UJA Grapevine title with grape bunch

We have a stick stored in our garage. It’s moved with us more than once and it’s not going anywhere. Over the years we have acquired a great many sticks, mementos from various treks and backpacking excursions, or picked up from around our place. Many of them have morphed into bows or arrows, spears or javelins, baseball bats or broadswords, whatever the imagination conjures. They have all eventually made their way to the burn pile or garbage can. This stick, however, has been preserved from such a fate and I am about to tell you why.

Micah, Debbie and I began our John Muir Trail thru-hike on June 29, 2016. We began at the Glacier Point trailhead (Isaac joined us in Tuolumne Meadows) and camped our first night at Little Yosemite Valley. The next day we moved our campsite a mere 2 ½ miles down the trail; then Micah and I took a side trip to Half Dome. It was there that Micah found the perfect stick. I’m not sure what was so great about this particular stick, but in his 9 year old eyes it was the best stick ever.

He carried it for the next 120 miles. He had trekking poles, mind you, so he didn’t particularly need the stick for balance on the hike. Yet, every morning he made sure that it was strapped to his pack. It was too big to fit in the pack so I had to figure out a way to keep it secured to the pack while not impaling passing hikers as we made our way along the trail. Every photo and video we have of that trip you will see Micah’s stick, tied to his pack and poking far above his head.

About 40 miles into our journey we came to our first major pass, Donohue Pass. At 11,060 ft we had a number of snow fields to walk through on our way up. The first major snow on our approach to the pass came as the trail went around a large boulder. The snow had long been compacted and “sun cups” had formed throughout the snow field. The snowfield was about 3-4 feet deep and a gap had formed between the boulder and the snow, much like a tree well you often see around the trees at ski resorts. Micah was excited about the snow and before we could have a talk about being careful he scampered up the snow and started to make his way around the boulder.

Micah quickly lost traction and began slipping, losing his balance, catching it momentarily and losing it again. Like he was wearing slippers on a frozen sidewalk, he slipped and stumbled relentlessly toward the gap between the boulder and the snow. Both Debbie and I stood frozen, watching this unfold knowing we could do nothing but watch and hope that this would not end badly. Sure enough we watched as he slowly lost his balance and tumbled, tipping back headfirst over toward the gap between the snow and the boulder. Just when we were sure he was going to end up heels over head, upside down in the gap, he stopped and seemed to hover almost horizontal over the dreaded gap. Holding our breath and looking closer we marveled at the “stick save” we just witnessed. Micah’s perfect stick caught on the edge of the boulder, stopping his fall. He was stuck there like an upside down turtle but he was safe. Isaac managed to pull him up and we all breathed a little easier. We then had our talk about safety when crossing the snow and moved on, no worse for the wear and wiser for the experience. I find it fascinating that the simplest of objects can be used for very important moments: a rock in the sling of a young man willing to defend the honor of his God, a staff in the hands of a prophet leading God’s people to freedom, a small lunch in the hands of a boy willing to share it with Jesus, or even a simple stick to save a small boy from disaster. There really is no limit to what God can do with the simplest of us when we are willing to be used by a most imaginative Savior.

God bless,

Rick Nelson