This summer, my dad and I loaded our car, strapped our bikes on the back, and hit the road. We knew the drive from Missouri to Maine would be no small feat, but the open road and the outdoors were calling our names—how could we resist?
The trip to Maine was my (very generous) graduation present, and I spent weeks counting down to the day Dad and I would head East, to the land of pine trees, salt air, and limited cell phone service.
We survived the endless drive (thank you, license plate game) and stopped only when we reached moose crossing signs. For a week, we camped on top of our car—yes, on top of our car—in Acadia National Park. We ate dehydrated food (most of which was edible) and slept under the stars. We biked until our legs turned to jello, kayaked alongside seals and porpoise, and marveled at the jagged rockiness of Maine’s coast.
And then we went hiking.
My dad is a huge fan of maps, so in the weeks and months leading up to the trip, he planned every possible hiking route. The guidebooks for Acadia trails include time estimates and descriptive paragraphs, so we thought we’d be safe with a “good starter hike.”
Needless to say, this description did not prepare us for the reality of the trail, and during this first hike, we came up with our own personal not-included-in-the-guidebook Acadia tips:
1) Add approximately two hours to the estimated travel time—(either they tested those times using Olympic athletes or we took more breaks than the average hiker).
2) When the blue trail-marking paint leads you straight down a cliff, that is, unfortunately, the correct path.
3) Bring so many snacks.
Reaching the peak required hours of climbing (more like crawling) up a very steep, very rocky path. Just when we sensed we were nearing the top, we saw a group of fellow hikers approaching.
Except they didn’t seem tired, not even a little bit, as they casually paraded down the trail. Never mind that we had just been struggling to find footing—this group was wearing dresses, cute shoes, and carrying grocery bags full of beach supplies. Meanwhile, I was gasping for air and sporting tattered hiking boots, a layer of sweat, and a thick coat of dust. Unsurprisingly, the leisurely hikers looked at us as if we had just emerged from the wild.
We passed them by, exchanging pleasantries, and turned back to watch in awe as they navigated down the path of rocks with full hands and sandaled feet. “How is that possible?” I wondered aloud as we continued walking.
And then I realized: there was a parking lot at the top of the mountain.
I had to laugh—why had we just spent three hours clambering up a cliff if we could have driven?
But after a few more minutes of walking, I saw it: the view from the top—the mountains that dropped into the sea, the trees already changing into their fall garments, the ocean fading into the sky.
The view wouldn’t have been any less beautiful if we had driven, but I definitely would have appreciated it less. Because we were exhausted from the journey, we plopped down on an expanse of rock and soaked up the sun. We were so present in that moment of rest on the mountain because of how hard we’d worked for it.
On the day we left Acadia, we drove to the top of the tallest peak in the park. We still wore our hiking boots, of course, in case anyone should suspect us of driving. And the views were spectacular, but we lingered less.
There are probably a lot of similar shortcuts I could have taken in my life, but I would have missed the hard moments that shaped me. I have spent many days wishing God would let me in on His plan, but if I had the trail map from the start, I would undoubtedly skip the rocky path and drive right to the expansive view. But that view is much more rewarding when your bones know what it took to get there, and the stories gained along the way always make it worth the climb.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.