A couple or three years ago a friend of mine sent me the following note:
When you are feeling up to the challenge, there is a place, not far from where you live, that feels like a million miles away, that you must experience if you haven’t already. Yesterday . . . I hiked up to Black Star Falls with some neighbors. It was a very rigorous climb following the stream bed, but once we hit that 40-foot falls, I couldn’t believe I was still in Orange County and only a few miles from home. A definite must-see.
When I finally decided to go in search of Black Star Falls, I headed off on a whim, with not much more information than the memory of her email. But the road and trailhead were clearly marked, so I assumed it would be easy enough for me to figure it out along the way. Black Star Falls, 4.1 miles, the sign read. How hard could it be?
The beginning of the hike was simple enough as I meandered along the partly shaded dirt road I shared with various other adventurers. And it was lovely. I like this hike already, I thought to myself. Eventually the shade disappeared and the road began to climb. And climb. As it got harder and harder, I found myself alone but for the occasional mountain biker. When I huffed and puffed to the top of one particularly steep hill and saw that the road continued onto another, steeper one, I discovered a sign marking the entrance to the Mariposa Reserve—about five miles from my car. A passing biker paused to comment: “Wow. Did you hike all the way up here?”
Clearly, I had lost my way. Somewhere “back there” I had turned left when I should have gone straight—or something like that. In any case I had expended a whole lot of time and effort getting farther and farther from my desired destination.
As I retraced my steps, down and down the winding dirt trail, I eventually came to a bend in the road where another man stood. He confirmed that I had (at last) arrived at the turn-off I had overlooked several miles of needless detour ago. Worn out but determined, I trudged off along a new sort of trail: A mile-and-a-half up and over boulders taller than I am. A mile-and-a-half of old-man punishment and light-headed humiliation. “Rigorous” does not begin to describe it. But I persevered, knowing that a pair of beautiful waterfalls awaited. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Did I make it harder than it needed to be? Absolutely.
As I think back on that exhausting Saturday morning, I can’t help but ask questions that you have likely asked yourself: Where do I really want to go? What path am I on now, and where is it taking me? Am I making the journey more difficult than it needs to be? Who do I know who might be able to point out a better way? In the end, will it all be worth the effort?