Sunday, March 9, 2003

On Wednesday, March 5, 2003 I was traveling south along the I-15 corridor on my way to three days of hiking in the San Rafael Swell. While listening to the news on the radio I heard that two people had been stranded in the back county of Southern Utah. Their jeep had become stuck in the mud and they had spent five days waiting for help to come. Their only supplies consisted of a package of skittles and a package of sunflower seeds. They had no water and no winter clothing with them. Two feet of snow had fallen during the last part of their ordeal. In desperation they began walking out of the canyon. Four miles into their journey Rachel could go no farther. At her encouragement her companion George continued hiking. He was discovered, staggering and disoriented, by a local rancher the following afternoon. Later that same day searchers, retracing George’s footprints in the snow, found Rachel. She had died from dehydration and exposure. I spent considerable time on the rest of that drive reflecting upon Rachel and George’s ordeal.

As I entered Buckhorn Wash of the San Rafael Swell I began to once again be enthralled with the grandeur of that scenic country. The majesty of the landscape draws me back repeatedly. I also enjoy the quite, peaceful solitude that exist there. Many do not find the harshness of that country very inviting. I remember having similar feelings with my first visit to the area.

I selected a campsite, unloaded my camping gear and made preparations for the coming nightfall. I took several pictures of the beautiful sunset and then turned my attention to preparing my dinner. As I sat in my tent, stirring chicken soup as it heated on the stove, I was once again reminded of Rachel and George. How they must have longed for hot chicken soup or anything warm and nourishing. What price would they have been willing to pay for a bottle of water? Would they have been willing to give up all that they owned just to be rescued? As their situation became increasingly more desperate I am confident that they would have bartered anything and everything just to be extracted from their dire circumstances.

As I sat there in my tent I felt deep sadness for them and their families. I would have done anything in my power to help rescue them.

I could do nothing for them. Their ordeal was over. The question came to my mind, why do some get rescued and some do not? Remembering that many “why” questions will not be answered in this life, I began to ask “what” I might learn from the experience of Rachel and George.

The first thing that came to my mind was to review my own survival kit. I dumped it out on the sleeping bag and began to go through it item by item. Everything seemed to be there for each contingency that I could conjure up in my mind. I even had a small container of sun block. Most likely sun block wasn’t something that Rachel and George were concerned about. But they would have appreciated the bottles of water, granola, honey, nuts, backpacking stove, fuel, and water purifier.

As I began the process of reorganizing my survival pack it occurred to me that there was another survival kit that would be worth considering, a spiritual survival kit. What would a spiritual survival kit contain? I fell asleep contemplating that question.

What do you carry in your spiritual survival kit? If it is as empty as Rachel and George’s temporal survival kit, you will probably not survive unless someone happened along. Are you willing to take that chance?