A Hike with Dad

(Excerpt from Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad)

I’ve graduated from university now. Dad has led me to the summits of Rainier and Hood by this time. I’ve seen deep blue crevasses and the castle-like suncups that form on glaciers; smelled the sulphur of volcanoes, and the ozone of high altitudes. Today, though, Dad and I are on a simple hike up to the top of Salushkin Falls.

We find a place to settle together in the heather meadows and pull out our sandwiches. We sit for a while in companionable silence. Then Dad asks me if there’s any song that inspires me. I think about this for a moment. The first Star Wars movie has just come out, and I tell Dad that the Star Wars theme song inspires me. I ask Dad what song inspires him, and he says, without hesitation, “The Lone Prairie.”

I am surprised by this. I was expecting him to name some song of the mountains maybe – Dad is a well-known mountaineer, after all, and at the moment we’re sitting on the slopes of Rainier.

Intrigued, I ask Dad to sing “The Lone Prairie” for me, and he does – in the same way a young boy might sing to his mother – without artifice or showmanship. It is a sweet moment.

“Oh carry me back to the lone prairie
Where the coyotes howl and the wind blows free
And when I die you can bury me
Neath the western skies on the lone prairie… “

(Here’s a photo of Dad on me on Sauk Mountain. Circa 2000.)

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