Friday, 17 April 2015

A footprint, a moment with my father that shaped me.

Sometimes I avoid telling stories about my dad because I'm avoiding what could be awkward.  Some people don't know that he passed away three years ago to this day, and other people, like me, don't know how to respond when the loved dead are spoken about.  But, I want to talk about my dad.  I want to share our stories.  Here's a bit of one:

Every year my dad took me on a camping/backpacking trip.  Before leaving we’d prepare the weekend’s menu and head to the grocery store.  While my dad tried to decrease our food weight, by avoiding anything canned, we had a few luxuries of our own.  We bought tomatoes for our sandwiches.  These we packaged each in their own Tupperware with paper towel for cushioning and wiping our fingers on.  We always had steak the first night.  My dad would freeze the meat, the boil-n-bag corn and any other freezable food.  Then, early in the morning we would add the frozen food to top up our backpacks and drive to Jasper.  As a young child my favourite part of the shopping trip was going to the bulk section and creating my own trail mix.  It consisted more of Swedish berries and gummy bears than of nuts or dried fruit.  We took fresh fruit as well.
Late in the evening before we’d leave, I’d help my father sort and pack all we’d purchased into our packs.  He’d crack eggs into containers and leave the shells at home.  He washed the apples and pulled off their stems and stickers.  He stuck each sticker to its stem before tossing it into the garbage.  I put my bulk candy into a single bag to create my trail mix, and he mixed up his own gorp. 
My dad fully believed in no trace camping.  Whatever we carried up the mountain we would eat or carry out.  We took granola bars with us, but left the boxes at home.  Every item we brought had a purpose, or, if possible, like the paper towel wrapping the tomatoes and our plates with high side, more than one. 
On a warm afternoon we journeyed through the woods on a broad path up a gentle hill.  We pulled out apples to munch upon while we walked.  I kept in step with my dad and we made our way speaking only through steps and crunches.  He ate around his apple’s middle and then bit off the top of the core.  He chewed the crunchy matter and went in for another bite, right at the core.
“That’s gross.” I said
He shrugged and continued crunching and walking.
I had eaten my apple down to the core.
“Might as well eat it all,” my dad said. “Otherwise you’ll have to carry it out.”
“Do I have to?”
He repeated what I assumed to be the national park’s motto “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
I considered my options as he tossed the last of his apple into his mouth.  Stopping I swung my backpack off of my shoulders, found a bag of garbage and added my core to the other items I was carrying out.