A friend and I went walking to the top of a small mountain in a local State park. The drive was scenic and comfortable and we looked forward to a 2km walk up a gentle grade to the summit. The only thing that gave us pause was the name of the mountain but we were keen to go because neither of us had been there before. As we walked we saw the obvious signs of the presence of a wombat – scratching along the path and a king-sized burrow under a tree. The weather was fine and we were looking forward to a view from the top across to our city and possibly even the bay beyond.
When we reached the top we looked around for a view and discovered why this mountain had earned its name – Mt. Disappointment*. There was such a thick profusion of trees that we could see no more than 10 metres in front of us, and there was no clear path to the top of a cliff, like on so many other mountain tops. In fact, we were only aware that we had reached the summit because of the information board that had been installed there. We spent a few minutes in quiet reflection and then began our descent back to the carpark. A beautiful place and pleasant walk but a destination that did not inspire you to recommend that others visit.
On the way home I pondered this event against those “mountain top experiences” that we are supposed to experience as part of our spiritual journey. They are usually moments when we sense the Divine or we feel a new sense of purpose, and they are usually memorable. In this case, however, we were not really aware that we were on the mountain top when we got there and we could have returned to our car without any sense of achievement or significance.
I wondered whether there are times like that for us, times that seem prosaic as we go through them but that have more significance as we look back upon them. Perhaps we go through mountain top experiences in a variety of different ways. Perhaps even times of disappointment can become times of significance.
(*) Hume and Hovell were Australian explorers that had been charged with finding a land route from New South Wales to Melbourne. As they got close to their destination they chose to climb a modest mountain to see if they could catch sight of the sea and know that their journey was nearly over. Dense bush on the mountain delayed them for 4 days, eventually forcing them to return the way they had come and to try a route through the lowlands. That is why the mountain was named Mt. Disappointment.