They say that spontaneity is the best kind of adventure and that over-planning kills the magic.
It was brought to our attention over a dinner with friends that no winter retreat had been planned for the year 2018. A group of about 20 of us sat around the table and discussed the logistics of what it would take to pull off an event like that in the two remaining weeks of February.
We would need about 18 people to fill a cabin and cover the cost of the rental, three days of meals would need to be planned and supplies purchased for them, and our Pastor would need to prepare two messages for our evening studies. The planning would be a bit last minute, but we thought it would be worth the challenge. That night, Leisel, Kayleen and I gathered around Leisel's computer and wrote up an email to send out to the church.
The planning had begun. Slowly, everything came together. Fifteen people were able to take off of work and make this event happen. Big Bear Cabin was booked for the 26-28th of February and the winter retreat was on :)
Our plan was for everyone to meet up at the church parking lot, load up into three vehicles and head up to Government Camp. The morning began with five Spafford girls invading Kyle's Explorer with an overload of luggage and heading to Trinity Bible Church to meet up with everyone. We made a stop at Black Rock coffee early on in the trip to fuel up for the ride ;)
As we made our way to Mt. Hood, Will informed us that, starting from that moment, we were each going to be given winter themed nicknames and we would not be allowed to call anyone by any other name than those names. His name would be Avalanche, which was, in his opinion, by far the coolest of all the names.
Joseph, David, Kyle, Aaron, Marlene, Michelle, Dillon, Annalise, Cosette, Lynnae, Leisel, and Kayleen became: Balto, Glacier, Blizzard, Icicle, Snowflake, Mittens, Clarence (without his wings), Polar, Arctic, Aurora, Sherpa (because of Leisel's roll in leading this entire retreat), and ice-ice (baby).
Will liked to think that some of these nicknames sounded rather like the names of American gladiators :)
The one name Will had really hoped no one would settle on was Snowflake because of its connotation with the millennialists of our generation: "the generation of people viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations". But when Marlene settled on that nickname, Will was impressed by how readily she embraced the implications of the name, carrying on with the "everyone is a winner" theme throughout the trip.
We were not able to check in at Big Bear cabin until 4 o'clock on Monday so we decided to spend the afternoon inner-tubing. We realized with humor what a struggle it is to get 15 people together on a plan for the day. Much of the first part of our day was spent driving back and forth through Government Camp undecided on what to do.
The first necessary stop was at the local market to purchase some sunglasses to shield everyone's eyes from the blinding snow.
The snow was 4-5 feet deep and a bit slick on the road. Giant icicles lined about every roof in Government Camp. It was evident that the Lord had provided this snowfall especially for this little retreat.
Our next plan was to stop at the Taco Shoppe for lunch. Upon our arrival, we found that it was closed. We drove then to ski-bowl west to do some inner-tubing. Unfortunately, that too was closed.
We finally headed back into town and hung out at a quaint little placed called Huckleberry Inn. The dear little waitress convinced us that we would like absolutely anything we ordered on the menu and then proceeded to serve us seconds on our bowls of soup.
After lunch, we headed to ski-bowl east and at last got to go sledding. Half of the group split up to go innertubing while the other half worked intently to build an igloo.
After an hour of inner-tubing, everyone was a little weary from, and decided to recline at the top of the hill in the snow.
Meanwhile, back at the igloo, Will was giving instructions to his crew letting them know that they were not leaving till they had their convertible igloo turned into a proper roofed igloo. It came time for closing and we all headed to the cabin to move our stuff in, warm up and and get settled in for the night. Loads of food that looked like it had been bought for an army rather than a group of fifteen people was unloaded into the kitchen and the soups were put on the stove to heat up. Soon, everyone was unpacked, settled in, and the smell of fresh coffee permeated the cabin.
The living room where the main center of activities happened filled up as people cozied up onto the couches.
Unbeknownst to the boys, some of the girls had sneaked away during the unloading process to short-sheet their beds as a kind of welcoming token :)
Leisel decided to stick with the adventurous theme of this whole trip and forgot to pack both her wallet and her toothbrush, a fact her sisters would not easily let her live down. Marlene, Leisel and I headed back into town to find a convenience store that would still be open at ten o'clock at night. Finding that the closest store was closed, Marlene popped her head into the Ratskeller pub to ask where the best place would be to find a toothbrush. It just so happened that we were re-directed back to Huckleberry Inn :)
It was all a very splendid spontaneous evening walk, even though it had a rather comical purpose. We were in awe of the twinkling stars above us, and enjoyed the pure white snow all around us in contrast to the night sky. It was too good a walk not to share it with the others. So we headed back to the cabin, collected as many members as we could, and headed back through town.
