Monday, July 25, 2011

Return to Rainier

It had been nearly three years since I had last been up at Camp Muir. On July 31, 2008 my wife and I set out with our group to summit Mt Rainier. We had a great group to climb with and we had been training for 8 months or so.

On this day, July 23, 2011, Li Cai, a Chinese university student living with us, and myself, left the Paradise parking lot at 9:30 to hike up to Muir. This previous winter had been a heavy one with larger amounts of snow fall for longer into the spring. This bodes well for the hiker heading to Camp Muir as the route is quicker with fewer switchbacks on the rocky trails. For this hike, the snow was still down to the parking lot.

We took a rest at 9,000 feet to gain our composure for the final ascent. Paradise starts at 5,400 feet elevation with Camp Muir resting at 10,188'. It was sunny and warm and the lower oxygen levels were probably taking a toll on us.

The final ascent to Muir is deceiving. I have learned this from hiking this route a few times before. When you can first see the Camp, it seems just a few minutes away. Alas, it's about another hour. I knew this and just kept my head down.

With about 250' of elevation to go I looked up and saw the hut. The Hut. This Hut that is so full of memories, yet we only stayed in it for 12 hours, most of this time sleeping. It's the hut we stayed in on the evening of July 31, 2008.

On this day, they gave me no warning. These tears of mine started to seep from my eyes. I wasn't expecting them and they had now clouded my vision. Just three years prior I was hiking this part of the trail with great anticipation. Lea and I were strong. 40# packs on our shoulders. Lea, myself, and one other woman in our group arrived at Camp Muir first. We were strong.

But oddly enough, these tears were not full of disappointment, rather, love. They could have easily been painful tears. Having trained for 8 months to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime event only to be abruptly stopped by mother nature. For, at 1 AM on the morning of August 1, 2008, our guides came into the hut to tell us it didn't look good. Winds had topped 70 miles an hour and sleet was raining down. Just to make it to the out house, about 30 feet from the hut, was life threatening, or so it seemed. My lasting memory is of my wife. We laid on our bunk together and I looked over to her. A soft tear dripped from her eye and ran down her cheek. I will never forget it.

So on this day I lifted my head to locate The Hut, and tears flowed. Loving tears of gratefulness that I had a wife who loved me, who loved God, and who loved her kids. My beautiful wife.

I arrived to the Camp with relief. I felt good, but it was time to rest. I found a sunny rock that was angled perfectly. I took off my pack, laid back and slept for 45 minutes in the warm sun.

The Descent

Rest time was over and it was time to get off this mountain. There are plenty of memories to share of my descent on August 1, 2008, but perhaps those are best said in person. This day I was the last hiker of our group onto the trail heading down. For the greater of half the way down God stepped into my heart and revived me with His Lovingkindness, Psalms 119:89. Memories of traveling with my wife to Ethiopia, just two days after our summit attempt, to bring home my now 4 year old son. The trials and tribulations we faced in Addis Ababa, the first glimpse of Tekeste in his crib. His MASSIVE ear infection that grossed out Lea. Her response still makes me laugh. How quickly T latched onto me. His grip was his way of saying "Dad, you came for me. Please don't leave me, even for a second." And I will never forget returning home to my then 4 1/2 year old son. Seeing Liam at the airport, embracing him. My love for him is indescribable. I will never forgot that hug.

God has unique ways of ministering to our hearts. While I do anticipate encountering God everywhere I go, this day was special. It is these special times between my Father and I that reaffirm in my heart that I am a Sold Out Christ Follower.