Between a rock and a hard place

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The rocky sand started to fill my shoes, and the larger stones caused me to slip a bit on the hiking path I was on with friends. I felt as if I were on a foreign planet as I navigated my way through slot canyons and up ladders precariously placed to propel hikers upward to the unknown between layers of granite.

In the desert of California, 40 miles southeast of Palm Springs lies the Ladder Canyon Trail. The Painted Canyon Road is a four-mile rough stretch of graveled sandy road which leads to the protected Mecca Hills Wilderness.  It is hard to fathom within minutes of passing by lush acres of green irrigated produce farms where lemon and orange trees were full of ripe fruit, we traveled into a barren wilderness.

It is amazing what humans have done to transform the desert into beauty, but it is jaw-dropping to see what the hands of time and nature have done to form a masterpiece. This scene was created by the convergence of the Pacific Plate and the North American plate where the San Andreas fault runs deep beneath the surface. Layers of eroded rock, some over 600 million years old, have been pushed up and overturned by the activity of the fault. 

The sun shining upon the canyon walls reveals hues of roses, reds, terra cotta and greens.  Delicate bright yellow and purple flowers dot the landscape nestled between boulders and cacti.

The dusty trail leads us into the slot canyons to traverse over rocks and through such narrow passages that I was thankful I had not eaten that tempting apple fritter for breakfast.  

To get to the top rim of this geological wonder, one must climb six ladders placed by some brave soul to allow us to see the promised vista which awaits us.   

Once we had navigated the first couple of tall ladders my thought was, “Shoot, I got this!” Then we approached a metal ladder missing a rung near the top causing one to need a push to reach a flat surface. After viewing my options, my second thought was, “Shoot, maybe I don’t have this at all!”

As I gazed at the broken rung trying to decide what to do, I thought about the apropos adage, “I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.” I finally made the decision to continue climbing.

The top rim overlooked miles of wilderness and hiking paths. The Salton Sea appeared in the distance as a sheet of pale aqua glass and the rock formations produced colors that could only be painted by the hand of God himself. An azure blue sky seemed to tame the horizon while streaks of white clouds floated by and peace filled my soul.

How many times have we all faced a dilemma when we felt caught between a rock and a hard place? Times when it seems no matter what path we choose to navigate a problem, it will not be an easy walk.  

For this old girl, I personally have had to navigate more than a few rocky trails which led to the unknown, the unpredictable and the unexpected. We all have.  

Sometimes it feels more comfortable to stay in the hole we are in instead of climbing a shaky ladder that leads to the unexplored. 

I have been caught in a dark abyss many times and couldn’t see a door out or a ladder up. Divorce, depression, disease, loss, a broken heart, and well, you name it, all that stuff in life that throws one into needing help to find a way out.

When we are in the darkness of a deep canyon, we all must make a choice to stay there or find a ladder. 

It takes raw courage to ask for help to push us up the rungs or to rely on a God we can’t see to open the door. However, there is a will within us to not stay in the darkness.  

When we feel we are caught between a rock and a hard place, the best thing we can do is have enough faith not only in ourselves but in the God who created us. 

Just ask, and soon you will find the ladders to climb to go beyond the rocks, the faults under the ground and the courage to navigate those slippery slopes.

Every time we must trek through the wildnesses of life we gain strength and lessen our fears.  We learn to better appreciate the masterpiece which God laid before us with his mighty hands for us to enjoy and find peace.