“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul,” was the wisdom of John Muir. I have best discovered life’s lessons in natural surroundings where the environment does not distract from my learning experiences. One such experience takes me back to my first Boy Scout high adventure in Yosemite National Park, just off the beaten path of the John Muir trail.
The fifty-pound backpack I was carrying was getting extremely heavy with the cookware and bug spray stuffed inside it. It was especially heavy for an eighty-pound, fourteen-year old to carry up an entire mountainside. When we finally reached the campsite at Thousand Island Lake, we set up our tents and warmed ourselves by the crackling fire. John Montierth, aware of bears in the area, reminded us to put the food in our bear canisters. My friend Justin smartly remarked “Bears never come out in the rain,” as a thunder storm had settled directly above us. My friends and leaders laughed and went back to enjoying the fiery-orange glow of the sunset and the clean smell of mountain rain.
At night, long after my fellow Boy Scouts and I had started making Z’s, I was awakened by movement outside my tent. I lay there, stiff as a 2×4, for three minutes of heart-pounding silence. Despite my fear, I just dismissed it as one of my friends relieving themselves after drinking too many hot chocolates and I drifted back to sleep. Moments later I was again startled, this time by my leaders’ frightened voices. As I stepped into the cold, I was surprised to see Mr. Montierth standing next to the fire in hiking boots and underwear, holding a forty-five semi automatic hand gun in his hand. Justin, in his joking around, had actually forgotten to lock the lid on his bear canister. During the night a curious black bear had found Justin’s open canister, destroyed the contents, and continued looking for food in our camp.
Just as our Boy Scout troop left our campsite vulnerable, many people leave themselves vulnerable to physical dangers and temptations. They allow themselves to let their guard down just once, which traps them in a dangerous situation. As we stayed up that night, thinking of what could have happened we found further problems in our night’s preparation. To our horror, every one of us had food strewn thoughtlessly throughout our tents. My tent mate was even sleeping on an entire pound of opened beef jerky! The enticement of having a few midnight snacks in our tents could have cost us our lives. We should have followed more closely the words of our leaders.
I will never forget that night under the Yosemite sky. I know that God was watching out for us even in our errors. I believe that one should continually keep their guard up and should constantly protect themselves from the spiritual and physical dangers of life.
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