Small Wonders: Continuing Dad's traditions

June 17, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

Chapstick. Classic flavor Chapstick.

It's one of those things that transports me back to an exact moment in life. When I smell it, I am a wide-eyed child, uneasy and excited — curious about the man giving it to me, comforted because he was my father. It was the flavor I always remember him carrying in his pocket.

I had some in my pocket last weekend as we made the long drive to Sequoia National Park, where we were taking Thing 1 and Thing 2 for their first camping trip. When I applied that waxy moisturizing protection to my lips, I was a 10-year-old sitting in the passenger seat as my father drove us on one of our camping trips — Simon and Garfunkel softly singing in the background of a bygone time as we made our way up steep mountainous grades in his heavily laden truck.


Much like my truck now.

He always had a can of smoked almonds or beer nuts handy for those yawning drives. More flavors that take me back. I like a jar of trail mix with M&Ms for these trips. I take a handful and hand it to the back seat. When they hand it back, it's just plain trail mix.

Up the winding, nauseating road we go; moans emanate from behind me, and I wonder: Did I complain so gratingly? Fight with my brother so snidely? Probably. Yet one more reason to apologize to my parents now.

Campgrounds carpeted with dust and pine needles, ash-filled fire pits awaiting the night's blaze provide more scents, more memories. Did I ever offer to help set up the tent or the campsite? I don't recall. But Thing 2 offered. And though the task took twice as long, I was glad for her assistance, proud of her selflessness in the face of a forest to scavenge, kids to play with and a river to explore.

Rivers. I've always loved mountain rivers — Sierra snowmelt turning them into treacherous, wondrous flows over boulders and fallen trees. I could sit and stare at running water for hours with no desire to change the channel.

We followed a trail up that river to the great waterfall at its source. And the whole way I was looking for the perfect spot to drop a line, that one calm and accessible pool advertising good fishing. I could hear my dad's reluctant voice though: “Too rough,” “too shallow,” “no room to cast.” And he was right.

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