The best Father’s Day hike in Red Rock ever!

Hiking shadows

Our shadows are we enter Oak Creek Canyon

That’s a strong title for a blog post and it’s going to be difficult to make sure the following story lives up to it…but I think it will!

This Father’s Day was my third but just the first as a father of two.  Earlier in the week I received an email from REI telling me that our order arrived at the local store which is just a short walk from my house.  I rallied my three year old, Nate, and we made our way to the store.  They handed him a box which he insisted we open on the spot.  Like any Dad, I tore that box open as quickly as I could to reveal his very first CamelBak day pack with the new bladder!

Nate spent a good portion of the day “trying” his backpack.  I filled the bladder with “special hiking juice” which he enjoyed throughout the day.  I had mentioned to my wife that a late day hike with Nate would be a great treat for Father’s Day and with the arrival of our second son just 5 weeks ago, it was clear that any hike would be just be the two of us.

We started putting together our packs at 5:30pm and were on the road by 5:45pm making our way west to Red Rock, a great desert landscape just west of Las Vegas.  We made our way to the Oak Creek Trailhead avoiding the numerous cyclists that also enjoy this pristine stretch of road.  As expected, Nate fell asleep on the way there so I parked, unloaded our gear, and then started to bring him back from the slumber.  I told him we made it, he starting grabbing at his car seat harness, and couldn’t wait to get out.  That was easy!  We threw on our packs and made our way to the trail sign.

We walked down the gentle grade that led into the wash from the parking area at the trailhead.  Nate was already going off about where we were going, what we would see, and what he would tell his mother about the whole thing.  About 50 yards down the trail we approach an older man with a ponytail who was sporting jeans.  That’s not a completely foreign sight on the trails in Red Rock, but it was clear that he hadn’t covered much ground in that garb.  Nate took the lead shouting “My new backpack!” to which the man replied “You’re a lucky boy!” and then turned to me and mentioned that there was a drum circle going off just down the trail to the left.  I knew the fork he was talking about but have never gone to the left as I always thought it just led into the wash.  Nate and I discussed it and both agreed that it was worth checking out though I doubt he really understood what a drum circle was.

We reached the drum circle positioned just a few hundred yards from the main trail surrounding a mid-size tree in the middle of the wash.  There were probably ten to twelve drummers working together to pound out a very cool rhythm in the shade and all seemed to be having a great time.  The temperature was perfect, somewhere in the low 80s.  Nate gazed at the drummers for about 15 seconds and then grabbed my hand and instructed me that it was time to head back to the main trail and make our way to the mountain.

Water break

A quick water break and bloom inspection

We found our way back to the main trail and quickly found ourselves at a section with a slight uphill grade.  Nate saw it as the mountain and went on a 5 minute lecture about how to hike up hill.  It’s funny to hear a small boy, not yet three years old, tell you to take baby steps so your legs don’t get tired.  It was an astounding revelation to me to see how much he is able to absorb and retain.  I’ve told him in the past that on hills you have to take smaller steps by shortening your stride so you don’t burn out your  hip flexors.  Amazing little man!

We reached the top of the hill and stopped for a brief time to hydrate and catch our breath.  I thought it was a perfect time to ask Nate what he thought about hiking.  He grabbed my hand and said “I looooove it!  Hiking makes me happy!  Come on!” and we started walking again.  I may never have been more filled with pride as a father or more moved by any conversation with my young son than at that very moment.  I immediately texted my wife.

We started our hike just before 6pm and the sun was setting behind Mt Wilson.  Nate was anxious to use the headlamp that I put in his pack but it was still too light.  So we found a few rocks to spot up on at the entrance of Oak Creek Canyon just below a small mound called Wilson’s Pimple.  Nate was rambling on about how he was going to climb that mountain and all the animals he’d see on his way to the top.  At his age, sharks and dinosaurs can live anywhere and despite the lack of photographic evidence of their existence, Nate insisted that they lived on Mt Wilson.  We shared some trail mix, made quick work of an apple, and passed the bag of Wheat Thins back and forth.  I put the Flip Video Camera on the tripod when we arrived and positioned it about 15 feet from our spot in hopes of capturing something for the ages, but it was really uneventful.  That is to say it was just the stuff that only a father would enjoy, otherwise boring to an outsider.

We packed up our little snack camp and started off in different directions.  Nate shouted at me to follow him deeper into the canyon, somewhat surprised that I was going the other direction in the first place.  Here was the standoff.  I knew he would want to go as far as he could with no thought about having to hike back.  I wanted this to be a learning experience but I wasn’t sure that I had the ability to communicate the lesson to him in a way that he could understand.  I started with a feeble attempt, asking if he wanted to turn back and return with his mom so she could hike it with us.  No dice.  Eventually, we chatted about how the temps had dropped and that it was probably a good idea to have pants instead of shorts for a trek deeper into the canyon.  He agreed and we made our way back.  The early night was cool with temps in the mid 70s.

Dusk had rolled in on us and the headlamps came on.  Nate couldn’t be happier!  What 3 year old doesn’t love a light that he is in the complete control of!  We had a 2 mile hike back to the truck and most of that was filled with a ground hogs day type of exchange between father and son that I believe is universal to all father and sons.  Nate would say “Dad, I want to show you something”.  I would look and ask him what it is.  He’d say “It’s a lizzard” and I’d reply “Are you sure?”.  And then Nate would confess “No, horse poop.”!  It was a conversation that I was more than happy to have.  He really wanted to see the lizards and geckos that usually litter the trail most days but we had no such luck.  Even so, he was content looking for them behind every rock and didn’t seem disappointed to only find dirt…or as he suggested, horse poop.

Dreaming about the trail

Dreaming about the trail!

We made it back to the truck right at 9pm completing a 4 mile hike together.  Nate mentioned that his legs were tired and that “maybe next time” we could go deeper into Oak Creek Canyon.  I’d be happy with any time on the trail with him.  We chatted for a few minutes about the things we saw on the trail and how beautiful it was outside.  I texted my wife to let her know we were home bound and turned back to Nate with a question but he had already started his dreams about his next hike.

I’ve certainly had more extraordinary sightings on the trail like wildlife, blooms, setting suns, and waterfalls.  But nothing beats this 3 hour trek with my oldest son.  I’ve been waiting for years to experience this.  It was nothing less than the perfect picture that I had created in my mind but if I’m honest it was probably better than that!

This was certainly the best Father’s Day hike in Red Rock ever!  I’d argue that it was the best Father’s Day ever.  Period.  I hope all you other dad’s enjoyed your day as much as I did.

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.