Thursday, July 29, 2010

Outdoor Activity Hydration Safety

“Our football coaches used to make us do two-a-days in the hot August sunshine with almost no water. They said that water was bad for football workouts,” my co-worker said. Nowadays that would be considered legally actionable abuse.

Awareness of hydration safety has grown immensely in recent years. Dehydration is now recognized as a serious and potentially life threatening problem. My son’s scoutmaster has a “keep it clear” policy. “If your urine isn’t clear,” he tells the boys, “you’re not drinking enough water.”

We have also become much more aware of water purity issues. Years ago when I worked on Boy Scout camp staff, we would head off on hikes with a small canteen, if we took one at all. We wouldn’t go thirsty. We’d drink from any stream that looked clean. After all, how impure could a wilderness water source be? I did this for years without ever becoming ill.

But cases of infection from backcountry water sources have increased dramatically since those days. Human backcountry use has increased. Domestic and wild animals contaminate water too. Even water bubbling up from the highest altitude sources has been found to carry bacteria, viruses, and/or parasites that are potentially harmful to humans and animals.

A couple of years ago, a friend contracted Giardia after drinking from a mountain stream. He said that the common joke about the condition is accurate. He felt so awful that at first that he was afraid he was going to die. When he felt even worse, he was afraid he wasn’t going to die. Fortunately, a trip to the emergency room had him feeling normal within a day.

Sometimes we scare people so badly with tales of water contamination that we circumvent common sense. Dehydration is a much more immediate threat than waterborne infection. If a hiker is out of water and is thirsty, it’s usually better to drink from an available water source, even if it might carry infectious agents. Time is on your side to get treatment for an infection, while refraining from drinking in such a situation might leave you uninfected but dead.

Last week when I accompanied my son’s scout troop on a 16+ mile hike through the Yellowstone backcountry, I started off with more than a gallon of water and a backpacking water filter pump. My son carried nearly a gallon. Although we would encounter a number of water sources on the hike, we carried enough drinking water for ourselves plus extra for others that might be less prepared.

As it happened, hike day turned out to be overcast and cooler. I consumed less than half of my water on the nine-hour trek. But a couple of weeks earlier when my son and I hiked to Lewis Peak, we encountered another hiker at the peak that had already drunk the pint of water she had brought. As I always carry extra water on hikes, I gave her a quart bottle for the return trip. But I thought her to be irresponsible.

I see people carrying all kinds of pricey water bottles. My requirements for a water bottle include size and sturdiness. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to keep from leaking. Liter-sized Gatorade bottles have tended to work out pretty well for me. But I’ve been known to use two-liter soda bottles.

Personally, I don’t care for CamelBak-type water systems for several reasons. They make my back sweat. Consequently, heat transfers from my body to make the water warm quicker. I guess that’s OK if you enjoy a sweaty back and warm water. The bladders tend to have that nasty plastic taste and they leak far too often. To top it off, I don’t really care to sip when I’m hiking or biking. I like to pause, take a deep drink, and then get back on the trail for a goodly distance before pausing again. But, that’s just me.

I’m glad that proper hydration safety is becoming recognized as an important part of all outdoor activities. From personal experience, I can say that you feel a lot better, can go further, and can do more when you are adequately hydrated. It takes some planning to make sure that you take care of this detail. But it’s an effort that pays off.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Never Knew My Grandpa (part 2)

In my last post I wrote about what happened when my paternal grandfather passed away. That got me to thinking about my maternal grandfather, who passed away a few months before I was born. As I pondered my Grandpa, I came to realize that I have never had much respect for the man; a realization that rather surprised me.

Decades after his passing, it turns out that I really don’t know much about Grandpa. And most of what I do know seems to emphasize differences rather than resemblances. For example, I know that Grandpa loved to hunt and fish. He was never overly concerned about governmentally established seasons, limits, and licensing regarding these activities. While I have grown to enjoy hiking and camping, I am not and never have been much of a hunter or angler. It’s just not my thing.

I think that I have probably harbored a lifelong resentment of Grandpa because he had the audacity to die before I could spend any time with him in this life. Somehow this left me feeling deprived as a child. To top it off, he effectively smoked himself to death because he was apparently too addicted to give up tobacco. In my young mind, Grandpa’s irresponsibility denied me the opportunity to associate with him. It is likely that I have never quite gotten over this resentment.

