Father pulled into the parking lot
at the Snow Valley Lodge. A police officer directed them into a parking spot.
“Just sit tight for now,” he instructed. “We’ll let you know if you’re going to
need to stay here all night.”
Father got out of the car and
joined a group of men that were huddled together. They’re talking about the
fire, Sally thought.
“Why don’t you boys get out and
visit with some of your friends? Just don’t go far,” Mother said. “If I need
you I’ll give you four short honks on the car horn.”
Sally curled up on the back seat of
the limo. She pulled a book from her backpack. The title, “Tropical Seas,”
grabbed her attention. I couldn’t be farther than this from an island, she
thought. Soon the lure of tropical islands captured her mind, and she forgot
about the fire and dangers around her.
An hour later the boys returned
with sack lunches. “Where did you get these?” Mother asked.
“The firefighters said that they’re
holding the fire at the firebreak, so some of the men drove back to town to
retrieve valuables. They stopped at Lloyd’s Restaurant and got lunches.”
The day passed slowly. The wind
carried ashes and smoke to Snow Valley. Black smudges covered everyone’s faces
and clothes. Around the parking lot groups of people stood talking, others
paced back and forth, and everyone seemed to wear a frown.
Just before sunset that evening a
man’s voice rang out over a loudspeaker. “Good news,” he said. “The fire has
been contained, and the wind has settled down. It’s safe to return to your
homes. But stay on high alert tonight.”
That night Sally’s family slept on
the floor while the firefighters held the fire at the firebreak. All night,
planes continued to dump chemicals and water on the fire until it finally
burned out. Then firefighters spent several days hosing down hot spots.
Gradually the stores in town
reopened, and after two more days the police opened the road down the mountain
to San Bernardino. Schools opened after about a week, and everyone returned to
their normal activities.
Sally felt excited because this
would be her last year in elementary school. She looked forward to a special
The third week at school Mr.
Hoffman called a special meeting for the eighth-grade students. They chose gold
and purple for their class colors.
“Where do you want to go for your
class trip?” Mr. Hoffman asked.
Many suggestions popped up—and got
“I wish we could go to an island,”
Sally heard herself say.
“There aren’t any islands around
here,” someone objected.
“Actually, there are a couple not
too far away,” Sally replied. “Anacapa Island is just off the Santa Barbara
coast, and Catalina is a two-hour boat ride off Long Beach Harbor.”
Everyone turned to stare at Sally.
“I read it in a book while we all waited out the fire danger at Snow Valley,”
“What can we do on a little
island?” one girl grumbled.
“Anacapa Island is an uninhabited
nature preserve, but Catalina has a zoo, great snorkeling, a Jeep trip into the
interior, and even shopping,” responded Sally.
To Sally’s amazement, the class
voted for the Catalina trip. She would travel to her first real island, though
she felt certain it wouldn’t be her last. She couldn’t think of anything else
the rest of the day.
“Don’t get so excited,” Bob said as
they rode the bus home after school. “You know we won’t be able to go. We can’t
“We’ll go. We have to,” Sally said,
At home Sally didn’t tell Mother
about the trip to Catalina. She knew they didn’t have enough money to buy a
pair of much-needed snow boots for her, let alone pay for a trip. It made her
The next day at school Mr. Hoffman
entered the classroom smiling. “The trip to Catalina has been approved by the
school board. They suggest that the class earn the money for the trip as a
group. Everyone will help, and all will go.”
Sally’s heart leaped with joy!
Before she had even asked God for a solution, He’d sent one. He’s a great
problem-solver, she thought.
Sally read everything she could
find about Catalina Island. Other activities came and went, but all she thought
about was traveling on a huge ferryboat to an island where she would be
surrounded by water. The idea put a smile on her face every time she thought of
Finally the day for the trip
arrived. They traveled by bus, down the mountain, across the valley, and over
the coastal mountain range to Long Beach. At the harbor they caught the
Catalina ferryboat. With a blast of the horn, the captain eased the ship out of
the harbor, and they left the mainland behind.
Sally stood in the bow of the ship,
stretching her hands out to catch the ocean breeze. Suddenly the water below
exploded with flying fish. Their silver backs sparkled in the sunlight as they
leaped into the sky. One fish fell onto the boat at Bob’s feet. He grabbed it
by the tail and flung it back into the ocean.
Soon they spotted the island in the
distance. It grew larger as they drew near. As the captain docked the ship,
people on board threw coins into the water while a group of young boys wearing
bright swim trunks, fins, and masks dove after them. Everyone clapped and
The day passed far too quickly. They
visited the zoo and enjoyed its collection of tropical birds. Jeeps took them
on a narrow, dusty road into the uninhabited interior, where they found a
breathtaking view of the harbor. After lunch they swam in the ocean and watched
seals play in the surf. Later the girls went shopping, but Sally climbed over
the rocks looking for shells as the wind blew in her hair and the sun beat
“This is my world!” she shouted to
a black skimmer that soared just above the water. The large, black-backed bird
dropped its orange lower mandible down, just skimming the top of little
wavelets that leaped into the sky. It didn’t dip into the troughs, but caught
little fish that it found at the surface. Its beak filled to the brim, the bird
flew over to a sandy beach and joined its friends.
That’s me, Sally thought. I’m not
going to dip into the dark troughs of life. I’m going to soar with the sun on
my back, catching nourishment from the sunlit surface, just like the skimmer.
All the way back to the mainland,
as the ship sped over the green water, Sally thought about her life. Certainly
there had been dark troughs. But many bright things existed too. She felt
delight whenever she had an adventure in nature and when she took time to read
her Bible. Both of these activities helped her connect with God and learn more
about Him. God, she prayed silently, open up ways for me to do more of these
kinds of things.
In May, Sally marched down the
center of the gymnasium with her class, dressed in white robes and caps. “Are
you ready for high school?” Bob asked.
“I’m ready for a new adventure,”
Sally replied. Secretly she prayed for a chance to go to a Christian school.