Vine Maple Place Trip

During our spring season, I had the privilege of taking two different groups from local rescue missions on 3-day Ascent trips to the Olympic coast. The second of these trips was with Vine Maple Place, a Seattle-based organization that works with single parent families in need.

As we set out on the tree-lined trail leading to the Pacific Ocean, I began getting to know the kids and learned that none of them had ever been backpacking before, and most had never even camped. All of them came from single parent homes and hard family situations. They were astonished (and a little concerned) that we were going somewhere without Wi-Fi and cell services. Apart from these similarities, the kids were very different from one another.

Whether on the trail, enjoying a free afternoon, or relaxing by the campfire, every minute of this trip for these kids was a minute free from the distractions and struggles of everyday life.

The personalities varied greatly as a group of strangers – boys and girls, extroverts and extreme introverts, 13 year-olds and 17 year-olds – were about to share an adventure. My fellow Peak 7 guides and I were curious about how the mix would play out over the next few days. With the range of ages and personalities, we weren’t sure if the group would mesh and allow each individual young person to feel comfortable.

Through wet sand, muddy trails, and the occasional rain, we spent many long hours pushing each other to keep hiking. Some of the kids were not much bigger than their packs, so they had it even harder than the rest of us! To their credit and my amazement, they pushed themselves and kept hiking with excitement and gratitude for the chance to be in such a beautiful place. One girl in particular, a sweet, peppy girl named Virginia, seemed to come alive on the trail. Her constant smiles and lightheartedness encouraged the group to keep walking.

Whether on the trail, enjoying a free afternoon, or relaxing by the campfire, every minute of this trip for these kids was a minute free from the distractions and struggles of everyday life. Through this freedom, the group began to grow together and engage – no phones, Instagram, of Snap Chat – in a way that we couldn’t have dreamed on our first nervous morning at the gear warehouse.

While we watched the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean on the last night, I began sharing with the group the story of Jesus and the woman who washed his feet with her tears. This woman, with a well-known and questionable reputation, walked uninvited into a party where she did not belong. Skipping introductions, she fell at Jesus’ feet, without thought to the formalities or judgments of those around her. She just knew she needed Jesus. I admire this woman deeply.

The kids were captivated by this story. Despite their cold fingers and tired eyes, they hung onto every word and processed its implications. I could see that Virginia in particular was deep in thought.

A few days after the trip, the leader from Vine Maple Place shared with me that Virginia told him that she had never felt more like herself than she had during the Peak 7 trip.

Hearing that, I was once again reminded why meaningful time in God’s creation can be vital to today’s youth. The adventures we provide can allow a 16-year-old girl to feel like her true self, and be genuinely comfortable sharing that with a diverse group of her peers. In the midst of God’s creation and a community that encouraged her despite only knowing her for three days, Virginia discovered who she was created to be.