A decade ago at a family reunion, one of my older cousins related the story of how he and a couple of my other cousins decided to try smoking tobacco out behind Grandpa’s barn when they were quite young. He said that Grandpa caught them and gave them the severest tongue lashing he had ever experienced. Grandpa explained to them how horribly addicting tobacco was and how much he wished he could rid himself of the habit.

My grandparents started out in Illinois. Like many of their era, they migrated westward over time. After spending a number of years in Nebraska, they ended up in a sparsely populated region of northern Wyoming. They were always farmers. Grandpa supplemented this with other trades, including working in the oil fields. He was kind of short and wiry. Someone once said he was a good worker.

Mom has never told me a whole lot about her father. When I was young, the only pictures I saw of Grandpa depicted him dying of cancer. Other pictures surfaced when I was a young adult (probably because my uncle was a professional photographer). Eventually Mom hung an enlarged and framed copy of her parents’ wedding certificate on the wall of her bedroom. The certificate included photos of Grandma and Grandpa in their prime. They made a handsome couple.

My Dad came from Germany, where the frontier had been eradicated centuries earlier. After he and Mom wed, they drove up to northern Wyoming to see her parents. Dad was stunned by the drive. It is one thing to see the road on a map and an entirely different thing to actually traverse hundreds of miles of desolate prairies. Dad had never even imagined that such vast stretches of bleakness existed.

Dad was shocked to see his new in-laws’ primitive living conditions. They lived in a rundown “tar paper shack,” he said. The only decent furnishings in the place had been gifts from my Mom. Their “farm” was a rather ramshackle arrangement. Nobody had lived like that in Germany for centuries. Grandpa was older and in declining health by this time. Dad’s observation was that the man did nothing but sit around the house reading cowboy novels and smoking.

Mom said that Dad’s descriptions were exaggerations, probably amplified by the fact that he was used to living in a fairly urbanized culture. But then a few years ago, my uncle found and distributed photographs of the family from when Mom was young. Mom didn’t like the photos of the family standing in front of the old house. “It looks like the Grapes of Wrath,” she said. “It WAS the Grapes of Wrath,” Dad replied.

This is about the extent of my knowledge of Grandpa. I have little awareness of his better qualities. On the other hand, Grandpa helped raise my Mom, whom I greatly love and respect. Most of Mom’s siblings have passed on, but I admire some of their qualities too. And I definitely think highly of the character of some of their children, who are my cousins. Grandpa must have had something to do with this.

We all have our positive and negative traits. I shouldn’t be so hasty to dismiss Grandpa for his perceived faults. I am not called to be his judge. Perhaps some of my finest characteristics are derived from the way he raised his family. And no matter what, he’s still my Grandpa. Perhaps the opportunity will arise for me to get to know him in the next life.

I Never Knew My Grandpa

I never met either of my grandfathers. One died of cancer a few months before I was born. The other lived in Germany. When I was 14, my German grandpa (“Opa”) died after having suffered a stroke. I had chatted briefly with him on the phone a few times over the years, but I had never met him.

Back in those days, communication with Europe was far more expensive than it is today. We would generally talk on the phone with my German grandparents on Christmas and maybe a couple of other times each year. But my German was pretty rudimentary and my grandparents spoke no English. So the phone conversations mostly involved my parents.

Travel to Europe was pretty expensive back then as well. After years of saving, my parents finally managed to scrape together enough money to visit the relatives in Germany when I was eight. This was made possible thanks to good neighbors that took each of us kids into their homes for several weeks while my parents were away.

Over the next few years, my parents communicated fairly regularly with the German family members; mostly by mail, but also by phone calls. Still, it was not uncommon for lapses in communication to extend several months at a time. Given our family’s budget, travel to Germany was out of the question.

Late in my 15th summer, my Dad received a letter from his sister. She explained that my Opa had passed away about a month earlier. Dad was stunned. He couldn’t understand why nobody had bothered to call him. He would have moved heaven and earth to attend the funeral, but he didn’t even know about it.

At the time, I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. Dad’s location in America seemed to work pretty well with regard to family relationships. He always said that he “felt like a fish out of water” in his own family and that moving to America had improved the relationship. In other words, he wasn’t that close with his parents and siblings.

