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A Family Legacy of Camping and Hiking

Posted by Fatherhood Admin

This is a post by Nigel Vann, Senior Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Nigel shares his memories of camping and hiking with his son Jesse as part of NFI's "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer" campaign. In addition to the generational legacy of outdoor adventures that Nigel shares, notice the great work-family balance technique he practiced - using business trips as opportunities for family memories!

Reading Mike’s recent blog took me back to when my son was younger (he’s now 26). We had great fun going camping – although we didn’t start as early as Mike! I really like the way that Mike emphasizes how what we do with our kids at an early age can have such a lasting impact. For me, it’s a key part of establishing a family legacy. Although my parents didn’t take me camping as a youngster, I was lucky that they were avid hikers and I have many fond memories of short family hikes as I was growing up. That’s certainly a tradition I’ve carried on and been able to pass on to my son.

Besides many hiking adventures, three camping trips with my son stand out in my memory:

The first, which may have been Jesse’s first camping experience, was at a local campground in Maryland when he was probably 5 or 6. I remember him being fascinated with the fireflies and enjoying the ranger’s campfire presentation, but my main memory is that it rained overnight and flooded the tent – so we abandoned the campsite and drove to a nearby restaurant for breakfast! That didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the outdoors though – at least until he hit the teen years!

My second memory is of a camping trip north of San Francisco in 1993 when he was 8 years old. I was working with one of the Young Unwed Fathers Pilot sites in Fresno and took Jesse and his mom along for the ride. After my work was completed, we spent a day in Yosemite and then drove 2-3 hours north of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway. We camped near a beach and spent the evening wandering around there. As we prepared to settle down, Jesse suddenly proclaimed “I saw a meteor!” His mom and I missed it and were never able to verify what he saw, but he still talks about it to this day.

The last time I remember camping with Jesse was also associated with a work trip for me. I was attending a Child Support conference in Phoenix, Arizona in 1997. Jesse was 12 and I took him along to see his birthplace in Tucson. Afterward, we camped at Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona for a night and then camped at the Grand Canyon for 2 nights. We spent a day hiking down in to the Canyon. Previously, I’d hiked down as far as Plateau Point a few times (about 12 miles round-trip). In fact, one time, a few years before Jesse was born I actually ran most of the way (I was running a lot at that time). Unfortunately, those memories clouded my judgment in 1997 – we started out later than we should have and I ignored the signs saying something like “if you reach this sign after such and such a time, you are advised to turn round now because it will be too hot later on.” Needless to say, by the time I realized we couldn’t make it to Plateau Point (around the 4 mile point) and we turned around, our return trip was hard, hot, and pretty unpleasant. The good news is that there were a number of water stations along the way and we did make it out – but I worried that I’d turned Jesse off hiking for life. However, that night at our campsite he was still enthusiastic and we vowed to do a father/son hike to the bottom one day.

He did lose interest in hiking and camping during the “interesting” teen years that followed, but he and his fiancée are now keen hikers (they actually completed a 2-3 week camping trip in California, Arizona, and Utah last year) – and he still reminds me every now and then that we have to make that father/son hike soon. When that happens, we’ll do so in memory of my dad, who also hiked part of the way into the Grand Canyon with me one time – he would have loved to be with us.

Topics: father-son relationship, Get Out, nfi staff, camping, hiking

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