After hours of trekking up the grueling marble mountain, me and a small group of hikers finally arrived at our destination. The stunning Zhuilu Old Trail, which spans 500 m (1,640 ft) across a sheer cliff and overlooks a majestic gorge sitting a menacingly 700m (2,2956 ft) above the canyon floor. To the right, a sharp jagged marble stone; a mere 90 cm to the left, a dizzying drop. As horrifying as it was, we felt on top of the world! Taking in the grandeur of the gorge left us full of pride and a strong sense of accomplishment. For a moment we were even distracted from the perilous fall should we misstep! Fortunately for us, our focused trail guide regularly brought us back to our senses by the firm but friendly reminder, “Hold onto the rope.”

The rope was our lifeline to the mountain. Not only was the thick wired rope there to give us security from the cliff’s edge, but it acted as a safety precaution to unforeseen circumstances. It wasn’t unusual to have an unexpected change in weather which could leave the smooth marble slick. At such a high altitude an invisible gust of wind could knock you over from behind. Even hidden dangers from above such as a falling rock could at a moment’s notice cause great harm. “Hold onto the rope,” and when danger strikes, you are prepared.

These experiences in nature provide great insight into our own lives. My time hiking this particular trail in the mountains of Taiwan made me appreciate and identify the “trial guides” in my own life. I started to make a list of qualities that make an effective guide. Some of these traits included: communicative, firm, clear and understanding of limitations. An effective guide is also insightful, able to identify potential, and knows when to push and where to encourage. Perhaps the most important skill a good guide possesses is the ability to identify potential dangers and provide the appropriate instruction to safely move forward.  As parents and children navigate their journey of healing, it is important they rely on those privileged guides.

At Cascade Academy therapists, mentors, teachers, and all members of the treatment team come together to provide insight and observation that will serve as a roadmap to help families summit their own personal mountains. Our guides know when it is safe to walk forward, when to dip under a low hanging rock, and where to take in the view. At Cascade Academy our guides will instruct families to, “Hold on to the rope” as they navigate the world around them. This metaphorical “Rope” represents the tools and skills required to face life’s challenges.  It serves as a grounding mechanism when the winds of life pick up. To anyone weathering the storm on the terrifyingly beautiful mountain, trust your guide and “Hold fast to the rope!” The view is worth the climb!

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