But the failure of Dad’s mother and siblings to immediately notify him of his own father’s death left him with a terrible sense of betrayal. As is the common nature of grief, I’m sure that this was mingled with a certain amount of guilt. As a self absorbed and callow teenager, I didn’t appreciate what Dad was going through. I figured that my 75-year-old Opa was so ancient that he was bound to kick off sooner or later. What was the big deal? (By the way, 75 no longer looks so terribly old to me.)

I think you only really gain some comprehension of these kinds of things by experiencing them yourself. While most of us expect to deal with the deaths of our parents, their unexpected passing can leave us grappling with the raw edge of grief. The standard steps in the grieving process necessarily follow at their own pace.

On the other hand, I watched Dad decline for a year and a half until he mercifully passed away. By that time, most of the family members had already been going through the stages of grief for some time. We were prepared for the impending closure.

When we met with the funeral director a short time after Dad’s body was picked up, we already had the obituary written and the funeral program planned. The director noted that we seemed relatively relaxed about the affair. But I think we had all simply been through most of the grieving process by then.

About three years after Opa passed away, my brother finished serving a mission for the LDS Church in another part of Germany. He then traveled and spent some time with our German relatives. They loved it, especially given the fact that my brother could speak fluent German. This helped heal some of the rift that existed between Dad and his family.

A couple of years later, another brother wrapped up his mission in Finland. He too wanted to visit our German relatives. But he was fluent in Finnish, not German. So Mom and Dad arranged to travel to Germany to be with him. It had been a dozen years since their previous visit. My youngest brother went along too. This visit helped further repair relations. By the time I visited two years later, following my mission to Norway, family relationships were in pretty good shape.

Family structures are a deeply important part of our societies. Most of us sense a deep attachment to our family members, even if there are significant differences between us. I never knew either of my grandfathers. Yet, because of the children that they raised, I feel like I know them somewhat. And I still feel a profound sense of connection with them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sacrificing for the Best Week

“This has pretty much been the best week of my life,” my son said as we sat around the campfire one night late last week. We had left in the dark early on Monday morning to drive to Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp sandwiched in the wilderness between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. My son’s comment made me realize that taking a week of precious vacation time to live in the dirt and sleep on the ground at scout camp was definitely worth the sacrifice.

I have a deep fondness for Camp Loll. It was the first scout camp that I attended as a 12-year-old boy. As an older teen, I worked on staff at the camp for a couple of years. As an adult, I have frequently returned to the place with scout troops, to volunteer my labor, or just to visit. No matter when I visit, I always encounter old friends and find opportunities to make new friends.

Since I sometimes haul family members with me on my visits to Camp Loll, last week was not my son’s first adventure there. But it was the first time he had spent an entire week at the camp with his peers in his scout troop. And that makes all the difference.

It would have been difficult to get better weather conditions than we had at camp last week. Monday and Tuesday were spectacularly beautiful days. The sunny and cloudless sky was such a deep blue hue that it seemed stunning every time I looked up through the towering spruce trees. Friday and Saturday shared these same characteristics.

It was overcast and just a little rainy on Wednesday when we trekked 16 miles through the Yellowstone back country to visit Union Falls, a spectacular phenomenon that is viewed by only a minute fraction of those that visit the park. But temperatures were great for hiking, and the trails never got muddy. Thursday was filled with variable periods of clouds and sun, but it was never unpleasant. It was almost a perfect weather week.

We started our week at Camp Loll by setting up our campsite and then undertaking the BSA swim check in the infamously icy cold waters of Lake of the Woods. My son is a pretty good swimmer and recently completed a junior lifeguarding course. Showing off for his friends, he swam 200 yards instead of the required 100 yards.

During our battles with the notoriously fierce mosquitoes of the region, my son sustained over 120 bites. I had my share of bites, but I did better at protecting myself with repellant and thicker clothing. I was fortunate enough to avoid bites from the nasty horseflies, which were just starting to proliferate last week. We did, however, succeed in killing a number of those relatively slow and bulky insects.

I was proud of my son as I watched him complete the challenging Climbing merit badge in record time. He also completed one of the four historical merit badges that have been brought back for this year to celebrate the BSA’s centennial, as well as a couple of other challenging badges. (He already has all of the badges he needs to achieve the Eagle rank.)

One of the main facets of spending a week at scout camp is for a boy to interface with his peers in a shared camping experience. It is difficult to place a value on the development of camaraderie afforded by this environment.

