My family knows I’ve been craving a weekend camping lately. To sit out under the stars at night, ponder life in front of a campfire…well, to me, there’s nothing better. It’s my happy place, where I can relax. No stop lights, no deadlines, no something I needed to make happen and didn’t, no stress. It’s been awhile since I’ve camped, though. Life interferes with my adventures.
I think over again my small adventures
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things I had to get and reach
And yet there is only one great thing
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world
-“Old Inuit Song”
In spite of life, we’ve had some amazing times. We’ve hiked up to the most amazing waterfall in Kings Canyon, and on the way back, we encountered a mama bear and two cubs. They were so cute! Like big teddy bears…that can maul you.
I’ve felt the peace of walking along a shaded, cool fern canyon in northern California.
I’ve discovered the beauty of a wide desert landscape…open, quiet, and yet so loud. And what a sunrise.
My favorite place in the world is the Cedar Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park. All your senses are engaged: the fresh smell of the pine trees, the rushing sound of the Kings River churning below your campsite, the sunlight slowly drifting along the sides of the canyon walls, the infinite stars twinkling down at you at night, the bear ambling towards you as you sit on a rock pondering life just before bed. I’ve never been anywhere prettier…or more terrifying.
One of my favorite adventures was whitewater rafting. We were able to raft on the Kings River before the drought lowered the water level, and I felt the cool water splash on me as we tumbled down class III and IV Rapids. Part roller coaster, part restful cruise on one of the most stunning rivers in California: ecstasy!
Another time on a Boy Scouts trip, Nate and I tipped over an inflatable kayak, and I tumbled down class III rapids of the Kern River. The water was refreshing but fast. I laid back in the three point position the guides taught us and prayed. I wasn’t scared of drowning, but I sure was scared of breaking my tailbone on the rocks below me! Thankfully, nothing but a bruise or two.
I love camping so much, I’ve taken my two kids camping by myself before. It rained one evening, and the kids and I sat in the car eating our dinner because no food could be in tents (due to bears). I was so proud of myself that I could start a fire and cook our dinner in the rain. And I love the sound of raindrops on a tent. Then the next day I decided to take them on a 20 mile drive down a winding road to see the river. I was naive about the perils of little kids in the backseat and twisty roads, but luckily for me, no one actually vomited in the car.
My love for the outdoors and my faith easily connect. One of the things that has been obvious to me most of my life is that the earth is so sublime, it has to have been created by Someone who loves beauty…who is beauty personified. Every beautiful thing on this earth points to God and hints of somewhere else, somewhere holy. That’s why we are attracted to it, that’s why we’re in awe when we’re near it. We crave goodness, holiness, beauty, truth. It’s written into us.
Still, beauty is often not “safe.” And that’s part of the fun of camping too. The unexpected bear, a deer six feet from you, a twisted ankle crossing streams on wet logs. God, in His holiness, is not “safe” either. We are right to fear Him. He is all-powerful. But we trust in Him because, as C.S. Lewis wrote in the Narnia series about Aslan, “Safe? Who said anything about being safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.” We know He’s good, because He did not spare His own Son for us, because the Word tells us He loves us. And because He shows us His loving mercy every day.
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” C.S. Lewis, “Till We Have Faces.”
Someday, we’ll be in heaven, face to face, with that beauty, and we will finally understand why we have such a longing here on earth. We will be in our true home. Until then, I really can’t wait to go camping again.