fellowship off-road – “thrice” in a lifetime opportunities

In my last post, I talked about preparing for some off-road with my younger son.  A once in a lifetime experience with my boy, backpacking the Bechler River Canyon in Yellowstone National Park.  I want to share some details of this trip, but also want to share some thoughts on previous “once in a lifetime” experiences.

I think I have a better understanding why parents have children, and many times several children.  When these “OIAL” opportunites come along, having the ability to share the special times with each child individually is an amazing fellowship.  About eight years ago, I started attending annual Father/Daughter Adventure Weekends with my daughter, where we would go to Pennsylvania, camp for two nights, and spend a day whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River.  Now this may not seem the wilderness trip some of you more seasoned rafters would think of, but the time spent with my daughter each September for that four or five years, gave us a chance to be together, just her and me, and have what in retrospect, is probably the most important bonding time we’ve had.  I constantly treasure every moment, and still have some of the little chachkas (picture magnets, lanyards) that we made on the weekends.  She’s in college now, and our time together is more infrequent, but the memories are a treasure.

Then there were the boys.  My oldest child, Zach, and I did the BIG hike seven years ago to the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming (about thirty miles from Yellowstone) and had the true wilderness adventure.  Almost forty miles in four and a half days, climing to an altitude of around 9500 feet on the Hoback Trail.  A path, no campsites, water from the streams,  and time to be together with my boy.  We encountered the glories of the Lord’s creation everywhere we went, from beautiful mountains, some snow-covered, to flora and fauna that amazed us in the diversity and sheer volume (one night we camped in a meadow that was so covered in yellow daisy-like flowers, that we literally had to pitch our tents over the plants as there was no clears space whatsoever.  Elk and moose were sighted more than once, and fortunately no bear encounters.  We trained hard, and played hard on the trip, and like those weekends with my daughter, every moment is stored in my heart.

And this last week, my “third” in a lifetime opportunity, the trip with my youngest, now fourteen, and starting that independent world of high school in a few weeks.  I was apprehensive about this trip, being one of the two oldest fathers going, seven years older than I was with Z.  But every step was a prayer to God for strength, and He listened and got me through!

This trip to Yellowstone was a little shorter (thank you, God) and a little less altitudinal (we only got to 8500 feet), but much more diverse in that we traveled up the mountains, but also traversed a river canyon, and spent an afternoon and morning hiking the vast expanse of Bechler Meadows.   We swam in the cold waters of Bechler River (and lounged on the volcanic sandy shoals heated by all-day sunshine), and had a unique and amazing experience in the most literal example of  “God’s Country”.  We spent a day whitewater rafting on the Snake River (as I had with Zach on the previous trip), and had some interesting lessons in patience traveling to and from our  Base Camp in Jackson from the Salt Lake City airport.

I am feeling very blessed right now, to know that I’ve completed the cycle, and had these incredible adventures with each of my children, seeing the awesome splendor of God’s creation first hand.   As I said to my son last Friday on our way back to base camp from the Bechler Ranger Station, “I hope that you had a great experience here, and be proud of what you have accomplished, but I look forward to when you have your chance to feel what I’m feeling right now, knowing what I have just done with my son”.  It’s a feeling that can’t be duplicated, except that it was, three times…

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