Heber Valley Camp—for a year I had been hearing about what a magical place it was. When the stake Young Women leaders told us that would be the place for the upcoming stake camp, I was delighted I was going to get to see the beautiful camp grounds and feel the special spirit that was there. When I was told it was a “mountain temple” and heard stories of people receiving direction and answers to questions and problems I was even more excited. If there is one thing I need in my life right now, it’s answers! I prayed for a long time before Girl’s Camp, hoping that I would get there and receive precise, detailed instructions on what God had planned for me next. An important revelation did come, but not entirely in the way I was expecting it.
It was Wednesday morning and there had been some off and on rain since we’d arrived there. It was our morning to go to Legacy Lake and I was excited! I had heard that the lake was beautiful and it would be a treat to have some fun on the water and see the girls enjoy themselves. There was a hike to get to the lake. I was accustomed to hiking being a part of Girl’s Camp since I was 12 years old. Off we went and it was great fun at first. I enjoyed looking at the different trees and birds and experiencing all the nature around me. It was fun to hike with my friends and my Young Women girls. The trail soon became a bit tougher, a lot of uphill and then downhill and back up again and I began to get tired and look forward to seeing the end of the trail. Just as we started walking down the main road that led to the lake, it started to rain…and then it started to hail. I could imagine us in two days pulling back into the church with a busload of sniffly and fevered girls to hand back to their parents. By the time we got to the lake, it was pouring and even though some ladies braver than I went out onto the lake in downpour, when the thunder and lightning came, they pulled everybody off. We decided that since we brought a few girls down in cars who couldn’t physically do the hike, we would take all of our ward girls back up to the camp in cars in order to get them quickly out of the rain. Needless to say, it was a whole lot shorter to drive back on the road to camp, then it was to hike.
That evening we were told that our ward would get another chance to go to the lake, but were reminded that the rule of Heber Valley camp was that if you are going to go to the lake, you have to hike to the lake unless you are physically unable. I was thinking in my mind: “We’ve done that, we’ve already walked to the lake.” We were obedient to that rule and surely there was an exception this time because of the weather. They could not expect us to hike that 45 minute hike again when we had only been able to get on the water for about five minutes the first time we were there. We planned to take everyone down in cars this time because we figured that would be just fine to do that. We ate breakfast that morning and group of us was standing outside ready to get in the cars. There was a group of girls from the other wards that had just left to hike back down to the lake. It was then that we were told again that this was the rule of the camp, and that we couldn’t take everybody down in cars. We had to walk if we were able and so we had to get going. I started off with the group of girls who were with me. There were some avid hikers among us who were really excited about another hike, but there were some other girls who definitely less enthusiastic. I tried to be the “cheerleader” leader, telling the girls that they could do this and how fun it would be but inside my heart just sank and the prospect of making that long hike again and I was thinking “You have GOT to be kidding me” What possible sense did this make? Why in the world did such a rule exist? Couldn’t there be an exception this time? I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to enjoy the beauty of the hike again and think about fun we’d have on the lake. When we got to the lake I was pretty tired and my feet hurt but oh the lake was beautiful! The light shimmered on it like beautiful diamonds and the weather was perfect. It was fun to watch the girls out on their paddle boats and canoes. It was refreshing in many ways and I admit, was worth the hike to get there.
When we started to go back, I had heard that there was a simpler way to walk back which wasn’t as steep but then I found out we weren’t going that way, we were going back the way we came. I took a deep breath and steeled myself for the way back, knowing that this time, the last stretch would be all uphill. As I walked I eventually became the last one, walking with the two leaders who were supposed to bring up the rear. I was tired, I was hurting, I was hot and I was very embarrassed to be last one that the other leaders had to stay behind for. Because of that, I probably took the uphill last stretch a little faster than I should have. By the time I got to the top of the hill and the end of the hike, I was in some trouble. I could feel my face was very flushed and I felt pretty weak. My stake friends got me inside for some shade and some cold water. Sitting inside I was more exhausted than I had been in a long time. After I felt a little better I geared up for the walk back to my ward’s campsite…which was of course uphill.
As I walked back up the hill I started to feel some fears of the past. It seemed like my whole life I was always last when it came to sports, and the kids would tease me because of it. I remember literally praying at times that I would just come in second to the last. I didn’t care about being first, but I absolutely dreaded being last. When I walked into the camp, one of my fellow leader buddies started applauding me and the girls quickly followed suit. It was such a special moment for me and helped heal that hurt inside of me that came from years of being teased.
I went to my cabin to lie down, still exhausted emotionally and physically. I still didn’t understand what the point of doing the hike again was. In the midst of my thoughts and a little grumbling, there came one clear impression: “You are stronger than you think you are.” I didn’t understand until later just how important that lesson is in my life. For years I have been trying to figure out my future because it has not been the one I planned on. It never even occurred to me that at this point in my life I wouldn’t be a wife and a mother. I am in between jobs and trying to figure out what is next for me in life. I get scared. I doubt. I feel as emotionally and mentally weak as I was physically feeling in that moment. I am so blessed in that right now, the Lord chose to reveal something to me about myself: I am stronger than I think I am and I can do hard things.
This was the answer that I was looking for. It was the revelation that I needed and I am so grateful for wise camp host missionaries who kept to that wonderful rule because the lesson of Legacy Lake for me was this: God asks his people to do things, hard things, that may make absolutely no sense, and he’s been doing it since the beginning of time. He is not a grand master of chess, moving his children around on some cosmic board, he is a grand master of people and he knows exactly what experiences his children need to become like him. Sometimes we grumble, sometimes we are inwardly saying “You have GOT to be kidding me” but we keep putting one foot in front of the other and we obey. And in the process of obedience, God reveals something about ourselves to us. Sometimes I forget that while I do have a veil of forgetfulness, God does not and he knows exactly who I have been my entire existence and what I am capable of with his direction and help. I am so grateful for the process of growing and changing. I am so grateful for the Atonement and the help I receive on a daily basis. It’s okay to be last. It’s okay when you just don’t get it. The Lord takes us where we’re at and I am so grateful for his loving compassion.
So yep, Heber Valley didn’t disappoint. It was beautiful. I had a wonderful time bonding with my stellar girls and fellow leader buddies. We had a wonderful testimony meeting, lots of fun playing games, and when the week ended I was sad to go. But probably my favorite memory will always be that blessed trail I hiked three times back and forth to Legacy Lake, where the sun sparkled on the water like diamonds.