Of additional value is interacting with hundreds of boys from other troops. The boys at camp last week spanned various social and economic classes. One troop was from Texas. Another was from Las Vegas. But all these distinctions largely fell away when the boys were participating in merit badge classes and activities together.

Yet another value taught through this kind of experience is appreciation for our wilderness and back country resources. I will be among the first to admit that Boy Scout units have a well earned reputation for careless use of these resources. But we’ve been steadily improving since my early camping days, as we purposefully work to train and educate leaders and youth in proper care of our precious wilderness.

Nothing helps this education process more than spending a week camping in bear country, where mistakes can threaten life and limb. Doing this helps young Americans learn to respect rather than fear the wilderness. While it may take a generation to root out retrograde practices, actual wilderness experience is an unsurpassed teaching tool.

One BSA value that was on full display last week was the proud and unabashed belief in American exceptionalism. Patriotism was purposefully encouraged and love of country was decisively evoked. Youth and adults came away with an enhanced appreciation for the blessings derived from being Americans.

I also like to think that part of my son’s enjoyment of his week at camp was the fact that his Dad was there to share it with him. I viscerally sense the pros and cons of having a parent at camp with his adolescent child. After all, the kid needs to be learning to operate on his own outside of the parent’s direct influence.

On the other hand, what a wonderful thing for a child to know that a parent cares enough to share this kind of experience with him. There’s no perfect answer to this dilemma. I chose to share this experience with my son, as I have done with his older brothers. It was the right choice for us.

As a side note, I wore an old pair of cheap Wal-Mart hiking boots throughout the week. I think I paid $16 for them five or six years ago. I stopped wearing them a couple of years ago when I got a much nicer and more rugged pair of waterproof boots. At an event a couple of months ago, I sensed my feet getting tired in the better boots, so I mostly used the old boots last week. The cheap old boots along with good hiking socks wore well, but I can tell that they will soon need to be permanently retired.

We returned home on Saturday a little sunburned, a little mosquito-bitten, a little sore, a little weary, and a little dirty. But for my son, the week had been a little bit of heaven. I’m glad I was part of it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's Time to Stop Goody Tossing at the Parade

One of the great things about living in North Ogden is my city’s annual Independence Day celebration. While the size of the celebration has grown over my lifetime, it still enjoys a hometown feeling.

Each year we make an effort to get to the parade. Both sides of the main street are lined with viewers. There are usually about 100-120 entries in the parade. You see the same kind of entries year after year: a Boy Scout troop carrying the American Flag, the city’s emergency vehicles, the high school band, local politicians, vintage cars, high school and junior high sports teams and cheerleaders, small businesses, church groups, horse riders, local clubs, etc.

There used to always be a Shriner chapter that had a band playing Middle Eastern music and men driving these crazy little cars. I haven’t seen them for a few years. A few entries come and go each year. There are fewer horse groups than when I was a kid, but the essential nature of the parade entries is not much different than it was decades ago.

Over the past two decades, however, I have noticed a marked increase in one parade activity that used to be rare. Years ago, small pieces of candy would occasionally be tossed from parade entries to viewers on the side of the road. When my oldest kids were young, a kid at the parade might hope to get two or three pieces of some kind of taffy.

The practice of throwing treats to the crowd at the parade has steadily proliferated over the years. Nowadays it is rare to see a parade entry that is not tossing some kind of goody into the crowd. It’s mostly candy, but there are also T-shirts, balls, flying discs, refrigerator magnets, popsicles, water bottles, coupons, and more.

No doubt this practice adds to the fun and excitement of the event for many parade goers. But it has spawned crowd behavior that is problematic. In days of yore, children used to occasionally dash a few feet from the curb to gather candy on the pavement. Now, crowds of children spanning the entire mile-long route surge further and further into the road each year. Carrying bags like Halloween trick-or-treaters, they sometimes go right up to the passing vehicles.

This is an injury waiting to happen. It’s amazing that we have not yet experienced a headline grabbing incident as the result of this practice. I guess it’s a good thing that there are emergency responders in the parade, but the issue should never have reached this level.

In an effort to counteract this increasing problem, the city this year enlisted a number of motorcycle and bicycle cops and an entire LDS stake of volunteers clad in emergency vests. While the cops rode up and down the parade route encouraging people to stay back, the volunteers on foot each patrolled a segment of about 50 feet of road front.

