Journal entry 063011: Mountain trail story

08 Icarus Trail Tuesday morning after breakfast I suited up and ran about three miles on the Icarus Trail. We were  staying at the Vallecitos Ranch in northern New Mexico. I was very happy to be back on dirt; that is, I was happy when I could breath. The lowest point on the trail was about 8,700’ elevation. There wasn’t enough oxygen for someone such as me.

09 Trail 1 It was very rough crossing the valley, like running across a plowed field; but the ground became smoother - or at least, more predictable - the higher I went. That is, except for the rocks and roots and twists and turns. It was wonderful. I had been looking forward to this for months.

It didn’t feel like I was running very fast, more of a shuffle, but even so I reached 10 Icarus Point the top sooner than I anticipated. I ran up to a rock outcrop called Icarus Point, where Irishman Charles Wells carved a sculpture in 1981, designed so that a shaft of light will shoot through a small opening at sundown of summer solstice. I didn’t wait for sundown to see how well it worked. Besides, I’d missed the solstice by almost a week.

The path down the mountain back to the ranch joined a small portion of the Continental Divide Trail, and that made me even happier. I’ve dreamed of running the CDT and now I can claim I have … if only a very tiny bit.

However, it wasn’t the greatest or clearest of trails, and to be honest I expected the Continental Divide Trail to be a little more defined. If I’d gotten off the trail just a bit I doubt if I’d’ve found it again. It was easy enough to track while on it, but not obvious from either side once you strayed.

11 Trail 2 As I ran on the trail, as rough as it was, as easy as it would’ve been to trip and fall and get hurt and I’d have to use the rescue whistle the ranch hike-master made me carry and someone would have to come find me - all the embarrassing stuff - still, at least there was a clear trail to follow. It was great to know someone else had already come through here and picked the trail for me. Every time I saw a mark on a tree or one of the CDT badges I knew I was still going the right way. It’s always a relief to know I’m not lost. What a great place to be … not lost.

Having a trail to follow was a gift. I didn’t have to bushwhack. I still had to do the work, climb the hills, go down the ravines, avoid the rocks, and skip over the roots, but I had a path to follow.

Even more, every step I took left a mark on the trail and helped even a small bit to make it more defined for those following. Even though it didn’t seem like I was leaving much of a path myself, in fact, I was. When hiking on any trail we are depending on the trail blazers ahead of us and leaving tracks for the followers.

I couldn’t help but think about mentoring and how important having mentors is for living life as a strong follower of Christ. We should always have older and younger people around us, and I am speaking of spiritual age more than chronological age. We should always have someone to go to, and someone to give to. We should have someone blazing our trail, and someone following our own tracks.

I can’t write about mountain trails without mentioning one of my favorite trail markings: a stack of 12 Cairn rocks known as a cairn. I can hardly pass by one without adding a rock of my own. Seeing a rock cairn reminds me that I’m not lost.

A rock cairn is proof positive that we are not alone. Someone has been there before us. And adding rocks to the cairn as we pass tells those behind us that they are not alone, either.

Let’s live our lives as if on the trail, reading the markings left by those strong in the faith, leaving cairns for those following.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to , or “Retreating With God,” go to ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly: … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: