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My First Hike with Dad, Revisited 40 Years Later

What experience got you hooked on the outdoors?

My dad and brother on San Gabriel Peak, 1972For me, I can trace it back to the first time my dad took me hiking 40 years ago this year when I was either 11 or 12. Along with my older brother Robert (that's him with my dad in the vintage-1972 photo at right), we hiked up San Gabriel Peak (6164') in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour's drive from our house in Southern California.

It must not have been too big of a deal to my dad, since I can recall only a couple of other occasions when we ever hiked together again. He was a wonderful father, but he enjoyed his other hobbies more. That's fine.

Looking back, though, that one outing somehow planted a seed in me that eventually grew to become one of my lifelong passions: hiking.

After running across a couple of old photos of that hike, I recently went back to San Gabriel Peak for the first time since then. (Why so long, you ask? I've been living in Seattle for the past 26 years.) I wondered what the hike would be like today.

During my return visit, alas, I found the peak to be virtually unrecognizable. The mammoth Station Fire of 2009 had scorched pretty much the entire mountain—along with much of the surrounding areas you can see from the top. As a result, the hardy trees and chaparral I remembered as a kid had been reduced to a skeleton forest with a scrubby green groundcover that is now thankfully growing back. On the bright side, the fire did open up some nice views of the nearby landscape.

Skeleton forest on San Gabriel Peak
There's still a cool tunnel to walk through near the beginning of the hike. And the summit still had what I assumed to be the same USGS benchmark embedded in concrete, though a new-looking bench had been installed to enjoy the panoramic view of the LA basin. The skies were crystal-clear on my return visit, so the view was impressive. All in all, it's still a pleasant spot to visit despite the fire.

My hike did rekindle one vivid 40-year-old memory for me. As a novice hiker back then I recall being terrified by a few steep avalanche gullies where the trail narrowed. The footing was loose and the dropoff considerable. Aha, the same sketchy spots were still there on my recent hike! They were no longer as terrifying to me, a more experienced hiker, but one still has to proceed cautiously to pass through without incident.

San Gabriel Peak trail, 2012San Gabriel Peak trail, 1972

One final observation: The hike was surprisingly short, just 3 miles roundtrip and maybe 1000 feet of elevation gain. But, as a father myself, I can appreciate now that this was simply good planning on my dad's part to start me off with something manageable and fun. Thanks, Dad!

My father passed away years ago, so I can offer only a belated thank you to him now for introducing me to the joys of hiking in the mountains.

How about you? Who introduced you to your favorite outdoor activity?

Posted on at 5:18 PM

Tagged: Father's Day, Hiking, San Gabriel Peak and fire

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Enjoyed your story! It made me question when the defining moment was for me when I became "hooked". It also made me think of my Dad who instilled a love of adventure and nature in general. He has passed away, but I will be forever grateful he took the time to teach us (5 kids) a love for the outdoors.

Jens of Denmark

For me the love of the outdoors comes from scouting where i started at age 8.
My first big hike was 8 days across Jotunheimen in Norway at that time i was 14, it was a grate adventure to get out to a place where no matter what happend you know you have 2 days hike to help. it teaches self reliance.

i have now had 2 groups of young scouts introduced to the Swiss alps, hopefully thair first big adventure will be part of them for a long time.


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