Sunday, August 30, 2009

Passing It On

As of three days ago, my two littlest boys had never been camping or fishing.

With one weekend window left open for summer, it was time to remedy that. They are at the perfect little boy age for camping and fishing.

I blame the need to have camping and fishing in the lives of my children on my dad.
He loved camping and fishing, and hunting as well, with the passion of a man born in the wilderness.
Here he is doing some winter camping. I'm pretty sure he is making his iconic sourdough pancakes. My dad used to sleep with the sourdough starter in his sleeping bag to keep it the right warm temperature for the morning pancake batter. He was a hardcore sourdough man. As for the red pants...I don't know about that. But I know the rest of the clothes came back with him from Alaska.

During my early childhood most weekends were spent camping, canoing and fishing. Most of the time was spent in northern Minnesota, where my dad was from, but we also camped in Canada, Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. This is what our campsite typically looked like in those days. This photo was taken after we graduated to luxury camping with a new Coleman tent, cots for sleeping, a fold-up table and a heater. My dad made the "chuckbox" on the picnic table to hold our dry groceries. He made one for Mr. Dirtywrench and I when we started our own camping adventures.

That's my little brother and myself with Mom around the ol' campfire. We didn't just camp in summer. I remember all kinds of weather and conditions.

I've done very little camping with my own kids in the last fifteen or so years. It's a ridiculous amount of work to pack up the family and all the necessities for a few days of woods livin'. But camping is such a great activity for the family and if you already have the gear, it's practically a free vacation.

I brought along a box of photos from my mom's house to look through. I found this. My dad was with me for the whole weekend. I spent a lot of meditation on the many hours we spent together camping, canoing and fishing. This weekend I told my kids stories of our times- the bears, the moose, the loons calling on the lake, portaging in the Boundary Waters, pouring rain on the tent...

My dad passed away in 1999. Before he was gone he was able to teach my older kids something about fishing.

With all my memories of fishing, I remember actually catching very few fish.

My dad's not here to teach my littlest guys the tricks so it was up to me. Before we left for the mountain lake, my brother brought the kids brand-new poles. He also brought the tackle box.

When I opened it, I was transported back in time. I was seven years old again, examining all the colorful lures in my dad's box. These are my dad's lures in my brother's box.

At our mountain lake I had to reach back into the dusty corners of my mind to remember how to rig up the lines for my kids. I taught them how to cast. I had to thread all the worms for them as none of them would even try. I told them they better remember it on Mother's Day.

In three days, we never had even a nibble. That's in keeping with tradition, but also, I've forgotten all the tricks.
But then, it didn't look like anyone else on the lake ever caught anything either.

The second legacy I needed to pass down was the art of canoing.

My dad built his own canvas canoe when I was a kid. I remember it on props near the garage. It was put out of commission when a rock was flung out of a lawn mower through the canoe.

Thirteen years ago, on one of our few camping trips, Alyssa was the little one in the middle.

This time she was the one in command at the rear.

By the end of the weekend, the little boys had mastered maneuvering the canoe themselves.

My dad would have loved it.


  1. Love this post mom. Really kind of made me homesick.
    Thanksgiving? I was in the middle of the jungle. Too much going on to worry.

    Christmas? I was in Galápagos. How sad that I missed family Christmas...

    Easter? Laid on the beach in Chilé. So sad.

    Timothy Lake family vacation? I... uh... aw, I want to be there! It's been probably 6 or 7 years since I went to Timothy Lake with the family. I could have went crawdaddin' with the kids! Ugh.

  2. Someday I hope we get to have a big, happy, family vacation at Timothy Lake with ALL of us!

    Looks like you guys had fun!

  3. What wonderful memories to share with your dad. I'm so glad you shared it with us. Nothing beats camping in the great outdoors in a tent in freezing cold temperatures or during a thunderstorming monsoon. Your boys will cherish the memories you're making with them.

    I've got to get the tent out and go camping now. Fall around here is the perfect time.

  4. Katie and Kris-
    Two campsites down there was a family reunion campout going on. They had birthday parties and games and laughter. I thought too, someday I hope we can all go there like that!


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