by Kathy Marson
Spangle, Wash., September 10, 2013 - The fall backpacking trip for juniors at Upper Columbia Academy in Spangle, Wash., could have turned out differently. But several miraculous events made this a memorable event. One first-time camper said, “I really love camping. Not sure about the backpacking, though!”
UCA juniors have an option to take backpacking for PE class. The 14 who signed up attended two classes to learn backpacking skills, then on a recent Friday they embarked on a hike to Stevens Lakes near the Montana border.
The weather forecast for the weekend was 90 percent rain and thunderstorms. On the drive from Spangle, Wash., to Post Falls, Idaho, there were torrents of rain like a tropical downpour. Some students thought it would be fun to hike in the rain but the sponsors, Cindy and Grant Williams along with Greg Meager, had plans to wait it out, if necessary, in Wallace, Idaho. Not wanting the preparation for the hike to go to waste many of the students began to pray the rain would stop.
As they drove east, the sky and clouds became lighter and by the time they reached the trailhead there was no rain, though the clouds hung low over the mountains. Throughout the weekend clouds hovered over the hills but no rain fell on the happy hikers.
The group arrived at the trailhead and sponsors, Grant and Cindy Williams donned their ham radios as well as their backpacks. After hiking this route with UCA students and Pathfinders for many years they are prepared for emergencies. The trail to Stevens Lakes begins on an old logging road, then takes off just a ways up to the left. Three energetic boys, missed the trail to the left and continued up the road. Not finding the lake after four miles they turned back in search of the trail.
Meanwhile the others hiked three miles to the first lake with an elevation gain of 1,400 ft. A tiring hike for some, as Grant helped carry one student’s pack up a portion of the trail. When the three boys did not arrive at the lake, Grant went looking for them, all the while keeping in radio contact with Cindy and Greg at the camp to learn if the missing boys had arrived.
Two of the lost students eventually found the right trail and made it to the lake. But one was tired and lagging farther and farther behind. He was ready to make camp and wait it out. At that point Grant found him near the trail head and was able to encourage him to hike the last few miles to the lake.
Around the camp the students prepared their own food over stoves or the campfire. Some enjoyed burnt offerings, while others shared their dehydrated desserts. On Friday night the girls in charge of worship asked the question, “How did you see God in nature today?” Not only the creation of God was noticed but the god-like actions of others were mentioned such as, “sharing food,” “kindness in others,” and “loaning cooking equipment.”
On Sabbath, the boys in charge of Sabbath School asked the students and sponsors to share their favorite Bible verse. Seventeen verses were shared which, in turn, became a more personal sermon about the love of God.
Later on Sabbath afternoon, the students broke into two groups to hike to the ridge above the lake and to upper Stevens Lake. As the group hiking down from the ridge with Grant made their way through some thick underbrush, Grant realized his radio was missing. So they retraced their steps. Suddenly he heard his wife’s voice on the radio and thereby found it entangled in the brush and hidden from view. As he tried to talk back, the radio’s battery went dead. The miracle was that the battery lasted long enough for Cindy’s voice to be heard.