June 16, 2010

Adventures with Dad

The map had lied — there were, in fact, no refreshing creeks on our climb — and now we stood at our drunkenly scenic high-mountain campsite without a drop of water. My Dad and I are pretty big fans of water, especially after turning into giant raisins after sweating out 20 gallons of the stuff while pedaling our bikes up mountainsides in 95° heat. In our subsequent dehydrated quest for liquid gold we had a face-off with a porcupine, got pinned by a biblical thunderstorm, and then, miraculously, found a crystalline mountain spring deep in mountainside forest.

Upon triumphantly returning to camp, a thick, fast-moving cloud swept up from the valley below and engulfed our campsite. "This definitely doesn't have any rain in it," I announced, confident, as always, in my astute meteorological forecasting abilities. In fact, for years my backcountry partners have been able to predict the weather with uncanny accuracy based solely on my forecasts — they simply take whatever I say and expect the exact opposite.

Minutes later, the clouds opened and the rain began.

We spent the next four hours in our incredibly light and equally minuscule tent. This was our first stab at ultralight travel, so we had no books, no deck of cards, no brass hookah, nothing to help pass the time. So Dad and I lay there and talked and listened to the rain patter on the tent fly.

After four hours of predicting, "this should stop any minute now," I finally gave up and we resigned ourselves to the prospect of a deeply unsatisfying dinner of nut-mix and dried apricots. "Looks like it's not going to let up," I said with a sigh.

Within minutes the rain stopped. The clouds still sporadically swept across our high camp, but the rain had passed and we put on rain pants and sat down on a cushion of subalpine moss to cook a real dinner. Occasional golden shafts of sunset light slanted through the clouds, illuminating avalanche paths at our sides and the verdant valley below. We watched a pair of elk graze in a nearby meadow as we happily enjoyed our warm stroganoff and tea. The horizon was stacked with mountains that seemed to go on forever and we swore we could pick out ranges 200 miles away that we'd explored in summers past.

We've been going on these trips every summer since I was kid, first with backpacks, more recently on mountain bikes. Either way, the goal is the same: head for the mountains and proceed to fart around. It's always been our best time together. As soon as my two boys are old enough, they're coming too and the cycle will continue. We'll climb mountains, hole up in tents, and try to avoid the sharp side of porcupines. In time, I might even teach them how to predict the weather.

Aaron Teasdale is a freelance writer and photographer who loves his family and anything involving bikes, skis, or the backcountry. He's currently Deputy Editor of Adventure Cyclist and Photo Editor of Outside Missoula in Missoula, Montana, where he lives with his wife and two young boys.


This little essay ran in a Big Agnes catalog once upon a time. A few images from the trip, which was in Montana's Swan Valley, are below. I'm planning another ride through the Swan with my wife and two sons soon, which is our warm-up ride for a much bigger adventure. More details on that in a later post...

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic story and images. Wonderful quality time with your father. Thanks for sharing.