SOS! Air and Ground Attacks!

by | May 20, 2007 | Encouragement, Perseverance

Lake Louise is such a beautiful, fascinating place that the day before we left Banff we decided to visit it again. There are several proclaimed hikes in the immediate area, one of which leads to Lake Agnes. Lovely Lake Agnes is situated 367 meters up one of the surrounding mountains. The reputed view is stunning, the trail takes you past another legendary lake, Mirror Lake, and there is a quaint Swiss teahouse situated at the end of the trail. This all sounded charming to us, and since I was told that the trail was only 7 kilometers long, I agreed to make the climb.

7 Km. Hum. In retrospect, I wonder how they ever roped me into a 7 Km climb! All I can say is that my family made good use of that word “only”: “It’s ONLY 7 Km, Papa! You can do that much!”

To hear them talk, it sounded like a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll, and I fell right into their trap!

We began our climb through an old-growth forest of spruce and fir. We must have all been eating spinach with Popeye, as we were initially extremely energized. Proof of our excessive energy could be seen in the fact that we bypassed a multitude of hikers who were also making the climb, but at a painfully slow pace.

Or at least that’s what I thought at the beginning.

We were half-way to Mirror Lake when all of my spinach reserves vanished into thin air and my body started to act like a stubborn, 15-year old donkey, refusing to take another step. I inadvertently dropped down onto a mildewed log, where I sat gasping for air, my head swimming in the confusion of numerous states of oxygen depravation. I didn’t dare look at my wife and kids who were leaning up against tree trunks that grew out over the gaping abyss that was on the side of the trail . . . I’m sure they were chomping at the bit for me to get going again, but I just couldn’t!

That’s when we again met all those “slow” people we had whipped past earlier. They all took one look at my obvious problem, but instead of saying, “Serves you right for racing up the trail the way you were”, they had words of encouragement to offer: “Hang on! You’re almost there!”

But by this time, even my ability to think logically had been tampered with: “I’m almost where? To Paradise?”

I did continue my trek, but only like a bulldozer moving in reverse. My family was graciously patient with me, and when we finally arrived at Mirror Lake, I collapsed on the first log I could find. I was sure Someone up above had placed that log there just for my benefit!

It felt so good to rest, but I didn’t stay there long. It seemed that my trials and tribulations were not yet over. All of my efforts in pursuing this destination had resulted in an overabundance of sweat accumulation. My undershirt, my shirt, and anything else that had been in contact with my torso were soaked. I was a living swimming pool, and judging by the distance everyone seemed to be putting between me and themselves, I must have been a rather smelly one, too! The cool breeze blowing off of Mirror Lake felt good at first, but it didn’t take long for it to chill me to the bone. I was faced with a dilemma: Either turn into an ice block or continue the remainder of our trek to the tea house!

I’m pretty sure my family was grateful for the sweat and the wind. They could have carved an ice sculpture out of me if I decided to stay where I was, which is something they’ve always wanted to do; and completing the trek to the teahouse was their ultimate goal, one they were not going to be cheated out of it. Either way, they won!

And so it was that after just a few moments, I once again found myself trekking into the wilderness. I couldn’t help but notice the looks of relief on the faces of my wife and kids.

There is more than one trail that leads the last kilometer from Mirror Lake to Lake Agnes, and after taking one look at me, my wife chose the shortest one. But there was definitely something wrong with her trail. Up until this point, the path had been wide and well-groomed. Now we found ourselves threading our way over fallen logs, through matted underbrush, and under low-lying branches.

We quickly realized that this was, quite obviously, not the most used trail to Lake Agnes, and we backtracked to Mirror Lake where we chose the longer-and safer-path. But this one led us out of the forest and into the open air. That was when we realized that the plant and tree cover had been shielding us from the warmth of the afternoon sun. Once outside of that vegetation, there was nothing between us and the direct heat! Initially it felt good (remember, I had been turning into a block of ice!), but in just a few moments I felt like I had been turned into an overheated pancake without syrup! Although this was slightly better than turning into an ice sculpture, my nonexistent remaining energy seemed to evaporate at an alarming rate, and I found myself collapsing on the trail.

Once again we were bypassed by fellow hikers, and each one had a word of encouragement for me.

Many subsequent collapses later, accompanied by much pushing and prodding by my family, we finally arrived at the teahouse. Lake Agnes, named in honor of Lady Agnes Macdonald, second wife of Canada’s first prime minister (How would you like to have a lake named after you?) was indeed beautiful. A waterfall greeted us as we climbed the remaining steps to the teahouse, and the view from the top was spectacular.

Even the teahouse, with its woodstove and numerous benches, was a warm welcome-despite the fact that its prices were chilly! We ordered very pricey cookies and herb tea, and as soon as we were served, we had the privilege of meeting some unforeseen visitors. A Gray Jay landed on our table, right next to our food. He was soon joined by some small squirrels who tried to climb our table legs. We figured that chasing them away would just encourage them to find more innovative ways to rob us from our precious and high-priced provisions, and since we love wild creatures, we befriended them with some well-appreciated tokens from our table.

While waiting for our snack, I couldn’t help but anticipate the return hike, and I’m afraid that my thoughts were far from pleasant. Somehow these thieving wild creatures became an encouragement for me, and when it was time to return to Lake Louise, I had again regained some of my lost energy.

It is sad to say, but most of the time encouragement is a rarity in our society. It seems that stress and preoccupation with self rob us of the privilege of encouraging others. When we take the time to do so however, the rewards are great. In fact, encouragements can bear fruit for eternity, and even a little smile can turn the destiny of a disheartened individual. This is why the Bible encourages us numerous times to be encouragers:

“Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thess 4:18 NIV)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thess 5:11 NIV)

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb 3:13 NIV)

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:25 NIV)

We all need encouragement from time to time. Why not be good examples in our society and reach out to others with words and deeds of encouragement?

And remember, if the trek is steep and long, don’t give up. Listen to the words of encouragement and persevere until you reach the end of the trail. In the end, it will be well worth the climb!

Rob Chaffart


SOS! Air and Ground Attacks!