Stories from our Board

Here is a story from our board member, Lamar Henderson about a wilderness experience from the summer. Enjoy!

As we close the chapter on the 2013 year I am compelled to reflect on all the experiences that made this past year so meaningful for me. One experience that has had a particularly strong impact on my personal growth was a six day, five night “wilderness experience” I took in October to Gold Lake, California. The trip was part of a year long commitment to a Leadership program that I am currently engaged in. The trip was designed to not only bring us closer as cohorts but also allow time and space to explore deeper interpersonal experiences.

On Belay!!


As the trip grew closer I can recall feeling a bit apprehensive as we discussed the details of the trip. We would take a four hour bus ride to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where we would then board a boat that would take us to the Gold Lake Lodge. We would spend two days at the lodge then take a two mile hike to a designated area where we would be trained and then experience the wonders of “rock climbing”. We would be asked to take a seven mile hike with a 1200″ elevation gain to another camp site for a two night, three day “wilderness experience”.

Now, I am a real rookie to hiking but there was something about the term “1200 foot gain” that was making me nervous so I went about the business of researching what exactly a “gain” is and how one would prepare for 1200 feet of it. Like most rookies I did what anybody else would to I googled it. I accessed some interesting information but I needed a more personal touch so I reached out to my dear friend and Sacred Rok family member Katie Lambert (who happens to be a world class rock climber) and posed the 1200 foot gain question to her. Katie being the loving spirit that she is gave me some incredibly ‘deep” advice on how to handle this undertaking she simply said “breathe and take it one step at a time”. Ok, I’ll be a little vulnerable and share this with you my initial response to Katie’s advice was less that enthusiastic. I was even less excited to “rock climb”.

As the date drew I could feel myself getting more anxious, after all I’m no world class athlete and to be honest aside from my brisk 2.5 mile walks with my dog Sallie I felt very unprepared for what was to come.


After a long four hour bus ride we finally arrived at Gold Lake where we boarded flat bottom boats and took the mile or so boat ride to the lodge. It was a beautiful location with rustic cabins surrounded by lush green trees and sweet mountain air. On day two of our trip after a nice breakfast we prepared for rock climbing. We were outfitted with rock climbing shoes a harness (which is another story within itself) and a day pack and headed up the hill. We traveled a little over a mile to an area that had been outfitted for rock climbing. Our instructors (who were wonderful) did a great job of explaining the fundamentals of climbing with a strong emphasis on safety. There were four levels to choose from varying from about 75 feet to over 500 feet and depending on your courage. I chose to first learn to secure others as they made their way up the rocks. I found that with helping others I was able to discover the courage to climb my self. My first choice was the second least difficult climb and guess what, I powered up that rock. I took my new found confidence and used it to power up the second most difficult climb. Then a 600 foot repel, man I was on a roll.

The next day we set out for our seven mile hike into the back country and even though I was still excited about the rock climbing experience I had my concerns. The hike was challenging and recent rain storms had washed away a lot of the dirt along the trail so the first 2.5 to 3.0 miles the trial were really rocky. I was so focused on how much farther we had to hike and the difficulty of the trail that I was not having a good time. But we were blessed with really good guides with the perfect spirit for this journey. If you needed to stop and take a breath, you stopped and of you wanted to forge ahead, well you forged ahead. Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 I was able to connect with the words of advice from my friend Katie; the words that seemed way too simple to be helpful at all but they were exactly what I needed, to “breathe and take it one step at a time”. I put those words to use and began to concentrate on my breathing and I took it one step at a time and you know what, something incredible happened. My eyes, my mind and my heart opened and I began to truly enjoy where I was and what I was doing. I began to notice the view from the elevations; I began to really take in the clean and sweet smell of the plants, flowers and trees that surrounded me. I was finally in “the moment”.


As we continued on our hike I saw some of the most beautiful views that I have ever seen. It was awe inspiring and breath taking and at one point as I stood on top of a ridge high above creation I began to feel overwhelmed with gratitude. I thought to myself “of all the billions of people in the world, how did I get chosen to see this?”I carried this spirit with me over the course of the next few days. I found myself taking moments of quiet reflection as I looked over all creation. I was able to connect with myself like never before. I reached my own personal summit.

Upon my return home I was excited about the trip. I shared funny details with my family and they were excited for me. As time moved further away I found the experience had an even deeper impact on me. Three days after returning to work I was sharing with some coworkers and I found myself getting really emotional and even tearful as I reflected on the boat ride, the rock climbing, the hiking, nature. Even as I share this with you now I feel a little lump in my throat. Once again I am humbled that with all the billions of people in the world “I” was chosen have this experience….and I will never be the same.

Thank you for allowing me to share

Lamar Henderson

“Off Belay”