The police officers and the volunteers were overcome by the crowd simply ignoring them. Children, often with the encouragement of their parents or even with their parents in tow, surged around the would-be protectors to approach the goody distributors.

Beside the safety issue presented by the goody distribution practice, the parade viewing experience is marred for those that play by the rules and stay back at the curb. Their view of the parade is now obstructed by throngs of youth standing in the street in front of them.

In recent years, the city has developed rules for parade entrants and viewers. Officially, entrants are not supposed to toss anything to the crowd. It’s OK for them to have people on foot that walk along and hand items to parade attendees. But nobody is supposed to toss anything. Despite putting this rule on paper, it has never been enforced in any meaningful way.

I like to have fun as much as the next guy. And I like it when the children have fun. But the goody tossing at our local parade has reached the point that it is out of control. I can think of only two ways to effectively deal with this issue. They could be implemented separately or together. But it is unfortunate that either should be needed at all.

The least expensive method is to play the heavy. Simply prohibit the practice of distributing anything of any kind by parade entrants. Create an actual statute and make it clear to entrants that it will be strictly enforced. Then have police along the route actually issue citations to violators. This may seem nasty and harsh to parade goers. But what else are you going to do?

The city could also do what many other cities have done: incur the expense of putting up crowd barriers all along the route. In most places, this consists of stringing bright colored rope held up by temporary stanchions. It’s amazing how well a flimsy physical barrier of this nature actually works.

But if crowd barriers are put up without eliminating goody tossing, it will do little to solve the visibility problem. Crowds of standing people would push up against the barriers, obstructing the view of those behind them. The surging crowds would also endanger the safety of the small children among them.

It seems that crowd barriers would be unnecessary in North Ogden if the practice of distributing items from parade entrants were eliminated. How many would venture out into the street if there were no goodies to be gathered? Most would simply sit on the sidelines like they used to years ago. At any rate, prohibition of the practice could be tried first before spending anything on crowd barriers.

Are there other suggestions for feasible solutions to this problem?

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Visit to Utah's Only Real Amusement Park

Our family recently spent a day at the Lagoon amusement park. This was not a new adventure. Lagoon has been around for more than a century and I’ve been visiting the place since I was a little kid.

Back in those days they had no all-day passes. People came and went from the park at will. But everything you there did cost money. You’d buy a sheet of tickets. Each ride had a sign stating the number of tickets required. (That tradition continues to this day, despite the fact that it means nothing under the current system.)

After waiting in line, you’d rip off the specified number of tickets, hand them to the attendant, and climb on the ride. As kids we memorized the phrase uttered by almost all ride operators before starting the contraption: “Keep your arms, head, and legs inside the car at all times and have fun.”

Some of my favorite attractions from my younger days are long gone. I spent plenty of time at the Fun House, with its entry maze, tilted room, spinning tunnel, high slides, spinning disc, and spinning whirlpool. I was scared beyond belief the first time I actually rode the Roll-O-Plane. I rode the aging ride a few years ago, a few months before the frame cracked and the ride was deemed irreparable.

They used to have these swinging cages that were run by human power. I thought those were cool. There was the old rocket ride that sat where the Turn of the Century swings are today, and the paddle boats on the lake. The Hammer was fun. Or at least it was fun to get off and say that you’d ridden it. The old Haunted Shack walk-through spook alley was kind of fun.

When I was a teenager, they had a ride that was like a big spinning canister. You’d stand against the wall. The ride would spin faster and faster until centrifugal force pinned you against the wall. Then the floor would drop away and you’d be suspended against the wall. I liked the ride, but I guess it was too dangerous. I used to enjoy playing SkeeBall on the midway.

I’m glad that some attractions are gone. I hated those hand powered rail devices that were reminiscent of tricycles. I’d always get queasy when riding the Magic Carpet. It was a good thing that they eventually closed down the old swimming pool. It might have been grand in the 1940s, but it was decrepit by the time it closed. Lagoon-A-Beach water park is far better.

Today’s Wild Mouse is much better than the one it replaced. Today’s gas-powered go-carts are a far cry from the old center-rail gas-powered cars. But you have to pay extra to drive or ride in the newer go-carts. I also worry about the workers there. The fumes produced by the car engines are significant.

