My dad is one of the most important influences in my life. Dad and I are a lot alike, from our crooked teeth (thanks, braces) and bad eyesight to our hot tempers (which we’ve both worked hard to learn to control), strong work ethics, and goofy senses of humor. Dad has taught me a lot about life and how to be a good person (see this post), and he is responsible for my love of the outdoors. In honor of Father’s Day, today and next Sunday I’m writing about two of my favorite hikes with Dad.
I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I woke up in darkness and silence, so I knew it must be early, but having no clock in my room, I was unaware of just how early it was. No matter, I thought. Mom had made it clear that I had to clean my room before Dad and I left for our hike, and since I was awake with no chance of going back to sleep, I decided I might as well get started. As long as I was quiet, I’d be done and ready to go as soon as Dad got up!
I got right to work. Barbies went neatly back into their little Tupperware container. Headbands and hair clips found their way back into the jars on my dresser. I made my bed, shoved dirty clothes into the hamper, and even dusted. Frustrated that I couldn’t run the noisy vacuum — the only chore keeping me from having an up-to-Mom’s-standards room—I decided to check the time and see just how long I’d have to wait to finish my chores, have breakfast, and get going on my daddy-daughter date.
I tiptoed across the hall into my brother’s room, squinting to make out the blurry red letters on his alarm clock. 12:15. I blinked. That had to be wrong. No way it was the middle of the night! So I crept out to the living room, where the glowing clock on the VCR said the same thing… as did the kitchen wall clock and the clock on the stove. Well, then. Defeated, I shuffled back into my room, crawled into my just-made bed, and scrunched my eyes shut, willing the morning to come.
I must have made it back to sleep eventually, because I woke to the sound of Mom making pancakes in the kitchen. Little strands of sunlight now infiltrated my room, and I sprang out of bed, thrilled that it was actually morning and my adventure was actually going to begin. After making my bed again, I skipped into the kitchen and asked Mom for the vacuum, explaining that I’d been up for … a while … and had already cleaned the rest. Impressed, Mom said she’d vacuum for me later so Dad and I could get started.
I shoveled my pancakes as quickly as I could without getting in trouble for bad manners, silently urging Dad to do the same. Finally, with breakfast eaten, sunscreen applied, and sandwiches packed, we were off on our adventure! I clambered up into the old blue Scout, beaming at Dad. We’d been planning this hike forever, and I almost couldn’t believe that it was actually happening.
An hour later, we arrived at the trailhead into Roubideau Canyon. I’d been to this spot hundreds of times in my young life, but had always been told I was “too little” to hike down in there. Well, as an eight-year-old, I wasn’t too little anymore! I started scampering down the trail, slowing just a little at Dad’s admonition against slipping on a rock.
The hike down flew by. We admired wildflowers. Dad examined some scat and told me how to tell how old it was and from which animal it had come (Gross, Dad). After what seemed like just a few minutes, we reached the bottom of the canyon. A little stream flowed there, and Dad beckoned me closer.
“Look at all those little brookies,” he said, pointing at the three-inch fish in the stream. “Watch, I’ll catch one.” His long legs straddled the stream, and his big hands plunged under the water. Sure enough, after a few missed tries, he held up a squirming, slimy fish for me to see. I was amazed. My daddy was the best outdoorsman in the world!
Dad released the fish and rinsed his hands, and we perched on a boulder and ate PBJ sandwiches and granola bars. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought, just enjoyed the sunshine and the time together. Looking back now, though, I believe that that moment, more than any other, sparked my love of spending a day outdoors: just me, Dad, and the mountains. How could it get any better?
As we packed up our sandwich bags and granola bar wrappers, Dad regretfully pointed to distant storm clouds. “We’d better head out,” he said, patting the hat covering my red pigtails. “We want to be gone before those get here.” It seemed impossible to me that those far-away clouds would arrive today, let alone soon, but I didn’t argue.
The hike back up was considerably more challenging than down – I didn’t remember that slope being this steep! – and took us almost twice as long. Dad was patient with my eight-year-old legs, often pretending that he was the one needing a breather, and at each stop, he would point something out – the spot across the canyon where he’d deer hunted as a boy, the elk track in the nearly-dry mud, the healing gouges a bear had made in tree. I basked in the learning and in Dad’s undivided attention, and soon, we were back at the Scout — just in time, as those clouds I’d thought were so far away arrived and opened up as we drove back down the mountain. As always, Daddy had been right.
Come back Sunday for Part 2!
Tell me about your favorite outdoors-day memory.