual I90-straight-west path I’ve taken before. I pulled out my road oversized road atlas with the cover falling off, found the first highway north off the 212 and headed out with big dreams. I imagined running across quaint little towns, finding nooks and crannies in the mountains that would become my sanctuary for the night, and feeling joy spread through my whole body again in one long moment that stretched across the Montana skies.
I was unpleasantly surprised. I spent most of my time on highways that were bordered by scrub land, and – while beautiful in its own way – it does get old after awhile. So does the view from the rear end of a semi trailer. So does 90+ degree heat. By the 9th hour even my faithful companion was giving me a look of disgust.
Finally, after pulling over several times to resource the technology available on my phone, I found the title of a little campground set a ways off the highway. I fumbled through an awkward construction zone and braced myself for a night spent camping under the lone tree I could make out in my immediate landscape – that had to be the campground. An hour and a half later I was convinced I would be ecstatic camping in a landfill – as long as I could get out of this stinkin’ hot car. When I realized it would be another half hour to the campground, I almost gave up and pulled over to sleep in a ditch, but the hint of a mountain to my left and the impending turn in that direction spurred me on and after winding through several mis-leading turns leading away from the oasis I imagined, I found myself at it’s very feet, about to enter a space between two peaks and a moment later my pup and I were enveloped in the wild mountain scene I had longed for. Instantly the car was 10 degrees cooler from the shade, and from the abrupt climb that lifted us quickly into the center of the mountain and a long fifteen minutes later, to the edge of Crystal Lake.
The moment my eyes fell upon it my breath was taken away. Tucked in a low spot mid-way up the tiny range, a small, shallow lake appeared. Surrounded on two sides by steep embankments that lead up to the peaks and shoulders, the lake was like glass – totally undisturbed. I found myself at once awestruck and peaceful, elated and deeply calm.
Rumi and I found a site and after setting up the tent and filling both our bellies I sat and reflected on the day we’d had. I realized that the moment my hopes of finding a magic forest had been dashed against the back of a semi truck the fourth hot hour in, I had given up completely. I had spent the rest of the day loathing my decision, second guessing myself, pulling over too often to check and re-check the map, over analyzing what had gone wrong and where I could make a change. But the moment I found a campground, and the image in my mind was once again of a mountain oasis… the moment I had chosen to hold fast to that powerful hope that something beautiful awaited me… I found myself trusting the path laid out before me and – even though it looked often like I was going in the wrong direction – I wound up in exactly the kind of place I wanted to be. I realized that so many times in my life I give up to quickly, deciding I must’ve made a wrong turn somewhere when had I trusted the path that was laid before me, I may have found exactly what I was looking for. That night, on the banks of Crystal Lake, I promised myself I would hold my hope – my vision – in my mind, and then just trust the path and enjoy the journey.