Backcountry Dads: Killing It in McCall… Almost

By Rodney J. Auth

I cracked my eyes open and snuck a peak at the clock. 5:45 a.m. Saturday, July 20, 2019. The sun was shining. The birds were singing through the open window. And, I felt awesome! My oldest daughter was home from college for the weekend. (Yes, she has to be on campus all summer because she plays soccer. Ugh.)

But, no time for those thoughts now. Today, I was taking the family to Bear Basin for an epic group ride followed by lunch on the deck and an afternoon SUP on the river.

I eased out of bed--careful not to wake my wife. I hit the bathroom (yep, old guys do that), then the kitchen where I prepped an awesome carb-heavy breakfast of Kodiak Cake flapjacks filled with blueberries and covered with homemade raspberry sauce. The plan was to serve them with a side of black, high-caffeine coffee and a smile. What could go wrong?

The “prep” took five minutes. It was now 6 a.m. The two teenage girls, my wife and our 12-year-old twins weren’t going to be up for a couple hours, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and hit the computer to catch up on the work I should have done yesterday when I was mountain biking the Moto Trail with my good friend, Tom.

I plowed through my Friday to-do list, happy for the peace and quiet--but happier with the way the sun was shining outside. I decided it was going to be an epic day.

Eventually, the 12-year-olds found their way to the kitchen, which meant it was time to start the griddle and kick off the day. As I slopped batter onto the griddle, I chatted with the girls who were only too kind as to offer advice on how I could make my pancakes even better--more butter, better pouring technique (what?) and of course no blueberries (double what!).

As the hot cakes came off the griddle, they gobbled them up--keeping pace for an impressive amount of time. When they were finally done eating everything I put in front of them, the older girls appeared and the production line swung into action again.

Finally, out of batter, I sat down with my own stack of cakes. Afterward, I filled a water bottle and went outside to load everybody’s bikes, helmets, packs, and gear onto the family pick-up truck--a Toyota Tundra--my most precious possession (sometimes I make everybody come into the garage and listen while I start it up--true story).

I pulled the truck out of the garage, and then grabbed the dog and took him for a walk. As we doubled back down our street, my youngest daughter joined me. We walked up to town and down to the beach. The dog pooped. He peed a million times. He sniffed everything in sight.

Finally, my phone rang. An indignant girl on the other end wanted to know “where I was.”

I told her I’d be right there and walked back home.

When I got to the driveway, I discovered one girl in the truck. The rest were still inside. I took a moment, put on sunscreen, got in the truck, and started a Spotify playlist.

Over time, the rest of the girls joined us in the truck. They were sure to ask insightful questions like, “Do you have my helmet?” and, “Did you bring me a water bottle?”

I answered yes and yes and finally, FINALLY, I started the truck and headed the few miles to the trailhead.

The girls chit-chatted the whole way, singing along with Carrie Underwood, until mom decided she needed to make a call and turned off the radio so she could talk to her mother.

Finally, we pulled into the trailhead at Bear Basin. I jumped out, unloaded all the bikes, and watched as each kid jumped on her bike and took off to mess around at the pump track.

Standing alone at the back of the truck, I took my bike off, and then strapped on my pack with all the tools I would need if anybody got a flat or broke a chain. I stashed the dog’s collapsible water bowl in my right front pocket, put the keys in my backpack, and loaded the dog’s water bottle to my back-pack before I saddled up and rode off to find my family.

As soon as I rounded the corner near the pump track, I saw them all waiting for me. “How nice,” I thought to myself.

Rodney Auth poses with his family during their trip to Bear Basin.

Rodney Auth poses with his family during their trip to Bear Basin.

Not.

As soon as I was spotted, they took off down the trail. At first, I pumped hard to catch up to them, but then lost my enthusiasm.

From there, the day moved from epic, to ordinary to, “What the hell was I thinking?” The girls fought over who should lead the ride. Then they fought over which trail to take. Then, they fought with me because I didn’t want to get the ride over as fast as humanly possible by taking every shortcut.

Eventually, the younger girls disappeared. Instead of waiting at trail junctions like they’d been taught, they just went their own way, leaving me and their Mom to ride at our own pace, on our own trails back to the car. Somehow, we beat all of them to the truck.

Fuming, I started to load our gear.

Into this mix ventured my high school daughter’s math teacher and her husband--who I had never met before. I tried to be pleasant, but it was obvious to all that I was ready to kill somebody, anybody. I had the taste of blood in my mouth and it needed to be sated.

Typing this now, I probably owe that family an apology. If you’re reading this--so sorry. My bad.

Eventually, the girls returned--blaming me for the fact that they waited 10 minutes on a trail we didn’t take for us to show up.

Let’s just say it was a quiet ride home.

The girls went in and made lunch. I found a reason to putter in the garage for two hours. We never went out for our afternoon SUP.

Later, the whole gang walked down to Mile High Marina for dinner. Sitting on one of their boats having a beer and hamburger, I slowly relaxed.

I asked my wife, “Hey, how can we get better at this outdoor adventure thing?”

She said, “You need to lower your expectations.”

I practically spit up my beer--but didn’t because that would be a waste of a great Broken Horn double-filtered IPA. I thought about what she said.

I can’t lower my expectations. I’m a backcountry dad.

We all know backcountry dads come in all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels, but the one thing we all have in common is our enthusiasm. We love to hit the trail, ski, skin up a mountain, mountain bike, SUP, camp, fish, hike, or otherwise find an excuse to take the whole family into the wild. We don’t accomplish this by “lowering our expectations.”

Besides, I decided, the day didn’t really go too bad. In fact, it was pretty good. On the spot, I decided the whole family was going to paddleboard to Shellworth Island the next week and spend the night. We’d jump off cliffs during the day. Maybe do a little fishing. And, have a whole lot of family time. Real togetherness in the woods. What could go wrong?