My gung-ho woodsman tendencies are genetic

My dad has always been one of those gung-ho woodsman types bent on walking my legs into stubby little pegs when we went on camping trips. And if I’m honest with myself, I suppose his teaching rubbed off on me a little bit.

My dad is one of those hikers who knows millions of shortcuts that always wind up being at least six times as far as the “long way.”

“One more hill” is a favorite phrase, as is, “We’re not lost, we’re just misplaced.”

I remember a pack trip into the Hoback when I was 5 years old. The first leg of the journey was unbelievably smooth, though it was a little long. But as all good things must come to an end, Dad found another “shortcut.”

We looked up to see a huge, hulking red monster of a mountain.

At 12:30 a.m. on a moonless, starless mid-August night, we dragged into camp, Mom cursing threats on Dad’s life under her breath, my 8-year-old sister babbling incoherently (no doubt a result of her finding the bottle of whiskey in Dad’s saddlebag), and me falling out of my saddle every few hundred yards. Dad was gloating about how much more fun his shortcut was than the tried-and-true route. It must have been the lack of oxygen to his brain at that altitude.

Well, many years have passed since that “blissful” pack trip into the Hoback, and times have changed. Dad’s desire to climb anything that towers above him has been crimped by what he calls wisdom. Several years ago, I accompanied him on a hunting trip where this was clearly evident.

Our destination? The Sawtooth Mountain Range, a few miles up the trail from the mountain shortcut we’d taken three decades before. The huge muleys that live there can see for miles from atop their 12,000-foot roost. I was bound and determined to share the view.

I guess I must be transforming into one of those gung-ho woodsman types bent on walking my camping partners’ legs into stubbly little pegs, because I was truly enjoying the climb. At one point, I glanced back at Dad, who was carefully picking his way through the rocks. He was grasping tightly to tiny handholds, mumbling something about not moving more than one hand or foot at a time.

I just called back to him, “I told you it’d be fun.” It must have been the lack of oxygen to my brain at that altitude.

I guess you could say I come by it honestly.

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