I was ready to get back to the waterfalls, but I didn’t want to go alone. During worship one Sunday at church, I felt God nudge me to ask my friend, Jen, to go with me. It made sense. Jen often had weekdays off from work, she’s athletic, and she has that one quality we all like in friend even if we don’t want to admit it: she rarely said no. After worship, I asked her if she could go on a hike later that week. She readily agreed and the date was set for that Thursday.
Jen is a busy mom too, so I knew I had to pick a place that wasn’t too far away so we could be back by early afternoon. Searching the internet I found Trestle Falls to be less than an hour from town and about a two-mile hike. That seemed doable in a half a day.
Thursday morning arrived with a clear sky and a not-quite-warm temperature. A perfect day for a hike. We followed the directions I printed out and arrived at an empty and small pull out parking area. When I got out of the car, the only sounds were the light breeze moving through the tops of the tall fir trees and the soft hum of Trestle Creek.
We walked over Trestle Creek via bridge and soon found the worn-looking trailhead sign for Upper Trestle Creek Falls. The path cut into the side of the hill, and went up at quite a steep grade. I figured it would level out quickly. I was wrong. Jen had me lead the way, but after the second bend in the still up-hill trail, I stepped aside, nearly gasping for breath. “Here, you go in front.”
Jen hesitated. “But if you’re in front I don’t have to worry about leaving you behind.” She spoke with ease, not winded at all.
“It’s OK, I’ll catch up to you eventually,” I insisted. Jen hesitantly took the lead. She walked at what I knew was a slow pace for her, and looked back over her shoulder every few minutes.
This wasn’t quite what I planned on. I thought during the hike up I would enjoy the beauty of the woods. I thought Jen and and I would have deep conversations. All I could focus on was breathing; talking was out of the question. I also spent most of the time looking down. The trail was narrow, steep, and dotted with roots and rocks. The limited range of motion in my right foot required me to make sure I didn’t put any weight on it when I stepped on an uneven surface. Otherwise, I could fall and possibly end up rolling down the hill until I hit a tree. I barely even noticed the sounds of the forest. All I could hear was a Chris Tomlin song playing on repeat in my head. “You’re a Good Father.” I wasn’t sure why it was there, but I knew it was God’s way of encouraging me to keep going. Every so often Jen stopped to take a picture. I’m pretty sure she was actually just giving me a chance to catch my breath.
“Has it been two miles yet?” I asked during one of our breaks.
Jen looked at her watch, “Maybe a mile.”
I prayed silently, “Lord, if I’m going to keep doing this, I really need to get in better shape.” He didn’t respond. I mentally added another goal to my mid-life crisis list: get to the gym more often.
Eventually the terrain somewhat leveled out. We came to a dilapidated looking bridge over a shallow stream. Jen stopped. “Umm, do you think it’s safe?” I had made it this far and not passed out. Crossing the bridge looked like child’s play to me. “If not, it’s not that far down,” I said, walking across. We came to a curve in the path marked by a mini-fall. I stopped to take my first picture. Now that I could breathe, I was starting to feel that excitement I remembered from waterfall adventures of the past. I could hear the rumble of the real fall. I knew we were almost there.
A bit further down the trail, we saw the fall between the trees. Both of us picked up our pace. Then, there it was — Trestle Falls. The trail was uneven and rocky, but we found a wet alcove and stood in it, watching the water tumble down.
The trail continued on to the bottom of the first tier of the fall, but was rocky, muddy, and sloping almost sideways. “What do you think?” Jen asked, nodding toward the remaining trail. “Let’s try it.” I said. We carefully walked up the muddy slope, and found a flat spot to take some pictures. A mixture of joy and accomplishment filled my heart. According to what I read online, the trail went behind the fall. What I saw though was more of a slight indentation in the hill, and a muddy one at that. Jen and I agreed that it didn’t look safe.
We went back to the little alcove, which had water dripping over its edge, and watched the falls for a few minutes. “It’s kind of mesmerizing, isn’t it?” Jen said. I only nodded, and swallowed the lump forming in my throat. Watching the falls, the Chris Tomlin song came to the refrain:
Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so un-explainable I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still … in love with you
I understood in that moment that God had called me back to the falls. He had used them once to call me to Him, to show me the power of His love and grace. After all I had been through in my life, I thought I didn’t need to search for more. I was wrong. God wanted me to keep searching for Him, to seek more of Him. I had grown stagnant, spiritually out of shape. Because He knows what I need before I even know it, He had directed me to the difficult trail at Trestle Falls. And he had sent me a friend that could go with me, who would lead me but not leave me behind, just as He had been leading me, urging me, but not giving up on me. Everything He did had it’s purpose. All I had to do was listen to Him.
Heading back down the hill, I felt steadier on my feet. Sure, it may have been because we were going downhill instead of up, but I think there was more to it than that. I felt a lightness in my chest and a surge of energy. Oh, and the song in my head changed. I now heard For King & Country’s “It’s Not Over Yet.”
How could I not smile? There are more waterfalls in my future.