One of the mandatory things one must do while living in America is a road trip. In a country where driving to school, work, to the gym or your neighbor’s house is the norm, it is not unusual for people to travel very far by car either. Now when winter is here I decided to go on such a voyage down to Southern California to visit some friends there. On the way down I wanted to visit some famous and beautiful places. I ended up having a pretty good plan to where I wanted to go and where I would spend the nights. Since there are some very nice national parks along the way I thought I would pack all my camping gear and hopefully camp out in the beautiful nature.
I started out really early on a Tuesday morning. There were a couple hours till sunrise when I headed out on the freeway. I had fixed up my car enough so that I was pretty confident that it would hold up the whole way to California and back. I had bought it about 8 months earlier but had not really driven it much. It had for sure seen better days, but as far as I could tell it works just fine. After a life of 20 years a car does have some funky misfunctions like that the driver window does not roll up all the way. The solution was to put duct tape in the gap. Another maybe more serious thing is that the fuel quantity indicator is way inaccurate. For some odd reason it shows a higher level of fuel when you put more pressure on the gas pedal. So when the indicator starts to show low, just go a little faster and all is well. No, but the most worrying thing is that you can’t tell when the fuel is actually about to run out.
So adventure awaited along the way. The first part of the trip was the longest. I made it all through Washington state and entered Oregon. I really wanted to stop by Crater Lake to see it in its splendor, but slowly realized that I was running out of time before nightfall to actually see it. At about 3.30 pm I tuned my radio to the local visitor station’s frequency. As I carefully drove my car on the snowy roads with snow banks soaring several feet above ground level on each side of the road, I heard the words “a free backcountry permit may be attained at the visitor center for those who wish to go backcountry camping…” I knew I had the gear, experience and knowledge to go backcountry camping in the snow, so in a fraction of a second I decided to go for it.
I got my permit just before the ranger office closed for the day. The sun was already setting as I was packing everything I needed to stay over night 70+ liter backpack. There was a wave of nervousness that came over me as I started heading out in the to me unknown, dark and cold terrain. It always happens when I head out like this. There is something about being exposed to the elements but I cannot always put my finger on why. I might get lost. I might drain my strength before I could have built a proper shelter to get out of the wind. I might get too close to the edge of the crater, ski out on a cornice which would break for my weight and bring me down into the freezing cold lake beneath me. You never know what might await you. In a way it freaks me out. In another way I love it.
Some people say I’m crazy to do these things. Maybe they are right, but I did not really have a choice but to go. It was a heavenly invitation to spend some time with the one who created all this in his own creation. It was me and Him that night. No pictures I tried to take really turned out good, so it was pointless to try to save the moment that way to show someone else. All I can do is talk about it. Instead it was a time for Him and me for me to cherish and treasure, leaving the rest of the world behind for a moment and to just be. Nature is one of the things I love the most in this world and this experience in the backcountry was given to me like a kiss. I knew I had done nothing to deserve it. It was a gift of grace. The whole thing intrigues my soul. And I love it.
Life, just like this road trip, takes some expected and some unexpected turns. Sometimes life is like navigating in the dark and cold winter night, looking for landmarks that you aren’t really sure what they look like. It is a bit frightening in a way because it is uncertain where the walk will take me. The only thing I can do in those moments is to trust that I still am in good hands. I must confess that there were instances at Crater Lake when I had no idea where the trail was, when I was not exactly sure where I was at on the map and when I did not know if the terrain ahead would provide a good place for me to set up camp and rest. I was wondering how it all would work out. All I could do in that moment was to keep moving forward, keep my eyes open and keep trusting that this night was still a gift and that God still was in control. I have found that it is often in these moments that He and I are the closest, when I have no other choice but to trust in Him through the challenges in life. It is perhaps then not nature that actually brings me closer to him. Nor is it a career in missionary aviation in itself, but it is how I need to surrender more of those big or small parts of my life to Him and let Him be trusted with them. It was a good lesson to be reminded of at this time in life for me I think.