“Gracias, buen dia!” I say as I shut the taxi door. I hear his tires roll against the gravel behind me as he heads back down the mountain.
“Ok,” I think to myself, “no turning back now!”
I look around for a sign or something to mark the trailhead, but there’s nothing. There aren’t any people around either. But that’s when I hear it – the sound of rushing water. There’s a stream nearby, and I bet that’s where I can find the trail.
Rachel and I arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina a couple of days ago. It’s the southernmost city in the world and is lovingly (and accurately) referred to as “the end of the earth.”
When we arrived, Rachel mentioned that she wasn’t sure why we came to Ushuaia. But after the first day, she said “I think we’re here for you.” You see, I’ve been carrying a love around in my heart that I just couldn’t shake. And I was ready to let it go. So in true poetic fashion, I tossed a token of that love into the sea, at the end of the earth.
But that’s a story for another day.
Today, I’m hiking. Alone.
Rachel wanted to come with me, but God made it clear that I was supposed to go by myself.
I can’t seem to find the trailhead, so I keep walking towards the sound of rushing water. I push my way through some trees and come into a clearing. I see the stream in front of me, and yes! To my left is the trailhead. Phew.
I put my headphones in and start listening to Ed Sheeran’s “I see fire,” which has been stuck in my head all morning. And now I walk.
The incline is pretty steep. But I guess that makes sense. I am walking up a glacier after all. There are only a few other people on the trail, and as I pass them I give the obligatory “hola” and hope that my accent doesn’t make it too obvious that I’m a foreigner.
Argentina has a heavy European influence, so Rachel and I blend in pretty well here. But we’ve been told more than once that our Spanish sounds very “Mexican.”
The trail is following the stream. Zig-zagging back and forth. Sometimes there’s a bridge to cross the water, and other times I have to navigate the slippery rocks. It’s beautiful. But it doesn’t look much like a glacier.
After twenty minutes of hiking the trail curves away from the stream. And there it is – a giant, snow covered mountain.
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but when I thought of climbing a “glacier” I didn’t think it was a mountain. I can see the summit from here, and it’s at least 1,000 feet above where I’m standing. I take a deep breath and say, “ok, let’s do this.”
As I walk, the terrain below my feet changes. First it’s gravel, then mud, then snow.
I’ve been walking for about an hour now, and I need a break. As I gaze up ahead, I see a curve in the trail and a boulder that looks like a perfect chair. I sit down and take a drink. I can feel the chill of the water making its way through my hot chest. And then, for the first time on this hike, I look back at where I came from.
“Wow,” I say as I look down at the harbor below. My eyes lift and I see the mountain walls to the left and right. I feel a sense of awe wash over me as I realize that water and ice cut through this mountain and changed it forever. I don’t think I appreciated the power that water holds until this very moment.
I pull my rain jacket and hat out of my backpack and put them on. The higher I climb, the colder it’s getting.
I start walking again, and the trail is getting steeper. I need to slow my roll or I might slip. I’m thinking more about water, and my mind drifts to the other elements – air and fire.
They’re powerful in their own rights. Air gives life to everything on the earth and fire clears away the dead to make way for the new. I laugh at myself a little as I think “hiking always puts me in a tree-hugging mood.”
And then, two hours after I started, I’m here. The summit. “I can’t believe I’m on top of a glacier!” I say excitedly.
I look around at the land below me, the rocks, the snow, and the grass in the distance. I think about the earth and realize that all of the elements impact it. Water changes the terrain, fire burns the brush, and air breathes life into the plants and animals. The earth is at the mercy of these elements. And for a moment, that doesn’t seem fair. Floods, fires and windstorms are traumatic and dangerous. Why does the earth just have to sit there and take it?
But that’s when I realize, that without all of that trauma, this beautiful place wouldn’t exist. There would be no flowing stream, no lush green grass, no snowy mountain top.
When this thought crosses my mind, tears fill my eyes. This is exactly what God is doing with me. I’m like the earth. By letting me experience pain, heartache and trauma, He’s changed the landscape of my soul forever. And he’s turning it into something more beautiful than before.
I take one final look around at the amazing view and smile. I guess we did come to Ushuaia for me after all. I needed to let something go, so that God could show me something new – how he’s using everything for my good, and transforming me into the beautiful woman I’m meant to be.