by Judd Watkins

The reason so many of us struggle with believing in ourselves is that our world is increasingly designed to rob us of the chance to find out what we’re truly made of. We almost always have the choice to take the easy path instead of the tough one.

Most men never pick up a new hobby or learn a new skill once they hit 40. Why? Because they’re afraid to fail. They aren’t positive that they can do it, so they don’t. Guys, men have faced unbelievable challenges throughout history. Hunting for food with crude weapons made of bone and wood and rock. Exploring the unknown across an endless sea. Hammering out an existence on the frontier with only their wits, determination and God’s favor to sustain them. I’m sure lots of those men wondered if they could do it, but you know what? They didn’t have a freaking choice. It was do or die. They didn’t have an easy option. They couldn’t “wait until I feel better about it”. They had to do it, and they did!

My wife Dani and I spend a couple of weeks each year overlanding in the wilderness of the American west. Last July we were exploring the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest in our Defender. About a week into our adventure, as we trucked along a rugged backcountry trail, we found a killer campsite on the edge of a ridge with incredible views. We spent the next two days hiking, reading and relaxing in the middle of the forest. Eventually we broke camp and hit the trail again. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was shining. Everything was perfect. Until we came around a bend to find that the trail in front of us was washed out. A wash out is when the trail is actually washed away, like doesn’t exist anymore. I got out and looked the section over. It was steep and seriously off camber (meaning it was steep side to side too). I found myself on a very remote backcountry trail with my wife looking hopefully at me as I looked at our top heavy truck and a drop off of several thousand feet. Adrenaline and anxiety crashed around my head. My hands shook. I had no idea if I could do it. I could have turned around. I decided to go for it. I had Dani get out of the truck and I bounced and thrashed my way through the obstacle. When I pulled through to the other side we were pumped. We jumped up and down, we chest bumped, we had a trail beer! We felt like we had just won the Super Bowl. We got back in the truck and headed off, exhilarated.

About a minute later we discovered that our challenge had just begun. We came upon a second section of trail that was washed out. A heavy rain had caused the trail to disintegrate and actually fall down the side of the mountain. It left a deep saddle shaped hole. Again, we stopped and assessed. The hole was enormous and the downhill side was falling away into that several thousand foot drop. I absolutely didn’t think I could do it, but I had no choice. I couldn't turn around and I couldn’t drive in reverse through the previous obstacle. Fear and doubt were almost tangible things. My mouth was dry. I really thought I had a very good chance of dying on that trail (as my wife watched). Again, I asked Dani to get out of the truck. She went to the other side and started praying. I drove into the washout. The combination of an off camber slope and a top heavy truck almost sent me tumbling to my death. I made it up and out of the hole but this time, instead of a celebration, Dani was on the verge of a full blown panic attack. My journey through the saddle had been horrifying to watch. She had felt helpless and certain I would flip off the mountain. She was crying, vomiting bile, and barely able to stand. I offered her some water and did my best to help her calm down and let her know we were going to be alright. I suggested that we take a walk down the trail to see what the rest of it looked like. She jumped at the chance to keep me out of the vehicle.

We walked down the trail just a little bit and found another huge saddle shaped hole. She froze. I walked down into it and through it, continuing down the trail and discovered that we weren’t far from a much better trail. We only had to make it through this last obstacle. We decided to ease into the hole and use our winch as well as the engine to climb up the nearly vertical far side of the saddle. We attached the winch to the only tree within range of our cable, which was a very young pine sticking sideways out of what was left of the mountainside. Dani again waited on the other side. I started to reel in the winch cable and slowly drive up out of the hole. Just as my front tires got to the top edge, the tree pulled loose and the front end of the truck pitched up and backwards, leaving me facing straight into the sky with only the rear wheels on the ground. I kept the winch reeling in and felt the tension snap back into the line and the weight of the truck settle back down with the front tires bouncing to rest on the side of the hole. I slowly backed down into the saddle, got out, and tried to think of what we could do next. As we were about to make another attempt with the winch we heard an old diesel motor burbling towards us on the other side of the trail up ahead. Slowly an old farm truck pulled into view with a white haired old man at the wheel. I scrabbled up out of the hole and met him. His name was Willis and he said that he would be glad to give us a pull. As we attached shackles and straps to our vehicles we made a little small talk and he told me (repeatedly) that he had no idea why he was even on this part of the mountain. He had intended to go up to a fishing lake on the other side of the ridge. I just smiled at him and told him I knew why he was there (and who sent him). He pulled us out easily and went on his way. Willis saved Dani and I. God saw me ask “can I even do this?”. I got in motion and he met me there. He sent Willis to us, of this I have no doubt.

I hope you never find yourself facing possible death on a mountainside but make no mistake, you’re making choices everyday that are just as life and death as the ones I made on that mountain. Each time you choose not to believe in yourself. Each time your pride keeps you from asking for help or admitting you made a mistake. Each time you choose passivity over action. All of those tiny moments are killing you just as assuredly as a tumble down that mountain would have killed me. With each of them the man God created you to be dies a little more. To be clear, action doesn’t mean taking stupid risks, it means getting in motion. God wants us to win. He wants us in motion. The men that followed Jesus weren’t navel gazing ninnies who wanted to discuss every possible outcome before deciding on a course of action. They dropped their nets and followed. They moved. God created man in His image. The immortal, all knowing, all powerful God created us to be a reflection of Him.

You are vastly more capable than our current world would have you believe. Especially when you have others around to lend a hand. Your challenge likely won’t involve a near death experience in the wilderness. It might be telling your wife you cheated on her. It could be facing bankruptcy. It could be dropping 30 pounds so you’re around to see your kids grow up. Or maybe it’s simply taking the leap and coming to MAN CAMP. Whatever it is, choose to get in motion. You can do it. God will help you. Join us and prove it.

See you out there,
Judd Watkins
Adventurer | Creator | Son

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