“…throw off everything that hinders…” (Hebrews 12:1)
This was the lesson I learned after hiking Angels Landing in the rain.
My experience hiking Angels Landing trail
It was March 2020—early March, right before the world shut down. My friend Kara and I took a trip to Zion National Park with the goal of hiking Angels Landing. And we did.
If you’re not familiar with Angels Landing, it’s a hike in Zion with an elevation gain of 1,500 feet. Getting to the top requires hiking a ridge with a chain railing that basically becomes your lifeline. Oh, and did I mention that hikers going up and down both use the exact same path and chain, which only adds to the danger.
Yes, danger. Angels Landing is considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States. Some even say it’s one of the most dangerous hikes in the world.
While that ranking is subjective, I can vouch for the fact that it does take some courage! Especially in the rain. Yes, it started raining on us midway through the ascent. Most people turned around and hiked back down before reaching the top. Kara and I were not most people.
Onward and upward we continued in the steady drizzle. It was a slow process, but eventually we made it to the top and it was such a victory! Even in the rain, the view was spectacular and worth every discomfort and dangerous step. What an aptly-named spot… Angels Landing.
But then, we had to go down. I don’t know about you, but going down on steep hikes often feels trickier than going up. This was one of those hikes and the rain made it worse. My hands felt frozen, gripping the chain. I did have gloves in my pocket, but the gloves weakened my grip, so I kept them off. Every step was slick and carefully calculated so I didn’t slip. The chain was like a lifeline.
But, get this. Kara wasn’t struggling with the slick rocks nearly as much as me. She was moving at a quicker pace without slipping, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. It was her footwear. She owned a a quality pair of hiking shoes, while I was wearing combat style waterproof boots—not meant for hiking. And yet, at the time, I considered them my “hiking boots” and had hiked in them many times before. But never in slippery conditions, until that day. Descending Angels Landing, I knew that I should never hike in them again. I knew I needed to invest in a real pair of hiking boots or shoes.
We made it back down safely, as did everyone else who braved the rain all the way to the top. Of course, as soon as we made it down, the rain stopped. Not kidding! But, the rain allowed us to avoid what would normally be a crowded experience. I’m not a fan of crowded hikes—especially with narrow paths—so I don’t regret going in the rain.
I do regret wearing those boots.
So, you know what I did?
I threw them in the trash. Yup. Our last stop of the trip was Bryce Canyon National Park, and after hiking there, I tossed those boots in a giant dumpster. RIP. Sure, I could’ve kept them for casual wear instead of hiking, but I knew—I KNEW—I needed to do something drastic. Getting rid of them before I flew home would force me to buy a proper pair of hiking footwear back in Tennessee. Those boots were a hindrance to my progress and my safety on that hike, and I knew I didn’t want to be hindered again.
The lesson in throwing my boots away
A few weeks later, I bought a quality pair of Vasque hiking boots as a birthday present to myself. Since then, I’ve hiked in them countless times, and whoa. What a difference! My footing is more secure, even when crossing shallow rivers on slippery rocks! Instead of hindering me, these boots actually HELP me hike better than I ever did before.
When I threw the boots away, I didn’t really think of it as a lesson—other than one in frugality and that it’s worth investing in the proper gear.
Recently, though, the memory of Angels Landing and the boots resurfaced, along with a Bible verse in the book of Hebrews.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…Hebrews 12:1
For context, the “great cloud of witnesses” refers to the people listed in Hebrews 11 who each exhibited extreme faith in the face of adversary and uncertainty. Those people serve as an example of how we are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race of life God calls us to pursue.
And how do we run that race? By “throwing off everything that hinders.” Metaphorically, the boots were my hindrance and the hike was my race. It sounds like a modern day parable Jesus would’ve shared with his disciples so they understood his point through a relatable example.
Gosh, I can definitely relate to the disciples’ need for parables. That’s why I’m sharing this story, as a reminder to myself. And if it helps someone else? All the better reason to share. Here’s the lesson: Don’t hesitate to throw away ANYTHING that keeps you from living the life you were meant to live!
Angels Landing Zion Permit Information
If I didn’t scare you out of hiking Angels Landing, please note that a permit is now required to hike. This wasn’t the case when Kara and I visited Zion, so I can’t speak to the process. However, the instructions are here on the National Park Service website.
Whether or not you ever hike Angels Landing, my hope is that in this race of life you won’t skimp on the footwear. Run unhindered!