A lot of people went shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Some lay in front of their televisions and watched football or movie marathons. Still others began decking their halls for Christmas. But I pulled on a raincoat—because I live in the Pacific Northwest—grabbed my camera, and started driving down the Salmon River until I saw the old wooden sign that read “Old Salmon River Trail No. 742A.”

It was cold and wet in the woods—cloudy and dark. The carpet of leaves was too heavy to see the ground beneath them, and the mushrooms bloomed more profusely than wildflowers in midsummer. And before I’d gotten very far, my trail hit a dead-end. What had been dry ground early this summer was now a deep, angry stream of snow-melt, cutting down the side of the mountain, in search of the river.

I turned on my heel and stalked back towards the trail head. But then I saw a sign—“Do Not Leave the Trail.” Since Mother Nature had swallowed my trail, I decided to make my own. I ignored the sign, stepped over a fallen tree and followed the sound of rushing water. Stepping carefully and hanging onto trees and my walking stick, I climbed to the edge of the cliff and looked over at the raging Salmon River. Even in her violence and fury, she was beautiful and seductive, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I stood watching her for nearly an hour, snapping picture after picture of water and rock.

The adventurer inside of me was suddenly wide awake. If making my own trail had found me this magnificent display, what else could be found?

I climbed stumps, stood inside hollowed out tree trunks, and ran my fingers through moss. I squatted to study mushrooms. I picked up the hugest leaves I’ve ever seen and compared them to the size of my hand. I spent an hour in complete wonder of the forest—and halfway expected to happen upon a hobbit or a wood nymph on my journey.

But suddenly, I was out of the woods and standing on a rocky beach, just inches away from the water. And out in the middle of the rushing, angry river, perched on a large rock, there was an intricately-stacked pile of smaller rocks. I was transfixed.

How did they get there? Nobody could have walked out there and placed them there. They would have gotten swept away into the rapids and smashed into the rocks.

How have they remained there? Surely the temperamental weather and the rushing water should have knocked them down by now.

As the days have passed, I’ve thought a lot about those rocks and the mysteries they hold. Nobody knows how they got there and nobody knows how they stay there—the mystery makes them beautiful.

Today, I stand on the trail of my life, looking at the river rushing around me. I can’t quite remember how I got here, but I know exactly how I stay here—God is my beautiful rock and as I hold on to Him, He keeps me standing in the middle of the river. And He makes me beautiful.


by smsalter time to read: 3 min