Last week our family celebrated my dad’s birthday. I’m not permitted to say which one it was, but let’s just say it was a big one. We chatted, looked at old photos, sang songs, and recalled the great memories of our childhood. Several things stuck in my mind from that party, but one of the big ones is how much the outdoors was a part of our life, and how my love for everything outside was really instilled by their choices. There are three strong memories of father-son adventures that I shared with my dad.
As things would have it, Andy at the Sierra Trading Post asked me to put together an article about the role dads play in creating outdoors adventures as part of a celebration of outdoors dads (and #TeamSierra). It gave me a chance to reflect on three memories that really shaped my definition of parenting, the outdoors and outdoor adventures.
My first Backpacking trip
Just after “graduating” from grade 7, my dad took me out to on a 3-day back country backpacking trip to a place called Paint Lake.
Having never gone backpacking before, we had less than performance gear. From my 20 year old external frame pack, to our semi-water resistant pup tent, to my cotton sweatshirt, jeans, and potentially water-resistant ski jacket, it was far from perfect… but that didn’t matter.
I remember eating instant oatmeal for breakfast, climbing up to the top of a ridge and overlooking glaciers, fishing in alpine lakes (and not catching any fish), filtering water, and drinking straight from a very high in iron spring. I also remember exploring an old mine from the 30s or 40s and seeing old core samples and other relics from days gone by.
Even though I didn’t go backpacking for over a decade after that, it was that experience that made me decide to go backpacking with my wife and 1-year-old many years later.
The Father-son fishing trip
When I turned seventeen and had my license, my dad took me on a weekend camping/fishing trip up through manning park. It was an area that we had spent a lot of time in as kids, but that I hadn’t been out to for several years.
With no real agenda, we wandered up from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, stopping to fish on the shores of small lakes and streams. Ever now and then we’d drop in the canoe and try out how the fish were biting on the far shore. Eventually we’d find a pull out and a small flat area to camp and try to find room in my new hexagonal tent (that I still own today).
I remember driving the Mazda up the winding mountain roads, watching a loon torpedo through the crystal clear water and chasing away all the fish, and reading a small bible in the fading glow of the evening with only the dim interior light of the car to see by.
I think my dad new that I’d be heading off to university soon and that this would be the last real time I’d get to spend with him before work and school consumed my free time. That trip would become a touchstone of our relationship and what it means to be an outdoors dad.
Father-son survival trip
This one was about 30 years in the making and the result of years of being taught to light a fire with my “last match”.
My dad is a wealth of bushcraft information. All throughout my childhood my dad taught us about wild plants, animals and other edibles… and inedibles. Every trip involved explaining something or other that would help us in that apparently inevitable situation where our plane crashed in the middle of nowhere.
I remember him bringing home little hand saws and other gadgets, and countless trips into the woods to identify and consume copious quantities of berries and the like. Every few minutes we would be asked to identify where North was. It got to the point that without thinking we could point and our subconscious would show us the way. We could always find our way home.
Well, two years ago, we finally managed to fulfil a life-long dream of heading out into the back-country and spending three days surviving off the land. We headed into the mountains at a time when the snow was just melting and the nights were below freezing.
We ate well, slept uncomfortably by a roaring fire and made it back to civilization without harm. Those three days, and how crazy people thought we were for going out there and doing that brought back a lot of memories about my childhood and made me realize how my dad’s love for the outdoors has made me feel comfortable in the outdoors and confident enough to take my kids outdoors as well.
How do Dads create outdoors adventurers?
Although these trips stick in my memory, I know that they are just a reflection of how we were raised as kids. These three memories are typical of the countless summer camp-outs, hikes, fishing trips and outdoors adventures.
My dad taught us that the outdoors are a part of life. We learned to see the outdoors as a second home. We were shown that the outdoors is a safe place to be when you have the know-how and tools to make it such. We were shown that an appreciation of the outdoors should be just as much a part of family life as morals and integrity. It’s a part of who you are.
What memories do you have about time you spent outdoors with your parents or family? Oh, and check out The Sierra Trading Post Hub for some great deals for making the most out of your family outdoor adventures.