…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Hurts So Good

The Paul Paradigm

By Rex Goode


Columbia River Viewpoint along westbound I-84. River is about a mile across at this point.

I have always loved hiking. Well, not always. When I was a youth, it was a real drag. I think that was not so much because I didn’t like it. It was more because I had such a bad experience as a Boy Scout.

I spent a fair amount of my youth in Flagstaff, Arizona. If you’re not familiar with Flagstaff, don’t let the Arizona part of its name fool you. Flagstaff is forest, not desert.

I walked a lot all over Flagstaff, which amounts to doing hiking in the woods, even though you’re in the city limits. When I was a boy, you had whole city block-sized forests right in town.

We had a fort in one of the bigger

forests like this and there had never been a more peaceful feeling for me to sit in a pine forest and enjoy the cool shade and sounds of wildlife.

So, when I moved to Oregon, it was awesome. The first Oregon trail I hik

ed was Eagle Creek, in the Columbia River Gorge. It is a beautiful hike full of grand vistas and breathtaking waterfalls. (For more about Eagle Creek, see “Trail of Memories“.)

After moving to Ohio for awhile, where I didn’t find many places near Columbus for hiking in the woods, we returned to the Portland area. At the northeastern edge of the Portland metropolitan area, along I-84, flows the mighty Columbia River. The river itself is a grand sight in its own right.

Wahkeena Falls

On that same road are turnoffs for a multitude of wonderful hiking trails. From memory, here is a list hiking opportunities within a thirty mile stretch.

  • Larch Mountain
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Latourell Falls
  • Angel’s Rest Trail
  • Wahkeena Falls
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Horsetail Falls
  • Yeon State Park
  • Tanner Creek to Wahclella Falls
  • Eagle Creek
  • Pacific Crest Trail

Cross the river and there are several trails on the Washington side of the river. If you’re a hiker, this is the place to be.

When we first moved back to Oregon, I was preoccupied with my mother, who was deteriorating quickly due to pancreatic cancer. I didn’t do much hiking.

For the first couple of years, I also worked so far the other direction that I spent about three hours per day commuting. My hiking became limited to Saturdays.

When that job ended, I went back to school to get a degree in social work. About once a week, sometimes less depending on study needs, I would get up early in the morning and head out the gorge.

I was overweight, but I still had my hiking legs and I loved to get out in the woods very early. In fact, I was so early, I would always grab a light branch to use to knock down spider webs that had been made during the night. I’d rather the stick encounter them first. Or, if I was with a friend, he could go in front of me.

All of that changed one day when I was working at a facility for adolescent sex offenders. I was out in the yard, playing foursquare with three of them. At times like this, I always forget that I’m not a young man anymore.

I dove for that ball, which got my legs out behind and under me, and a glass window right in front of me. So, here is a piece of advice for you if you’re falling like that. Don’t try to run to get your legs to catch up with your

torso. All it does is increase the speed of the impact when you finally hit. I’ll let an expert in falling tell you how to do it properly. I just know that you don’t want to run.

I broke my wrist bone diagonally. It couldn’t be set. The doctor did surgery and put a beautiful little clamp on my wrist to hold it together. For about six weeks, I couldn’t do anything I liked and for even longer, couldn’t use my arm properly. I tried one hike during the time I had my cast on and it made my arm throb, so I stopped.

That was in June, so I spent July sitting in my hot living room easy chair, drinking soda and eating Otter Pops. I gained about forty pounds in a small amount of time. Not long after that, I got diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and osteoarthritis.

My hiking career seemed over. For many years, it was. I tried a few times to do some hiking, but it hurt and knees, not to mention the feeling that I was going to have a heart attack. I gave up.

On one such attempt, I managed to get all the way to Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek trail with a group of friends. I was so miserable after that, that I didn’t try again for a long time.

I’ve done very short hikes because I just can’t give them up altogether. Often, I will take a client to one of the trails to help him get some exercise. We always give up, often within a 1/4 mile of the trailhead.

