In the fall of 1976 I was invited to tag along with some folks on a guided elk hunt deep into the backcountry of Northern Idaho our destination was an area known as the Devils Bedstead. Being nineteen at the time and always short on cash I agreed to go along as a camp helper, by doing so I would be allowed to join in the adventure all I needed to do was protect the camp cook from bears and help out with the packing. No problem here, I could shoot with the best of them and every day was spent on the back of a horse so this was of course a no brainer, so off I went. As we made the three hour horseback ride from base camp to the hunt camp I became quite concerned with the extreme steepness of the terrain, we were riding on a trail no more than 24” wide, and over a half mile of it was on the edge of a sheer 800’ plus drop to the Rising River rushing below. I remember thinking how glad I was that we were making this trip during the daylight hours, my dad had shared with me his fear from former years when they made a rush trip out one night, and believe me if it scared him it would scare anyone. Then if that wasn’t bad enough upon arriving at camp we were told that just a week before a guide has lost his life on that trail, he was tied hard and fast to his string when the trailing mule went off the trail dragging the entire string with him. They found the guide the next day his lifeless body severely broken by the fall, “yup you never tie hard and fast” barked one of the trail hands.
For the better part of the week I spent most of my time feeding and caring for stock, hauling water and provisions from one place to another, or chasing off bears that wandered in looking for a easy meal. It was late one afternoon when the guide came in and told me to saddle up the horse and get two teams ready, we needed feed and supplies which meant we were headed back to base camp. Well I did the math and quickly surmised that one of two things was about to happen, either I was spending the night at base camp, or I was riding back on that narrow trail in bear infested country after dark! Either way I was not leaving camp without my 44magnum revolver with the 7” barrel for protection, I knew I could stop anything we would encounter with it, the only question was how long would it take and would I be able to hit it while shaking profusely.
Well despite my intense prayers and fears once we loaded the hay and supplies on those mules we were headed out of base camp back down that dreaded trail on what was surely the darkest night I have ever seen. I truly could not see my hand in front of my face, and the use of any form of light was forbidden it was just too risky for the livestock. You see they could see in the darkness just fine, however just the faintest glow from a flashlight could give them short term blindness and send us all tumbling to the bottom of a ravine. The guide was a man of very few words, so few in fact that we never spoke once we started the three hour return trip to hunt camp, and other than the two times I saw him signal me with his light I felt completely and utterly alone in a very unfamiliar and treacherous place. At one point I startled what I thought was a bear and as he clamored up the bank sending rocks flying I made a move for my 44 in doing so I unsnapped the belt strap on my holster and thank God I stopped the gun from falling with my elbow. Now I’m in a pickle, if this gun falls and goes off were doomed these animals will surely bolt, I can’t let go of my reins or rope because after all I’m not tied hard and fast, so I’m left with attempting a task that is difficult enough with two hands let alone one. If I stopped and the guide continued on I would be stuck out here alone with no light and no idea of how to get to our destination, even if the horses knew the way I was not wanting to trust animals I had no history with if I didn’t have to. Well you guessed it, there was no way I could to re-attach this holster to my belt no matter how hard I tried, my only option; continue to lean over and hold it against my thigh with my elbow, I wonder how much longer we have to ride?
Oh yes we made it, and everything turned out just fine, I was a little sore to say the least but we made it in one piece all the way to our destination. I had long since left this memory stored away deep in the archives of my brain until just a few nights ago when it came rushing back to the forefront of memories. You see that night of terror was very much like what my family and I are going through; we are in a foreign place somewhere we have never been and yes the night is dark. We can’t see what lies ahead, all we see is what we imagine, or what we know based upon what the word of God promises us, yet even that is not a material thing. We are doing all we can to hold things together and we keep our eyes ahead searching and seeking a sign from the one who is leading the way, one wrong step and death awaits, and the enemy has stationed himself along the path waiting for any opportunity to cause us to doubt. Maybe it’s good that we can’t see, maybe it’s best that we diligently seek the light, and sure it is good that we know where our destination is, but I must admit it is far easier said than done.
Thank you Lord for the strength!
Dawn is doing rather well, her tummy is always sore and the nausea can sometimes be overwhelming, but all and all she looks very good considering her disease. This Tuesday the 2nd we meet with her doctor to discuss how things are progressing, prayerfully we will hear that the lord is doing a miracle, and no matter what we will share our faith!