Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Miracle of the Scout iPod

Sometimes as a Scout leader I pray for really strange things.  Even stranger, sometimes someone is actually responding. And that's absolutely humbling especially when it comes after my own mistakes.

Yesterday afternoon I went with a group of 14/15-year-old Varsity Scouts backpacking in the Canyon just up the hill from us. With the extremely high snow pack this year in the Wasatch, the water was just roaring down Deuel Creek. I've never seen it raging like that. We thought it would be a great time to get up to the waterfall with such a flow.


One of the boys, let's call him Archer, had an iPod with him. It is generally against Scout rules to take electronics into the wilds as it sort of defeats the purpose of going. But I don't like coming down hard on guys and Archer, and his brother "John," also with us, don't always participate in our activities as they shuffle between their parents who are now married to someone else rather than each other. So, I just ignored it.

I have never seen water raging down the canyon like that. At the first bridge, nothing more than a few logs with metal mesh on them to help avoid slipping, Archer was the first one to cross. As he started, my youngest boy, now fourteen, told him to unbuckle his backpack in case he fell in so that he could get free from it and not dragged under. It was one of those moments where you see something coming a long way ahead but not with enough time in the actual split second to do do anything about it. As Archer unbuckled the snap across his chest, a little blue bag that was also fastened there slipped off and disappeared into the raging creek. An actual howl went up from Archer as he despaired "My iPod!" There was no hope.

Oh, crap. (That's Scout leader's language.) And I have this horrible reaction to disaster or tension to put a silly grin on my face. My boy turned to me and said, "It's not funny!" I said I knew that and went to try and calm Archer a little. I said I would call the Irrigation District to see if it would possibly turn up in their diversion structure screens. (I could imagine that embarrassing call when I tried to explain such a situation.) I was thinking to myself how I didn't have the cash to replace it, but maybe I could donate a ten or twenty toward the cause.

Anyway, Archer got calmed down and we went on our way up to the second campsite just past the rope swing. It has a real nice fire pit, but a narrow place for only a couple of tents. I put mine up on the hillside setting over a space just the size to lie in even if the rest of the tent was sloping rather steeply.

We had these great military MREs from our bishopric advisor who oversees ROTC up at the U and is always using his "recruiting" tools. Once we figured out the instructions on the water-reacting heaters, we were really cooking. That evening though, Archer told me several times he was too bummed out to stay and he would just walk home from there. He even tried to set out a couple of times. It wasn't that it was impossible, as we were within three miles or so from our homes, but I finally convinced him I couldn't let him go alone because in case something happened, I would be responsible. And I couldn't walk him down because I would have to walk back up in the dark as they needed another leader besides my assistant. I think it worked because I played off his sympathy for me.

This morning, we had our oatmeal and headed up to the waterfall. We knew it would be great with all the water shooting off. It was a bit of a challenge, though. The rushing torrent was eating away at the trail at spots and worse, were the sporadic, glacier-like snow drifts. John, kind of a hefty kid, had a foot go through one of them as he fell back on the rather steep patch of snow. It took we two adults to hold him up while one dug his foot out. He wasn't going any farther so we let him wait on the bottom of the snow field as we could pretty much see him from the waterfall just ahead.

The water was shooting out over the 20 foot drop with the wild cascades down below. I shouldn't be telling the world about this as not many people know about the amazing place up there and I don't want to see it spoiled. We only saw one other guy heading up there this morning and he turned back after the second snow field not making it to the falls.

We got back down to camp and hefted on our packs to continue down the canyon. As we got to that first bridge, I was going on with the prayer I had last night that somehow we could find that iPod (and hopefully it would still work!) I reminded the boys to keep their eyes out for that blue bag. Then, as I looked downstream over the churning water, I yelled, "There it is!" Archer was all excited and hadn't seen it yet as he headed down the wrong bank. I yelled at him that it was on the other side as I passed them all on the log bridge and ran down the trail a few feet above the blue bag. I dropped my backpack and scrambled down only having to plant one hand on a rock in the stream. I reached with the other and grabbed the bag - - empty.

It was another one of those moments when time stands still but it was only unwrapping the line from the branch it was wound on when I pulled up the branch, and there, dangling on the earbud cord, was the iPod.

Archer was thrilled as we all gave our best advice on how to dry it out leaving it in rice for at least a day which would be much better than bread (?) I suggested that if it still didn't work he could take it to an Apple Store and maybe they'd be sympathetic enough to replace or repair. Even Apple still needs good will with its customers. The good news is that it was encased in a plastic sheath that might have helped keep the water out. I also said not to try and turn it on until it had dried out for a day because it's the electricity running through it that could cause a short. And who knows? Maybe it's like those rare cases where a human can stay submerged in icy water and their life systems shut down still able to be revived much later.

Bottom line, I have no other explanation for it. And as all that is good comes from the Lord, why doubt?

ADDENDUM May 19, 2011
My boy talked to Archer's brother today. After an adequate drying, the iPod works just fine. No visible signs of damage. The Lord moves in mysterious digital media.

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