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Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Lesson from Walking the Timp Cave Trail.

Spring time brings the blessing of new life and a renewed energy. I use my new found energy several times a week when I walk to the opening of Timp Cave in American Fork Canyon. I try to walk to the cave every day, but until school is out, my schedule will only allow weekend hiking. I’ve been walking the cave ever season (May through October) for nearly twenty years. I come back every year as if drawn by the beauty of the hike and the fresh air of the canyon.
Walking the trail to the cave opening keeps you in fairly good shape. Many parts are very steep. The walk, if moving briskly, usually takes around thirty to forty minutes. After a week or so I usually can cut my time to below thirty minutes. I enjoy passing the tourists along the trail. I sneak up behind them. They can’t hear me because of their heavy breathing, coughing, snorting, and spitting. “Excuse me,” I say a few steps from their heals. They sometimes misstep by surprise or scuffle to open the way for me to pass. I zoom ahead through the opening and listen to hear their comments.
“How does he do it?” is a common comment.
“Pretty fast for a big guy,” is another I hear.
“He wouldn’t be going so fast it he had this kid strapped to his back,” I heard once from a dad clearly having trouble making it up the trail with his little girl dangling out of that back pack child carrier.

Once I’m clear of them and out of ear shot I slow down a bit to conserve energy for the next group of tourists and the passing scenario starts all over again. Once in awhile, if I’m really feeling the wind of the gods in my lungs, I’ll jog by a group. I usually pick up a “WHAT?” from the stunned, slow moving herd, before they’re out of ear shot. It’s all I need to motivate me to continue doing it day after day.
The cave opening is at the top of the trail. There is a large waiting area where people gather before their tour. Here you find one of the worlds largest congregations of red faced humans. They stand leaning against each other or sprawled out on the benches. They fan themselves with their tickets and argue over who drank too much of their precious water - the water that must last through the tour and the long trek down the mountain.
Once I see my captive audience, I shift into first gear and pick up my pace. I stand taller and round the corner moving as quickly as my chubby frame will allow. They look up and stare. Their eyes follow me to the trail’s end. I touch the hiker’s rock, turn around, and start down. They expect me to stop and tour the cave but when they see that pass the benches and start down I quickly become the topic of conversation. I’ve heard them asking the Rangers why I do it and where’s my water.
“He’s a walker,” the Rangers say. “They are a different breed all together.”

The best part of the hike is downhill for two reasons.
1. You are going downhill. A pure reward for 30 plus minutes of torture.
2. You get to pass the people again that you passed earlier going up!

It is fantastic to pass these folks going down. They look at you coming their direction. You see the puzzled look in their faces as they try to place where they saw you before. Their eyes grow large and their mouths drop open when their oxygen deprived memory reminds them that I was the one that passed them earlier on my way up to the cave.
“Did you go through the cave already?” they usually ask.
“I don’t go through the cave. I just walk the trail for exercise,” I say with a confident smile.
“Is he crazy?” is the next thing I usually hear. Its awesome. I recommend walking the Timp Cave Trail to anyone that enjoys the outdoors and wants a good exercise program.

My Lesson Today
Early today I got up and drove to the cave. I like to hit the trail at 8:00 A.M. just as the Rangers open the gate. I was sore today. Yesterday the trail opened for the season so my muscles, still in atrophy from the inactive winter, were giving me fits. My time was slower than usually but it was Sunday and Sunday is my ‘non exercise’ walk. It is my day to take the trail slowly and enjoy nature. Half way up the trail I heard a sound behind me. It wasn’t close behind me but close enough to be heard. I turned around. In the distance was another trail walker. I didn’t know his name but I recognized him. He is younger and leaner than me and usually hikes the trail twice a day. He moves at a quick pace. He likes to pass everyone. Last season he was able to pass me . I didn’t want that to happen today. I picked up my pace. I went from my Sunday walk to my Monday walk.
At the 3/4 marker I noticed he was getting closer. He was breathing hard. My lungs were on overtime’s overtime. I wanted to slow down but there is this side of me that enjoys a good competition and I had one on my hands. I kept going. He kept trying to close the distance. The cave opening was getting closer. I rounded the last corner near the toilets and started up the most dangerous part of the trail. The trail follows the contour of the mountain and this section of the mountain is a cliff. One misstep and you will have a nasty fall on your hands. You must keep your eyes on the trail until you reach the waiting area.
I glanced off the trail at to find where he was. I saw him just below. I wanted to get an idea of his pace so I watched him for a few seconds. Thoughts of him beating me over and over again last year kept me focused on the distance between us. Suddenly I realized that I was walking dangerously close to the edge. I quickly put my eyes back on the trail and straightened my walk. My heart was beating faster and I chastised myself for being ‘so stupid’. I reached the Hiker’s Rock, touched it, and ended the day’s competition. I started down the trail. We passed each other with a “Good morning” and a comment on the amount of snow covering some parts of the trail.
I thought for a moment on the lesson I learned about keeping my eyes on the trail. The life lesson was apparent. So often we become preoccupied with the past. We keep our eyes behind us instead of focussed on the hear and now. Living like this will end if tragedy - like me nearly walking off the edge. Keeping our eyes on the past can lead to a loss of direction in life.
I encourage all to learn this lesson I was reminded of today on the Timp Cave Trail. Keep your eyes on today. The Lord gave you Today. It is a gift so make the very best of it. Don’t keep looking at the past. It is done and lived out. There is nothing you can do to change it. You can control the present. You are living it right now. Keep your eyes on the trail. Focus on where you are going but live for today. Love the people around you. Make good choices. Keep your eyes on the goal. It is a lesson we all need to relearn from time to time. Leave the past in the past. Live for Today. Make each moment count. The future will take care of itself if you choose to do the right today.

Enjoy your week.
Mr. Williamson
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