In honor of Father's Day coming up on Sunday, June 16th, I will be featuring three outdoor father's favorite experiences with their children. First up! Michael Byrd is a devoted husband, fun father of four kids, avid hiker, future novelist, excellent cook and amateur photographer, Michael feels lucky to live in the shadow of the Nantahala Mountains in western North Carolina. With literally hundreds of miles of hiking trails in his backyard, Michael is doing his best to explore each one of them. You can keep up with his progress at ATatdusk.com
Posted on December 17, 2012
It’s not every day I get invited on a night hike. And as much as
that sounds like a simple statement, it’s actually a veiled request for more
invitations – hint, hint.
I know. It’s not very subtle, but night hikes are fun. In fact,
in my opinion, which is what you’re going to get since this is my blog, they’re
the second most fun thing you can do at night.
What makes this night hike so special? Glad you asked. It was my
oldest daughter’s idea.
|Photo by Rob Gasbarro|
She’s my outdoorsy kid. Well, all my kids will go outdoors and
on hikes – when I ask, but my oldest daughter will ask me to go on hikes. It’s
nice. She loves hiking and being in the woods. And I love seeing her
So, last week, she came to me and asked me to go along with her
on the Outdoor 76 Night Hike. She read about it on Facebook. I didn’t have to
think about it. Of course, I would go.
I’ll admit, though, I was a little surprised that she was
interested in a “night” hike. This is the girl who won’t take the dog out after
sunset even with all the outside lights on. Or walk into the dark garage. It’s
a big step and I was absolutely not going to let slip by.
But I wondered what could have motivated her enough to hike in
You know, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there
was more to this invitation than just a chance to hike at night. It’s possible
she knew her brothers and sister would never consider doing a night hike and it
would give her some individual, quality time with Daddy.
This isn’t unique to her. They all do it. I’m just grateful they
think I’m still cool enough to hang out with.
Anyway, I asked her to gather all the details and we carved our
plans in stone. This date was not going to be broken. So, Friday night,
December 14th, we were hiking to the top of Silers Bald in
the Nantahala Mountain Range – not to be confused with Silers Bald in the
Smokies, although it is the same family.
Reservations were required, so my daughter made sure I was the
first one to call. All that was left was hammering out the details. (You can
see our Fourteen Essentials for a Night Hike here.)
We made a trip to Outdoor 76, our local, community oriented
outfitter, so she could pick out her very own headlamp. It was an event. You
would have thought she was picking out a prom dress – or, at least, how I
imagine other 16 year old girls are about picking out prom dresses.
She inspected every detail and component. She tried them all on
– in front of a mirror, looking at herself from every angle. She tested the
lights and moving parts. She even read the packaging. And in her ever practical
way, she picked the medium priced headlamp that provided the most options and
output. See. Not your typical teenager.
While we were there, three of her friends, who were window
shopping for clothes, saw her and came over to chat. My daughter’s not your
typical girly-girl. Sure, she loves clothes, and dresses, and fashion, and
being a girl, but it’s not her whole life. She also loves camping, getting
dirty and following the trail less traveled.
Her friends had a hard time understanding why in the world she
would want to hike…at night…in the dark…on a Friday…with a bunch of grown-ups.
It didn't bother my daughter one bit.
|Photo by Rob Gasbarro|
She actually looked very pleased by their reaction. I could tell
by her piercing blue eyes and her confident, yet gentle smile she was thinking
to herself, “You silly little girls.”
Yes. The force is strong with this one.
The day finally came and it was the best hike ever. There were
about 30 of us in all. Spirits were high. The temperature was great. The
campfire was toasty warm. And zillions of stars were twinkling in the sky.
I’ll never forget the cool mountain air on my cheeks. I’ll never
forget the view of the lights of Franklin, shining in the valley below. I’ll
never forget the new friends and hiking buddies we met that night.
But there’s much more I’m taking away from that night. I knew my
daughter was amazing, but the whole process of planning this trip, climbing to
the top of Silers Bald, the way she was with people of all ages, the strength
with which she carried herself and overcoming the dark, left an indelible image
in my mind.
It was one of those rare experiences where you get a glimpse of
who your child is going to be as an adult. And, I like it. She’s going to be
even more amazing than I could have ever imagined.
You can visit more wonderful posts by Michael at ATatDusk.com