Doulos Staff Member, Tim Pack, has blogged about his experience accompanying the 9th Graders to the Caribbean’s highest peak. Source: www.packspen.com

Siri awakened me Monday morning at 3:14 to a groggy beginning of an anticipated adventure.
The coming series of new experiences and discoveries was inaugurated by the discovery that we had no water, so there would be no shower. Oh well, I thought, to hike to the top of the Caribbean’s highest peak, I should think that body odor will likely be my lot for the next five days anyway.

With my backpack stuffed and ready, I rendezvoused with my fellow adventurers at school and prepared for our nighttime bus ride to the Dominican Republic’s famous peak. In the restroom just before we left I noticed a rather large wild-eyed tree frog eyeing me from the opposite wall—just before he leaped on me and made me scream like a girl.

15 hours later I was standing alone, drenched, muddied and exhausted in a cold puddle in the fog and rain wondering if I’d make it to the day’s destination before it was night, and if the symptoms I was experiencing made me a candidate for exposure. Thinking I just had to be close, I was dismayed to be contradicted by the sign that indicated 4.7 km to go. Fatigue, blisters, and the grace of God were my three companions as I soldiered on, reproaching myself that I had let a little miscommunication separate me from the group behind me and the group already there.

When at last I spied lights in the deepening dusk, I knew the joy of a weary traveler finding a port in the storm. My relief was altered a bit by the discovery that the entire contents of my backpack were sodden and dripping. There seemed to be no place to hang anything to dry, so a few selected garments and sleeping gear were hung in the damp communal area and some by the fire. I found them later as wet as ever under mounds of soaked clothing placed over my items by later arrivals. I slept a little, despite the cold, the hard floor and the occasional braying of the pack-mules.

On the following day (Tuesday), with everyone rested, we were eager to ascend the remaining 500 meters and 5 km to the summit. On many other days I suppose one could have seen a spectacular panorama seated by that bust of Juan Pablo Duarte. But we could see little more than he could, perched on an island of rock that appeared to float in a sea of cloud. Yet, undaunted we returned to La Compartición where the sun had been shining and our clothes were left drying. It was raining when we got back and it kept on falling into the late afternoon.

Having already traversed 28km, my feet were angry and not eager to pack up on Day 3 (Wednesday) and hike a rugged trail for 18.5 more km to Valle del Tertero. There we found a quiet wide valley, the forecasted rain held off and we looked forward to a rest-day for Day 4 (Thursday).

Day 5 (Friday) and our weary, battered feet and our rented bus brought us back to Jarabacoa with a renewed sense of it’s value and importance.

And as I reflect now on the experience of these five days, I wonder at the impulse we have to climb mountains. What is it that motivates us to persecute ourselves in this way? What makes a man give up his comfort and buffet himself for nothing more than the glory of enduring the struggle, the joy of hard-forged relationships, breathtaking scenes and pulsating rainbows? Can encouraging and helpful staff and students carrying each others’ loads (literally) somehow make it worth it? Can the laughter of a tight-knit group leaping from rocks in the sun into a cold river balance it out? If not, perhaps, a crystal clear view of the Milky Way galaxy stretched from horizon to horizon across the center of a serenely beautiful valley, interrupted only by streaking meteors, answered by choruses of gleeful screams and shouts of praise?

Would it be considered worth it all if some of those young students overcame fears with courage? What if they showed unexpected patience, acceptance and kindness to one another? What if some responded to the God who made all this wonder by the words of His mouth and trusted his Son? Isn’t life itself a series of challenging difficulties? Who better to guide us up this mountain and take us to the summit?

What a grand time we had!

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