I sat under the shade of burr oak trees beside the Mississippi River at the mouth of Minnehaha Creek enjoying the refreshing breeze after my hike from the falls to the river. To tell you the truth, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Though I had traveled this trail many times, this was the first time in more than five years that I'd descended into the lower glen and followed the creek to the river.
While this hike is a small feat for most people, I had a certain feeling of satisfaction. Cancer treatment and other illness have left their mark on me over the past four years and my footing is much more uncertain on uneven terrain. For me, making this short journey alone was a victory.
As I walked the trail, in my mind I could hear the shouts of children of bygone days. I grew up less than a mile from Minnehaha Falls and only about 1/4 of a mile from the only natural gorge on the Mississippi. The park and the river gorge, a piece of wilderness within the city, was the playground of the children in my neighborhood.
I decided that rather than return the way I came, I would cross the bridge at the mouth of the creek and take the trail on the other side of the creek. Now, I knew this previously had been a more rugged path. It had been probably nearly 20 years since I was on that particular trail. However, since I knew they had been renovating the park and since I'd noted some improvements on the trail I was on, I decided to cross the bridge and see what had been done on the other side.
It was only a matter of time before I decided I had made a mistake. Not only were there no improvements; things had deteriorated. The trail was very poor. Large tree roots jutted out and there were deep ruts on the path. To make matters worse, recent flooding had made things more precarious. Stepping stones which had been placed at certain points were muddy, wet and slippery.
Probably, this trail would not be much of a challenge for most people but I am a stroke survivor and my coordination and balance is not quite like it used to be. I do quite well on smooth, level surfaces but on uneven terrain, well... I must really concentrate hard. I found myself praying a lot as I met each challenge on the trail.
My heart sank as I came to a particularly bad spot on the trail. I really did not know how I was going to maneuver it. I eyed the large roots and deep ruts I would have to navigate. My fear was misjudging the distance and getting a foot tangled up in the mass of roots and falling.
I stood there for a few moments, thinking. There was no one around at the moment to help me if I got hurt but I couldn't just stay where I was. I had to move on. I took a deep breath and breathed a prayer.
Step by step, I carefully sought out each foot hold making my way gingerly around the roots and the ruts. Success! I breathed a sign of relief and looked at the trail ahead. Then I gasped.
Just a few steps ahead of me lay a board walk. The ruts and tress ruts, the narrow path and the mud had all been covered by a new board walk. How relieved I was!
After stopping to rest of a bit on a little bench near a footbridge, I got up refreshed to continue my journey. The board walk meant much more to me because I understood and had experienced what it covered.
In this world, God will at times allow us to experience a difficult trail. It is when we experience a "rough trail" that we truly understand and appreciate "God's Board Walk".