Our car fled up the mountain roads with the front windows and one back window open. My cousin did say that it would be cooler up in Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston) – around 70 degrees. Truly, it was colder compared to the temperature in the flat lands.
When one is out in the sun in Vegas during summer, the sensation is that of opening an oven door to take a peak at a baking dish.
It was in December 2014 that I first visited Mt. Charleston but not for a hike. I had three or four layers of clothing then, while my cousins probably just had two, because winter is nothing to them. The sides of the roads and the peaks were covered in snow.
When we continued our drive up to the area we were going, I found familiarity in the scenery – only it was summer this time.
Seasons can clothe a place differently; winter has everything white, gray, and less saturated green, while summer brings the greens, browns, and blues together. For me, it felt as if I visited two different places in Mt. Charleston – Charleston in the summer and in the winter.
And this time too, we were going to hike Bristlecone Trail.
Before we went there, we first stopped over at Desert View Overlook.
The most noticeable thing was the silence.
It was so quiet that the silence could be heard.
After we breathed in the view, we went back to the car and continued the drive to Lee Canyon where the entrance to Bristlecone Trail was nearby.
This was my fifth hike, the last being in Mt. Talamitam in Batangas, Philippines on March 2016 with my officemates and superiors.
On the first few yards (haha!), I felt a bit challenged already, probably because of the altitude and of course, the gap of my last hike to this time. Surprisingly, I only used my inhaler once during the hike, when we were almost at the halfway point. I’ve been consistently being active and working out since February 2017, so my body relatively was able to adjust to the activity. Although, I was always the one at the last of the pack!
Being here reminded me of many things like Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia.
The sun was up, there were a few clouds, and the weather was perfect. We started the hike probably at 2:00 PM. The wind whispered sometimes, but there were occasions when it continue passing through the roads, gaps, and trees.
I thought about several things while hiking…
How the winds helped the trees speak. When a gust of wind would pass through, one can hear the leaves dancing. They were connected, and the connection was heard through a song of nature.
The growing trees and creatures. The trees, bushes, and all other flora – no one really watered them or nurtured them directly but God. The same with the birds, little critters, and insects. Over time, several years, they have been here on this mountain, being taken care of. I pray we continue to preserve them well in this peaceful and clean environment. It was just sad for me to see so many tree trunks with etched names or initials. It doesn’t hurt to just leave the trees as they are. May we be responsible more and aware that the trees are not ours to have our names etched on as they were our possessions.
How God is in nature, how God is everywhere. I am in awe of the universe, of its patterns, intricacies, designs, wonders, and mysteries. I am in awe of how trees grow, how gravity works, the planets and the stars, and people. While I waited for my cousins and their friend as they meditated, I sat on an old log on the ground covered with twigs and pine cones. I brought a book with me: Henri Nouwen’s Discernment. I read a few pages of the chapter on how God speaks to us through nature. In Ignatian Spirituality, one of their tenets of belief is finding God everywhere. His force of love and creation – evidences of this can be found on the forest floor, on the creatures that roam it, and the trees that grow tall to form a canopy of little and big leaves. Every time I am astounded by a thing of science, I know that behind it was a great and loving hand of creation. Science and faith, they are friends, and they can be together. As I gazed around me on that windy afternoon, I said in my thoughts, “God is here. God is alive.”
“If I am to follow Jesus, then I, too, must remain close to the soil. Often I look up into the clouds and daydream about a better world. But my dreams will never bear fruit unless I keep turning my eyes again and again back to the dust of this earth and listening to what God is saying to me on the road of life. For I am connected to the earth and to all who walk the earth with me. Nature is not the background to our lives; it is a living gift that teaches us about the ways and will of the Creator. My friends who are more aware of the way nature teaches have shown me how to slow down and savor the way God’s presence is woven into the natural world.” – Henri Nouwen, Discernment
How are responsible for taking care of our common home. I can’t recall where I have read it, but it was Pope Francis that called Earth our common home. Any act of violation or negligence to any part of nature is like against all of nature itself, and we all know how connected we all are; one thing will lead to another. Nature knows and sees, and it can feel pain, although not in a language we can comprehend or empathize with fully. As our planet is our common home (a very big home), we are all neighbors basically. We wouldn’t want to be the neighbor who doesn’t do his part in maintaining his lawn and home; we want to be the one who starts a good example that others can emulate too. We want to be the loving and kind neighbor who cares about the well-being of his fellowmen, of the earth’s creatures, its resources, and places of beauty.
How the mountain is a good place to meditate and pray. While the body is busy moving, the mind also takes part in contemplation. The heart and soul too are cleansed. I love how Jesus comes to the mountain by Himself to pray for hours… Sometimes too, even without saying a word, the very act of silently being in the presence of God is a prayer. Being in nature is a prayer, letting one’s self be one with all the elements is a prayer.
How hiking helps in developing character, interdependence, and friendships. Gravity is against you, the altitude doesn’t help much, and the tiny gravel can make you slip when your footing is not right. One’s mind tries to escape the stresses too experienced back there in the flat lands of work, bills, and petty and big troubles. Yet we persist in climbing to wherever we need to go. Hiking also enhances interdependence. I was touched when my cousins said that it was okay if I wanted to rest (because of my asthma). They and their friend asked me a few times how I was, and I did the same too. And of course, there is friendship. I wanted to know my cousins not just as cousins but also as friends. More than that, they have become like my older brothers already.
How nature calls for a soul to praise and worship. While my cousins and friend meditated in a nearby area, I went to a tree and sat on a rock by myself. There, I was facing this peak directly…
and somehow, I felt that praise was to be done for our Creator. I could have been quiet, yet my heart wanted to do something as I gazed at this view. I felt so much at peace then, as if the Lord was there on that peak, far yet close. All throughout the journey, the trees and the wind and the ground told me that He was there. And the birds and chipmunks, though no one human took care of them, God did. Though no one human watered the thousands of tall trees, they stood tall and strong over centuries. Probably longer.
In one of the parables, Jesus said that if only we had a mustard seed-like faith, we can say ‘Move!’ to a mountain, and it will move.
Maybe it’s not the mountains that move.
Maybe it’s our hearts.
What good a walk through nature can do to a heart that is weak.
I sat on a rock underneath that tree in the foreground. I bid it a thank you and a goodbye for letting me stay there with it as I sang a few songs from memory. I normally do not like the sound of my voice when singing, yet it didn’t matter during that time… I sang a little of Kings’ Kaleidoscope Come Thou Fount, Gungor’s Late Have I Loved You, St. Ignatius’ Take and Receive O Lord prayer, and a Church song called Be Not Afraid.
On our way back (we didn’t finish the whole trail, only to the halfway point), it felt so good in the heart and soul and mind to have taken that trail. I said to my cousins and friend, “I enjoyed this day with you guys.”
As we went down the mountain roads, I said thank you. The mountain was alive, and it was right to give thanks to its spirit along with the spirits of the trees and the creatures.
And of course, another thank You to the One who created them all, who created us all.
“While it is true that God is a hidden presence, we have only to let nature speak to us about the God who is everywhere.” – Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary