The school year has started. But before it did, Catherine, the kids, and I made the most of our last moments of summer. When the final trips departed and the staff members headed home, we took time to look back, unwind a bit, and have our own moments together in amazing wilderness settings.
We have a tradition in our household that when you turn 7 years old, you get to go on your first overnight backpacking adventure with ‘dad.’ It is a one-on-one trip (so important in a family where we have 4 kids!) where for 24 hours it is just the two of us. This year was Maggie’s turn, and her mom and all her siblings gathered on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend to wish her good luck.
Her one trip request was to go on a trip where we could work on her fly fishing skills. Knowing that our fly fishing trips, Jackson Hole Fly Fishing and Montana Fly Fishing, hit some special fishing spots that I did not want to ruin for her, (and judging by the weight of my own backpack-and how far I was capable of going), we opted to go close to home in Grand Teton National Park and hit Trapper Lake.
On my overnight with Maggie, I was reminded about a few values that are core to our program and served as reminders to me as a parent and also as a steward of this great program.
First, we, as parents, need to take the time to unplug, too. I preach the values of what ‘disconnecting’ means to our youth today. But I also need to remember how valuable it is for our own children to see us disconnect. The stats of kids on devices are staggering. But they make sense when you consider how much we, as adults, use our devices. We, too, are distracted by the glow of our screens, and our kids need to see us modeling the balance we all should strive to have with our devices. For me to unplug was personally refreshing, but for Maggie to see me, without any distractions, well, it made her day.
Second, I was reminded about the timeless nature of the backpacking trip. Together, we worked on skills on our overnight that I suspect have been central to every overnight wilderness trip since the beginning of time. Skipping rocks was a lesson, as was fire building, fishing, and creating the perfect s’mores stick. In those moments, as I thought about the progression of time, and how the world changes so much daily, I was struck by how some things stay the same.
Third, I was reminded how the sounds of nature can really blow you away. With fall upon us, the elk of Grand Teton were out in full force. In the middle of the night, Maggie woke me up to ask what the sound was outside our tent. Near us was a bull elk, announcing his presence to the whole park with his bugle. If you have never heard this sound before, I recommend you do it; it is truly eerily beautiful.
Finally, I was reminded of how great childhood and summer are. What amazing experiences! For Maggie’s sake, I do not want either to end. Maybe that is why we do the work we do, where childhood and summer coexist always and are never-ending. There is wonder and adventure in both, and this trip reminded me about how lucky we are to live and work in a world that centers itself on the combination of these two things. As we gaze back at a great summer gone by, my appreciation for the work we get to do in summer and with kids is ever-present.