June 13th, 2017
Do Something Cool with Dad
As Father’s Day approaches, I once again find myself stumped on the question of how to let my dad know I really care. Sure, I’ve gotten him a lot of dad gifts in the past, but what usually happens around Father’s Day is I end up thinking back and reminiscing on all of the fun experiences I’ve shared with my dad, rather than any gift I’ve ever bought him.
Growing up in a family of four kids, most of my memories of fun trips with my dad include the whole family. Rarely have just Dad and I gone on an adventure without my sister or younger brothers. But one particular trip stands out, and although it was years ago, my dad and I still continue to think back on an incredible journey we shared together, and hope to do something like that again in the future.
Over ten years ago--hard to believe it’s been that long--Dad and I went on my longest backpacking trip yet, a 9-day trek in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. I was only 15 at the time, and the trip was organized though our local Boy Scout troop. The destination: Philmont Scout Ranch.
Nestled in the mountains of New Mexico, this ranch welcomes hundreds of young explorers each year to push themselves mentally and physically on a backpacking trip of their choosing. Each group plans and executes their own trip, making it as demanding or relaxing as they like. Seven other scouts and I decided to go with a strenuous trek, a bold 100+ mile trip.
We knew we would all have to spend a lot of time preparing for such a hike, and we were able to recruit three parents to make sure we didn’t kill ourselves. We spent nearly a year prepping for our trip, spending weekends backpacking through the Shenandoah to wear in our boots and dial in our gear.
When the time finally came, we flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico and spent three days exploring the city and doing some warm-up hikes nearby. We spent a day checking out the bizarre geological landscapes of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, and another visiting the petroglyphs and homes of native Americans dating back over 10,000 years at Bandelier National Monument. After popping into the local REI for one last swing at getting everything we could possibly need, but still had to carry, we hit the road to Philmont to begin our 9-day journey off the grid.
“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” – Yvon Chouinard
I think it was only 2 days into our backpacking trip when we hit our first challenge. One of the fellow scouts grew some gnarly blisters on his feet, and he wouldn’t be able to continue with the next day’s agenda. We were a good distance away from town already, so we needed a plan to get him back to base camp to heal. My dad and I stepped up to slowly walk the injured scout back to town, and would meet back up with our crew the following day. Our group helped out by taking a lot of the weight off our backs, so my Dad, John and I would have minimum weight in our packs – just the essentials.
After a long, slow walk back to base camp to drop off John, my Dad and I hit the trail hard with an idea. Instead of meeting up with our crew the next day, we would just go catch up to them now.
My dad and I spent that day climbing peak after peak, only to realize there was always one more peak to climb, or one more meadow to cross. This day turned out to be one of the most physically challenging days of my life, but as you can guess, was also one of the most rewarding.
Dad and I caught back up with our crew late that night, and continued on our journey the next morning. We had an incredible remainder of the trip bonding with nature and each other, and after our little detour, my Dad and I ended up logging over 120 miles. We successfully summited Baldy Mountain, the highest peak in the Cimarron Range, and our injured scout healed throughout the week and joined us for the last 2 days of the trek to make for a happy ending.
So, my advice to those sons and daughters looking to get a gift for your dad – instead of getting something for your dad, do something with your dad. This year, my Dad won’t be in town for Father’s Day, because he’ll be exploring Crater Lake National Park with my younger brother. Way to go brother, that’s how it’s done. Next year, I call dibs.
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