We wound down that night with couch games, beginning with catch phrase, playing a round of empire, and an endless game of four on the couch, boys against girls. I like to think that a little cheating played a part in the boys winning the victory, but I may be a bit biased ;) We all decided to head to bed at 2:30.
We became strangers to sleep throughout those three days not wanting to miss a single moment together.
Will delivered two convicting messages in those two days on the mortification of sin in our lives: what that looks like, and how to go about it. We were each given cards with Romans 8:12-13 printed on them to memorize.
Day two...five hours of sleep and everyone still seemed pretty energetic :) Perhaps we were running on adrenaline...maybe caffeine ;)
The group of early risers took a morning walk to enjoy the fresh snowfall and to wait for the rest of the group to rise. When we reached town, we were joined by the two new members of our group, Raina and Betty Bosch.
From then on, they were dubbed Snowna and Elsa.
Marlene and I discovered a quaint little cabin on our walk called "snowflake challet" :)
We had a leisurely breakfast, keeping no set schedule during the trip :) Will informed everyone at the table that anyone still calling people by their real names would now be charged a nickel :) As soon as everyone was finished, we switched gears and laid out all of the lunch supplies so that we might prepare our lunches for the day's hike. Everyone fit in three cars and we set off for Trillium Lake.
We had planned to make the whole 1.9 loop around the lake, but we only made it a little ways down the pathway when we decided to turn aside and construct a full size igloo, finally completing Will's dream project. It took a total of four hours to complete a full six foot roofed igloo that could hold 13 people :)
Dillon, (a.k.a. Clarence), worked solo on his own little project, constructing a life size snow sculpture of a body builder. It took careful sculpting before the hand of the artist was ready to call his masterpiece complete. When he turned around, there was an almost completed igloo behind his snowman. David was rolling big wheels of snow to complete the sides of the igloo and Will was giving directions as to the angles each snow block should lean. Kayleen, Joseph and Kyle were crammed inside the igloo enforcing the walls as it went up around them. Will gave careful instructions on how they should handle themselves in the event of an avalanche. His humor never wavered or ceased to amuse us the entire trip.
The igloo was finally complete and we were able to get a picture with everyone crammed inside. Little Pedro, the snowman body builder, stood on the outskirts guarding our snow structure.
A two team snowball fight followed directly afterwards, although it was a little difficult to navigate through the 4-5 feet of snow and form the powdery snow into effective snowballs.
We returned to the cabin and wound down with a violent game of spoons waiting for the lasagnas to heat up.
Wednesday morning we had our last devotional together, everyone sitting around on the couches in the main room. We were now only surviving off of 4 hours of sleep having gone to bed at 3 and risen at 7 that morning. We took one more morning walk taking the path to ski-bowl and taking a group photo.
Part of the group decided to take a car to Timberline Lodge for the afternoon while the other half of the group stayed back to chill-ax at the cabin. We started out with a slow game of code names. But it didn't take long before we were ready to switch to sardines. Finding places for full-grown adults to hide might sound like a bit of a problem in such a little cabin, but people got quite creative. The first person hid inside the dryer...other hid in linen cupboards, coolers, and underneath beds.
We took a break from the games to cook up some grilled cheese sandwiches and say goodbye to Kyle who needed to head back early that day for work.
After a few games of ninja, the party had come back from Timberline and were ready to pack up the cabin and head to Calamity Jane's for one last hurrah!
The house cleared out and looked quite empty. It was hard thinking of leaving and returning to normal life after such special times together. There is something about the atmosphere of the Winter Retreat that allows everybody to get to know each other in a closer way then when you just see each other every Sunday at church. We sat around on the couches one last time and each of us gave a special memory that had stood out to us on this trip.
This trip to Mt. Hood topped them all! It was an unbeatable year with an unbeatable group of friends.
Those three days are always a time of special fellowship, being fed by the Word, sharpened by each other, and encouraged by the blessings that the Lord continually bestows upon us throughout the trip! Its amazing to me to see how 15 people can come together under one roof and be in such harmony....a blessing that can only be explained because of the fellowship that we enjoy with one another in Jesus Christ.
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.