Surely we’ve all heard the phrase “mountaintop experience,” which generally means an exciting life experience that may or may not have actually been on top of a mountain. Well, I had four literal mountain top experiences. No, I haven’t tried Mount Everest or Denali, but those four places met my requirements of a mountain. Some, at least, had the word “mountain” in their name.
The first was Mount Baldy. It is a huge mountainous sand dune on the edge of Lake Michigan between Indiana and Illinois. We took a trip with our youngest son and his friend to Canada, and Mount Baldy was along our route. My husband and I started up the mountain – remember, it was a sand dune. As we fell to our knees with each step forward, it didn’t turn out to be much fun. We persevered and slowly climbed this mountain, even ending up on all fours to reach the top. Once up there, the view was worth the trip, as the travel brochure promised.
It was a beautiful view of Lake Michigan with a white sand beach and a lone tree, where we sought shade and recuperation time. Our son thought that our joy of accomplishing the ascension was overstated; I asked if he had seen any other 50 year old women up there. Our descent was not as strenuous, as our weight and gravity helped us.
The next one may not have been a real mountain, but Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica is a direct ascent that fit my definition of a mountainous ascent. Our daughter and I were determined to make this 90 degree waterfall hike. The jagged rocks along the edge became our stairway to the top. We were dressed in water clothes, but our guide was in street clothes and wore our cameras around his neck, documenting our consent. As we struggled to the top using the I’ll pull you and you pull me approach, we were determined to make it to the top for that beautiful view. Along our assent, we met a few who had given up on their dream of reaching the top, as they made their way to the safety of the ground. We got to the top and the view was spectacular. Our transportation was there too, so we didn’t have to go back down.
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The next mountain was Pinnacle Mountain outside of Little Rock, Ark. We were on a weekend trip with our daughter and son-in-law when they announced they had found a mountain to climb. It was not a sand dune or a waterfall, but a rocky, uphill and very vegetated climb. My daughter, son-in-law and I, not very well equipped for the climb, headed up the hill.
The view from the top was stunning – we could see for miles around. Mountain tops can get crowded, as they are, after all, pinnacles. It offered a view of the vastness of God’s creation. We felt very small compared to our environment. Coming down the mountain was tricky, and gravity was there pushing us down quickly; there were no handrails! Once again we depended on each other for our safe descent, supporting each other throughout the descent.
My next and probably last mountain was Mount Masada in Israel. After researching Masada, I was interested in making the pilgrimage to this mountain. Once there, I opted for the tram ride up the mountain, but had committed to walking down. It started pretty well.
There were concrete steps and handrails for about the first quarter of the trail. Three of our tour group started together and I didn’t see the other two after just a few minutes. Once the handrails and steps stopped, it was a serpentine path down. The path was covered with small sharp rocks on the sand, which slipped. Halfway through I started to slide and ended up on the ground. A woman helped me up and offered me her cane, which I declined, thinking the worst was behind me.
Well, it wasn’t. There were those annoying climbers running up the mountain on one side of me and the others coming down the other side. I slowly made my way lower, then it happened again and I started sliding forward. A nice young man, David, helped me up on all fours and offered me his arm for the rest of the descent.
It was already obvious to me that there were no paramedics or air vac squads nearby, so I was on my own. I told him that I didn’t want to admit to needing help, but it was becoming pretty obvious that I needed it. David, who was Jewish, helped me stand upright and was good company. We talked about the historical significance of Mount Masada and its beautiful country. We shared some of our thoughts on the great God who placed his people there in the desert and how he protected them. I told her it was my sixty-fourth birthday and it would always be a memory I would remember.
I came down from the mountain and found my mother waiting at the foot. She said the other downhillers were about an hour ahead of me. I was able to bandage my wounds with steri-strips; I really could have used a few stitches for the cut on my right knee. The scar, however, became another memory of my mountaineering experience in Israel.
Standing on top of a mountain helps to understand how small we are compared to the world and how much God loves us despite our smallness in the universe. The view from the top is always breathtaking. By standing on top of any mountain, you will be physically closer to heaven than on earth, but through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can still be close to God.