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A Walk in the Park? Printer friendly page

We discovered Christian camping at 14,000 feet

by Corbin Hillam

Recently I had what could be called a true Colorado experience. I’m not talking about attending a Focus on the Family prayer breakfast or witnessing the opening of the newest microbrewery. I’m talking about climbing a “14er.” To those of you who are uninitiated, a 14er is any mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet in elevation.

Many people pride themselves in “bagging” all 53 14ers in Colorado. Me? I’ve done six. But who’s counting?

Climbing a 14er is no easy task. It’s not like you just lace up your walking shoes and throw an old book bag on your back. You need special equipment—at a minimum, a CamelBak hydration system, synthetic long underwear, and collapsible climbing poles—to do it right. Thankfully, I have some “outdoorsy” friends who loaned me the gear. I was set to go!

My friend, Vern, who invited me to climb, chose the 14,265-foot Castle Peak. Before we left, I read a description that called our hike “a walk in the park.” That was, if we didn’t “cheat” and hike less than 3,000 vertical feet, which would make it “a lark.” What’s with all the rules? I wondered.

Vern and I arrived at the base of Castle Thursday night, set up camp, and prepared for our assault on the peak. Early Friday after breaking camp, we proceeded to drive up a bolder-strewn road toward the trailhead. Apparently, Vern wanted to follow the rules and make sure our hike wasn’t a lark, because he parked at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. “This way it’ll count as a real 14er assent!” he told me. Whatever.

As we neared the summit and the trail became steeper, I couldn’t help but think, This is a lark? I’d probably never prayed more just to get to the top of a mountain. (That is, if you don’t count the amount of praying I did during the hike down.)

As Vern and I climbed, our conversation took as many turns as the trail did. At one point, we talked about Christian camping. To my surprise, Vern was a bit confused by the term. “You and I are Christians, and we’re camping. So is this ‘Christian camping?’” he asked.
“Well, Christian camping can mean many things,” I explained. “It can run the range from wilderness backpacking to resorts, from canoeing on the lake to chartered raft trips.”

I could tell Vern was having trouble getting his brain around that one. I told him that, after a lifetime of camping, resorting, and now climbing (well, sort of), I’ve realized that Christian camping can mean two people discovering God’s amazing creation and 1,000 kids meeting God in a retreat setting.

“When grappling with such a tough theological question,” I said, “I usually turn to the Scriptures. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘For where two or three come together in my name around a campfire, there am I with them’?”

OK, so I added the campfire part. But surely we can include camp—wherever it may be—in the places Christ will meet us to answer our prayers and strengthen our faith.

Corb is a freelance artist and author who has been going to camp all his life. He has spoken at camps in the United States and Europe.

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