This is where the sunshine starts; with an out-reached hand and an opening heart!
Campers at VOCA know this line well because it begins one of our favorite camp songs. It provides the words to say what we all feel for what happens at VOCA camps. I’m going to take it with me for the next several weeks to sing while I walk and camp on the 512 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from The Bridge of the Gods in Oregon all the way up to Manning Park in Canada.
My name is Leslie and I have been enjoying backpacking and primitive camping in the woods since 2003. Usually I hike with other women and our offspring, but often, I find myself on the trail solo as my desire to get out into the woods overrides the wait of finding openings in busy schedules to converge. Over the years, I have hiked on sections of the Pacific Crest Trail with my kids and friends, and have dreamed of hiking the full 2,659 miles from Mexico to Canada. This year, I’m going to try out my gumption with this shorter section hike.
Clatsop County, Oregon was my home; from my first memories until I was married in 1991. Even as my husband, Dave, and I started our family 26 years ago in Eugene, Oregon, (where our daughter Elizabeth was born), and life took us to live in Newport News, Virginia, (where our 2nd daughter Michelle was born); Panama City, Panamá; Cougar, Washington; Philomath, Oregon; and for the past eight years, on a sailing boat in Texas, Louisiana, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida; I always have felt that this corner of the lush, green Pacific Northwest was “home.” (It does help that my parents, and 12 siblings have lived there too!)
Five years ago, while staying a summer in Clatsop County, I took the training to become a VOCA camp volunteer and have been enthusiastically supporting The Healing Circle ever since. It’s a safe place where victims of sexual abuse get to have a camp where stigma is lifted, and healing is promoted, as it should be in all parts of their lives. The past few years I’ve worked mainly in the VOCA kitchens, the warm hearth of camp that we gather around for sustenance of body and soul several times a day! It is during meal times that we sing songs to take with us through the rest of our lives, to help sustain us when we need it.
So many people have stepped forward to support me on this journey! I am warmly grateful for all the love, gear, and promises of meeting me along the trail to hike with me, get me re-supplies, or a town night with showers and laundry! As I look to the beginning of this trek, walking across The Bridge of the Gods on July 5, I know I will be singing, “This is where the sunshine starts, with an out-reached hand and an opening heart!”