(and how my dad helped me find it)
I grew up out West, with parents who took our family camping pretty regularly. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized how special it was that we got to share those experiences together. Looking back, I can see that it was an intentional decision my parents made for us as a family. This wasn’t just about vacation; they wanted to give us an adventure.
One of my favorite memories was when I was home for the summer after my freshman year of college. Admittedly, it was a bit of a low point in my life. I was right in that awkward stage where I didn’t have a lot of direction; I was working a lousy retail job, stuck in a day-to-day rut while I tried to figure out what was next.
At some point that summer, my dad and I heard a friend talking about the Lost Coast—a stretch of northern California coastline that’s so rugged, even Highway 1 had to go inland to escape it. This was truly wild country… the kind of place you’d hear backpackers and outdoorsy people talk about in hushed, reverent tones. Of course, this was before the Internet, so the mystique only grew.
I talked about it with my dad, and to my surprise, he thought we should go check it out. As we daydreamed about the trail, he must have noticed a spark in me—something that had been missing in the rest of my life. So he jumped at the opportunity. We launched into planning mode—getting a permit at the BLM office, digging through the garage for equipment, and squinting at paper maps and tide tables.
Looking back, my dad must have had plenty of other things going on at that moment. Surely he had stresses and deadlines at work. He probably had to figure out who would cover for him while he was away—and completely out of phone range. As a dad myself, I’ve found there are always logistical reasons that can keep you from doing something significant with your kids. The real work in parenthood comes in recognizing the opportunities you have, and making the most of them.
And so that’s how my dad and I found ourselves backpacking for three days across 25 miles of pristine coastline—sometimes shrouded in fog, sometimes with the sun shining brilliantly on the bright blue water and golden hills. I’ll never forget the most exciting part of the trek, when we had to pass a headland in between crashing waves… not knowing what would await us on the other side. It was real and raw, and we were completely at the mercy of nature. (We made it through—barely.)
All this adventure had been right outside our doorstep all along… but it took a dad’s intentional choice for us to get out there and experience it together.
-Mike Tiemann, Christ in the Smokies Committee Member