Many attractions from my younger days are still there. The old “white” roller coaster is still somewhat harrowing to ride because it is so bumpy. Some of today’s kiddie rides are the same ones I rode as a child.

Some attractions have changed over the years — some for the better and some less so. The kiddie land is much better than it was years ago. Pioneer Village has been improved. But some of what I thought were the best features of Dracula’s Castle have been replaced by much more benign elements. They used to do great street shows in Pioneer Village but you never see those anymore.

For the last dozen or so years, Lagoon has focused on fairly significant annual improvements. Some of the rides added during this time are intense. The Wicked coaster, installed in 2007, is highly innovative and exhilarating — and/or terrifying, depending on your point of view.

The interactive fountain was a good addition. Unlike when I was a kid, Lagoon now has so many attractions designed to get you wet that you’d be well advised to dress in anticipation of this before heading off to the park.

One of my fondest memories is when my grandmother rode the Colossus while visiting from Germany. She was in her 80s at the time. As instructed, she removed her glasses before the ride started. After we got off the ride, my brother asked her how she liked going upside down twice. “We were upside down?!” she exclaimed. “But I didn’t see it!” she complained. She had to ride again. Only this time she firmly held her spectacles in place so that she could see what was happening. She was thrilled.

Going to Lagoon with the family is easier for us than it used to be, now that we no longer have toddlers. We still end up splitting up because different ages of kids have different interests. It has been years since I returned from Lagoon without at least one child holding some kind of stuffed toy gleaned (at much higher cost than it was worth) from some midway game. Like we don’t have enough stuffed critters at our house.

Like all amusement parks, the food at Lagoon is pricey. Some might complain that it’s of marginal quality too. But it’s really not too bad, as far as amusement park food goes. Tickets for a ride pass are pretty pricey too. We don’t go to Lagoon without some kind of discount. Fortunately, discount coupons are fairly widely available.

Many of the people milling around the park are school-age kids. For the price of a couple of daily passes, parents can buy a season pass for their child. Many adolescents with such passes roam the park unsupervised in packs. Far be it from me to judge another’s parenting, but I would never get my child a season pass to Lagoon. The behavior I see among the kids with such passes is not something I’d want my children to emulate.

Perhaps the greatest pastime at Lagoon is watching other park patrons. An uncanny number of them appear to be current carnival side show attractions or possibly asylum escapees. It is not unusual to see youth dress and groom bizarrely. They are naturally at a stage where they are exploring their identities. I was, however, surprised at the number of fairly young girls that wore pierced nose jewels. I guess that the boys they hope to attract find this kind of thing attractive.

More eye opening are the seasoned adults that look like they’re still trying to rebel against their parents. While I saw no legal statute violated, some people that should know better certainly were in violation of the laws of good taste and common courtesy.

What possesses a 5’4” 300-lb woman in her late 40s to think that it’s acceptable to go out in public in shorts and a teeny-bopper shirt that brazenly exposes most of her, uh, ample upper body? And, honestly, some people that visit the water park should, before donning swimwear, consider the fact that others around them might have recently eaten.

Lagoon is a great place to go if you want to see what a tattoo is going to look like on wrinkly, puffy middle-aged skin. Or what body piercings are going to look like when you’re in your 50s. As I scanned the park, it seemed to me that the majority of the folks there were members of the dependent class rather than the productive class.

Still, we enjoyed our visit to the noisy amusement park. We were also happy to head home at the end of the day. I was particularly pleased to walk to the vehicle without having to tote a cross or sleeping child.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Lewis Peak Hike

I was not much of a hiker when I was younger. I did it when I had to, usually as part of a youth group excursion. I frequently lagged behind the main body of the group. I first began to enjoy hiking when I spent a couple of summers working on the staff of Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp near the the Tetons and Yellowstone. Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis more than 20 years ago, I have hiked and backpacked more than I did in the years before that.

Not all of my family members share my enthusiasm for hiking. My #3 child has turned out to be more willing to hike with me than any of the rest of the family so far. Yesterday we hiked to Lewis Peak from North Ogden Divide. (See SummitPost for more details and pictures.) This was the fourth mountain peak in Weber County that we have hiked to together. During the past year, we have hiked to Willard Peak, Ben Lomond Peak, and Malans Peak (which isn’t really a peak). We also hiked Little Emigration Canyon last fall and did some hiking in Idaho last summer. We will be going into the Yellowstone back country this month and plan to make a trek to Mount Ogden later this season.

