Thursday, March 20, 2014

40 Years Outdoors - Lessons I've Learned

By Mike Layne

Last night I was sitting in my son’s room watching him flip and flop, pulling and tugging blankets as he wound down for sleep.  Spencer is 22 months old.  He recently transitioned to the ‘big boy’ toddler bed about the same time he discovered the magic of turning door handles, so he requires a little ‘watching’ as he goes to sleep, just to make sure he stays in his bed.  Maybe that’s just me trying to preserve that golden piece of time when he needed me to rock him to sleep every night.  Even writing about it now, it stuns and saddens me how quickly these precious phases of life pass by us.  Like mile markers on the interstate, take your eye off them for a minutes and you've missed a few before you know it.   I was thinking of this as I watched him wind down.  At the same time I thought about all the adventures we have in front of us, on trails, around camp fires, wadding through cold mountain streams.  This made me think of all the times I've spent outdoors with my dad and of all the lessons I've learned.  Here are a few lessons that have made me smile more than once over the years.

  • Sandstone rocks explode in the fire - For an 11 year old kid in Boy Scout camp this is a discovery on par with nuclear fusion.  28 years later, from a parent’s perspective, I see now what all the fuss was about.  I plan to make up a huge scary lie about a kid who lost one eye and most of one of his ears pulling a similar stunt.
  • Don’t use bug spray to paint your name on the ceiling of a canvas tent – while it is indeed neat to see the sunlight come through your name during the day, it’s worth noting that at night the rain also comes through.  If you happen to have painted directly over your head you’re in for a treat. (another 11 year old stunt)
  • Parents, play the game ‘freeze’ with your kids – after many false alarms also referred to as ‘practice’, one day “freeze” really did mean there was a large black rattlesnake laying directly in my path.  Talk about a little boy grateful for all the ‘practice’.
  • Don’t try to pour water out of a rubber boot while you’re wearing it - One day, 3 miles down a trail in the pouring rain, a little boy had water in his gum boots (don’t ask me why I was hiking in gum boots) after stepping where he was told not to step.  To save time the boot was turned upside down with the foot still in it.  You can imagine where the water went.  I think it may have been a lesson in following directions.  The best lessons are the ones that stick with us.
  • If you take your dog backpacking and leave camp to go fishing without him, don’t tie him off to anything connected to your tent.  If you choose to ignore this lesson, pack duct tape!
  • Don’t pack a container of fishing worms in your bag and forget about them… enough said!
  • Parents, if you plan to clean fish and slice apples on the same day, consider carrying two pocket knives.  There is a real possibility that doing both with the same knife will gross your kids out.
  • Dad says: “stop pulling the line, I’m trying to detangle it”.  Son says:” I’m not pulling the line”. Dad says:   “I can’t detangle this while you’re pulling on it”.  Son says: “I’m not pulling on it”.  Repeat, repeat, repeat… The lesson – consider the possibly that a fish might be pulling on the line. (because it was)
  • Kids, the look on your dads face will be priceless if, 2 days into a 5 day backpacking trip, he wakes to find you down to three matches (three empty boxes on the ground) trying to start the morning fire by yourself.  He’ll be proud of you for trying to help all by yourself and in the end you’ll learn the valuable lesson of how to start a camp fire with just one match.
  • Number one lesson learned, parents, take your kids outside and do something with them every chance you get.  You’ll never get these years back and they will fly by you like mile markers on the highway if you’re not careful.  Time goes a little slower outdoors and it seems to me that lessons learned outdoors just stick better.  Mine certainly have


  1. I like what you're doing here. Very cool. I prefer to pack the nightcrawlers in the cooler with all the food. It's great when they spill.

  2. What a great idea, Mike! Were you like Billy and loved it all until you got about 15 and had other things to do? lol

  3. Thank you for stopping by and reading. I'm glad you like what we are doing. I'm really excited about where we can take this. It's great to have you along for the ride.

  4. I also have to say job well done. I have been taking the kids out hiking while I try to find "shots" to capture with my camera. I like the descriptions you give, they will be helpful when choosing future places to visit.

  5. Thanks Christy, I'm glad you like it and that it will be useful. I'm sure you're kids are enjoying being the experience of hiking and photography.