Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hiking with the Blessed Mother

My first introduction to hiking was not a good one.  It occurred at the Air Force Academy and included seven days of hiking about 8-10 hours a day in the Colorado mountains.  They called it Survival Training, which was a very good name. 

Even years later, my husband had a difficult time convincing me to accompany him on a hike.  He finally coaxed me to go along by packing cookies, cheese and a small bottle of wine to enjoy at the summit.  We climbed the trail together, talking and soaking in the beauty of nature around us, and I actually enjoyed the experience.  I bought a pair of good hiking boots, and we included hiking as a part of our regular workouts.  When our children were born, we carried them on packs and gradually accustomed them to longer hikes, luring them to the trails with the promise of their favorite dehydrated meals at the end.

You can imagine our excitement at moving to a small town at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The trails beckoned, but record-breaking rain and snowfall kept us away.  Now that spring has arrived, I decided that today would be a good day to dust off the hiking boots.

At the base of the 3-mile trail was a sign that advised hikers to "Follow the blue blazes" to the summit.  As I traveled the wide, clearly marked path, I noticed bright blue plastic disks nailed to the trees about every 20 feet.  "Why bother?" I thought.  "A child could follow this trail!"  Yet as I continued upward, crossing roads and going deeper into the forest, I began to rely on those little blue markers to guide my way.  At times, I couldn't see them and had to continue on what I thought was the right path, looking for a glimpse of blue ahead.

I pulled my Rosary from my pocket and meditated on the Luminous Mysteries as I repeated the familiar prayers to the rhythm of my pace.  As I asked the Blessed Mother to guide my thoughts, I was struck by the symbolism of the blue markers on my trail.  Blue is Mary's color, and she leads us to her Divine Son through her favorite prayer, the Rosary.  The trail I hiked was occasionally wide and easy, but more often steep, rocky and rough.  The path to heaven is quite similar.  Sometimes it is so easy to practice virtue, but it is often a struggle, and I lose my way.  Like the markers on the trail, I rely on Our Lady to guide me through those difficult parts of the journey.

I finally reached the summit and spent a few minutes enjoying the breathtaking view.  The reward for staying on the right trail was a good one, and I hope my devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary will lead to a heavenly reward as well. 

Before I started back down the trail, I bent over to adjust my laces and was struck by the realization that my hiking shoes were the same brilliant blue as the markers.  I smiled, knowing that Our Lady was guiding my feet on the right path as well as my heart.

Note:  The photo on this post is of Our Lady of the Rockies in Butte, Montana.  We saw this amazing statue on top of a mountain as we drove through that beautiful state.  Unfortunately, our plans did not permit the 1/2 day required to take the tram up the mountain to see the statue.  We did admire it from afar, however.  If we ever go back, it will be at the top of our "must visit" list.


Maia said...

Beautiful! I love grace-filled realizations in ordinary moments! I believe Our Lady of the Rockies plays a part in one of the Bud McFarlane novels (I THINK it is House of Gold, but not definite). If you haven't read McFarlane, they are great page-turners and wonderful Catholic (fun) reading.

Peggy Bowes said...

I'll have to put them in my Amazon wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation!