Its probably around three or four in the morning when Spencer jolts me out of my light sleep next to him in the car. My head had been bobbing for the past two hours as he quietly muttered “The Charge of the Light Brigade” under his breath, but now a question crashes through the stillness.
“You boys know how to tame a bear?”
Hunter emerges from his slumber in the backseat, straightens his back and looks at Spencer in the rearview mirror.
“Its simple really…”
Robby, Justin and Mountain Betty (I’ll explain later) are awake now too
“… You punch him straight in the nose and say: ‘Your. My. Bitch.’ And its tame! You can ride it around like a horse.”
Slowly we all process what we heard until all of us can’t stop laughing. Both at the ridiculousness of the statement, and the image of Spencer punching a bear in the nose and riding it.
“Its science,” He says nonchalantly as we approach the canadian border. We’re all headed to Malibu Club in Canada, a one time retreat for presidents and dignitaries in the inlets of British Columbia, now turned YoungLife camp. Sea Plane and boat are the only ways in and out of the camp, so as you can imagine the trek there is… long.
20ish of us are headed for an extension of the Malibu Club camp called Beyond Malibu. Beyond Malibu is much as it sounds, a trek in the lands that extend beyond the normal camp. You can kayak along the beautiful inlet for a week, or go hiking in the snowcapped mountains. Our little group had gone to Malibu when we were all sophomores in high school, and now returned for a senior trip of sorts. One last chance to explore what some consider the most beautiful place on earth.
Many hours of driving and a few boat rides later we arrived at base camp. Emphasis on the word camp. Electricity and modern amenities aren’t a thing here. Our guide took us to our camp spot, complete with cabins (ok so a little modern) and a fire pit, to wait for our guides and settle in.
Our guides arrived soon after. They introduced themselves as JB and Cliff (Yes his name is really Cliff) and assured us that this was their 14th trip, and we were going to have a great, safe, time up in the mountains. Cliff handed out a list comprising all the gear we needed for the next seven days.
“Oh, dammit,” Mountain Betty says next to me, “I didn’t bring any pants.”
“You didn’t bring any pants?” I ask, partly confused and partly impressed.
“None that are water proof. All I have are some jeans.”
“I’m sure they have some extra gear here incase something like this happens, you’ll be fine.” I reassure him.
There were no extra pants. Mountain Betty got some leggings to wear under his shorts in case he got cold. They weren’t water proof, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and late july normally dodges rainfall.
Cliff and JB tell us to get some sleep and we will pack our gear in the morning. At this point we’ve been divided into two groups of 10. Half of us with JB and Cliff, the other half with two other guides. We’d be traveling two different routes. Luckily for us, our roster had the sleepwalkers and sleep talkers.
The cabins had bunk beds on the bottom floor and a loft up top where a few of us could sleep. Since sleepwalking and heights seemed like a bad idea we put David, renowned for his sleep walking adventures, on the bottom bunk on the ground floor.
I wake up in the middle of the night to a cluster *$%^ of things happening. I can hear what sounds like bodies tumbling beneath me, someone moaning in pain, and Sam clearly shouting “OH $#@!, OH $#@!, OH $#@!” But the worst part is Robby puts his hand over my mouth and goes “shhhhhh,” amidst all the chaos.
Finally David and Sam wake up. They both dreamt they were falling off a cliff and rolled around the cabin moaning and yelling.
“Rob why did you try and get me to be quiet?”
“Oh, I thought there was a bear and didn’t want it know we were up in the loft.”
“Thats very brave of you Rob.”
“Hey man they were all goners as far as I’m concerned, we couldn’t save them.”
Theres no honor amongst thieves.
The next morning we arose bright and early to look around the camp. We began to notice a disturbing trend. Every time we met someone who worked at the camp we’d be greeted with a smile and “which hike are you guys doing?” Each time we replied “We are hiking to Mt. One Eye,” and each time the response would be a slightly concerned look and the word “Oh.”
None of us particularly liked that response, but this was a high school camp after all, we couldn’t do anything too crazy right?
Cliff, JB and a few volunteers showed us our backpacks and how to pack them. Our gear, food and other supplies were divided among us and we began packing. Much to our dismay the packs could hold a lot. Too much. 70 pounds got thrown around a lot as the amount our packs weighed, but I disagree, it must have easily been over 100.
Sam, whose physical description resembles a cue tip, put on the pack with some help, took two slow steps forward then looked back at us.
“What are we doing here?”
Great question Sam. None of us knew the answer either. As we began to grasp the situation ahead of us we boarded a boat that would take us to our starting point. Chatterbox falls. Imagine if you could take a private yacht to Neverland whenever you wanted to. Thats what it felt like stepping off the boat. We found ourselves in Neverland and we were the lost boys. Unfortunately none of us could fly.
We began our trek on the dock. Thats right. The dock. As sea level as you can get. Our destination? Up. Lots and lots of up. Laughter began to break out among as we came to terms with the fact that the boat was gone and we couldn’t turn back now.
After hours of walking up the trail I noticed it stopped. We came to a cliff, (No, not Cliff, but a cliff) with a tree jetting out about 20 feet up.
“Where do we go from here?”
Up summed it up perfectly. JB began to scale the cliff and once he reached the top threw down a rope and invited us up. Most of us could barely breath at this point and felt extremely tired, but there was only one way to go. Up. Looking back I’m happy for the adventure. At the time I just hoped the backpack would break my landing if I fell.
Alas, we all survived and JB told us to eat some food. Lunch meant halfway done. Lunch meant fuel. But it wasn’t lunch. It was snack time. Two large bags of trail mix appeared and Cliff told us to take two “Beyond handfuls” (Big handfuls) and no more.
As I gazed into the wilderness from our vantage point Hunter walked up to me and said what I was already thinking.
“Dude, how much farther do we have to go today if its not even lunch?”
“Probably better not to think about it,” I replied. Then with a smirk I looked back and said what we all knew by now, “We’re screwed.”
A sly, excited smile greeted me, “You’re probably right.”
Screwed we were.
We began the day on a dock, and ended it above the tree line. By the end of day 1 our tight group had become elongated. I fought to be one of the first 4 people, stumbling after JB and Robby trying to keep up. Walking in the snow made it that much harder and I looked back to see Justin, one of the toughest and most athletic people I know, literally grabbing his legs to move them each step.
We camped on a frozen lake that night. Slowly everyone reached the camp and figured out how to setup a tent exhausted in the snow. We could see far into the inlet from our camp, and in the background you could hear a waterfall covered in ice filtering into the lake. I had never felt so proud of myself before. I had never felt so simply in awe of my surroundings. As we took it all in, all of Gods magnificent creation, we all exhaled in unison and exhaustion as if proclaiming all at the same time “what are we doing here?”