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My Dad Loved the Mountains

Pondering the Alps
Pondering the Alps

My father loved the mountains, walking, and being outdoors. We did some of that together when I was growing up, but I wish we’d done a lot more. Still, he passed it along in other ways, telling me stories of walking in the Vienna Woods as a boy, riding his motorcycle through the countryside, and about his parents’ summer cottage in the mountains.

Like many parents, my dad and mother paid for me to go to camps in the summertime. That was indeed a great gift: to lean how to paddle a canoe in Maine, to sail and swim in pristine lakes, and to camp in canvas pup tents with my bunkmates. But for all of the fun I had there, I rarely got to do any of it with my dad.

I often think of my dad when I walk in the White Mountains and how much he would have loved them. I think of what it would have been like to camp and cook together, to talk into the night by a campfire, and watch the stars from the mountain tops.

As my father aged, he shared more of himself with me, giving me a better sense of who he was and why he’d made the choices he did in his life. I am not a parent so I can’t give you advice about how to raise your child, but as a son, I’ll tell you this.

I wish I’d spent more time with my dad growing up, as a young adult, and in middle age. The choice not to was as much my own as was his, but it’s something I regret now that he has passed away. While losing your dad is inevitable. Losing shared moments with him is not. Don’t let the time slip away.

I treasure the memories of being with my dad outdoors, but I wish I had more of them.

Still, I know my dad loved the mountains and he loved me.

8 comments

  1. In all of your heart felt words about your dad, and the love you feel for him, it seems that his love for you is still with you as much today. I’m pretty certain that love, and his spirit, is with you every time you venture off into the mountains. You may not have spent much time with him as a child, but you still can take your love for him every where ever you go. I lost a brother who I truly believe has become my trail angel. Too many times when things went wrong for me hiking, someone or something would happen to turn it around. When you keep love in your heart, good things always happen.

  2. My dad passed away this past March 30th. I miss him so much. I truly feel that we will meet again after I pass away whether its 5,10,20 or 30 years. I constantly think of him. In his lifetime he was an extreme “volunteerer”. In the 60’s he coached Little League, youth basketball, and organized a youth bowling leauge. In his later years he volunteered for the local church and was a 4th degree knight for the K of C. Although he never hiked, he would be proud of me when I reach a summit.

  3. What a very touching post. Being both a father and a lover of the mountains, this totally resonates with me.

  4. Beautiful, thank you for sharing your heart and challenging me to remember time is short.

  5. Very poignant. My dad spent a lot of time in the 50’s and 60’s hiking and backpacking in the Whites and along the AT in Maine. He and I did go hiking and camping, but never at the level that he did before I was born. He did manage to find the money to send me on a 23 day Colorado Outward Bound course when I was sixteen, but he and I never did any backpacking together.

    I worked with my dad in the family business for nearly 20 years. As he neared retirement, I had a rare moment of personal clarity and decided to leave the family business. My dad supported that decision, thankfully.

    When he passed away three years later, it was very hard on me., He had been a mentor, business partner and best friend and even though I knew the end was near, it was very tough.

    As I went through the grieving process, I started hiking again. I never really planned the hikes (the way I should) but just left home and drove west with a Gazetteer in the passenger seat. After some time, I realized I was picking mountains and areas I remembered him talking about; I had been unconsciously drawn to his footsteps.

    I can now say, that in addition to my dad being a mentor, business partner and best friend, he is my favorite hiking partner!

  6. Thanks everyone. It’s been a tough month, missing my dad. Just got to keep on walking, I guess. It does help.

    • My dad and I did yearly summer treks in the Pecos Wilderness when I was in high school, in the early 70’s. We read Colin Fletcher and Harvey Manning and mail-ordered gear from REI. You could trace your foot on paper and mail it in, and they’d send you boots to try on.

      About ten years ago, I found film from our last trek. I’d developed it, then headed off to college and never printed anything from it. So I scanned them:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/walter_underwood/sets/72157625780915483/

      When I went to Philmont with my son in 2010, there were two or three times when the look and the smell of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains took me back to my backpack trips with my dad. It was a good walk in the mountains, both times.

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