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Category Archives: April 2008

April 25, 2008 | Utah

Summer vacation has its roots in agriculture, when the majority of our nation lived an agrarian life. The family pulled together to work on the land. It was a time for teachers to integrate into their communities. The provenance of spring break is a little more mysterious. In Montana spring break is the transition from winter to hopefully spring.

With winter still in its grip, our family tradition is to pile into the mini van for a trip to the red rock country of southern Utah. scott-below-n-six-shooter-small2Our goal this year was the eastern side of Canyonlands National Park and Indian Creek Canyon. The drive south crosses the divide at the Idaho – Montana border, that being the high point of our journey. There we marveled at the 10-foot tall snowdrifts. Snow camping was not our plan. Sand, steep cracks for climbing, a crackling campfire and the company of several other families was our goal.

The Wingate sandstone that defines Indian Creek must have been the inspiration for the Road Runner cartoon series. Looking out over the slender sandstone spires, cliffs ringing the valley like a massive red curtain and the meandering wash with the occasional grove of cottonwood trees one can imagine Wiley E. Coyote chasing the elusive road runner. I just hoped there would be no falling anvils!

lighteningboltcrack2-small2The Park Service campground provided our home for the week. Ringed by sandstone formations and slot canyons, our children explored the terrain on their own time. We parents cooked camp meals over sputtering stoves, confident that the children were being safe. They knew what a cliff was and were not going to fall off. Or at least we grownups comforted each other with that thought. By allowing the kids to rat around, we gave them a chance to discover the world for themselves, without a set of rules. Knowing that it is a potentially dangerous environment, we also signaled to the kids that we trusted them to make good decisions. Empowering children with these responsibilities makes them confident. Which, from my view, is a good attribute for children to have.

– Conrad


April 09, 2008

As a child my parents would haul my siblings and I out for the Sunday afternoon hike. Into the station wagon we would pile with Dad at the wheel and drive north across the Golden Gate Bridge towards Mt. Tamalpias or Point Reyes National Monument. Once we arrived at the trailhead, we would bolt off in all directions as our parents closed up the car and readied a pack with the days’ lunch in it.

The trail signified the beginning of the wild. Sure, it was well maintained and visited by thousands of like-minded people annually, yet to me as a little kid, it was full of wonderment and the unknown. I would race along, imagining myself to be Daniel Boone or some other larger than life explorer. The towering and magnificent trees were a source of great mystery. A mountain lion could be lurking behind one, ready to pounce on my tender body. I had to be aware! My brother and I would find a pile of twigs and build miniature forts on the side of the trail, small houses for beetles and similar insects.

Eventually we would find a place to set up a picnic. Our adventures had led to an appetite, one Mom was most happy to satiate. A sandwich, an apple and a cup of juice were a far cry from the fare of Lewis and Clark, yet to the mind of a seven-year-old, surrounded by trees, insects and birds, with no sign of human incursion, it was wild. Big and daunting wild.

I realize now that the effort my parents took to introduce the wilderness were key in shaping who I am now. When my wife Jenni and I take our boys out to the woods we have a chance to connect with the kids in an unobstructed manner. There is nothing to buy, no rides to ride, just family and the woods.

And these are the best moments. Both now and 40 years ago.

– Conrad