Finding God on the Mountain

A scoutmaster discovers he had to get lost in order to find what was missing from his life.

I'm a scoutmaster for a small Boy Scout troop in my town. This summer during camp I went along with two of the older scouts--my son, who is 14, and another boy, 15--on what's known as "The Adventure Trek," a 28-mile backpacking trip that includes two days of white-water rafting. Our troop had gone backpacking in the past but never like this, so it was going to be a challenge for all of us.

The first day of the hike we covered a little over 14 miles, reaching two summits that were 4500 to 5200 feet. We were in a group of 26 hikers, some of whom had hiked 50-mile treks before, while others had only been on five- or seven-mile day hikes. We were in the latter group.

As the day wore on, we started breaking up into smaller groups. My little group was bringing up the rear. After our last rest stop, we were to get instructions from another scoutmaster in the group as to where our camp would be that night. There were other groups on the trail, so if we ran into trouble, we knew where help would be.

We passed our first two reference points on the trail so we knew we were following the directions properly. Then we came upon another trail. I remembered something being said about this trail, but I couldn't remember whether we were to take it or not. With about two-and-a-half hours of daylight remaining, I made the decision to take off down the trail.

As we walked, I noticed that the trail didn't look worn, which should have been my first clue that something was wrong. We had gone about a mile and a half when we came to a creek. I then realized we must have taken a wrong turn, but without a map I wasn't sure (the guide in charge of our group was holding the map).

At this point I became concerned. It was getting dark, and we were down to a half-liter of water for the three of us. We made a plan to go to the trail intersection where we had made the wrong turn and camp out there for the night once it turned dark. If we weren't in camp, I knew they would come looking for us, so the best place for us would be at the cross trail.

As we were going back up the mountain, I started blowing my whistle, hoping someone would hear it.

As I blew, the wind picked up as if a rainstorm was coming. The more I blew, the stronger the wind became. The only thing on my mind was getting these two young men and myself into camp as soon as possible. As we traveled up the mountain, I stopped to rest. I leaned my head on my walking stick and said silently, "God, what do I do? Where am I going?"
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Tony McIntosh
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