I went hiking the other day. As I walked along, there were noticeable changes in the trail and my surroundings. It felt like I was walking through a metaphor.

The first path was the narrow path. At some points, the path was nothing more than an animal track. The most recent creature had been a deer sometime since the last rain. At other times, the trail became obscure and there were “paths” going in multiple directions. I had to stop and survey my surroundings and then make a choice. Several times after choosing a “path” I made the mental note that I would reevalutate my choice after walking for a few minutes.

Later, I crossed a dry creek bed and found myself in a cedar grove. It felt like something out of Lord of the Rings. The bare limbs scraped against each other as the wind blew through the tops of the trees. The ground was carpeted with cedar needles likely from the drought. This left the trees bare and their narrow branches reached out as if to take hold of me. Also as their branches reached out toward their brethren, the path was hidden at times from my view.

I eventually broke out of that area and found my path blocked by a large fallen cedar tree. To go around would be difficult with the amount of undergrowth. A person of shorter stature could have worked their way under the limbs, but I would have had more difficultly. There was not much else to do. I jumped on the trunk and worked my way across the suspended limbs till I was able to jump down on the other side. I walked farther and came across more downed trees but was reassured that I was on the right path. There was a stair case built by park rangers years ago.

I climbed the stair case and then just as quickly hiked back down the hill. That’s when I entered the area that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. There was the sound of branches rubbing against each other again. But there was another sound. A light throbbing or thumping sound. I heard it over head or off to the side. After hearing it a couple of times, I finally looked up and saw the cause. There were vultures perched in the trees all above me. My eyes fell back to the path and something was off. Then my brain processed what it was seeing. The ground all around me was bleached white with their excrement. This was getting weird. I kept walking and looked down just as I was ready to step on the remains of a dead vulture. A few leg bones and feathers were all that remained. In fact, the trail was littered with feathers. I began imagining the animal that could cause that explosion of feathers. My step quickened and then I heard that familiar sound of flies swarming around a carcass. In the same moment, I was assaulted with a putrid smell of death. I knew there was another dead animal out there. I’d had enough of this area.  I wanted out. How I didn’t start sprinting out of there I don’t know?

The trail eventually widened and the canopy parted allowing me a better view of the lake and the sky. Then it started downhill and followed the shoreline of the lake. The sky was a clear blue and the wind made ripples on the lake. Such a difference from all the things I had just encountered.

Which part of the trail does it feel like you are on in life?