December 3, 2020

The Unseen Trail

'Kanealole Trail Hike - Rocky Trail' photo (c) 2011, Daniel Ramirez - license: 2012: A Journey through the Wilderness
The Unseen Trail (Allen Krell)

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It was one of those beautiful days for a quick day hike. The weather was mild, warm enough not to need a jacket but too cool to wear shorts. I stopped by a local set of hiking trails on the side of a small mountain, with trails marked by volunteers. My mind had been preoccupied with struggles, and I thought a quick hike would be a great way to clear my thoughts. At the trail head, I find a trail of less than a couple of miles, and I head out for a quick hike.

Instead of taking in the beauty and quietness of the mountain, I spent the time preoccupied with the events of life. The struggles of the past year had overwhelmed me, and I could think of nothing else. The thoughts of my mind raced as I continued my walk.

I was growing weary, and I decided to take a short break. I hadn’t taken any water on my short journey, and my mouth was getting dry. I suddenly noticed the sun was much further down on the horizon than I had expected it to be. I had lost track of time, and more importantly, I had gotten off the intended trail.

I start walking again, anxiously looking for my original path. As I continued to walk, I noticed much of the trail looked very familiar, and I realized I was only going in circles. I see a side path and decide to try a different way, but it too only led me into circles. I continued looking for the way off the mountain, but I could not find the correct trail.

The sun kept setting in the distance, and I was very thirsty. My tongue and my lips were now throbbing. I stopped walking, and I took another rest. Trying to forget the dryness of my mouth, I begin to take in the beauty of the wilderness around me. With the sun low on the horizon, cool shadows were cast around me.

'Hiking trail, Lee Canyon, NV' photo (c) 2007, voxtheory - license: I started to walk again, I noticed another trail that I had not yet traveled. It was partly hidden by a bush, but it was a well-marked and worn trail. I was weary of endless walking, and I decided to try this trail. This trail was slightly narrow, but it seemed a little more worn than the others. Clearly, many people had traveled it before.

I was no longer traveling in circles, and this trail clearly was taking me in a new direction. This trail too seemed long, but eventually I saw a clearing in the wilderness. The trail opened up to a two lane road, with a sidewalk. I realized the road would lead back to the parking lot at the trail head.

I was exhausted now, but the knowledge of my destination gave me extra strength. I walked back up the mountain to my car at the trail head. I drove back to my apartment, opened the tap for a glass of water, and sat in a chair. My throat was so dry, the water would not go down. Only a trickle of water went down my throat before I collapsed asleep in the chair.

A time later, I awoke. It was now dark. The throbbing in my throat was now subsiding, and I was able to swallow more water.

My mind was a bit clearer now as I reflected on the travels of my day. The trail that led me out of the wilderness was well worn by many before me, and I passed it several times, but I hadn’t seen it. I wondered why it took me so long to find it.


  1. Interestingly,it was when you took a rest and noticed the beauty around you that you found the trail. Be still….

  2. Makes me miss the mountains, but also remember that I don’t have to go to them to be still and rest in the Lord.

  3. David Cornwell says

    It’s so easy to go around in circles, isn’t it? It happens in so many situations in life. And the strange thing is, we keep on doing it and somehow expect to come out in a different place. It can happen in relationships, with children, in church, and even with God.

    Realizing what is happening is something of a breakthrough however, but only if we let it be. Stopping what we are doing, silence, listening for the voice of God, seeing the beauty around us, and trying an unknown trail can change things.

    Oh– and you are making me miss the hills and mountains also.

  4. Allen I love the images you build of the forest. When I was in Boy Scouts one of my favorite things was going to Boy Scout camp in the Sierra Nevadas during summer. What I loved to do was go outside and lay down in a pasture and look up aty the sky. While overwhelmed by dark it was so bright from the stars that your eyes adjusted and you could see. You could watch the satellites and occasional shooting stars.

    Man…I just want to go camping!! 😀

  5. I lift my eyes to the hills…where does my help come from?

    Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a dream come true after a decade and a half in Florida. The mountains never look the same on any given day…..and I never feel exactly the same way when I see them daily. Yet, the Lord has been setting the sunrise and sunset here for more years than I can count, and it keeps me focused (in a good way) on my own insignificance apart from He who made and saved me.

  6. I do really love the mountains. I remember an old Appalachian mountain pastor joke that when someone bragged about going to the beach, he told them to remember Revelation 21:1 ” there was no more sea”

  7. I saw a trail map recently of my favourite patch of wilderness. I was amazed at all the trails that led in and out of the wilderness that I knew nothing about. To extend your analogy a bit further, some people will find a trail out of the wilderness and claim it’s the only one. Some will wander around and never find a way out. Others explore different trails out, but find that they don’t take them to the destination that they were hoping for.