Thursday, July 15, 2010

shameless promotion (2.0), part iii

Welcome back to another edition of me shamelessly promoting my own newspaper career with a hastily written column about Sumatanga. Please to enjoy.

Of hiking, proper shoes and life's big questions

It was about halfway up the hike, I realized one of the girls in our group wasn’t wearing shoes, instead trekking up the side of this hill in a pair of thin sandals.

“Um, dear,” I stuttered. “Did you put any thought into your footwear before we left the lodge?”

Climbing from Camp Sumatanga up the side of Chandler Mountain in thin sandals seems like somehthing people do as part of some sadistic fraternity hazing or something. Even in good shoes, it’s no cakewalk; the best of us have nearly fallen off a dozen times or so, and none of us ever dreamed of climbing in sandals.

“No, I guess I forgot to change my shoes,” she said. “I guess I’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t so sure. The week spent at Sumatanga — where my wife’s spent one week per summer since her teen years, and I have been since 2007 — is one of the more rewarding experiences a childless 29-year-old can have. Bright, frustrating, talented, moody, inspiring, puzzling: pick an adjective and it could describe the campers to the letter.

More advanced in years, of course, I’m supposed to be one of the “adults” in the group, one of those who helps shed some light for the “youths” there.

Few lessons are as poignant as the hike up the mountain. Prepare yourself accordingly (water, a First Aid kit, a walkie-talkie and, yes, shoes, are important); take great care with each step (or you’ll fall); resist the urge to stop until you’ve reached a flat spot (or you’ll fall again); make sure you keep someone close to you (or several someones) so they’ll know if you need help.

And one more thing.

“So is it, like, worth it, once we get to the top?”

The eternal question, isn’t it? Whether it’s school or choir rehearsal or a long drive to a scenic destination or anything else? Will it be, like, worth it, once we make it there?

The easy answer is “of course.” Make that hike up Chandler Mountain and you’ll see most of St. Clair County and several other counties. Do it the night of July 4, and the fireworks from all over will be something truly special. If Heaven’s anything like that, we’re in for a real treat.

I haven’t stopped thinking about that question, really, not even a week later. It’s one of the reasons Camp Sumatanga and places like it remain truly special: once you make it there, it’s totally worth it.

And the little girl in the sandals? She made it just fine, up and down, with nothing but a pair of dirty feet.

Shows how much I know.

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