My wife and I have been married for 33 years.
We knew so little when we got married. Neither one of us came from model families. So, there wasn’t a lot of example to look at. But we knew that we wanted to be great parents, and that we wanted to have a great family.
We read a lot. We listened to Focus on the Family and cried at some of the broadcasts. One book we stumbled upon was about building family traditions and memories. One of those ideas was the family vacation.
For instance, my wife remembered taking a family trip to Estes Park, Colorado, when she was in junior high. Their family didn’t take a lot of trips, so it was a big highlight for them. So even before we had kids, we took our first trip to Estes Park in the Rocky Mountains.
It was magical.
The mountains, the blue sky, the rushing river, the quiet, the wind in the aspens, the hikes, the little restaurants we found—they were part of our adventure. When our first daughter, Ashley, came along, she was hiking the trails, albeit in a baby backpack, at 5 months old. Other kids followed—Jessica, Nathan and Joseph. And they became part of the tradition.
Writing Our Legacy: The Vacation Tradition
We’ve been vacationing to the same place for 30 years now. We stay in a cabin near Estes Park just outside Rocky Mountain National Park.
Even when our kids were little, we’d hop in our van and go. I remember it all. The packing before the trip. The talk before the trip: “We are going to be driving for 10+ hours so you’ll need to get along…” The usual lunch we’d pack. The same stopping points.
We played the alphabet game and the license plate game a lot. I think we learned the capitals of every state (well, mostly). We listened to Hank the Cowdog and laughed until we cried. And when the Rockies came into sight, well, we did what any normal American would do: we played John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and sang along at the top of our lungs. And that was all before we got to Estes Park.
There, we had our usual hikes—the Alluvial Fan, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Cub Lake and more. Over the years, our kids grew from struggling hikers to the leaders of the pack. We had picnics in the park—Endo Valley, the Big Thompson River, where we waded into chill mountain streams until our feet turned bright pink. We ended most of our trips with dinner at the Dunraven Inn. Then we capped our trip off with a predawn wakeup call so we could be a good long way down the road before anyone was really awake. It was a truly wonderful time.
Continuing the Story with the Next Generation
Now we have adult kids, and three grandchildren. It’s a little harder to get everyone together. But we managed it again this summer. And it was amazing to go on the same hikes, follow the same routines and adventures with a new generation. There’s a wonder to it all. The wonder of the mountains. There’s just something about a mountain lake—still and quiet. And there’s a wonder to watching grandchildren experience a waterfall, a chipmunk, or even a yellow-bellied marmot.
I talked to a friend of mine and he relayed that while their family didn’t go to the same place every year, they always knew as a family that they’d be going somewhere together. That’s key. We build family, we build legacy, we build traditions by our intentional acts.
As my grandson snaked his way down the trail from Emerald Lake, I couldn’t help but think: We did it. We wrote a wonderful story.
And we are writing it still. We are writing our legacy.
What stories have you been writing with your family?
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Published August 28, 2020
Topics: Lessons with Bill