In celebration of Father’s Day, here are some of our favorite memories of biking, hiking, and getting lost with dad.
Dads Can Teach Us (Almost) Anything
I had just turned eight years old, which meant I finally got to go on the annual Barronian backpacking trip with my dad, uncle, and cool older brothers and cousin. I’d wanted to join them for several years but was: (1) a brat and (2) too small. After promising that I wouldn’t complain, I packed my little clothes in a JanSport backpack. Then we set off for a lake in the Cascades. We got to camp, I had to pee, and my dad realized I’d yet to learn the backcountry squat. He poorly mimicked the action, told me to pull my sweats all the way to my ankles, and sent me on my way. I dropped trou, did a tiny squat directly over them, and peed squarely into my sweats. After hearing my yells for help, Dad extricated me from my mess and strung up some paracord to hang the pants dry. Once I was comfortably zipped into a pair of dry jeans, I thought my embarrassment was behind me. That ended when a few friendly deer wandered into camp and started treating the sweats like a salt lick. Some advice to the outdoor parents: ask mom to teach your daughters backcountry bathroom technique. —Abigail Barronian, senior editor
A Day on the Water
My father was a minister and a schoolteacher, but he had a lifelong fascination with traditional wooden boats—so much so that he often considered setting up his own construction shop. One summer when I was a young teen, he took me and my older brother on road trips up and down the Maine coast, where we lived, to visit various boatbuilders. These craftspeople welcomed us graciously and talked trade and business openly, happy to have someone interested in joining the small pool of skilled individuals keeping the profession alive.
One drizzly Saturday, we drove down the west side of Penobscot Bay to Christmas Cove, where a group of boatbuilders had gathered. Tied up to the docks was a remarkable collection of handcrafted boats of every shape and style. We were free to take any of them out, on our own, for as long as we liked. At first my father went with us as we sailed around the cove in a sleek 16-foot sloop, but soon he spent his time mingling with the builders while my brother and I took out boat after boat: skiffs and punts, canoes and kayaks. My brother fell in love with a well-balanced peapod that leapt forward in the water with every stroke of his oars, while I kept coming back to a sturdy working dory that glided across the cove as I stood and skulled the long oar off the stern in a soothing figure eight. Years later I still recall the lustrous colors of the hardwoods, the music of the waves flowing past the hull, the thrill of moving across the water on my own power, and the lovely exhaustion when we called it a day and my father drove us home while we slip in the car. —Jonathan Beverly, senior running editor
C’est La Vie on Class III Rapids
They say that when something bad happens, we block out the details, so I am guessing many of the specifics in my anecdote are just plain wrong. That said, this adventure had too few details to begin with. My dad took me (age ten) and my brother (age eight) down a river in the South of France. We were both mediocre swimmers, and the three of us were in our swimsuits on blow-up floaties. We hadn’t scouted the river or even looked at a map beforehand. Instead, we’d bought the rafts, hopped on them in a fast-moving river we knew nothing about, and then allowed the universe take care of the rest. We came across a pond filled with chicken heads—it was bait used by a nearby restaurant to catch eels. We also saw hundreds of bemused and horrified French onlookers, who gazed at us from the quickly passing shore. We suffered multiple skinned knees and shins, and our mattresses were punctured. And the whole time, we did not see one other floater or swimmer or human of any kind on the river. Finally, we encountered one very large waterfall and managed to survive by an extremely gracious miracle—well, I suppose it were three miracles. —Hannah McCaughey, creative director
Dad Jokes on the Misery Trail
There are two things in this world that, without question, will make my dad smile: Monty Python’s “The Argument” sketch, and mountain biking or skiing in terrible conditions. And there’s nothing he loves more than his children suffering along with him on outdoor misadventures. I have never been more furious at him than during the countless rides we’ve gone on together. There’s a nice little montage running through my head of the times I ignored his friendly questions on brutal climbs or asked him (not so politely) to stop circling me at the top of a hill while I was struggling to regain my breath. A few years ago in California, my dad suggested we try one of the longest, hardest rides I’d attempted to date. (I do take full responsibility for accepting.) We were hit with an extremely rare thunderstorm, and I fell at least five times on the slippery rocks and lost feeling in my toes and hands about an hour in to the ride, so when he jokingly told me that that the hot-water heater at home was broken on the miserably soggy last stretch back to the car, I yelled, “It’s not funny!“This either makes me a bad biking partner or makes him slightly annoying. But although he gets giddier and I get grumpier as conditions worsening, he’s somehow still my favorite person to bike with. —Kelly Klein, associate gear editor
Big Fish, Little Fishing Pole
When I was seven years old, my favorite outdoor activity was fishing alongside my dad. My prized possession was a two-foot-long fishing pole emblazoned with pictures of Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon. Most weekends, my father would drive me out to some lake or river along Colorado’s Front Range, and I would cast a lure or some greasy salmon eggs into the water and wait for the magical tug of a trout. Usually, my catches were mere minnows, since that’s all my child arms and toy fishing pole were able to reel ashore. My Dad was always impressed and enthusiastic, no matter if my fish was just a few inches long. In the summer of 1988, we took a family road trip from Denver up through Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and on to Missoula, Montana to visit family friends. The trip culminated with both families sharing a cabin along the banks of Big Sky Lake. No sooner had we arrived than I ran down to the docks, threaded a worm onto a hook, and zinged a cast into the lake with my Snoopy pole. The bait had barely hit the water when I felt a violent tug, and I began to pull the fish to shore. My dad abandoned unpacking the car and grabbed a net and ran down to the dock. Somehow, some way, I managed to reel in a true lake monster—a gorgeous rainbow trout that today, 33 years later, still feels like it was ten feet long. I still remember the flabbergasted look on my dad’s face when he netted the huge fish and hauled it ashore. He was truly, astonished that his son, wielding a toy fishing pole, and caught a fish that could feed six people. —Fred Dreier, articles editor