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Hiking With My Daughter

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Growing up, much of the hiking I did was with my father. We would go out with a group of other fathers and sons and mostly day hike in Catskill and Hudson Highland mountains New York State. To this day I still have vivid memories of many of those trips and while I may not have appreciated it or understood back then, the time I spent with my father on the trail and camping left an impression on me that still resonate with me to this day.

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The author and his father, who inspired a love for the outdoors. All photos: Rich Van Antwerp

Father-Daughter Trail Time

And now, some 40 years later I’m the dad now being joined by his daughter on the trail.

I never would have imagined it, but over the last six months my daughter has decided to join me more and more often. I really shouldn’t be surprised. She loved our family camping trips when she was younger. But those trips more luxurious with lots of modern conveniences, nothing like the backpacking we’re doing now.

I am absolutely thrilled that she has taken up hiking with me. She’s done a number of big elevation hikes with me in Oregon and now that she is home from college for the summer she is joining me more frequently on my hikes around Iowa.

Literary Inspiration

While I’m sure she just wants to spend more time with dad, she’s had other influences: reading Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods for her Environmental Science class last year and reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Both books helped her gain a greater appreciation for my hiking passion and what it was like for me on the trail during my extended backpacking trips.

She began encouraging me to come visit her more often in Richmond with the enticing carrot of doing some section hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Of course I obliged. I love my daughter and I love to hike. Sharing this with her was a gift, one I hoped would continue. And it has—she recently asked if she could join me on my John Muir Trail trip this summer.

Upping the Ante

Day hiking is one thing, but a week long backpacking trip carrying all your gear in the Sierras is quite another thing. In fact it wasn’t just my daughter who asked to join our trip, but the daughters of two of my friends who will also be on the trip. I smelled a conspiracy!!!! So now our original group of five guys has swelled to eight with the addition of three of our daughters. Fortunately, growing up these girls all knew each other and were amongst the gaggle of kids on our family camping trips.

My immediate response was to be thrilled and excited to spend a week on the trail with my daughter and I imagined all the memories we will cherish for a lifetime. But, there was a lot to consider and none more important than securing more permits. Fortunately we were able to find permits for the same day, but from a different trailhead not too far from where we are starting so we can meet up on the trail on day one and finish the rest of the week together.


Still, some questions simmered. Can she really do this? Can she carry a 25-30lb pack 15 miles a day? Will she be able to handle the altitude? How will her feet hold up?

My daughter assured me that carrying a pack would not be a problem, and it’s true: she’s strong. But just to make sure, I loaded up a backpack with 30 pounds of gear and had her do some test hikes with me. No problem.

Then it was on to worrying about altitude. After talking with her more about it, we believe she’ll do as well as anyone coming to altitude. She has been skiing in Colorado for over ten years and has never experienced any difficulties with altitude.

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Father-daughter bonding aside, joining a John Muir Trail backpacking trip requires great footwear. Rich bought his daughter a pair of Oboz Sawtooth Lows.

The last of my worries was her feet. She’s been hiking in some low cut trail hikers and I just felt more comfortable if she did the John Muir Trail in a more sturdy backpacking boot. We ordered her a pair of Oboz Sawtooths and while they don’t take very much to break in, she is wearing them on a daily basis just so she feels confident and used to them by the time our trip starts.

She won’t be the only one wearing Oboz on our trip. Of the eight in our group, four of us will be “true to the trail” in our Oboz boots.

A Shared Love

Our John Muir Trail trip is now less than two months away. It’s been quite an experience planning, training and figuring out every last detail we can think of. I’m thrilled to share it with my daughter and hope her interest in my passion for the outdoors sticks. Perhaps she’ll walk away with a better understanding of these words of wisdom from John Muir: “Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

At the heart of everything we do are the folks who make the magic happen. A group of likeminded footwear-industry vets who left our big-brand jobs back in 2007 intent on doing business a better way. 

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