Camp Aspen Veil, Wasatch County, Utah
August 7, 1981
Crisp grass and blinding sun spread across the small valley as Dubby Woodruff approached the brush-covered secret trail that led to the overlook. The other campers were busily finishing up dinner and chattering madly about the dance to be held that night. It was their final day of the week-long camp.
It was called Aspen Veil, the oldest church camp in Utah. The large white wooden cabins hugged the edge of a lake surrounded by colorful jutting cliffs. It was God’s country. The Mormon Church–owned property was a favorite destination for many youth groups looking for both recreation and spiritual retreats. Campers enjoyed a week filled with swimming, hiking, crafts, and fishing. Prayer preceded the activities and a message of appreciation for what the Lord had created followed.
Dubby had seen them steal away during dinner. Besides skipping clean-up duty, he wondered what was so extraordinary that each evening they had to sneak off into the woods. The previous five nights hadn’t been anything special. They were spent huddled around campfires or spent listening to one of the leaders give a talk about the challenges and triumphs of living a Christ-centered life.
But this night was different. It was the last of the trip and the most anticipated event of the week—the dance. It was a chance to be out under the stars, the dark mountain sky immense and inspiring, and dip your toe into the pool of possibilities regarding the opposite sex. It wasn’t a free pass but a limited ticket to connect, even touch that person that had piqued your interest in the days leading up to the event. They planned the dance and discussed it with giddy excitement even before they all arrived. What was it along that hidden path through the trees that rivaled the titillation of a dance?
The dry wind and high heat, even for August, had the ground so parched his sneakers crunched the straw-like grass with each step. With his new Cannon camera around his neck, he cringed as he followed them farther into the woods. Hearing the chomp of his steps, he worried they would catch him and accuse him of lurking after them.
The trail began to climb, and soon he found rocks and pebbles crumbling around him as he had to find his grip and footing to stay on their path. At the top, he paused to catch his breath. He peered into the trees, wondering if he was still on the right route, but then heard distant voices, so he carefully followed.
He had been watching her all week. If she knew how he felt, she would probably just laugh. She belonged to someone else. He knew that, but it didn’t stop him from longing for her. It was Sara, and even though he had known her since they were children, Dubby had always been so shy, so backward, it didn’t even occur to him that she was aware he existed. But that year seemed different. Twice she had smiled at him. It was so unexpected and elating that he wanted to catch it and keep it in a jar like a firefly. Just the bat of her eyes, even when she wasn’t looking at him, made Dubby tingle inside. Her silky blond hair bounced when she walked, and her lips were rosy even without the gloss all the other girls were wearing. She hadn’t led him on or encouraged him, so why he followed after them, he wasn’t sure, but his fascination with her, as well as his curiosity, was strong, so he kept going.
The large ponderosa pines with their deep crevassed bark towered above. Dubby was able to go from one to the next clandestinely because of their thick trunks as well as the mat of dropped pine needles that muffled his steps. The louder and more distinct their voices became, the slower he went.
Soon the shadow of the trees was broken by silvery peeks of sunlight coming from the mesa. In the distance, he could see the vast canyon that spread out from the cliff’s edge and the dark blue of Echo Lake below. He veered away from the trail and back to where he saw them wander. There he could see them sitting on the bed of shaded grass in an alcove cut into the rocky hillside. It was a secluded nook to sit and enjoy the view.
For a moment, he just watched, but then his stomach dropped, and his heart began to pound. What he was witnessing was both shocking and improbable, so unbelievable he raised his camera and took frame after frame, sure that he would never be able to convince himself later of what he was witnessing.
The voice was there the moment he turned away and would speak to him often throughout his life. However, while he heard it whispering, he refused to listen.