Yesterday was the perfect day for a hike. It was warm, sunny, and clear, but it never got hot. I wanted to get out on the trail early in the day, but my son made me go pick peas with him at a neighbor’s garden. It seems they had a bumper crop this year and needed to get rid of the excess. After our pea picking, we hit the trail at almost exactly 8:05 am.

The first 2½ miles of the 5½ mile trek to the peak is all uphill, with the first 1¾ miles being switchbacks. The trail isn’t terribly steep, but it’s a relentless climb that should tax your cardio-vascular system. When my son complained, I reminded him that you have to climb a mountain to get to a mountain peak. If you need consolation on the way up, you can look across North Ogden Divide and be grateful that you’re not climbing the more extensive switchbacks that lead toward Ben Lomond Peak.

The Lewis Peak trail is well improved and maintained. The switchbacks have no shortage of spots with loose rock. On the way to the peak, we passed fewer than a dozen hikers, a few mountain bikes, and a couple of motorcycles. The highest point of the hike to the peak mounts a hilltop that is actually higher in elevation than Lewis Peak. Once you hit that point, the trail trends mildly downward for about 2½ miles before it climbs the last half mile to the peak. Mountain bikes and motorcycles can drive right to the peak.

Once you crest the top of the switchbacks, you are offered good views of both sides of the mountain range in many spots. You can look north to Ben Lomond and south to Mount Ogden. You can see Pineview Reservoir, Willard Bay, the Great Salt Lake, and the ski runs at Snowbasin resort. You can follow branches of the trail to Pineview and to Ogden Canyon, if you wish.

The wildflowers were beautiful, although, they are at their peak beauty toward the end of July. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you can expect wind just about any time. An eyrie of golden eagles can often be seen near the top of the switchbacks. I have counted as many as seven eagles floating on the breeze up there like they were surfing the wind currents. We didn’t see the eagles yesterday.

We arrived at the peak at almost precisely 10:35. We had made it in almost exactly 2½ hours. A couple of hikers and a motorcyclist had arrived shortly ahead of us. Soon we were joined by eight more hikers and a dog. It seems that Lewis Peak was popular yesterday. One lady was carrying nothing but an empty ½-liter water bottle. There are no water sources on this hike and you can expect to sweat a lot while climbing the hill. So it’s wise to carry plenty of water. Dehydration can be dangerous. As I always carry extra, I gave the lady one of my water bottles for the hike back.

We spent about an hour lunching and hanging out on the peak. More hikers came, as did a couple of mountain bikers and another motorcyclist. We left the peak at almost precisely 11:35 am. After the initial descent, my son was stunned to discover that we had a (relatively mild) uphill climb for the next 2½ miles. It had seemed level to him on the way in. He had to stop and rest a few times before we reached the top of the hill that marks the beginning of the descent to North Ogden Divide.

On the way out, we met quite a few hikers and mountain bikers on their way in. Although I have hiked children as young as eight to the top of the switchbacks, I would personally avoid trying to take children younger than 11 or 12 all the way to the peak. I was surprised to pass several families that had very young children on the hike. A couple of families had young children with mountain bikes. While the trail is quite bike-able, being a mountain biker myself, I’d consider the trail to be too technical for young riders.

After we started down the switchbacks, one mother with an extended family group asked how close they were to the top. She explained that they were headed for the Pineview trailhead. I was concerned. Some members of the group looked about shot already and the Pineview trailhead was more than eight miles away. It seems that some people undertake hikes like this without adequate research or preparation.

Going down the switchbacks can be as challenging as going up, but in a different way. The incessant downhill trek can take a toll on your knees, shins, and toes. We arrived at the trailhead at almost precisely 1:35 pm. We had hiked out in almost exactly two hours. That was very close to my pre-hike estimate.

We met some friends in the parking lot that had hiked to Ben Lomond Peak. They were hampered by snow as they neared the summit, they said. After climbing to the summit anyway, they said the wind howled and that they were very cold. They figured that the bulk of the snow would be gone within two weeks.

My son said that he would take a nap as soon as we got home. But I made him take a shower first. Even though the trail wasn’t particularly dusty yesterday, we were dirty enough. I have a little muscle soreness in my hips, calves, and shins. But that’s a small price to pay for the great hike I was able to enjoy with my son yesterday.