I was probably 10 years old when our parents announced we were going on our first camping trip as a family. I believe we borrowed a very large tent, if memory serves me right; because, I never saw it again after that trip. My brother was allowed to take a friend so, counting my sister and me, there would be six of us in close sleeping quarters.
I remember getting brand new sleeping bags and helping mom with meal ideas. We had a large new cooler, for storing our food, and the Sequoia National Park campsite furnished the barbeque stove and picnic table.
This was going to be a trip of a lifetime! We had never been camping as a family. I was so excited I could hardly sleep for days before our trip.
We drove, what seemed like forever, until we finally arrived at our destination. Our tent was pitched close to a creek!! Could this vacation get any better? Within minutes our shoes were off and we were wading in the ice cold water by the campsite.
Everything was going perfectly, until it was time to go to the bathroom.
Mom gathered all of us, explaining we were driving to the little town, five miles away, to go to the bathroom. Yes, there were outhouses at the campsite, shared between three other sites, but my mom was having no part of it. She was in the tent, in a rather heated discussion with dad, for a few minutes. Then, we all got in the car and drove to a REAL bathroom in town.
She made three trips to town the next day as well. Apparently, ‘ladies” don’t do outhouses. My dad and brother seemed to be just fine with the park bathroom accommodations – but mom, Susan and I never experienced outhouses on our camping trip!
Soon after returning to our campsite, the first evening, forest rangers drove by announcing we were to attend a mandatory safety meeting. Hundreds of campers met under the stars – on the hill overlooking our campsite – for an hour of safety instructions for everyone camping in the area.
I don’t remember much about that evening’s presentation; but, walking home, mom and dad were discussing flashlight batteries. Dad was going to make sure we had plenty for the week. Apparently, there had been some hungry bears seen in the area, over the past few days, and the rangers wanted all campers to know how to protect themselves from danger.
BEARS? How exciting! I was never concerned or worried about anything. I knew my dad was with us. Amazing how easy it was for me to be totally trusting when my dad was around.
On our second night camping, it happened. We ate dinner, drove to town (You know why.), came back and got ready for bed. We four kids went to bed in the tent first as mom and dad sat by the campfire talking in muffled sounds. We were all six sound asleep by midnight when dad quietly woke all of us kids, explaining, “Don’t make a sound. It seems we have a visitor outside”.
Sure enough, one of the BEARS the park rangers warned us about, had come to our campsite looking for food! Suddenly, we all heard the racket he was making knocking over our cooler and devouring every morsel of food he could find. There were boxes of supplies, food and clothes he was throwing around and he wasn’t intimidated one bit with the possibilities of humans being in the tent just inches away. He was very hungry.
My dad, dressed in nothing but pajama pants (I can see it clearly even now.) calmly got his flashlights and unzipped the tent opening, going outside to face the bear.
He turned on both flashlights, pointing them into the bear’s eyes, hollered at him several times and – unbelievably true – the bear dropped the cooler and ran off, leaving our campsite a disaster!! Dad stayed awake the rest of the night, protecting us.
I couldn’t wait at the thought of getting home and telling all my friends about the harrowing experience we had lived through. I was certain it would make the news, “BRAVE DAD SAVES HIS FAMILY FROM A TERRIFYING BEAR!”
Thinking back over our experience, my dad was probably about 40 years old. I bet he was scared to death; but, we never knew it. He was my hero. I never doubted, for a minute, he would protect us – no matter what happened.
I was reading in Psalms this morning. It talks about how our Heavenly Father protects us. How He wants our trust and our confidence; because, He will never leave us nor forsake us. The God who created the universe loves and protects His children. Why is it so hard to remember to trust Him?
Sometimes, days go by before I realize I’m in knots about something- little things, big things, ridiculous things – and, my Heavenly Father simply wants me to ask for His help.
“God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.” Ps. 34:7
“The spacious, free life is from God, it’s also protected and safe. God-strengthened, we’re delivered from evil— when we run to him, he saves us.” Ps. 37:39, 40.
“God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe! That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you— under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.” Ps. 91:2-4 (The Message)
Perhaps, it was easier to trust my earthly dad because I could see him? So, I remind myself constantly to look around at this amazing world to SEE my Heavenly Father! HE is the one who made the beautiful Sequoia National Forest!
Well, our Sequoia camping trip only lasted those two nights. We packed the car and drove home the next day. Between the BEAR tearing up all our supplies and the car trips to town, my mom could not take another minute.
We never went camping as a family again. Our family vacations, maybe four more over the years, were spent in lovely hotels with indoor plumbing.
I will never forget the camping trip where my dad saved my life. However, I want to make a habit of remembering how my Heavenly Father saves not only my everyday life but also my eternity!