David P. Nakhla
What was it that made the backpacking adventures with David and Susan Winslow so popular? Was it the enjoyment of cool bubbling brooks, dark blue lakes, and star-filled skies? Or was it the fun of spending ten days with new friends from different OP churches across the US? Perhaps it was the thrill of climbing 14,000-foot mountains and fishing in untainted waters.
Ask any of the five hundred OPC youth who have participated in these trips over three decades. They will tell you that the leadership of David and Susan Winslow (members of Westminster OPC in Westminster, California) and their generous, Christ-filled hearts truly set these trips apart.
The trips always began with everyone gathering at the Winslows' home in Orange County, California, to get their backpack, their sleeping bag, and a neatly packed and labeled meal that they were responsible to carry. David would then go through the "newbies' " gear, trimming down their belongings to half of what they thought they would need.
After a good night's rest on the Winslows' living room floor, we would pile into the vehicles for the six-hour drive up to the Sierra Mountains and Florence Lake, where we usually entered the wilderness. Once the ferry dropped us off at the other side of the lake, the right campsite had to be found.
The first dinner would be a special one, although most dinners consisted of soup, a freeze-dried casserole, Kool-aid, and pudding for dessert (chilled in the lake, of course). Hot chocolate, hymns, and charades would follow dinner long into the night as everyone huddled around the campfire to keep warm. Evenings ended in a down bag, staring into the vast Milky Way and counting shooting stars.
Mornings in the Sierras were always welcome, as sunshine cut through the cold air. Once we were able to extract ourselves from our warm cocoons, we would often find that David had a toasty fire already going under a pot of water for oatmeal and coffee. On some mornings, we were surprised to find that he had already caught some trout, which we eagerly devoured.
On many trips, the Winslows invited an OPC or URCNA pastor along to serve as our chaplain. He would lead us in our devotions prior to breaking down camp and gathering our things for another day's hikeunless it was Sunday. On the Lord's Day, the hikers got to rest from their vigorous hiking. The pastor (or elder Winslow) would lead us in a worship service. Singing at those altitudes is breathtakingor, rather, it takes your breath away! Sunday afternoons were often enjoyed with a leisurely hike, swimming in the lake, or simply napping on a log.
Rules of the trail were taught as we went along. We always waited for one another at a fork in the trail to ensure we all took the right path. We spread out when crossing meadows to avoid wearing a trail into the tender grass. Strong hikers who reached a pass early went back to help those struggling with their packs.
We never knew where each day's trail would lead. Through valleys? Around lakes? Over meadows? Along rivers? Over passes? Would we stay on the trail or go cross-country? Only the leader with the "topo" map knew. Oh, the vast beauty of that unspoiled preserve!
After a lunch, consisting of Gouda cheese, salami, crackers, granola bars, and dried fruit, washed down with a cup of lemonade or sweet tea, we would be up again for the final leg of our day's hike.
Each team member had the opportunity to serve the others during the tripnot only by carrying supplies, but also by "KP" duty.
David and Susan set the example for us through selfless service before, during, and after the trip through their initiative, time, energy, and personal expense given for us young hikers. They would even orchestrate a much-anticipated backpacking reunion several months after the trip, complete with dinner and slides, demonstrating how much they valued the time spent with covenant youth. Their investment in our lives was quite evident and always appreciated. They left us not only with good memories, but also with great friendships and important lessons that we carry with us on our life's journey with the Lord.
New Horizons, November 2010.