Two Rocks Don’t Make a Duck

Cairn at Acadia National Park
September 23, 2013

My God is my rock. – Psalm 18:2 (NIV)

When my husband and I visited the Acadia National Park Visitors Center, informational placards lined the uphill walkway from the parking lot to the building. Of course, I had to read them all. Not only because I needed to catch my breath from climbing the hundred-plus steps, either. Maybe it’s the teacher in me. Or my insatiable curiosity. Or both.

Since Dean’s impatience at my frequent stops was starting to show (and it was only the beginning of the day), I took pictures of the placards so I could read them later in the evening when he was asleep in his recliner.

But the cairns intrigued me, and I took my sweet time at each of them.

A cairn is a stone structure built to point the way on a trail. Although cairns come in various shapes and sizes, the ones at Acadia were no more than 18 inches high and were built with four or six large stones: two or four large, square ones on the bottom with one large, rectangular stone spanning them, and a smaller, triangular-shaped one on top, with the tip pointing the direction of the trail.

“Cairns are carefully built and placed to point the way,” one placard read. “When trail blazes are hidden by fog or snow, cairns are essential,” said another.

Another placard warned of tampering with the cairns: “Do not build new cairns or add to existing cairns – you may confuse or endanger hikers.”

Back at the camper, I googled “cairns” to find out more about them. Trail marks in North America, I learned, are often called “ducks” or “duckies” because the point of the top rock resembles a duck’s beak. “The expression ‘two rocks don’t make a duck’ reminds hikers that just one rock resting on another could be the result of accident or nature rather than intentional trail marking.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairn)

Like a path in the woods, the trail of life can be confusing at times, too. The fog of indecision, the snow of fear about the results of our choices may hide the direction we are to go. Sometimes all the paths look good – or bad.

Right now I’m wrestling with a decision of whether or not to proceed with the project of publishing a third book of meditations – compilations of this column. Since I self-publish, the cost upfront comes out of my pocket. I’ve started two or three times to put the book together since my last compilation came out in 2002. But each time I backed out because of finances.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you,” the Bible tells us in James 1:5 (NLT).

And again: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NLT).

God’s cairns are there for the asking. But sometimes we don’t recognize them because, like me, we don’t know what they are.

But when we do, we see that He’s placed them at every point we need direction. We just need eyes to see the duck.

Give me the spiritual sight to see and recognize the cairns You’ve placed along my life’s path, O Lord. Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 13:21–22

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Treks and Trails

The view of Fort Ticonderoga from the top of Mount Defiance

 

He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not sleep. – Psalm 121:3

To celebrate our fortieth anniversary, DH and I took a two-week camping trip through the Northeast. Starting with the Finger Lakes region in New York, we drove through the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and then up the coast of Maine to Acadia National Park.

When we weren’t on the road, I’d planned for our vacation to be a time of resting and recharging.

I should have known better than to think Dean would be content to sit around relaxing. Every day he was anxious to be out the door as soon as breakfast was over. We put 450 exploring miles on our truck and I don’t know how many on our feet.

The first trail we hiked was the ¾-mile Gorge Trail in New York’s Taughannock State Park – a level, gravel-topped track that ran parallel to the Taughannock Creek and led to the 215-foot waterfall of the same name.

“I can do this!” I thought as I stepped along, stopping to read every placard along the trail, feeling proud of myself because I was really pretty much out of shape.

The next trek was up the one-mile paved road to the summit of Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga, New York. We’d spent the day exploring the fort, and all I could think of was getting back to the camper and propping up my aching feet. But when we got to the road to the summit, the gates were closed.

Celebrating the climb

“I can do this!” I told Dean when he said we’d have to walk. Somehow I got my second wind. And third . . . and fourth . . . it took 36 minutes to reach the summit – 25 walking minutes and 11 stopping minutes for me to catch my breath. There were places where we ascended a foot with each step. But the view at the top was worth every gasp.

When we reached Acadia National Park in Maine, 120 miles of trails ranging in difficulty from “very easy” to “strenuous” wound through Mount Desert (pronounced “dessert”) Island. The walking wasn’t easy. The coastline is rocky, the mountains granite, and the trails comprised of roots and rocks to step over, between, on (and trip on) – and boulders to climb.

Rocky, root-embedded trails of Acadia National Park

The Ship Harbor Trail was rated easy. Right. We stopped on the way back to the campground to buy a box of Epsom salts.

“I need hiking shoes,” I told Dean while my feet were soaking. “These sneakers are for walking nut hiking.”

The Beech Mountain Trail, the last one we hiked, looked easy at first – soft, smooth, brown forest floor. Then we came to a marker. The left trail was .4 mile; the right was .7 mile. Since we were pressed for time, I chose the shorter trail.

But shorter doesn’t mean easier or quicker. The smooth forest floor soon changed to roots, rocks, and boulders.

“I can do this!” I said, when still another boulder presented itself. Envisioning the view from the top kept me stepping along, as well as Dean’s hand sometimes dragging me along. “I’ve come this far . . .”

It took us 50 minutes to reach the summit and 30 minutes to walk the .7 mile trail down off the mountain.

All the trails we hiked weren’t so challenging. There were sections that wound through pine trees along a soft forest floor, where I didn’t need Dean’s hand for balance or support – or to drag me over the places I didn’t think I could traverse.

The trails of life are the same: they range in difficulty from very easy to strenuous to “I don’t think I can make it!”

But we can make it. It just takes a vision of the view from the top, a hand to help us along, and lots of “second winds.”

I made it to the top!
Birch Mountain, Acadia National Park, Sept. 26, 2013

Thank you, Lord, for Your guiding hand that gives me balance, support, strength – and pulls me through the tough places when I don’t think I could take one more step. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 121.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey.