Frontier Adventure

Boy Trip, Girl Trip: Why I Take Father-Son and Father-Daughter Adventures

By Michael Lanza

On a morning when the late-summer sunshine sharpens the incisor points of every peak and spire in the jagged skyline of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, Nate and I step inside the Sawtooth National Recreation Area ranger station, south of the little town of Stanley, population sixty-three. I chat with the ranger behind the counter, mentioning that my son and I are heading out to backpack the 18-mile loop from Pettit Lake to Alice and Toxaway Lakes.

The ranger sizes up my six-year-old, 40-pound kid, and frowns skeptically. “You know, that’s a pretty rugged hike,” he tells me.

Over the years to follow, I would become accustomed to seeing that expression on the faces of well-intentioned people worried about what I was planning to do with my children. I would also get used to hearing the tone of voice someone uses when what they really want to tell me is: “You, sir, are a crazed lunatic, and coyotes will pick your child’s and your bones clean before we even find you.”

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Alex on the New Hance Trail, Grand Canyon.

I try to explain that I know these trails and the little boy with the stuffed dolphin has done a fair bit of hiking already—for someone who weighs less than the backpack I’ll carry for the next three days. But as we leave, I doubt I’ve allayed that ranger’s concerns. He’s probably made a mental note to check for my car at the trailhead in a few days, to make sure that the overzealous dad and his bear-snack-size kid made it out of the wilderness alive.

On the trail a little while
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