What points north? A compass ……… or a busload of inexperienced boy scouts……
I wish I could remember more of the details of this trip ………… it’s been too many years ago. And honestly, that part of my brain may have been permanently frozen by the cold.
I know that there are a lot places colder than North Georgia. And there are plenty of states that see way more snow than I could ever imagine. But ……..I’ve lived through some cold nights and I’ve had a few memorable snow moments.
The most daring episode came as the result of my participation in a Boy Scout hike as a youth. During my time as a scout, our troop made this trip twice. This story is about the our first winter trip on the Appalachian Trail.
Not our bus, but similar
The two leaders of our troop thought it would be a great experience to hike the Appalachian Trail over the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately, neither had hiked that particular part of the trail, nor had they done enough research to prepare. (In their defense, information wasn’t as readily available as it is for us) There were about 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 18. I was probably 12 at the time. We loaded all of our gear into our church’s old worn out bus that we called “The Holy Roller.” We set out from Statesboro GA, heading north toward Unicoi State Park with the plan to start our ascent somewhere near there and hike up Tray Mountain.
Just as we arrived and started to unload, it began to snow. Big snow flakes, like I had never seen before. It was beautiful. The shapes actually looked like the decorative ones you see in the department stores and malls at Christmas.
Everyone piled out of the bus. After getting organized and loaded, we headed up the trail. It was a difficult hike, especially since we were unseasoned and poorly equipped. This was back before the days of light-weight camping gear; everything was made of heavy cotton canvas and not water proof. The backpacks were old and badly designed with all of the weight falling on the shoulders. All of us struggled along, but the hopeful anticipation of a warm cabin and a fire at the end made it bearable.
The snow continued to pile up as we hiked higher and higher. It was getting darker and colder quickly as night approached. Once we reached our destination, it became clear just how bad the situation was ……….. there was no cabin. The only shelter available was a small three walled lean-to, with not much protection from the cold.
Everything was so wet, we couldn’t start a fire. Not to mention we couldn’t find burnable wood under the snow. No one had brought a tent since we assumed we would have a big warm cabin. I can’t remember if we ate; I don’t think anyone cared. We were too cold and too tired. They lined us up like sardines across the floor of the lean-to and that’s how we spent the night.
The next morning when we awoke, we were covered in snow; outside the lean-to there was about two feet of snow with drifts up to our waists. Boots were frozen solid. Someone did manage to get a fire going so we could thaw our boots and warm up a little. The decision was made to abandon the trip but we had to get off the mountain somehow. The trail was buried in the snow and not clearly marked. The only way down was the way we came up, hiking.
They put the oldest kids near the front of the line so they could break the trail, slogging through the high snow. I remember passing through areas of the trail where laurels overhung the path. It was interesting and pretty at first; but as the day wore on, the snow began to melt off the laurels and fall down my neck. Nasty, cold, and wet! Yuck!
As we made our way back down the mountain, the kids got more and more spread out to the point that we were literally miles apart. The one good thing about the snow was that it left an obvious trail to follow; you really couldn’t get lost. I don’t know if the scout masters had informed a local park ranger or if someone saw the parked bus and guessed where we might be or if it was just sheer luck, but somebody discovered that we were on that mountain. The trail eventually crossed a park road that was only accessible by a four-wheel drive vehicle, and that’s where the first kids in the group were discovered. A couple of guys in a jeep rescued us, taking us back down the mountain a few kids at a time.
It is unimaginable that anyone could have been more pleased to see that rickety old church bus than us boys with frozen toes and fingers straggling down that mountain. We were fortunate that nobody stepped into a deep hole concealed by the snow or slipped down the side of a steep ravine or suffered hypothermia. There was very little physical harm with the exception of some slight frostbite.
Everyone on that trip learned some incredibly valuable lessons. A couple of years later when we repeated the trip, we were much more prepared and better equipped.
Acts 17:23, 29-31(NIV)
23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
To venture into the unknown can be extremely dangerous. And ignorance is NOT bliss. The physical world we live in is full of adrenaline infused activities that humans spend ridiculous amounts of time and money, studying and preparing for, building muscle strength, thinking about the possibilities before they put their bodies in potential danger. Well, at least most people do. But my point ……….shouldn’t you invest the same amount of energy preparing and studying for your spiritual well-being? The physical world can be seen and touched; the spiritual world is concealed and potentially much more dangerous.
my original compass from boy scouts circa 1960’s
Worshipping an unknown god may be one of the most dangerous things you could do. Study the scriptures, they are your compass for navigating life. Learn and understand the God who created the world and everything in it.
I raise the mug today saying this – check your compass – make sure its pointed in the right direction, guiding you towards the truth and what is most important.
All verse quotes courtesy of biblegateway.com