This week changed that. I drove out to Yeon State Park with a client and a friend. We were going to take the trail to Wahclella Falls. It is a .7 mile hike, about half uphill and half downhill. The falls are wonderful. You end up at the bottom of the falls in a beautifully verdant, mossy basin.

About halfway up, there is a junction and a sign. It tells you that Elowah Falls is .4 miles to the left and the upper falls are about .25 miles to the right. My friend pointed out that even though it was uphill to the upper falls and the lower falls are downhill, you have to come back up the trail anyway, so the upper falls were easier. I did not remember the upper falls, so I agreed.

I came to hate that sign. It lied. It had to be much farther than .25 miles. It was all uphill. We didn’t bring water along. Less than a mile seemed like such a short hike.

Columbia River From Upper Elowah Falls Trail

One thing I’ve always hated about hiking is how distances get distorted when you’re walking up hill. I suppose the sign could have been accurate. In my mind, each and every switchback seemed like it should have been .25 miles, but no real signs of arriving at a waterfall were evident.

At one point, my friend pointed out a railing high above us and speculated that we would have to go up there before we were done. I said that I thought that would be impossible. That would have been far beyond .25 miles. Eventually, we came to the railing. The falls were not far beyond that.

All the way up, I kept saying that no sight was worth this effort. It had better be good if I was doing all of this. I wanted to give up at every turn and just head back down. With my friend’s and client’s encouragement, I didn’t give up.

Upper Elowah Falls

When we rounded a corner at the railing, I saw the top of Elowah Falls plunging into the greenery below. I gasped. It was so beautiful to me. I said, “Now THAT is worth it!”

We continued on and arrived at a view of the upper falls. It splits into two waterfalls as it goes around a large rock. Above it is a smaller waterfall. We just stood there, admiring the beautify of it all.

My client remarked how proud he was that we didn’t give up this time. I was proud of him and proud of myself.

I wished we could have lingered, but I was already a couple of hours later than I planned to be. I remember the trail now and that there were more waterfalls to be seen higher up, but the hike down was going to be a challenge for my knees as it was.

Within about .05 miles of the parking lot, my legs could almost take no more. I managed to get into the truck, but it took a lot of effort.

By the next morning, my quadriceps and calves were tight and sore. If I tried moving at all, they seized up and would complain loudly. I had to take another client shopping for groceries, so I had to get moving.

The rest of the day, the soreness got worse and worse. This morning when I tried to get up, I almost couldn’t stand up. I finally got moving.

So, now is when you expect an analogy about the rewards of sticking with something that seems hard to do. I won’t disappoint you, but hopefully it will not be the analogy you are thinking of. It is true that the end result, the view, was worth all of the effort to get there.

Life is the same. Even though we feel like giving up, if we persevere, we will be rewarded. Everyone knows that, right?

What I want to talk about here, however, is about the value of pain and suffering, like the suffering in my calves and quads right now.

I’m talking about what I think of as the apostle Paul’s paradigm about suffering as found in the 12th chapter of Hebrews. Latter-day scriptorians will recognize that chapter as being the one where Paul talks about the Father of spirits in verse 9.

While we might quote it to prove our belief in a spirit inside man and the Fatherhood of God, it also has a wonderful meaning in the context of the rest of the chapter. He compares suffering to the chastening by a good father who knows that his children need discipline. He even states that those who do not suffer are like bastards and not heirs.

Paul also recognizes that suffering, or chastening, doesn’t seem like such a great thing while it is happening (verse 11). My calves and quads agree.

The statement I like the best in Paul’s Paradigm is this part of verse 11. ” Nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

I sat this morning, trying to stand up out of my bed thinking how much my legs hurt. I smiled to myself and said something that came to mind from a John Cougar Mellencamp song. “It hurts so good.”

I really am glad that my leg muscles are in an uproar. I’m looking forward to the result of having exercised so well. I’ve been on treadmills twice a week for years now, trying to get some strength back in my legs. No matter how high I’ve set the incline on them, I’ve never gotten the kinds of results I got from walking up an actual trail.

Even though my legs hurt now, I’m looking forward to what it means to my health and stamina later. If I could only see other pains in my life as clearly as I see this.

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