Painful Togetherness



Mountain - Alaska's Denali

Hiking is a great way to damage those you love.  From time to time I forget this, and I take my family out on “Togetherness” hikes.  You think I would learn.  You see, I have a problem with remembering things like distance and difficulty.  The beautiful thirty-minute stroll that I remember turns out to be a three day slog of despair.

The walk my kids fondly refer to as, “The Killer Death Hike” took place about five years ago, when Alec and Carissa were eightish.  Oh yes, they still remember.   In defense of dads everywhere, there is no way I could have known that they were both packing a virus along on the hike.  They looked fine, and the fevers didn’t hit until we were beyond the point of no return.  Getting lost—that was my fault—but not the fever.  Besides, they perked up after a couple of days.

Another fine family moment occurred a few years ago, and no, I’m not allowed to forget this one either.  I took Cathy and the kids on a beautiful, snowy mountain walk to a gorgeous lake.  My bride has fairly clear guidelines for what constitutes a good hike.  It should not be too long, nor too steep, and it must be in or to a pretty place.  I took this hike with Alec and found that it fulfilled all three

A carrier shoulder strap on a backpack

requirements, so two days later we took it again with Cathy and Carissa.  Now I ask you—is the man to be held responsible for the weather?  Is it for the man to realize that the light drizzle we had at our house would translate into a foot of new snow on the mountain?  Should the man have calculated the additional effort required to hike a couple of miles in fluff as compared with well packed snow?

Yeah, probably.

For future reference, it is much more difficult to walk in fresh snow.  But it was pretty; even the ladies admitted as much.

The night hike to the fire observation tower was pretty too, except for the part where it was too dark to see anything on the two-mile hike itself.  Once we got there, the view of the city was amazing.  If there had been a helicopter to fetch us and take us home, it would have been perfect.  Less perfect was the two-mile stumble back down the road. The really steep and slippery road.  In the dark.

Now here’s the great thing about my clan—they keep coming back for more.  I once suggested that Carissa hike in her Converse high tops—bad idea.  Blister bad.  She still hikes with me.  I took Alec on a backpacking trip with a pack that should have earned me a visit from Child Protective Services, but he can’t wait to go again.  I’ve seen my Cathy lead the way up the trail when she would undoubtedly have preferred to use her boots to stomp her idiot husband for miscalculating the distance…again.


What a great example of trusting in a father’s leadership, even when times are tough.  At least, that’s the message I’m taking from it.  The alternative does not bode well for the gene pool.

If you’ve never taken your family hiking, do.  I’m not sure whether it builds character or simply reveals it, but you will definitely find out what your family is made of.  You will learn to take abuse, both physical and emotional.  Best of all, you will get to practice being family.  Besides, it provides great metaphors that make you sound wise and fatherly:

“You know, life is a trail, full of rocks and brambles and biting insects…”

Be prepared to duck.


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