I can remember it quite clearly: We’re all in a cabin that’s more like an old mobile home; it’s the night before our fifty mile backpack trip that would turn into more like sixty miles. Dad and Mr. Hannay-–the two scout masters–are poring over the map set out on the old table. Mr. Kerr is manning the BBQ, and we are teasing him for wearing the white-and-red checkered apron we found in a cupboard. Treasa is helping in the kitchen; she’s always helping in the kitchen. Little Elen is resting because she’s tired; on one of the car rides she fell asleep, her head resting on my shoulder while I read a book I’d brought.
The brothers are being loud again; it seems they are always loud, and that is grand fun. It doesn’t bother me. We girls had ridden with Mr. Kerr and my dad in Zeke– our old white van that dad uses for driving scouts around, or I use for driving folk from writers’ group to the host’s home. I think we had Eachann and Gillis with us, but they were in the backseats so they weren’t overly pesky. Ian, Baird, and Duer rode with Mr. Hubbard, who was driving leader, flying through the twisty mountain roads as if on a racetrack. I think the boys were listening to super loud music; they sure do love that loud music.
Now we are in the cabin. We have all had dinner and we kids are in the living room trying to get the old TV to work. Baird and Ian are behind the TV-stand messing with the cables; then Duer takes a turn. I try to help, but my brilliance just puts the progress back a bit, so I leave it to the boys. Eachann and Gillis are laughing over something, it almost sounds like giggling if it’s possible for boys to giggle. I think they’re laughing over the game-thing that Eachann brought with him. They are smooshed in an old comfy chair that barely fits them; like twins joined at the hip. Eachann is laughing his evil laugh.
Soon, we have given up on the TV and have brought in one of the portable DVD players. The screen quite tiny–we set it up the coffee table in front of us. The brothers are all crammed in the couch in front of us, five boys all in a row. We girls sit on stools behind the couch so we can see the screen; it’s near to the counter for a glass of water or a snack. I think the boys have a bag of chips with them, passing it down the line and then back again.
We are all laughing, we are always laughing. I’m supposed to be nineteen, but I feel much younger, and I am glad. It is summer now, so Treasa is nineteen too. Little Elen, Ian, and Baird are all about seventeen or so, I think. Being an adult is no fun sometimes. Backpacking is fun. Watching a favorite movie is fun. Laughing with friends is fun. Life is boring if there’s no fun.
Tomorrow there will not be a movie. Tomorrow we leave all civilization behind. I don’t mind that; except not taking showers, I like knowing I’m clean. But being many miles away from civilization can be frightening too. You see, my knees are still injured though they are healing up and getting stronger. I’ve weighed the potential dangers, but I think I will be all right, and I know that God will take care of me.
The next day we set out.
It turned out to be a wonderful trip, though extremely difficult too. Honestly, there were times I was completely miserable, and times I was completely happy. I was nearly always in the back of the line; it was a challenge to keep up. I felt old–ancient, actually. I should have been nineteen, but I wasn’t, I had broken knees.
Once, after a day of about twelve miles, my knees just about completely gave out and that was only mid-way through the trip. The mosquitoes were awful at times and literally made life miserable, we were constantly swatting at them.
But there were so many times where I was so happy, and that far-outweighed the difficulties. Besides, the difficulty was a challenge and made me rely on God more, which was good. The most magnificent times were when I was with my family and friends, and the times with God.
The evening of our first day, I stood on top of the world at sunset. I was exhausted and not sure I could even make it down the hillside without my knees giving out, but the sunset was so very beautiful. I have a picture I took of myself at that moment. And I was smiling, though my eyes showed that I was tired.
Another time, we had halted for lunch and I had gone a ways down the trail to do a bit of personal hygiene. I took off my boots and socks and moleskin, putting them on the log beside me. Then I slowly sank my swollen feet into the cold mountain stream.
It was so very quiet.
There were waterweeds far below drifting with the current. Lupine was on the opposite bank, and I was surrounded by green grasses and other plant life. I remember thinking how happy I was at that moment, and how miserable I had been just an hour earlier.
I decided in that moment that life is like that; there are moments of bliss, and there of moments of intense difficulties. And when you are in a moment of bliss, you know that there is a good possibility that a time of intense difficulty may be just around the corner. But I had God with me, and I knew I could face anything.
The brothers were fun to hike with. They were either blasting imaginary airships while hiking, telling stories, or singing Boy Scout songs. I stayed up late one night around the campfire with them; Treasa and Elen were very tired and had gone to sleep in the girls’ tent. We told riddles, bantered, and laughed. I felt like a tomboy, just as I had been when I was little. Little brothers are always full of fun and laughter; as am I. We had a grand time.
It was a long trip; each day with nearly endless miles stretching ahead of us. Songs helped to keep the pace going; it took your mind off the ache in your legs as you wondered how many more times you could put one foot in front of the other.
Some days it felt like we were walking five hundred miles.
I listened to the brothers sing “I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more.” Sometimes I sang that chorus under my breath to keep myself going.
I think life can be like that sixty mile backpack trip; sometimes you wonder what the day will hold, but you do know that for every mile that you walk, Jesus is walking right there beside you. That’s what keeps me going.
Proclaimers. I Would Walk 500 Miles. CD. Pete Wingfield. 1988.