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Getting Outside With Dad

Quality time with family is the best

When you live away from family you’re making a conscious choice to spend less time with them. It’s the hardest part about living in Colorado. So I cherish the times together and focus on being present when I’m with my mom, dad and sister.

My dad has been coming out for a Colorado summer adventure the last few years. Dad is a city guy. Born and raised in Chicago. Loves food and watching TV. But… you get him out of doors and he soaks it in with big deep breaths and his face in the sun. 

Leading up to these trips, we talk almost every day about travel plans and Dad’s conditioning program. To make sure he enjoys the outdoors, he steps up his nutrition and exercise. He makes sure he’s ready and able to explore when he has a Colorado trip on the books.

This past summer my dad and I, along with my wife, Brenda, drove west of Carbondale to Kebler Pass. The plan was to car camp for two nights and hike Three Lakes Trail. Overall objective: Get outside with Dad.

Day 1: 

We expected crowds on a weekend in July. After a four-hour road trip with a stop at Granetta’s for a sandwich, we pulled into the Lost Lake Campground to find all but one site taken. Yes! It was a pretty standard campground and we were pumped to have found the last spot. As we started to unpack, a diesel pick-up truck towing a camper pulled up right behind our car. Turns out, we were supposed to check in with the grounds keeper and pay before claiming a spot. Noooooo! I was bumming. The rumbling diesel engine was humming in our ears while we packed our tents and cooler back in the car. There was a good amount of dispersed camping on the drive in, so we backtracked. Low and behold… we found a great spot with lots of shade, a fire ring and flat ground for the tents. It was quiet and surrounded by trees. The new spot easily trumped the previous spot in the crowded campground. The circumstance reminded me that twists are part of any good journey. My dad and Brenda helped we roll with this one. We were back on track.

After setting up camp, we took a short hike up to a quiet pond. There was a brook running into it, and you could see the fish swimming in the sunny spots. No one else was there. We chilled on boulders, skipping rocks and taking in the stillness. We were settling into being outside. On the walk, I noticed Dad wasn’t picking up his feet, and his steps were clunky. I thought to myself, “I can’t send him back to Chicago injured again.” (He went home with a busted up knee the year before, but that’s a story for another time.) I mentioned the shuffling feet to him, and it seemed to work. He was nimble as a deer the rest of the hike. It’s weird to realize this inevitable shift… when you start worrying about your parents instead of the other way around.

We got back to camp. Dad chilled in the hammock and we all took a light snooze. I was feeling proud to have planned the trip and happy watching Dad enjoy every minute. We had an awesome dinner of grass-fed steak and fire-roasted potatoes. The three of us bopped around the makeshift kitchen, cooking, talking and laughing. As the sun set, the fire was popping and conversations turned to large life plans. We wrapped up the night agreeing it was a great day and reviewed the plan for our 4.2 mile hike the next day.

Day 2:

There were no outhouses at the dispersed campsites. I woke up to the sound of my car starting and saw Dad driving away. I didn’t think he’d shy away from digging a hole, but the campground bathrooms were only a quarter mile away. Driving up for a proper toilet was a smart maneuver. Guess I still have a thing or two to learn from the old man.

The day was gorgeous. We made coffee and a hearty egg scramble, and we were excited for the adventure. Three Lakes Trail is just over 4 miles with about 600 feet in elevation gain. Perfect for a 60-year-old flatlander. The hike was beautiful. We chilled at the first lake with our feet in the water, taking it all in. I focused on being in the moment… Brenda, Dad, the clear water, willow bushes, bright blue dragon flies and tall peaks. We were right where we were supposed to be.

The three serene mountain lakes were tranquil and serene, but the hike doesn’t end there. Mix in a cascading waterfall and amazing wildflowers, and you have yourself an all-in-one trail. Dad just kept saying, “this is f*#^ing beautiful.”

Another relaxing night cooking brats, drinking a couple of beers and sleeping outside centered us and capped off an awesome trip with Dad. There is something about quality time outside, away from media distractions, that just feels natural.

I have made it an intention to stay tight with my mom and dad. So the plan is to keep creating adventures together. Next up… pre-Christmas in Colorado with plans to snowshoe and ski. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Tommy Geary

I get outside as much as possible. Now I'm starting to write about it.