Stories and thoughts about family and life

The Road Less Traveled

on April 4, 2012

I’ve been the fortunate participant in many scouting outings we’ve taken with my older son’s Scout group.  We’ve done some remarkable things:  ziplining, rapelling, and camping at the Grand Canyon, just to name a few.  This summer we’re going to Yellowstone.   The boys my son has Boy Scouts with have all become great friends.  They are constantly scheming to spend time together, from an afternoon in the park to staying the night at someone’s house.  All the parents get along well, and we’ve developed some remarkable friendships through the whole thing.

Last weekend we were invited to participate with several of the kids in a 4-wheeling, camping adventure.   One of the parents was kind enough to facilitate us borrowing equipment so we could go (we don’t own any type of ATV at this point), and we loaded up with the rest of the group and headed out.  We arrived at the drop-off point about 90 minutes later and loaded our gear onto the ATVs from our vehicles.  We left our vehicles and headed out, with the plan to camp about 2 miles away and pack our gear back out the following morning.  I was driving a mule, and my husband on a 4-wheeler.  Lucas (our oldest) with me, as he hates to be muddy and wet and it was apparent from the previous weekend’s recon mission that mud was everywhere.  Brennan rode with one of the other, more experienced dads, hoping to score a chance to “drive” (hold the throttle and steer with help) the 4-wheeler like he does when he rides with my dad.  We started down the trails, stopped for a bit of lunch and headed out again down another trail.  Up hills, over rocks, around bends–one road leading into another.

It was wonderful to spend that time with Lucas, as I pointed out the Dogwoods in bloom in the beautiful Arkansas sunshine and we talked about the hills and the trees and trails.  We rode down a particularly challenging hill with a lot of loose rocks and were rewarded with a small pool for the boys to swim.  We parents all stood around the sides, snapping pictures and encouraging the kids to play.  We rode on from there, and around a beautiful small waterfall and through several small creeks.  The mule I was driving never wavered, and I was sincerely appreciative for that when we were greeted with our next challenge–a steep climb up a hill.  One of the boys had a small go-cart he was driving which flipped over going up the hill (no one was hurt), so I was pretty nervous by the time we were ready to all begin our ascent.  I put the mule in 4-wheel drive and followed one of the other 4-wheelers up the road.  The mule, again, never wavered and just steadily climbed the road and proudly presented me at the top of the hill.   We had a 4-wheeler which was no longer running due to what we believed was water in the gas.  We attached the 4-wheeler to the mule and I began pulling him back toward the location where our vehicles were parked, so we could secure it and return to camp.

As we started, I became aware of the various roads which led into the route we were on.  I remembered a couple of them from earlier in the day, as many of the trails simply criss-cross through the wilderness.  However, I had been simply following the group earlier, and had honestly not been paying really close attention.  The remainder of our group, with the exception of just a couple of 4-wheelers, was long ahead of me and didn’t realize we hadn’t been able to keep up.    As we passed road by road, I wondered if we were going the right direction.  I mean, these roads looked familiar, but was it because we were close to the off-load point, or because we were close to our camp?  I couldn’t be sure.  I kept driving, steadily pulling the 4-wheeler, and after the third road, it became painfully apparent that we weren’t going the right direction.    One of the other parents (one who had planned the trip) realized what we did wrong and that we had missed a road.

As we turned around and were heading back, and passing the other roads we had traveled in the afternoon, it struck me how this was a metaphor for life.  Some of the roads are bumpy, some smooth.  Some long, some short.  Some have hills, others have mountains to climb (where you might turn over).  Sometimes you’re rewarded with beauty and pleasure (like the waterfall and the swimming hole) and sometimes disappointment (reaching the end of the road and realizing we didn’t have anywhere else to go).  It also struck me that you can go down the “wrong” road for a while, and reach another crossing where you can choose a better road, or vice versa, and that our lives are a series of challenges and solutions, roads and mountains, waterfalls and rocks.

Sometimes we would meet people on the paths, and have to move over to allow them to pass.  Sometimes they would move over to allow us to pass.  Sometimes we had to shift into a lower gear (or to 4-wheel drive) to traverse a particularly difficult area in the path. Sometimes we could fly along in high gear, the wind blowing through our hair.   Sometimes the trees were low and hung close to the road, sometimes the path was open and clear and you could see far into the distance.

As we road along on the beautiful March afternoon on the various trails, sun shining through the trees, enjoying keeping up with one another and sharing each other’s company, I realized how truly rewarding my life is, even when I can’t appreciate it in the moment.  The next time I’m struggling to get through something, I’m going to try to remember the various obstacles in that day, and the rewards which came with it.  We were exhausted when we arrived home Sunday afternoon.  After a shower and relaxing in the recliner, I remember telling my husband how tired I was, but that it was a “good tired.”  You know the kind–where you’ve been so completely fulfilled you collapse into a deep, comforting sleep.    I kept thinking of Robert Frost and “the road less traveled” and thinking that sometimes the road less traveled is the one with the least amount of effort, at least where these boys are concerned, and how grateful I am that we were able to to travel all the roads that afternoon.    May your roads challenge you and reward you.


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