Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Rush rush rush to buy Christmas gifts. Hurry up, act now, limited time! 24 hour sale! There is only a week till Christmas, and the pace seems to have quickened to try to entice me to spend money on stuff.

Let me ask you, what did you get for Christmas when you were 7 years old? Maybe you remember one item, but I bet you can’t name everything you got and from whom you got it.

Backpacking in Arizona

I clearly remember the first time I went backpacking. I was 9. It was in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, near Weavers Needle with my grandfather. I remember the rain storm that came through the valley, which brought a thunderstorm we watched from our sunny perch, a mountain ridge away. I remember the lizard who was doing push-ups on the rock near me to show me he was tough and that I shouldn’t mess with him (he ran when I got closer…)

My grandfather was a Korean War vet: a Marine, who spent a fair amount of time in a fox hole. There were no creature comforts on my first time backpacking. No sleeping bag. No sleeping mat. It was an uncomfortable night on the mountain…

…It fueled my longing for more adventures.

That gift of adventure that I was given by my grandfather has driven me to have more of these experiences. It has helped me dive into a host of outdoor recreation, exploration, and ultimately self-knowledge. It has also been passed down to my daughter.

Like any kid, she looks forward to Christmas presents. Though unless it’s a headlamp, her presents don’t generally light up or flash. For the most part, her presents now are new climbing shoes, baselayers, nice merino socks, or new outerwear.

What sort of child enjoys new baselayers (aka long underwear) and socks? One that has been shown the wonders of nature, and knows new baselayers mean more adventures with dad in some far away wilderness. Where it’s just what we can carry with us, and seldom do cell phones work. For a society that is so connected, with tablets, and cell phones, streaming TV services, and video games, I love that she has embraced unplugged-adventure.

So give the gift of adventure. Create memories, and enjoy the wonders of nature together. For me it started with a backpack. For your child, maybe it can be a ski trip, or an indoor rock climbing trip. Whatever it is, doing it together may make those bonds that much stronger.

Colorado, age 5.
Upper Peninsula of Michigan, age 10.

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