Happy Father's Day!
Trail Lessons From My Papá
By Graciela Guardado, Girls Who Hike Los Angeles Ambassador
I grew up pretty poor. My parents emigrated from El Salvador at the start of the civil war and were just getting started with their life in the U.S. when I was born. I didn’t have name brand toys, video games, a bike, or any of the things most kids had to play with. Instead, my childhood is filled with memories of hiking, swimming in lakes, and visiting national parks. My dad was the driving force in all of our outdoor activities because the outdoors was an easily accessible and affordable way for a family to participate in recreation. It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized most of my peers didn’t spend their summers in Yosemite or go for a hike in the Angeles National Forest on weekends. Its what we did because it’s all we could afford, but how grand of an adventure it was.
My dad is the reason I love the outdoors and why I have the heart of an adventurer. He let me get grimy and dirty. He let me be a tomboy. He cheered me on when I wanted to cry and give up on those long hikes. As old school and traditional as he is, he never kept his daughters in the kitchen. He let us find our independence and sense of self by letting us go outside. Sure, I learned important trail skills from him like what to pack and how to navigate. But what I learned from those years in the outdoors transcends my skills as an outdoorswoman. It is the root of who I am as a feminist, as a woman of color, as the first college graduate in my family. When your dad teaches you to be independent on a hike and believes in you, it builds your confidence in other areas of your life so that you believe you can accomplish so much. I don’t think he even knows how deep those outdoor lessons go for me and it’s only something that I’ve really been able to see as I’ve gotten older and gained perspective. Hiking with my dad made me understand that in life, even as the daughter of Latino immigrant parents, sí se puede (yes you can).
Eventually, my dad was able to pull himself up from his bootstraps, as the saying goes, and we found a comfortable middle class life. But we never gave up the outdoors. Even now in his late 50s, my dad hikes several times a week with his dogs. We even hiked San Jacinto Peak via Marion Mountain last year, which is a butt kicker. This year, he wants me to take him up to San Gorgonio. I send him pictures of all my adventures. He sends me pictures of his. It’s how we continue to bond and be together. I have no idea what other fathers and daughters have, but for us, we have mountains, trails, and great memories of majestic places that helped us grow.
Feliz día del padre, daddy (happy father’s day).
Hiking With Jim
By Rebecca Lucas, Girls Who Hike Central Valley Ambassador
To hear me tell stories about my dad, you’d think I was making up tall tales. At 63 years young he still goes on multiday solo backpacking trips into the high Sierra. He doesn’t count how many peaks he’s bagged. He probably thinks peak bagging is something you do at a grocery store. He swims in glacier fed high Sierra lakes. Steven Seagal once called my dad and said, “I’m Steve, you’re Jim. Let’s Talk”, and then was taken aback when my dad had no idea who he was. My dad waved off his own rescue helicopter. Those are just some of the highlights.
My dad grew up going on mule pack trips into the high Sierra with his grandfather, who was a bit of a local legend around Yosemite and the high country. My dad and his brother were tasked with the job of scaring the bears away from camp. My dad was in Jr. High when he went on his first backpacking trip, after he and his brother begged their dad to take them. It was love at first step.
My dad started taking me and my sister on backpacking trips when we were in elementary school. Full disclosure, I hated it. I liked the idea of hiking and camping, but in practice, I was miserable. I was scared to death of bears and would work myself into panic attacks. Vomiting was involved. It wasn’t pretty. Needless to say, I only went on a few of these backpacking trips. I much preferred day hikes, road trips, and car camping. So my dad did that with me too. He took us camping all over California, Victoria Island in British Columbia, to Yosemite more times than I can count. He took us to Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon back when you could just drive into the campgrounds and pick pretty much any site you wanted. You know, before Instagram. I remember when we hiked the Narrows we pretty much had it to ourselves. My sister and I always slept in a tent, but my dad would sleep in his sleeping bag under the stars, even if it meant skunks walking across him because I had picked all the dehydrated veggies out of my cup of noodle and sprinkled them about the campsite like that s%@# was fairy dust.
If there’s a freezing cold body of water, you can be sure to find my dad, stripped to his skivvies, or less, in it. It’s pretty much what defines him. My dad’s grandfather always told him, “Mountain busters bathe in mountain water.” My dad, step mom, husband, daughter, and I were hiking around Pinnacles National Monument when we spotted something shiny in the river below the bridge we were standing on. Convinced it was a huge chunk of pure gold, and we would be rich rich rich if only we could retrieve it, I convinced my dad to go get it. It didn’t take that much convincing though because it was fall in the mountains, and that water was sure to be cold. My dad couldn’t resist the temptation of freezing mountain water, so right there, in front of all the other hikers, my dad stripped down to his boxer briefs, waded out into the middle of the river, and retrieved…the penny.
I owe my love of the outdoors, hiking, and camping to my dad. I have my own hiking and camping style now; I like shorter, flatter hikes, and I “camp” in a travel trailer rather than on the ground with the skunks, but I probably wouldn’t be out hiking or camping at all if it wasn’t for my dad and the memories and experiences he gave me growing up. Last year I was proud to retrace some of my childhood road trip, taking my daughter to “Utah’s Big Five”, hopefully instilling in my daughter that same love of the outdoors and hiking that my dad passed on to me.