I recently spent a few days camping with some guys from Ball State University. But this was no normal fun-in-the-sun camping trip.
The five boys were part of a Wilderness Outreach effort to clear hiking and fire trails in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest of fallen trees, brush, mud and rocks.
For a solid week they rose early and worked late with shovels, picks, axes and two-man crosscut saws. Where trails had collapsed, they moved heavy rocks and carefully rebuilt what had been lost.
They slept in sleeping bags on the ground in small tents, wearing long johns and sweaters to keep warm. They prepared their own meals over open fires, which they had to stoke to life each morning and evening. And, of course, they had to cut their own firewood.
There were no showers, and no one shaved. They washed with water from jerry cans.
At the end of each day’s work they spent a quiet hour in meditation and reflection. Every day ended with a church service.
Later, around the campfire they shared life stories, told jokes, poked fun at one another and then, heavy with fatigue, wandered off to find their tents and a few hours sleep before rising again to frost on the ground and another day’s labor.
This was spring break for these guys. Sure, they could have joined the throngs on the sunny beaches of Florida. Instead, they opted to help preserve a part of our nation by doing work the US Forest Service had no budget to do.
I was proud to spend a few days with these young men. I didn’t get to know them well of course, they were too busy working. But just knowing they are out there makes me feel good about the future of our country.
(See www.wildernessoutreach.net for more information.)