An Angel’s Hand

The morning sun filters down through the trees to create a neatly woven patchwork of light and shadows on the forest floor. The rushing sound of a nearby brook invades my consciousness as I try to rub the sleep from my eyes. Today I will break camp and return to “civilization.” Before I crawl out of my sleeping bag, I stretch and do my best to sound like a bear. Last night I heard the bears thrashing about making similar groaning sounds, so it does seem appropriate for me to do so as well while I am in their “house.”

When I backpack I usually pack in more than enough food for the number of days I expect to be out on the trail, but on this trip I was too conservative. I discover that the only food that I have left is a single can of noodle soup. I had some leftovers yesterday, but last night I did not hang my bag of food in the trees. so the bears were the beneficiaries of my laziness. As I walk over to the brook to wash my face, I wonder why I didn’t do the right thing last night.

The brook looks pure and inviting, but the onslaught of humanity in Yosemite Park has affected the water quality. I know that I must purify any water I care to drink. I fill my canteen with the crystal liquid then drop in one of the purification tablets. The directions are specific; shake vigorously for 5 minutes then let stand for 15 minutes before drinking. I follow the directions to the letter then when the time has expired, I drink deeply of the chemically altered water. It seems a shame that I had to ruin the taste of nature’s finest water with an iodine purification tablet.

After I pack up the tent, I light my propane camp stove and heat the last of my food. It is delicious and the extra salt found in most canned soups gives me a burst of energy. Eating my remaining food now seems like a great idea because that means that my backpack will be lighter by one can of soup. However, later in the day I wish that I had waited longer to consume my remaining stores. If I am ever again faced with similar circumstances I will choose to wait before I consume the last of my food.

The heat of the day is now in full swing as I labor up the hill with my backpack. Another lesson that I learned on this excursion into the wild is that when one goes camping in a mountainous area then one should choose a path to start that goes up so that when one comes back out then one is going down hill—not up! Until this trip, thatis the rule that I always followed.

I know that I have to make my water last so I take small sips as I make my way up the seemingly endless path. I also chew gum and that not only helps me feel a little less thirsty, and it neutralizes the aftertaste of the iodine treated water from my canteen. Unfortunately, it also makes me feel hungrier. Hmmm… why had I been so generous last night with the bears? Bears have to eat too I suppose, but I wish that I had just one more can of soup stashed away in my pack.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity to me, a large meadow comes into my view and my goal is finally in sight. I can see cars on a distant road, and I experience a renewed burst of energy upon seeing that I am close. However, I am aware that my car is still a fair distance away. When I come upon at a dirt road it occurs to me that I can lay my burden down, and finish the trip to the car without my pack. Whew, that is literally a load of my back.

I walk the rest of the way to the car minus the pack. It really does feel good to be rid of it. Once in my car I drive to a nearby general store, but I still have a problem. I only have a few cents with me and ATM’s have not yet arrived in this part of the universe. To make matters worse, my stomach is telegraphing my brain that it is being severely neglected. This is a somewhat sticky situation because I must drive for almost two hours before I will arrive at a place that will take a credit card for food. I will just have to console myself with some water from a nearby drinking fountain.

I pull up to a drinking fountain. A man is just leaving. He is licking an ice cream cone and I clearly envy his situation. I climb out of the car and in a slightly weakened condition walk to the fountain to drink my fill of the pure water. While I am drinking, I wonder how I am going to drive for almost two hours on a severely empty stomach. I hear voices behind me so I take a few more quick gulps of the precious water then turn to offer the fountain to whoever is behind me. There is no one there, but in the distance, I see a young couple that had apparently walked past while I was drinking. I go back to drinking my fill.

My thirst finally satisfied, I turn and start back to the car. As I do an object on the ground catches my eye. For a split second, I look at it in disbelief, but then I bend down and pick it up. It is too good to be true! It is a ten-dollar bill. Here I stand, hungry and very tired with only 33 cents in my pocket and seemingly, out of nowhere, I am presented with a wonderful gift…but from who or from where?

I quickly look around to locate the young couple that passed about a minute ago, but they have vanished into the woods. In fact, there is nobody anywhere near me. I am a bit in shock about my good fortune, and confused about it as well. Nonetheless I am thankful. When I walked from the car, I opened the door and strode directly to fountain. Because I was tired, my head was hanging a bit and I was staring down at the ground. Had the money been there before I would have surely seen it because it was right there on the path that I took to the fountain.

The shock of my unexplained good fortune wears off, and I head directly to the store. I buy a sandwich and a soft drink then after consuming it I walk over to the counter and buy an ice cream cone. I just had to have that Ice cream cone. Now I am energized, and I thank heaven for providing so abundantly in my “time of need.”

With my newfound energy, I drive over to where I had left my backpack. I put it in the trunk of my car, and set off down the mountain to a place where I can get a motel room and a nice dinner. While I drive, I ponder how, and why the ten dollars seemed to appear from nowhere. I never did figure it out, but the memory will stick with me for a very long time.

I am still not sure if I have ever actually encountered and angel in the physical sense, but I believe that there is something extraordinary at work around us all the time that often seems to defy explanation by ordinary means. Moreover, I cannot always define the extraordinary things that from time-to-time that seem to happen to me. I may not always understand it, but like the ten-dollar bill, I recognize it whenever I see it.

Jim Sayers
January 2002

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *