We’ve got a treat for you in this installment of the Adventure Series! Ryan Bohm, a pastor and outdoor enthusiast, shares an experience where his view of adventuring in God’s creation changed. I won’t spoil the story for you, so read on to learn how Ryan’s value for outdoor adventure grew!

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Mountain of Gold

As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, it seemed like the spirit of adventure was reserved for others. For those who couldn’t spend months living out of their van or sailing the globe, what could adventure really look like? It was hard to escape the urban sprawl and when I did find myself outdoors, I was often reprimanded for wandering off the beaten path. I would read and hear of marvelous exploits occurring all around the world, but for the average suburban kid, these amounted to dreams without substance. Any sort of adventure in my context had to occur in between the lines. It was those special elite who broke free and lived a life of adventure, but for kids like me, this type of life didn’t seem possible. Now as an adult, I have learned from my experiences that adventure is not reserved only for a few elite people. Specifically, it was one afternoon that revealed how adventure is for all people; we need merely to look for it.

It was several years ago when I took about 20 high school students camping in Montana de Oro State Park, located on the central coast of California. Each day, we would leave our campsite and explore the State Park. On this particular day, we went on a hike along the coastal bluffs that overlooked the awe-inspiring Pacific Ocean. Beauty surrounded us, making even the least athletic of the bunch happy to participate in the mild hike. After finishing one leg of the hike, our group split in two. One group took the trail back which connects to a sandy beach, while the other group challenged themselves by instead taking the coastline back to the beach. The trek along the coastline involves some climbing and swimming. It is more arduous and it carries a bit more risk. To my surprise, two girls who had never been camping before had opted to take the more challenging route back to the beach. What would happen along the hike would forever leave an impact upon their lives and mine.

Unexpected Splashes

Neither of these girls had much exposure to camping, outdoors, or athletics. They were talented singers, who enjoyed things like choir and dinner theater. The outdoors was new to them, but they were more than willing to give it their best. The thought of adventure intrigued them and they were willing to look for it. Nevertheless, they moved slowly and required attention and assistance from myself and another leader in our group, who was serving as a guide that day. They rose to the challenge and were having a good time as they were trying something new. While traversing along tide pools, we came to a section where we had to time the wave break correctly, jump into the ocean, and wade to shore. If mistimed, one would be swept off of their feet by the incoming waves and thrust into the rocky tide pools.

For those wanting to protect their shins, knees, and elbows, timing was key. While these two girls were getting into position, they both slipped into the ocean. The current began pulling them into deeper water and the unmistakable look of panic poured over their faces. Fortunately, I and another guide had positioned ourselves so as to act as a buffer in case they did slip. In an instant, we were both upon them, extending our hands to lock with their outstretched arms. The current pulled strongly, but our grip was stronger. We yelled out words of encouragement, reminding them they were safe and secure. Prior to the next set of waves that were rolling in, we were able to pull the girls up to safety. After regaining their confidence, they timed the wave break and waded safely to shore.

Surprised By Adventure

As we returned to camp, I was nervous. Even though the risk was mild, I could tell these two girls were a bit spooked from the events that just transpired. I thought they would surely have lost interest in this whole camping experience. I figured they would conclude that outdoor adventures are not for them. To my surprise, while searching for adventure, they found more than only a pretty hike along the California coast. They also discovered a sense of inner strength and resilience. The fear subsided and they became hungry for more. To this day, they shock me in their pursuit for more within their abilities. They discovered a longing for something that had been lacking; that they too could experience this beautiful world. Furthermore, the bonds of their friendship were strengthened.

Another beautiful thing about exploring the outdoors is that it creates opportunities to tangibly show support and love. When these two girls were caught in the ocean current, two adults who had promised to keep them safe, reached out and demonstrated this reality. I can pledge to my students that I love them, that I support them, and that I’ve got their back. I can speak until I am blue in the face. My passion and zeal may be overflowing, but on that day, these two gals’ tangibly experienced two spiritual leaders grab hold and say, “I’ve got you,” because we really did.

When You Look You Find

Despite their inexperience, these two girls made a conscious decision to wander off the path, searching for something, even though they were unsure of what they were looking for. I’d like to add that they did so without neglecting their’s or other’s safety. They were willing to go out looking for it, and it was as simple as taking an alternate route back to their campsite. In doing so, they had an experience that is so well articulated by J.R.R. Tolkien when he writes in The Hobbit,

“There is nothing like looking if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

This is the essence of adventure. We don’t have to scale El Capitan without ropes as Alex Honnold did. We do not need to brave uncharted territory in the manner that Lewis and Clark did. Rather, we simply look, and in looking, we can be surprised by how much adventure we find.

By Ryan Bohm – Pastor at Sierra Vista Community Church and Outdoor Enthusiast

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Have you found ways in your own life to step off the familiar path in search of an adventure in the great outdoors? Share one of your favorites and what you learned in the comments below!