Thud! I shut my eyes after I felt a tree branch come crashing down on my head. “What happened?” I thought, before it became all too clear to me. The branch we were putting food on—to keep bears from getting it—broke. I groaned at the thought of all the work that was lost, and of the temperature dropping by the minute, covering everything with a thin layer of ice and making our job more difficult.
As Johnny and I walked dejectedly back to camp for help, my thoughts wandered to the events that transpired to bring me here:
~The previous day we had started on a five-day, 24-mile backpacking trip. That day, though cool and cloudy, was warm for the first of October. The farther we climbed to the 10,000-foot pass, the colder it became. We finally got to the top of the pass at five in the afternoon. The climb was exhausting, but when we arrived at the top it was worth it. With this view from the pass, we could see the surrounding red rock mesas and distant mountain ranges. Although hiking since noon that day, we covered only three miles, so despite the growing darkness, we pressed on. By the time we stopped that night, I was not in a very good mood. Thinking forward to the days ahead, they seemed to stretch on for an eternity before me. The next morning, laying in my sleeping bag cold and tired, I heard something on the roof of my tent and realized it was snowing. Quickly jumping out of my tent, I saw a most beautiful site. Fog was so low that it was covering the tops of the aspen trees. I don’t know why, but that snow changed my mood. My depressed spirits lifted, and again I was happy. That same morning I was elected leader of the group. As leader I was supposed to be in charge of everything that happened. This kind of responsibility was new to me, and I knew it would be impossible to do a good job without God’s leading. ~
Finally, Johnny and I arrived at camp, jolting me back to the present. We told Mr. Kory about our troubles with the branch breaking and about our trouble with not being able to find another branch that would be suitable. (We were sure that the branch that broke was the one that had been used on the backpacking trip the year before, but Mr. Kory was skeptical.) He told us we would go after supper. Disappointed that we could not get the job done immediately, but happy with the hope of help, we ate supper, had worship, and then headed out to complete our task of hanging the food—which would prove to be an adventure.
Mr. Kory, Johnny, and I started off into the growing darkness, hoping the job would not take long. When we got to where the bags of food were, a look of disbelief came across Mr. Kory’s face as he realized that the tree that had held the food last year had indeed broken a branch. As we looked around at the other trees in the area, we all realized even more what a job this would be. The only trees in the area were tall aspens. The lowest branches on the trees were 40 to 50 feet high, and those were breaking easily when we tested them. After looking for what seemed like hours (but was probably only 30 minutes) we found a tree that looked like a possibility.
The lowest possible branch was 40 feet up; Johnny scaled it so the rope could be thrown over. About this time we realized we were out of rope and needed the last section of paracord, which we had left back at camp. I was sent to get it, even though I didn’t have my headlamp. By this time the night was dark and cold, with the ice having settled on everything. Going to and from camp there was a mountain stream we had to cross over. When I crossed this time, I stepped on a rock that I had not tested before, and as I did so the rock turned, dumping my foot into the icy stream. Continuing back to camp I was tired and just about ready to leave the food to the mercy of the bears and hope that all would be fine, but I had a job to do and would not have been allowed to quit anyway.
Finally, I made my way back to the tree, this time taking my headlamp with me. By the time I got to the tree, Mr. Kory and Johnny had the first rope over the branch and were ready for the rope I brought. In a few minutes we were, once again, ready to lift the bags into place on the tree. One, two, three, push! Up it went, Johnny and I pushing up on the bags and Mr. Kory pulling on the rope. Once again came the now-all-too-familiar sound—crack! Time seemed to stand still as Johnny dashed past me, knocking me over in the process of getting out of the way of a branch coming down. Crash! The branch, twice as big as the one that had fallen on my head earlier that day, landed at my feet as I laid down in the tall grass, unhurt. We all stared in disbelief as we looked on two hours worth of work—spent in vain.
By this time I was really ready to quit and leave those bags of food to the mercy of the animals. It was 10:45 at night, and after hiking all day for two days, quitting seemed like the perfect thing to do, but it was not going to happen. We were going to finish the job we started and get that food hung in a tree at this crazy hour of the night. We finally realized we were not going to do it on our own, however, and this time we asked God to help us. As I write this, I am asking myself “Why did we not do this before we started the first and second time? Why did we wait until now to pray?” Well, when the answer comes, it says the reason we did not pray is that we did not feel our need of help. We were sure we could do this on our own, but after so much happening, we realized we needed the help of God, and we got it. He was there with us at 11:00 at night, in the freezing weather, helping us find a suitable tree to hang food in. By 11:30 the food was hung safely in a tree, and we could go to bed.
As the three of us walked back to camp that night, all we could talk about was our hope for a warm fire waiting for us, but alas it was not to be. The most disappointing thing I could imagine at that time happened; there was no fire, not even coals. I was so tired and cold that I went to bed without trying to restart a fire, thankful for my cozy sleeping bag.
After a good night's sleep, we were off the next morning, ready to continue our journey through the mountains. The rest of the backpacking trip proved less eventful, and we got safely to our destination three days later. I will never forget the lessons of patience and endurance that this incident instilled in me. And I hope that from now on, I will ask for God's help right from the start, instead of waiting so long to realize my need.
by Rebekah Stone,