The Oldest Man on the Mountain

Justin hiking with his dad in Hells Canyon, Oregon.

Growing up with a dad who was keen on getting outdoors meant that camping and hiking were a part of life for me.

Admittedly, when I was five years old, there were things that I would rather be doing than spending a few nights in the wilderness with my dad. I wondered what my friends were doing or what was on television. On those childhood backpacking trips, Dad did his best to pack food for the trail—but his best was still pretty bad. Our meals usually consisted of ramen noodles, Cheese Wiz and jerky, but I know he tried.

As a kid, I would act like I was tired in the hopes that my dad would give me candy. He could come up with really creative ways to motive me, like when he would yell out to the trees and rivers: “Great Spirits of the Wilderness, please give this boy energy!” He would then harness the power of Mother Nature and send the energy back into my scrawny little body and I would miraculously be able to walk the next two miles to our camping spot. That and a candy bar usually did the trick.

Every summer, my dad and I still try to make a backpacking trip together. The roles are now reversed, however, and I seem to have the heavier pack.  I have to hand it to the guy, though – he’s usually the oldest man out on the trail.

Last summer, I talked the tough old guy into climbing Mt. Huron, a 14,000-foot peak in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. The day we hiked, he was close to turning 65.  Half way up the climb, I began to notice that everyone else on the trail seemed young. I knew that no one that day on the trail was older than my old man. I dubbed him, “The Oldest Man on the Mountain,” a nickname that he accepted proudly. The tradition of father and son backpacking lives on and he’ll be back to climb another peak this summer.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Want to get active with your dad this Father’s Day? Find hiking locations on Federal lands near you on Recreation.gov, reserve campgrounds for overnight trips on ReserveAmerica or download the mobile app to find great camping spots on-the-go!

– Justin Moser is a marketing specialist and gets active by enjoying the great outdoors.