With Father’s Day approaching, we have been reminiscing about the dads who got us started hiking, either directly or indirectly. Check out some of our stories below, and share yours if you have one!
Jocelyn Hebert, Long Trail News Editor:
That’s my Dad pointing off into the distance from the summit of Camel’s Hump in 1974 while his three children were distracted by the camera. I’m the one in the red shoes, eating snacks. (Why else do you hike?) I like to believe that even though my father was not an avid hiker, moments like this made me one.
We hiked some as a family but mostly I remember camping together. Dad had a Volkswagen bus that we all piled into and drove to a piece of land we owned in Westford. It seemed like we spent weeks at a time camping in the field with a brook running along the edge of the nearby woods. But I was young, so it’s more likely that we spent weekends. I loved it though, and it made a lasting impression.
Maidstone State Park was our family’s favorite place to camp when I got a little older. Waking up to the smell of bacon that Dad was cooking on the Coleman stove was amazing. The days only got better from there as we swam, fish, and checked our crayfish traps. I spent most of my childhood summer days covered in dirt and sweat—the signs of a good day of adventuring with my big brothers. Dad let me run and play and explore just as hard as they did and in doing so, I developed a deep connection with the Vermont woods.
The woods and mountains became my adult playground too. I have thru-hiked the Long Trail three times—the second trek to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease in honor of my now late father. It was the greatest tribute I could think of and most fitting way to thank my father for encouraging me to spend time outside and appreciate the beauty of this beautiful state and the natural world.
Amy Potter, Visitor Center Manager:
Growing up, I was always more interested in riding horses than climbing mountains, but my father was always in the background slowly influencing my life trajectory towards outdoor adventure. Although we are New Hampshire natives, his outdoorsman lifestyle started in 1974 on Killington. From there, his adventures only grew more exciting.
He hiked 700 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from the California/Oregon border through Washington the year after Mount Saint Helens erupted and smoke could still be seen rising from the rubble. He climbed the highest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney, and summited Rainier. He’s climbed glaciated peaks in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru, and climbed the 19,000-foot volcano, Mount Orizabo, in Mexico. He has rock climbed in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, hiked the 100-mile wilderness through Maine, and summited all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers (many of them multiple times).
Through his adventures, I learned that nature and the environment were an important facet of life, but it wasn’t until he led me up Mount Lafayette in the White Mountains that the outdoors truly became a lifestyle for me. From then on, we have been on countless adventures together—from hiking and climbing to camping and backpacking. It was my dad who brought me on my first overnight backpacking trip to help me prepare for living in a tent while studying abroad in Namibia. He was the one who told me I had the ability to climb Mount Rainier. He excitedly offered to support me with transportation and food drops while I was out thru-hiking the Long Trail. I can truly say that without the influence of my dad, I would not be where I am today working at the GMC and living a life full of happiness and adventure.
Kristin McLane, Membership & Communications Coordinator:
My mom was always the more outdoorsy of my parents when I was younger – she came on all the scout trips, both boys and girls. My dad had grown up wary of the woods and was paranoid about ticks as an adult. Something changed when I was a little older and we started car camping as a family, eventually adding on easy day hikes. That may have been spurred by neighbors giving us an old canvas tent when they moved and family friends who already camped inviting us along. Regardless, I suppose that with exposure to the woods, he gradually grew less apprehensive about ticks.
After reading A Walk in the Woods, my dad decided to try backpacking, and I figured I’d give it a shot too. We started collecting equipment, the cheapest (and heaviest) stuff you could find, and soon were ready for our first trip. The two of us and a friend drove up to Round Valley Reservoir in New Jersey. It was only about six miles out to the campsite, and six miles back the next day, but I could barely walk afterward. I remember one hill, in particular, being brutal and having to stop at least a dozen times on my way up it, while day hikers passed quickly by. (I revisited the hike last year and it was so easy as to be laughable.) Still, we had a great time. I had the best sleep of my life that night, in fact, although my dad and friend laid awake all night, convinced that bears were circling us.
I kept backpacking through the years, a weekend here and there, and then decided to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, much to my dad’s chagrin. He worried about my safety on the trail alone, although I tried to convince him there’d be tons of other people there and everyone looked out for each other. He calmed down once I’d been on trail for a few weeks and he saw how well I was doing, enough so that I’d hear from his friends later how he bragged about my hike. I imagine I’ve stopped his heart a few times with my adventures over the years, but, really, he has no one to blame but himself for starting me down the trail.
Mollie Flanigan, Land Stewardship Coordinator:
Many dads see one of their fatherly duties as imparting knowledge and skills to serve their kids well throughout their lives, perhaps even before the kids are old enough to appreciate the information. My dad is one of those dads.
Hiking was a way of life for our family, an integral part of how my parents had fun with their three kids. Imparting the skills to be safe in the backwoods was top priority for my father and so impromptu map and compass classes frequently occurred on the tops of mountains or on snack breaks. Looking back, I can’t say that I was an avid student, but kids often absorb knowledge through osmosis and I was no different.
Today, as the Land Stewardship Coordinator for the Green Mountain Club, I rely on a map and compass every day that I’m out in the woods. My job demands being able to navigate to property boundaries that have no trails or landmarks to guide me, and every time I’m successful and get home safely, I thank my dad for giving me the skills to guide me home.