When Life’s Path is Frozen Over

It was the middle of the day and the moment had come. It was time to temporarily part from our camp in the San Juan Mountains and ascend to the Ice Lakes.

Jonathan had awoke from his nap. The rest of us were fully oriented to our camp surroundings, and we were ready for the next leg of our adventure.  The plan was to ascend, enjoy the stunning beauty, and come back down to camp later and enjoy a fire and an evening in the basin.

We knew that in the forecast rain was very likely, and beyond the basin, in the distance, a dark ominous sky grew. We knew we had no time to spare. We wanted to get to the Ice Lakes before the storm, for there is no comfort found in being on top of a mountain in the midst of lightning.

The trail up to the Ice Lakes was right behind our camp. It was very steep most of the time, meandering up the mountainside. Much of it was covered in layers of snow, and so the journey was largely a trek on top snowpack. It required us all to sort of hunch over to balance our weight and maintain stance on the mountain.

I had my handy trekking pole with me to dig into the snow and pull myself forward. I decided to lend it to Aunt Mary. She would have been fine without it, but I thought she could use it more than myself. She was very grateful. When I hike in a group I very much have a team mineset. We are like one unit or one creature, and so it’s important to support each other to reach the goal.

At times there was question of which way to go, because we could not locate the path in the midst of all the snow. Recollecting this sparks another parallel to life. I feel that there are definite right answers to many things in life, very much so in a moral sense. In certain situations there are certain decisions which are moral and just that need to be made. These are the pathways in life which lead to certain outcomes and chains of events, but life is full of noise, of opinions, of differing views, of distractions, of complications, and sometimes these clear and definite trails become covered in our perceptions. We can’t find them, and we search and search our lives for meaning, trying to find our way. However, sometime we search life with a cold heart, and when a heart stays cold, the ice doesn’t melt and there’s little to no chance of finding the path. If we break open our hearts and allow the healing power God to enter in and his compassion to influence our lives, it’s easier for the snow to melt and for us find our ways

Other times, despite our closeness to God, and seeking his direction,  the unwanted storms of life will not cease, our paths for major life decisions are not clear. It’s like when a canyon forms, not by choice but by the forces around us. It’s in these moments when we need to realize that we don’t always need to see the path. The spirit of God leads us over the snowpack when the trail is nowhere to be seen. That spirit can move us forward, when confusion is so apparent in the world around us. He guides our moral compass. But it’s a matter of trust, a matter of surrendering fear, a matter of realizing you may not see where you are going, but you are not lost.

I think that is so true about my life. Some people have definite five years plans, and ten year plans, and they know exactly where they are going and have a plan on how to get there. There’s nothing wrong with that. I believe setting goals and having a vision  is very important, but I’ve lived enough life to know that too much faith and hope in one’s own plans, and especially on one’s method to get there, can lead to major disappointments. Personally, I feel like much of my life is walking on top snowpack. I continue day by day seeking direction, making plans, but surrendering those plans to God. Sometimes the snow melts around me and direction becomes clear, and in those moments I savor scenery and enjoy it. Ecclesiastes 7:14 reminds us, “When times are good, enjoy them, but when times are bad, consider this: God has made one day as well as the other, and man never knows what the future may bring.”

More often in life, storms leave snowpack, and I continue with trust and confidence knowing that the Spirit of God leads me. I may not always know where I am going, but I am certainly not lost.

In both a spiritual and physical sense, I find it very rare to feel lost in life. It’s an understanding that nowhere in this world is outside the realm of God’s power. He is always with me. Even in the most daunting and foreign places are still within God’s dominion. Also, spiritually and emotionally, nothing escapes God’s vigilance and intervention. It reminds me of one of my favorite yet simplest bible verses, Psalm 37:4, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.” This especially sticks out to me, because I know what it means to “encamp”. It’s traveling from one place to another, not staying put, but finding residence in temporary places, and so the verse doesn’t say the Angel of the Lord sets up permanent residence at our mailing address, it says the Angel of the Lord “encamps”- travels with us. There is nowhere I can go in this life to fall out of the intervention of God’s protection. Even in the darkest canyons, the Angel of the Lord will set up camp with us. On our way out of the canyon, up into our mountains, when the storm rolls in and the snow covers the trail, the Angel of the Lord is there to protect us and God’s Spirit is there to lead. How could I possibly ever be lost when the divine presence of God is with me?

That is something to celebrate and put us at ease. But it’s all a choice. Some people choose to live their lives in canyons alone. They are unwilling to acknowledge how they’ve gotten there, and in their pride they attempt mountains covered in snow with no guide. As for me, I’d be completely lost and I would not have true peace, and so I’ve made another choice.

True peace also doesn’t mean you never have or concerns or acute worry. These things can be mechanisms to spur intelligent thinking and action, like Aunt Mary warning us “We need to turn around” as she turned to look at the deep dark ominous sky growing towards us. We were all spread out. Mary was at the end of the pack, Jonathan and I were in the middle, and Paul and Ines were somewhere up above already nearing the Ice Lakes. Mary called out numerous times with concern in her voice. Not wild and unchained fear, but intellect calling out as a mother’s need to protect her family. I had paused a couple of times and wondered if we should indeed turn around, but despite her hesitation, Mary proceeded forward. We came up over a ridge and reached the Ice Lakes. It was named very appropriately, because it was all frozen over. Snow and ice was everywhere. A stream of turquoise spread across where the water was slightly warmer, and the very peak of the mountain stood up behind it covered in snow except for a few stripes of dark exposed rock. Although silly as it may sound, the best way to describe it is that It looked like were were among a giant mass of chocolate chip ice cream.

Despite snow on ground all around, the air was not particularly cold. We were all in shorts, and I was even in a tank top. In the photos it looks a little odd. It doesn’t appear to make sense. In such an environment, it seems like we should have been bundled up to the extreme.

We took some photos together, but didn’t stay long. The storm behind did look like it was approaching determinedly.

Cousin Paul sliding down to the basin.

On our descent, Paul went sliding down on a portion of the snowy mountain side. It was a lot quicker and faster going down. We made it back to our camp in the basin safely.


Except for a light sprinkling, a storm never came, but the temperature changed for sure,  and it became very cold. We would spend the rest of the day and evening huddled around a fire, drying our wet socks, and keeping warm.

Aunt Mary looking into the storm

Read the next entry, “A Night in the Ice Lake Basin,” here:


Read the previous entry “Backpacking in the San Juan Mountains,” here:


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