raising little ones in the great outdoors

Trip Report: Sawtooth Wild Part II

We spent our second night at the most perfect backcountry campsite I’ve ever had. About 30 yards away, the creek rushed over more water-slide slabs and soaking pools. While Abby got dinner started, I pitched the tent on a sheltered flat spot that many previous visitors had cleared of annoying rocks and debris. To top it off, there were several ideal fishing spots nearby with clear casting areas. Normally, I’m not a fisherman, but I feel some unspoken pressure to fish with my kids. It’s usually an epic for me, trying to manage two or three poles with the associated knot tying, untangling, moss-removing, untangling (again), etc. When you don’t catch fish, it’s not remotely worth the effort. When you do catch fish, like we did that night and the following morning in the Sawtooths, it’s magic.

The fish weren’t big, but that didn’t even matter. They were biting so fast that I could only keep up with two poles and the kids

A perfect campsite.

A perfect campsite.

just traded off. I’d stopped in a fishing shop in Ketchum on the way up to get some recommendations on flies. When I told the fly-snob that we would be using spinning gear, she informed me that flies only work with fly-fishing gear and you have to know what you’re doing to use them. Then she recommended the drugstore for more “appropriate” supplies. It felt like being kicked out of a nice restaurant and pointed towards McDonalds.

I guess no one had told the fish that we were using inferior gear. The kids caught fish after fish with my randomly-picked flies, without knowing anything about fishing except that it’s a total rush to hook a trout, even a small trout.

On our last morning we put on clothes still a bit damp from the previous afternoon’s water adventures and headed for the car. Our packs were slightly lighter and the 30-on-10-off rhythm felt great. And then we hit the hill. Geography had conspired against this loop hike and had thrown an 800-foot moraine between the drainages. After hiking 16 miles over the last two days, we faced a steady uphill climb in the warmest temperatures of the trip with almost no shade. It was too much for the boys. After about a hundred yards I knew I would be adding 25 pounds to my load. With Seth’s pack strapped to the back of mine and Caleb’s slung over a shoulder, we renewed our slog to the top.

Dad gets a much needed break after shouldering three packs.Abby had been in the lead all morning. Normally she’s, um, not very tolerant of whining, but I witnessed a small miracle through the stinging blur of salty sweat pouring from my face. Abby eased back and walked with the boys. She started talking about the trip, asking their favorite parts, recalling the fishing and sliding. She was entirely positive, and her positive energy rubbed off on the boys. So much so that before we knew it we had crested the moraine. With the new-found energy of knowing the car was a short downhill mile away, the boys took back their packs and nearly ran down the trail.

I told Abby how impressed I was and what a difference she had made with the boys. “I was so mad, Dad,” she said. “I just wanted to scream at them. But then I decided to be nice and try to help them. And I didn’t feel mad anymore.” And right then, without realizing it, Abby learned a great lesson that most of us have to relearn throughout our lives. Letting go of that anger and helping someone else doesn’t just make them feel better, it makes us feel better too. We were finishing a trip that we will all remember forever, but watching Abby make that mental step toward adulthood, toward choosing selflessness over selfishness, that was the highlight for me. She was the lynchpin of the trip. Her attitude determined the attitudes of everyone else, and from the start she helped us all to be positive. And in the end, exhausted and happy, she read to us for most of the four-hour drive home.

–Steve Bohrer

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