Rocks in the Mountains

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Pronghorn Peak, Bridger Wilderness Area

Owners of restaurants, bars, salons, and retail stores live in the hope of receiving five-star reviews from Yelp, a popular online customer review service. 

One-star reviews, on the other hand (“we had to endure the worst waiter ever”) can have immediate impact on public perception – even if the reviewer had simply gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that day.

What happens when visitors to America’s national parks and wilderness areas write Yelp reviews?  Rangers end up on the receiving end of some pretty extraordinary feedback. 

“Our trip was wonderful, but we never saw any bears.  Please train your bears to be where guests can see them.  This was an expensive trip to not get to see bears” (a visitor to Yellowstone).

“You lose cell service because you’re in Nowhere USA.  The only thing bad about these lands is [the] entire experience” (a visitor to the Badlands). 

“There are bugs and stuff, and they will bite you on your face” (a recent visitor to Sequoia National Park).

“More like Mediocre Canyon” (a tourist bored to tears by the Grand Canyon, “a really big hole in the ground”).

“[This was] just something to look at and then leave” (someone reporting on their visit to Crater Lake).

Here are some suggestions on visitor comment cards received by rangers at the Bridger Wilderness Area of Wyoming – one of the most rugged and beautiful stretches of the Rocky Mountains:

“The trails need to be reconstructed.  Please avoid building trails that go uphill.”
“Please pave the trails so they can be plowed of snow during the winter.”
“The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake.  Please eradicate these annoying animals.”
“A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles.  Is there a way I can get reimbursed?”
“Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.”
“A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.” 

And the best comment of all: “There are too many rocks in the mountains.”

Yes, that would be true.  There are a lot of rocks in the Rocky Mountains.  And people who set out on trails – whether walking through the wilderness, or deciding to get married, or starting a new business, or trying to reconcile quarreling family members – inevitably discover that there are just as many uphill sections as downhill sections.  And there is no escalator to move us quickly past the parts that keep us awake at night.

That’s the way things are in a fallen world.

But here are God’s promises: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you… The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (Hebrews 13:6).

We may not get reimbursed for every lost jar of pickles. 

But on the steep trails – the ones that make us afraid even to take the next step – we will never be walking alone.