Creating family traditions
My sons and I were sitting around the camp stove last Thursday night watching the sun set over the canyons just west of Temple Mountain in south Emery county. Earlier in the afternoon I had asked the boys to try and remember our summer vacations over the years because I wanted to write them down. Although I don't think I am aging, my memory isn't what it use to be.
A tradition emerged several years ago without even being planned. I realized every summer vacation with the boys includes climbing a mountain (or canyon). That has now become an important element when planning our summer vacation.
I have fallen in love with southeastern Utah. The combination of high deserts and green mountains in this area, brings out the best in outdoor adventures. I wanted to share my new home with my boys so this year's vacation was spent here. We spent six days hiking through gorges, exploring canyons and enjoying the beauty of autumn. As much as I enjoy Moab's Arches and Canyonlands, neither compare to the beauty of the San Rafael Swell and Nine Mile Canyon. One of our days was spent up on the Tavaputs Ranch where the quakies are in their full glory of yellows and oranges. We were able to see the elk and deer as they begin their fall movement to the lower country.
As we sat around the camp and tried to remember what we did each summer since 1987, the conversation led to the highlights of the vacations. We spent hours recalling those special moments that still stuck in our minds. Last summer's trip to Denali National Park in Alaska was fresh in our minds and we laughed about taking the class on grizzly bears and the boys forging the cold river that flowed from Mount McKinley.
Two of the most hectic and dangerous trips still bring back memories. Four years ago we attempted to summit Mount Rainier in Washington and were at the 12,000 foot mark when an avalanche turned us around. I still have nightmares about when I was standing on the narrow ice ledge, holding tightly to the rope and inching my way above a 4,000 feet crevasse. The night before we embarked on that trip the boys were reading a book about all the fatalities on the mountain. Those few hours up on that ridge are not adventures that I ever want to repeat.
A few years before that, in about 1992, we kayaked down the Missouri River, retracing Lewis and Clark's trek through Central Montana. On the second night a powerful electric storm caught us off guard on the wrong side of the river and we had to row into the storm through pouring rain, while thunder echoed through the white rocks of the canyons and lightning struck trees and hillsides all around us. The boys were young teenagers at the time and I remember it took everything we had to get to the other side and begin to find shelter.
But there were the fun stories too, like the time a baby bobcat joined us on an all day hike through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Western Montana. As he followed us he purred and played with us, running back and forth on the trail, never getting too far from his newly found friends. The bobcat wasn't the only animal we encountered over the years. We remember plenty of experiences with grizzly and black bears, moose, rattlesnakes and buffalo.
The kids still laugh at their father's plummet to near-death in a dune buggy on the Oregon coast. We rented buggies near Florance and spent a day racing through the rolling dunes that parallel the ocean. One time I was following the kids going way too fast when they realized we were heading to a cliff edge. They were able to make sharp turns just in time but I headed right off the cliff, rolling the buggy several times before I came to rest on the bottom. On that same trip we went deep sea fishing and recalled the rough waters just before daybreak out on the Pacific. Although none of us got sick it was close many times as the small vessel tossed and turned in the rough seas. The only salvation on that trip was the large numbers of fish we caught. I love fishing when I can drag in two and three at a time.
The vacation this year was much like the others. We spent the entire week camping out under the stars, cooking our meals over the camp fire or camp stove and spending most of the days hiking and climbing. Trips down to the Colorado River from the base of Canyonlands gave that national park a whole new dimension and I love exploring the narrow crack canyons along the southeast rim of the Swell.
All of us have jobs that deal with people and what we really enjoy about these types of vacations is the lack of people. There was one 24 hour period this past week when we didn't see another soul. It gives me a chance to relax and get in touch with the vastness of our great country.
Family vacations are perfect opportunities to establish traditions and sitting there that evening looking back over 17 years, it was incredible as we retraced the steps and remembered the fun. I will never forget our trips and I am sure my sons will be sharing these kinds of adventures with their children some day.