Just before that arctic blast whipped across the country, Randa and I decided to take advantage of a lovely afternoon and go hiking out at Camp Horizon. With the temperature pleasantly near seventy degrees and almost no breeze, we set out.

After cautiously working our way down the rocky bluffs below Inspiration Point, we walked along the lower logging road that runs along the Arkansas River. Hardwood trees spanned the steep bluff up to our left, scattering dead leaves among the outcroppings of gleaming limestone. 

Off to our right, cottonwood, sycamore and other lowland varieties filled in whatever the flood plain allowed. Dozens of deadfall trees blackened the spaces where water had stood for too long some decades before.

We followed the trail east until it came to the downward bend at its end, then took the steps down the bank and crossed the small ditch. Walking out of the woods into the flat, we saw miles of sand lining the winding course of the Arkansas.  

We saw some “his and hers” footprints in the mud flats along the edge and wondered if they might belong to the fugitive pair that had eluded local law pursuers a few days earlier. 

“What’d they do?” Randa asked with a healthy dose of incredulity as we both stared at several hundred feet of flat sand and mud spanning the distance between us and the stream. “Walk across all that to get out to the river and then swim across?”

After a brief bit of speculation, we took a shortcut up the bank and into the area bordering between the river and the logging road. Owing to the late season and a bit of a respite from the rains, the space was mostly weedless and dry. Dead leaves blanketed a flat bed about 50-feet wide and crunched beneath our feet as we walked along parallel to the steep bank leading up to the logging road.

As we walked, I began looking for a way up and out. A tangle of roots exposed by years of erosion stuck out from near the base of a tree. 

“What about that?” I asked Randa, and then answered myself. “Looks pretty steep.” 

It was one of those options where you figured you could manage to work your way through it but also knew it would likely take more work than the way seemed worth. We kept walking.

After a while, Randa pointed over, “Looks like we could climb out there.” The bank was still pretty steep but there were some exposed roots we could use to help pull ourselves out.

I paused and then saw another place just a little farther along the low bed. It wasn’t as obvious due to a brief tangle of overhanging branches but it had a lower slope and looked like we could just walk out. 

We ducked beneath the impeding branches and stepped around a few small saplings that had sprouted up from the flood bed. A few steps along a rising edge led us up and out, right onto a well-worn footpath running just below the logging road. Less than a quarter mile later, the path led us up an easy slope onto the road.

Sometimes, the closer way off the present path may be too steep, too demanding, too fraught with obstacles even more unpleasant than the ones we already encounter. In some cases, the pain of the present path may justify the difficulty. Otherwise, keeping our eyes open as we continue may lead us to find an easier and better way to the road we want to travel.

In all my walks, saunters, meanderings and wanderings, I have found that some ways are easier than others. But all ways that lead to a higher road have been worth walking.

 

Doc Arnett has been a professional educator and bi-vocational minister for more than 40 years. He currently pastors the Community Church of South Haven.

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