My passion for the outdoors knows no bounds... blame my dad. He died when I was nine. He worked for the US Forest Service and would have worked for free just to be outdoors, but he had to feed me... so he took me along and taught me to love trees... it's in my blood.
My Dad as Super Hero
My dad was an avid outdoorsman. He camped, hunted and fished. He trained hunting dogs and competed in field trials. He raced homing pigeons. He even built a wooden duck hunting boat in the basement of our house. I wanted nothing more than to be in his presence. I remember how privileged I felt when he let me help paint the camouflage on the boat or when he let me turn the crank that started the homing pigeon racing clock.
Our community water system consisted of a reservoir high on a hill in the woods behind our home. Every now and then we would turn on the faucet in our home and get dirty water. To my dad it meant that the bears had been playing in the small reservoir and had loosened the pipe that fed water to our neighborhood. To me it meant that I got to hike up the hill with my dad to repair the pipe. On the way my dad would point out wildlife along the way. More fun for me, my dad would pick up leaves and bark along the trail and quiz me as to what type of tree it fell from. I felt 10-feet tall and bullet proof when I got the answer right.
I remember walking for miles up and down the beaches of the Straits of Juan de Fuca in Washington State looking for geoducks (pronounced gooey ducks). Geoducs are huge clams with 3 foot long necks. They dig deep into the sandy beaches and send water spouts (called spitting) up through the sand. My job was to find the spitting and turn my sand bucket upside down on that spot on the sand. My dad would then come and dig up the clam. Imagine my pride when he would tell his friends that “my little girl found our dinner tonight.” I remember him cracking oysters and eating them raw on the beach. My favorite part of beach camping was when he would build a fire on the beach and let me pull out my sleeping bag and fall asleep right there on the beach listening to the ocean waves.
My dad taught me about caring for the outdoors long before “leave no trace” hiking was popular. Whenever we hiked through the national forests of Washington, we were always on the lookout for what he called “idiot tracks.” Idiot tracks consisted of any trash left behind by humans. He taught me to always leave the forest cleaner than I found it. I don’t remember a single backwoods trip that I couldn’t find a few idiot tracks to pick up and take home. It is something that I have passed on to my own children. My dad would be proud to hear his grandchildren, after packing up all the gear at a campsite say, “Okay, now let’s find some idiot tracks to take home with us before we leave.”
Gone but Not Forgotten
The most significant influence on my life died when I was nine years old. He spent my first nine years of life telling me that I was important, valued, smart and precious. I believed him. Those nine years of being truly valued for who I am have carried me through more trials than I care to describe here. Dads, spend time with your daughters. It pays HUGE benefits.
After my dad died our family continued to be active in the outdoors, only less so. We didn’t spend long hours hiking in the woods anymore, but we went camping in our cab-over camper and International pickup truck. We did some hiking on Mt Si near Snoqualmie Falls, Washington. We visited Mt. Rainier, Little Sahara sand dunes in Utah, Yosemite National Park, Redwood National Park, Carlsbad Caverns and many more of America’s breath-taking natural wonders. I never forgot the wonderful memories with my dad and I never got tired of the woods.
Moving Across the Country
Several years after my dad died, my grandfather in Louisiana died. My grandmother was left with a 200 acre farm to run by herself. My mother, having 3 young, strong children, moved us back to her home in Louisiana to help on the farm. I was 15 years old and just beginning high school. I had no desire to move to Louisiana and even after 30 years of living there, never lost the thought that “one of these days” I am going to move back to the mountains.
Following in Dad's Footsteps
I grew up and had children of my own. Being a young mother, money was tight. Camping provided the perfect opportunity for vacations. Not only were they less expensive than extensive travel, but it allowed me to show my children the wonders of nature that I had loved as a child. My family spent many hours in the campgrounds and parks of Mississippi, Louisiana, and (our favorite) the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. My older daughter really caught the outdoors bug. When she was 14 years old she got involved with a co-ed division of the Boy Scouts of America called the Venture Crew. She began backpacking, rock climbing and rappelling at least once a month.
One day my daughter came home and said, “Mom, the Venture Crew has a problem. In order to take girls and boys into the woods, we have to have at least one female and one male chaperone. Our female chaperone has moved to Nevada and Al (the Venture Crew leader) said he doesn’t know of another woman willing to go into the woods without a shower for a few days. I raised my hand and said, ‘my Mom will’. Will you become one of our leaders?” It took me about 1.5 seconds to accept. I was back in the woods!
Some of the things that the Venture Crew taught the kids, I had never done. I had never rock climbed or rappelled. I was an enthusiastic student. My first rappel was over a 90 foot cliff. My daughter was my first belayer. My daughter and I continued hiking and camping with the Venture Crew until she grew up and joined the US Army.
Back to the Mountains
In 2007, my “one of these days” came around. The opportunity came for me to move to wherever I wanted. I chose Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. I spent two unforgetable years there, enjoying the wonderful, breath-taking beauty of God's amazing handiwork.
I hope you enjoy the information on this site and find it useful. It consists of bits and pieces that I have picked up through a lifetime spent in the woods. I truly hope that it inspires you to give the outdoors a try. Why did I choose ultralight backpacking? Check out my home page about a particular hiking trip in Arkansas for the answer.
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This page dedicated to the Memory of
Erwin Glen (Doc) Mathys
my dad, the most influential person in my life.
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