Late last night, I was surrounded by instant oatmeal packets, granola bars and freeze-dried teriyaki chicken. Every item of clothing that my kids own was either strewn across our living room floor, part of a laundry pile or some combination of both.
There were headlamps, batteries, sleeping bags and pocket knives literally everywhere, and the only thing that kept me from banging my head against a wall was knowing that in a few short hours, the mess would be gone. It would be gone because it would be with Logan and five of our kids on their annual Dad Hike.
The Dad Hike is a tradition Logan started in 2014 when Lucy and George were 10 and 9 years old, respectively. An avid outdoorsman, Logan wanted to share with his kids his love for all things adventure; he decided that taking them on an overnight backpacking trip was just the ticket. And thus, the Dad Hike was born.
I have no part in the actual “hiking” part of the Dad Hike; I’m more of a behind-the-scenes manager of sorts. My main job is to make matching T-shirts for everyone, which I usually do the night before they leave, and frequently until 2 in the morning.
My other big job is to buy all the snacky stuff like granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix, candy, etc. The hikers eat freeze-dried backpacking food for lunch and dinner, but unhealthy snacking in between meals is where I shine.
My final job – and this is a big one – is to help everyone locate their gear. This usually ends in an epic fail as I realize too late that Henry has outgrown his hiking shoes, only three of the five kids have rain coats that fit, and our cat has been using one of our backpacks as his bed in the garage.
I never said I was good at this. I mean, there’s a reason why they don’t bring me along. And anyway, I think it’s obvious that the real gold star here goes to Logan. Having chosen the location and begun planning in earnest only about 36 hours ago, he is about to embark on a three-day backpacking trip with five kids along the Washington coast.
Might it rain? Yes. Do all our kids have the appropriate gear? Absolutely not. Will they miss the ferry? Probably. Is Logan worried? Not a chance.
From what I hear, one of the best parts of the Dad Hike is the spontaneity of the whole thing. Gearwise, Logan is prepared to the hilt, but he doesn’t really plan anything besides the need to hike, eat, sleep and play. A regular day on the Dad Hike could include, in no particular order, a hike to the top of a nearby mountain, an extended nap in a hammock, an impromptu Frisbee competition, a jump in a chilly lake and an hourslong conversation about the meaning of life.
Every time the kids come home from the hike – bounding into the house with clouds of dust trailing behind them and socks so dirty they could stand on their own – it is these unforced and simple moments that they can’t wait to tell me all about.
Of course, Hyrum and I will have plenty of stories of our own to tell. At only 7 years old, Hyrum is ineligible to go on the Dad Hike until next year, per Logan’s and my extensive research into what age our kids tend to get less whiny (8 years old is it).
In order to take some of the sting out of being left behind, I promised Hyrum that we would really party it up while the others were gone. Thankfully, Hyrum’s idea of a good party is eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal, playing at the park, grabbing an ice cream cone and then heading home to watch a movie in the basement with his mom.
And so, after we waved the hikers off this morning (“Mom, hold my calls,” my cheeky 10-year-old said through the open car window right before they drove away), Hyrum and I looked at each other, gave a little shrug and headed back into our much quieter and cleaner house.
“What am I going to do without my brothers?” I heard him muttering to himself a few minutes later.
It’s going to be a long three days.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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