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This summer, my family and I have spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying the incredible state that we live in.
We’ve floated the Sevier, hiked waterfalls, and explored old abandoned mining towns near Marysvale. We’ve played in beaver ponds, driven miles of forgotten back roads, and laughed as little minnows tried to attack our lures like piranhas while fishing at Electric Lake. We’ve even pulled a replica pioneer handcart up the steep slopes above Strawberry Reservoir.
Each adventure we’ve taken has refreshed our souls and recharged our minds and each adventure has been unique and beautiful in it’s on way.
Last Friday, after a long hot day on the dusty handcart trail, I enjoyed the most stunning mountain sunset. As I stood there taking it all in, I starting thinking about all the places I’ve been and adventures I’ve had in my lifetime. As the scenes flashed before my eyes, I became keenly aware of the “mountain rules” my dad had taught me. I have never loved rules. I don’t like to be told what to do and I tend to buck authority, but there is something to be said about the peace, happiness, and order that comes with doing what we know to be right.
In many ways I took my father for granted.
I guess I thought everyone’s dad did the things mine did. Since becoming an adult, I’ve come to realize that not everyone grows up with a real life Mountain Man for a father.
For that reason, I thought I’d share the 10 Things My Dad Taught Me about the Mountains
1. Always Prepare Like a Good Little Scout:
Check the weather. Buy a map & know your terrain. Change the batteries in your flashlight. Fill your gas tanks. Pack appropriately for the conditions you’ll be in. Bring extra water. Plan on bugs. Learn first aid and take supplies. Go with a buddy. Tell someone where you are going. You get the idea.
I know this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people find themselves in trouble because they didn’t prepare.
Stuff happens, so prep for it!
2. Share The Trail:
9 times out of 10, you aren’t going to be the only one on the mountain so don’t be a hog.
Share the trail. When you are driving down a dirt road and come upon a truck and trailer coming the other way, pull over and let him pass. If you are hiking along and find that the altitude is getting the best of you, allow the faster hikers to go around.
One of the things I loved about camping growing up was that my dad seemed to know EVERYONE. He waved or said hello to each person we saw and they always waved back.
Somehow we’ve lost that friendliness these days.
Let’s bring it back.
3. Mind Your Business:
This one is kind of gross, but needs to be said… Mind your pees and poos!
Use appropriate facilities when available. When you are out in the backcountry, drip dry when possible. If you gotta do what you gotta do, then please dig a hole and bury that landmine so some sweet little kid doesn’t go and skip through it. Maybe they do on Facebook, but on the mountain nobody wants to get in your business.
Seriously though, clean up after yourself.
4. Gear Down:
Driving down a mountain is tricky and if you aren’t careful, you can easily burn up your breaks. Brakes are a good thing. Don’t be a flatlander, gear down!
When the road grade becomes steep and you find your right foot planted on that middle peddle, shift into a lower gear. This will slow you down and save you from an embarrassing smoke-filled pit stop. Trust me.
There is so much to see and discover on the mountain.
Don’t get in a rut. Sometimes we find ourselves creatures of habit. We go to the same place every time because we know what to expect. Do yourself a favor and step out of your box. Explore a path you haven’t tried, take a different hike than the one you did last time. Use your senses. Touch the rocks, smell the wildflowers, listen to the birds.
Fill your soul and ignite your imagination!
6. Be the Good Samaritan:
This one is pretty dear to my heart because this is my daddy in a nutshell.
Growing up we used to complain because if there was ever an accident, a truck stuck, a crying child, or even a hurt animal, my dad put on his super cape and swooped in to save the day. His “good samaritanism” would usually set our plans back hours and we’d miss dinner or not be able to finish a ride because we’d find ourselves towing some wide eyed-bushy tailed-deer in the headlights 16 year old kid down to town. I look back and laugh now when I think about all those detours. I’m grateful my dad taught me about kindness and compassion. The mountain can be a rough teacher and sometimes the pupil needs a loving mentor to reach out and take their hand. If it was my boy who had rolled his brand new truck up the hollow, I would sure hope that someone would have the heart to set him right side up, bandage his wounds, and put their arm around him.
Be that kind of person.
I’ll never forget the time we were playing in Calf Creek down in Escalante and a teenage kid disappeared under the water. People came running, diving in, giving everything they had to pull him out. That boy’s drowned body is seared into my memory but so is the human compassion that came from strangers working together for the good of another.
Be a rescuer.
Be the Good Samaritan. I believe that we get back what we put into this world. Do for another as you would want them to do for you.
7. Look Up:
As we pulled and pushed our handcarts last weekend, we found our eyes constantly down on the trail. It was hard labor and we were exhausted. Thistle would attack our legs and giant holes seemed to open up and eat a small child if we weren’t watching.
I don’t know how many times along the trail that one of us would look up and suddenly realize the beauty we were surrounded with.
Don’t be afraid to look up. Stop every so often and take in your surroundings. Keep your eyes open, not only for your safety but also for your soul. What’s the fun of being on top of the world if you don’t enjoy the view?
It’s not a race. Slow down. Stop. Look up.
8. Pack It In, Pack It Out:
Alrighty, this one is my biggest pet peeve in the history of ever. Nothing on this planet bugs me more than litter. Pack it in, pack it out! Whether it be wrappers, plastic utensils, pop cans, or twine, if you bring it in with you then you need to bring it out too. Pick up after yourself. Your mama isn’t going to be there to wipe your nose and pick up your granola bar wrapper so do it yourself. Don’t be a litter bug. There is nothing worse than working all day to make it to some rad place only to find yourself surrounded with beer cans, an old tire, and chip wrappers.
The mountain is a sacred place and should be treated as such.
Show respect to the mountain and those who will come after you by packing it out.
While we are on the subject, let’s keep in mind that nobody needs to see our stamp on 147 trees plus a rock face. If you feel the undeniable urge to sign autographs, move to Hollywood. Ancient Anasazi ruins and native cliff paintings are amazing. Drunken, sloppy carvings of boobs, not so much.
9. Leave It Better Than You Found It:
Going right along with the last one, leave it better than you found it.
When camp is over, when the hike is through, take a moment to make your impact a positive one. Pick up trash you find a long the way. Do a service project for the rangers. Get creative, it’s all up to you. Be giving. Your happy place can inspire others also.
Always leave it better than you found it.
10. Go Often:
When the mountain calls, go.
When stress levels fly through the roof and life gets too much, get outside. Get away from the world and regroup. There is nothing quite as good for a body as fresh air and tranquility.
When kids are little and full of energy, go to the mountain. There is no china, breakable knick knacks, and definitely none of Great Aunt Effie’s white carpet. Let them run. Let them use their imaginations. There’s no where more entertaining for a child than a place filled with dirt, bugs, sticks, and animals!
When you find yourself fighting with your teenager, yep, mountains again. Take a hike. What could possibly help you see eye to eye better than a long walk and long talk? Give your time.
When you and your sweetheart need to get away… well, we’ll just leave that one to the imagination.
So, there you have it, the 10 Things My Dad Taught Me about the Mountains.
It all comes down to the phrase “Love where you live”.
These rules could apply to anywhere, not just the mountains of Utah. I think what my dad was trying to teach me was to be a good steward over what I’ve been given… to love the world around me and to take care of it.
I’m grateful for the lesson and hope I can pass it on to my children.
What “mountain rules” do you live by?
What do you wish people knew?