Jun 17, 2022 - Things to Do

A father's story

A scrapbook photo of a boy, woman and pack horse with a newspaper clipping with headline, "Woman, boy on long hike,"
He shouldn't have worn tennis shoes. Photos: John Kamb

Over time, I've learned my dad has been a lot of things in his life: a farm boy, a war veteran, a lawyer, a judge, a horseplayer, a card shark.

  • And, a father — nine times over.

Zoom in: As the youngest of his kids, I learned soon enough that my dad had lived four decades before I ever existed.

Background: The generational gaps between my dad and me served as a barrier to "knowing" each other better.

  • Growing up, sometimes I even felt a bit ripped off that I didn't know my dad as a younger man like some of my older siblings did.

Yes, but: This month, I learned a story about my dad I'd never heard before.

  • My oldest brother unearthed a scrapbook from my folks' attic with an old photo and a yellowed newspaper clipping.

What it said: The photo captured a kid of about 10 in a cowboy hat standing next to a woman in a flannel shirt, in front of a pack horse laden with supplies.

  • The clipping's headline: "Woman, boy on long hike."

Context: The news story described how the woman and "little John Kamb" — my dad — set out on a months-long hike from their hometown in Skagit County, over the Cascade Mountains to Lake Chelan in eastern Washington, and back again.

  • That's a roughly 300-mile round-trip trek over the North Cascades via a pass beneath a peak 5,300+ feet high.

Zoom out: My dad was about as young as my youngest kid is today.

  • I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact a kid that age would ask to join a seemingly random adult — his neighbor — on a hike across mountains so rugged they're nicknamed the "American Alps."
  • And, that the kid's parents agreed to let him go!

State of play: These new details about my pop were enlightening enough, but this week I called to quiz him about that adventure.

What he said: "Well, I wore tennis shoes instead of hiking shoes," he told me. "My feet got so sore I couldn't walk past Sedro Woolley."

  • His parents picked him up from the logging town after he couldn't go any further.

Meanwhile, the neighbor went on to complete the trip.

  • "I was disappointed," my dad said.
  • Still, a 10-mile hike to the Cascade foothills wasn't a bad showing for a boy who clearly dreamed big.
  • Why hadn't my dad ever shared this story before? "Nobody asked," he said.

Between the lines: I'd like to think that perhaps that far-off, abandoned endeavor happened for no other reason than to be rediscovered decades later.

  • It sparked a phone call that helped a dad share a never-told-before tale about himself — and a few laughs — with his son.
  • I'm still discovering things about my pop — and to me, that’s magic.
  • I hope you get to make some magic with your dad this weekend, too.

Of note: If Father’s Day is difficult for you, for any reason, I hope you do something kind for yourself or others this weekend.

Happy Father’s Day!

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