A book review of, We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson
We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson attracted me because of its cover of a VW van and a star-covered night sky. The advertisement of 32 maps was a bonus. I had never heard of the author, but an outdoor-themed devotional was attractive to this backpacker.
The book is a memoir of collected memories separated into quick chapters with a hand-drawn map of the areas the book describes in that particular chapter. It is a book that expresses worship in God, adventures in dating, marriage and fatherhood with humor, deep conviction, and a beautiful narrative. Threaded throughout the book are references of his grandfather and their motorcycle adventures. The book is a meditation of relaxation in the middle of a busy day, to get lost in the book’s narrative and dream of adventures yet to come.
Loss is especially poignant in the book. My eyes suspiciously watered a few times in which I blinked and tried to push down the knot in my throat. Some chapters hit too close to home like the loss of their dog and when the author said goodbye to his grandfather. The only drawback to the book was the lack of Scripture references. If there were any, I didn’t catch them. The maps are wonderful for decoration, travel tips, and reminiscing; or perhaps pieces of art that one could blow up into a print and frame.
My husband read the book first. He sped through the pages like a child eating his first cake. “Easy reading,” He mentioned to me. When I reached parts of the book that made me laugh, he would turn to look at me and ask me what part I was reading. The book was memorable to him. While not marketed to men (that I saw anyway), the book is ideal for men’s groups or young men. The wisdom in its pages are timeless. Whole families are difficult to find and young men need good mentors. Any young man might enjoy this book purely for the inspiration to get up from the couch and go somewhere.
Our kind neighbors had vacated the group spot an hour before the sun fully rose and the light crept into the canyon. We could hear them banging food containers and giggling as they looked forward to their next adventure. We had met so many great people from all over the world. It was our turn this morning to go home.
We were both eager and sad. This campground was our home for a couple of nights. The Bright Angel Creek was still muddy unlike the first day when we soaked our sore calves in the ice cold water when it was blue. The creek still tore over rocks in furious temperament, pushing mud to the Colorado River after yesterday’s rain (and snow on the rims). It had risen higher than the first day we sat on its banks.
We started on our journey at 9:30 a.m. Our backs ached, protesting the 25 and 27 lbs we wore, and our legs strained, still feeling the stiffness and soreness of previously coming down the Kaibab Trail on Sunday afternoon. Climbing up would use different muscles. Our spirits soared as we looked forward to seeing what sights God would show us on our way to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail. Of course, we began our journey in prayer like on Sunday.
Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! (Psalm 96:1)
What we didn’t realize is how long the Bright Angel Trail was and what an ordeal awaited us. The Bright Angel Trail from Phantom Ranch is about 9 miles long. It’s easier than the Kaibab Trail (7 miles) because it’s not straight up. Some journeys are barren of joy, straight up grueling paths that cause us to wonder why we feel alone. Where is God in our struggles? We think we are alone until we encounter people on the way as in the first day when we discovered a hiker in distress. A little aspirin goes a long way.
Thinking back on your own past, can you recall those times of struggle and how you were never alone? We may not be rescued from the situation, but God gives us the tools, the friendships, and even a way out. How do we recognize these things? Words are easy to speak, but not so easy to live out.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4
So many beautiful sights met our wondering eyes. The mantra kept running through my head, “One step at a time.” Coming home is usually about facing our demons one step at a time and letting Jesus change us from the inside out.
Each step was harder to take. My shoulders ached. Hope grew as we climbed higher through the canyon towards the South Rim. Miniature waterfalls tumbled from gray rocks, framed by the golds and greens of Fall. I had to stop and take it in on occasion. My eyes were laser-focused on reaching the South Rim by dark. Moments like this make you feel impatient to reach the end. Too much focus on the end makes you miss what you can absorb from the journey.
What I would have done differently is planned a third day of camping out, and camped out at Indian Gardens (5 mile mark) before tackling the beast up a canyon wall to the South Rim. Most of the remaining four something miles was steep switchbacks in the shadows of the canyon walls. The temperatures began to drop, but it was subtle. Three miles from the South Rim, I pulled on a sweater. My fingers tingled. My back ached. Tony kept stopping every few yards as fatigue made every step painful and hard.
I kept my eyes on the end. I made conversation with new friends. We shared the pain of our struggles up. Slowly and patiently, we passed the first arch. In the distance, the echo of the Grand Canyon Train gave us courage. It’s those little things–God moments–that give us the ability to finish the task we’re given.
I pulled ahead to another curve in a switchback and saw the last tunnel and the brown siding of a South Rim building. Less than a half a mile and we were coming home!
One of the things I did not do was to leave my partner behind. This was a first for us, and I wanted both of us to finish together as husband and wife.
At the end, I cried. To me, this symbolized the whole journey of raising up financial partners–keeping my focus on the end and yet taking note of the sights and sounds along the way, leaning heavily on God to prepare the way.
Our most challenging hike was South Kaibab Trail. The Grand Canyon has so many layers of color and light. We started out at about 7,000 feet and hiked to 2,700. That is the equivalent of hiking over six miles from Flagstaff weather to Phoenix weather going down hill all the way.
Our endurance never faltered, but from our knees to our feet, we struggled the last three miles to keep our balance. Each time we had to lift our feet over logs was agonizingly painful. We were wobbly, struggling to keep our legs from collapsing beneath us. We found a new respect for this canyon.
The bridge gave us new motivation. We could see the froth of the Colorado River and the narrow green strip where Bright Angel Campground lay under a canopy of trees. We stumbled to the first available campground. I was grateful we had persevered.
by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience;and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people.(Colossians 1:11-12, CEB)
The bummer was not being allowed to have campfires. As night fell, we sat eating smoked salmon, dark chocolate covered cranberries, and drinking hot Earl Grey tea on the picnic table. Clouds had begun to coat the sky early in the afternoon, and we read in our tent until body aches and weariness claimed us in a restless sleep.
The one thing you can’t do is to pre-judge hiking out based on how you feel the first day. Motivation and determination are what get you in and out of the canyon. If you decide you can’t make it, rescue is hours from you, if it comes.