BY MATT STAFFORD
Last July, I found myself on the trip of a lifetime—at least in my eyes—in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While I could write countless pages on what that experience meant to me, one moment gave me more serenity than I’ve ever experienced in nature.
I was hiking with my wife’s family to Taggart Lake, a pristine destination within Grand Teton National Park at the base of those magnificent peaks. This particular trail became one of the favorites I’ve ever had the privilege to saunter. The path leading up from the parking lot to the trailhead was flat. A right turn gradually inclined through a dense forest along a relatively rocky path dotted on both sides with patches of sweet-scented, small white flowers known as Snowbrush.
Everything about this place is pleasing, from the dirt and rocks under your feet, the creeks and streams running along the trails, the views of the towering formations above, to the fragrance you breathe in. The trail leveled out into a pine and aspen forest that opened up after a mile-and-a-half journey to the southeastern shore of Taggart Lake. I couldn’t resist any longer. I rolled my pants up, pulled off my hiking shoes, shoved my socks inside, and cautiously stepped onto the smooth rocks detectable under the clear water.
It was frigid, but wading was almost an obligation. My brother-in-law found a good-sized boulder that extended from the bank into the water and decided to sit there and talk to the rest of the crew on the shore. Only a few of us chose to endure the cold for the sake of the experience. The rock on which he sat appeared to have adequate space, so I made my way over and climbed up on the west side of the sloping boulder just above the water’s surface.
My brother-in-law was occupied, chatting with the gang and watching his mother carefully assist my two 4-year-old twin nephews as they navigated their little feet in the shallow waters. He was facing southeast toward the shore, while I was a scant foot away, facing west, my mind engulfing the vista before me, a clear mountain lake at the foot of the massive summit above.
I definitely was not, but I felt blissfully alone with the creator for a few fleeting moments. My head was drawn upward as if the very hand of God had lifted my chin up to the peaks piercing the Heavens.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
I was suddenly filled with such thankfulness for the blessing around me. I whispered, “Thank you,” and it was as if the sounds dulled around me—the chatter and laughter behind me, the paddle boarders off to my right, the swimmer across the shore—all seemed muted from my reality. A gentle breeze swept over me from the south. I closed my eyes and breathed it in. It was as if the Lord had smiled at his child’s amazement at his wonders and sent the breeze to confirm his presence.
I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live, a snapshot I’ll keep revisiting in my head.
Wyoming, with its geothermal activity, abundance of wildlife and snow-covered spires, was simply unbelievable. Still, I have to remind myself of the natural wonders we possess here at home in Owen County, especially this time of year.
For many Owen countains, autumn consists of early morning walks in a moonlit stretch of forest, climbing into a blind or up into a sturdy tree and waiting on “the big one” to come within range during deer season. Many of my most peaceful days have been spent in this scenario, leaning up against an oak tree on a chilly afternoon with the sun in my face while the kaleidoscopic leaves break free from their limbs and sway like a baby cradle toward the ground. It didn’t matter if I saw the first four-legged animal with antlers.
I’ve come across that same peace here at home that I felt on that rock in Wyoming. It’s accompanied me on the banks of many farm ponds, on a walk with my wife, and now, I’m blessed to see it on the face of my son.
Fall is my favorite season to be outside. I pray whatever you decide to get into during this time of year, whether it be a pumpkin patch, a football game, or chasing down a whitetail, that you find as much peace as I have in the little moments we are so blessed with.
No matter where you are—in the mountains of Wyoming or here in the rolling hills we call home—little moments of serenity and peace are readily available to all of us. All we have to do is find them.