Kneeling in the Snow
It was a typical winter afternoon atop the beautiful Cascade Mountains in Oregon. My scout troop and I were on the second day of our annual snow cave campout. It was my third snow camp, and things had gone like clockwork the day before.
We arrived at the parking lot, adjacent to the cross-country ski trail we had chosen, shortly before noon. After a quick lunch, we began the five-mile ski trek to our camp destination, amid the beautiful snow-covered peaks and evergreen trees of the mountain landscape. By early afternoon we were busily underway expertly digging our snow caves, finishing in time for an early dinner, followed by an evening devotional and early bedtime.
The next morning, one by one we emerged from our snow caves, some having slept better than others, and everyone anxious to get on their skis and warmed up before working on breakfast. By late morning, breakfast was finished and cleaned up, and we had already begun our daily activities.
The first major activity of the day was to ski about another five miles to a nearby warming hut (there for back country mountain skiers to take a break from the weather and get warm). Some of the older scouts led the way, quickly far outpacing the rest of us. The troop leaders pulled up the rear to stay with and encourage any first-time skiers.
I found myself somewhere right in the middle of the pack, along with my younger brother, two other brothers (one my age and one a few years older), and one other boy a year younger than I. Though our pace was a bit slower than those in the lead, we were making good progress, and after a while I knew we must almost be there.
That is when we hit the fork in the path.
The older of the two brothers insisted that we needed to take the left path, which also happened to go down hill, while the other path was a steep uphill climb. I honestly had no idea which way to go and was content to wait around for the leaders in the rear to catch up, but before I knew it, the two brothers took off down the hill on the left-hand path. I figured they probably knew what they were doing, so I decided to follow them. My younger brother also followed.
Luckily, the other boy a year younger than me had enough sense to wait for the leaders to show up.
Before we knew it, our downhill decent had taken us several miles off course. I knew that we must have gone the wrong way, but the other brothers were determined to plow ahead, and not knowing what to do, and not wanting to get separated, my brother and I followed.
After what seemed like a long while, we heard faint yelling and a whistle, which turned out to be our leaders trying to communicate with us and get us to stop. My brother and I finally persuaded the two brothers to stop and wait, and before long several of our leaders caught up with us. I felt horrible for going the wrong way and causing so much trouble, and we received a stern chastisement from our leaders for our mistake. However, we faced a bigger problem than hurt pride — how were we going to get back up the mountain and back to our camp?
It was quickly determined that there was no way we could go back the way we came. We were simply too inexperienced as skiers to ski back up such a steep incline for what was probably five or more miles. Instead, we planned to follow the trail for probably another five to ten miles until we came out to another parking lot, on the backside of the mountain. Our hope was that there we could find someone who could drive one of the leaders back to the upper parking lot to get a truck to transport the rest of us back up the mountain, where we could then ski the five flat miles back to camp before the sun went down and in time for dinner.
However, as we came off the trail, the parking lot was completely empty.
I could see the tangible worry on the faces of our leaders. It was getting late, the sun was going down, the weather was getting worse, and we were miles away from shelter. The leaders discussed the possibility of making another set of snow shelters, but as we were only on a day ski when we got lost, we did not have our supplies, sleeping bags, or even shovels. All we had were our day packs with a little food and our skis.
The leaders also discussed the possibility of hiking out of the parking lot to the main road and then hoping that some car would see us stranded and stop to help. However, visibility was poor and the weather and road conditions were worsening. Because of these factors, it was determined that it would be too dangerous to walk along the main mountain road.
We were stuck.
All We Could Think Of
At that point, we did the only thing we could think of. We all knelt in the snow and began to pray, each taking turns petitioning God to help us. I don’t remember ever saying a more fervent and sincere prayer. As the minutes ticked by, we got up and began to dig trenches with our skis, in case that was the only shelter we might have that night.
However, as we dug hurriedly with our skis, we soon heard the glorious sound of snow tires! A man in a large truck pulled into our parking lot and pulled up beside us. He drove one of our leaders back to the upper parking lot, where his truck was retrieved and we were all transported back to the upper snow trail. Then we were able to ski back into camp and get some dinner before sunset.
Our leader later explained to us the conversation he had with that man in the truck while he was being taken back to his vehicle. He asked the man why he had come to the lower parking lot on the backside of the mountain. The man replied that he did not know why, but that he had a very strong and nagging gut feeling that there were people who needed help in that lower parking lot, and he finally decided to go check it out.
Of course we knew why. We knew that God had protected us and answered our fervent prayers while we were kneeling in the snow.