I can’t even remember the first time my dad dragged me into the wilderness on a campout. For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent a good deal of my free time in the wilds. If I hadn’t been introduced to the wonders of the wild world at an early age, I doubt I’d have the love for the outdoors I have today.
My dad is too humble to admit that he planned my outdoor education the way he did, but I know the truth. He purposely used a gradual scale to step up the intensity of the mishaps he introduced me to. The early trips were pretty smooth. We hiked in, made camp, did some fishing, and hiked back out. No sweat. Then he started adding adversity in small doses. He planned trips when he knew we’d have to contend with rain of Biblical intensity and duration. He led us off the edges of our topo maps and waited until well after dark to lead us back to camp. He engineered horse wrecks that would scare the daylights out of the Marlboro Man.
But it was all part of the plan. Each trip was fraught with a little more peril than the one before. If he’d kept things smooth, I might have lost interest out of boredom. Had the more serious incidents come too early in my formative years, I might have decided camping was just too dangerous and taken up a safer hobby, like bull riding.
No, there was a method to Dad’s madness. We never lost a member of our party for more than a couple of weeks. In the end, we all found our way back home, and most of us can look back with fondness on those outings.
It’s now my turn to teach a new generation to enjoy the outdoors. My boys are still pretty young for extended wilderness trips, but I’ve already started easing them into the outdoors a little at a time.
I just hope I have what it takes to provide the same opportunities for my boys that my dad gave me. If I don’t, I have only myself to blame for not getting the most out of my outdoor education. After all, when it comes to backcountry catastrophes, I learned from the master.