A couple of years ago we spent a winter weekend at our cabin in Rhinelander with Justin and Kira. It was a typical February weekend in the north woods, cold with lots and lots of snow. When you walked outside you could see your breath and getting our bundled bodies in and out of the car was a challenge. We spent Saturday afternoon on our favorite cross-country ski trail just south of town. On Sunday we tested out a snowshoe trail, which we learned about from the sporting goods store we make sure we stop at each time we are in town. The trail circled a small downhill ski slope and lodge. When we arrived we stopped in at the lodge to get the trail map and take a peek at the place. It was a small outfit with lots of young children testing out their skills. The hill was busy and we said we should return some day just to take a few runs down the slope. After getting the map we moseyed out to the snowshoe trail head. For as busy as the ski slope was just a few hundred feet behind us, when we stepped foot on the trail it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. It had snowed quite a bit the week before we were there and no one yet had laid foot on the trail. It was pristine. The sun glistened off the fresh snow and with each step we took the crunching sound of breaking trail resounded throughout the forest.
The trail, which was only lightly marked by a red flag on a tree every few hundred feet, led us down by a river and then wound us back up through the woods. What I remember most about the trail is how quiet it was, and how much we felt a part of nature. Based on our map we knew that we were supposed to be circling the ski slope, but at one point, without realizing we had wandered too far, we found ourselves off of the trail following a logging road that was leading us in the wrong direction. We took turns going out from the post, this safe spot to which we’d return if we didn’t find the red flag we were looking for, the signal that we were on the right track. It took us some time, but one of the boys did finally find the marker and called the rest of the group to join them. From there, the trail led us straight up the back of the ski slope. It was steep, and at times difficult to maneuver, but when we got to the top we stopped, just to take it all in. Beautiful does not do it justice. There we stood, at the top of the ski hill, looking out on the land below us, land that was covered in lush green pines with a frosted river nestled in between them all. Birds flew high above us and it felt good just to be there, to be alive, to see something so gorgeous. We promised ourselves that we would come back, despite getting a little lost, despite the steep climb that made our thighs burn, the view from the top was worth it.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I feel like I have lost sight of my trail makers. It’s as if I’m out on that logging road spinning circles. I keep taking a few steps in different directions, looking for the red flag, but so far I just haven’t found it. And so I find myself back at post, which is a safe spot, but it is not on the trail. I have a few things coming up this week they may, potentially, lead me to a red flag, lead me back to the trail. I’m hoping that if the flag is there, that I will see it. But at the same time, I’m hoping that I do not mistake some sort of other red marker for the flag to my trail. It is sometimes difficult when we are out here, all alone, to remember that if we are patient and diligent, we will find our way back and that we will make it up the slope, even if it makes our thighs burn. I’m just praying that some day, hopefully soon, I can make it up the hill and after looking out at the breathtaking scene, I’ll realize it was all worth it.