My love for hiking may have only manifested as an obsession over the last couple of years, but the origins of this obsession were seeded many years ago when I was a child. My father always dreamed of being a professional outdoorsman or a mountain man living off the land and instilled an appreciation for the outdoors in my sister and I when we were children. We grew up in the suburbs of the greater Rochester area, but always had plenty of opportunities for adventure in the great outdoors.
Growing up, my dad’s side of the family owned a cottage in northern NY near Watertown, on a river that fed into Black Lake. We spent so many summers up there, playing in the river, going canoeing or kayaking, biking to the section of rapids, or taking the motorboat down the river to the lake to go fishing. It was just something we did every summer, I never knew anything different.
My father was also an avid hunter, spending every autumn heading down to the southern tier in New York to go deer hunting and turkey hunting. My sister and I would often get to go with him, spending hours in the early morning drinking hot cocoa from the green Thermos my dad always packed, unwrapping candy bars as silently as possible and catching those tiny orange salamanders. My dad never caught anything when I was out with him – probably because I was not nearly as quiet as I thought I was when I was a kid – but I remember seeing many deer and getting very close to them. Looking back, it was kind of amazing to see such wildlife so close.
One year in my early teens my dad took me on a backpacking trip to the Adirondacks. I don’t actually remember much about the trip to be honest. I know we hiked up a small mountain, carrying everything on our backs that we would need for the night.
I believe it was somewhere near the Stillwater Reservoir, but I don’t really remember. What I do remember is that while I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, I was pretty amazed at the beautiful landforms we came across. I remember rock hopping across a river, and climbing some big boulders so that I could sit at the top of a small waterfall. This was back before the age of cell phones so I don’t even have a picture of my dad and I together on this trip. I’m pretty sure he brought one of those disposable cameras so that he could take a photo of me on the trip.
When I was a senior in high school my dad took me on a trip to North Carolina to a place called Badin Lake where we camped for a few nights. We brought the kayaks and spent a bunch of time kayaking around the lake and down a few little inlets.
When I was in college, my parents decided to take the family to the southwest of the United States to visit a few of the National Parks. We visited the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. The Grand Canyon was the best part because we stayed overnight at a dude ranch and then helicoptered down into the Grand Canyon, riding out the rest of the trip on the Colorado River on a river raft. I believe this is what has fueled my current desire to visit the rest of the National Parks.
From left: my sister, my mom, my dad and I, ready to get in the river raft for our trip down the Colorado River.
I may not always have appreciated being in the outdoors or really cared at the time, but I know that everything my dad has introduced to me and allowed me to experience have positively impacted me and made me who I am today. It may have taken longer than my dad wanted it to for me to care about adventure and exploring, but now that I am in my 30s that is all I want to do! Thanks, Dad, for everything! Happy Father’s Day.