Hiker of the Week: Darin Hayton aka @XVCrosstrek

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that valued the outdoors and spending time in the mountains. It seems I learned to walk in the forests of the Sierra Nevadas—there are photos of me as a toddler stumbling around campsites about the time I turned 1 year old. By the time I was seven or eight my father started taking me backpacking. In addition to local, weekend trips, we took a long trip each summer, spending 10-14 days in the high Sierras. When my grandparents were campground hosts, I spent summers camping with them in amazing places ranging from Oregon to New Mexico. Even at home I squandered much of my youth hiking and camping in the San Gabriel mountains, which were just a couple miles from our house. The love and appreciation for the wilderness that I developed as a child has only grown over the years.

These days I find myself in a much flatter part of the country. While I miss the mountains and the remote wilderness of the West, I have come to appreciate what the eastern states have to offer. And I am trying to pass on my love for the outdoors to my two kids (8 and 14), who are my constant and best companions. We get out and hike most weekends and, when the days are longer, during the week. The three of us also go camping once or twice a month throughout the year. We have spent a lot of time exploring state parks in the region and keep spreading our net wider and wider.

MtBaldyLast summer the three of us camped our way across the country, starting in Los Angeles and ending in Philadelphia. We meandered up the Eastern Sierras, across Nevada, through Utah, down through Arizona and back up to Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Iowa. Then, running out of time, we had to rush back to Pennsylvania, where we were had planned to meet friends for a final few days of camping. This summer, we’ve plotted another course for adventure, starting again in L.A. and heading north this time, to Washington, before turning east. In addition to the U.S. National Parks and Monuments, which are beautiful beyond compare, we spend a lot of time in our National Forests, which are beautiful in their own right and considerably less crowded. Our progress across the country is slow because we start out late, usually after a morning hike, and stop early to set up camp in a leisurely way and go for an evening hike. Progress for us is measured by more than miles alone.

In a small, informal way, I am trying to get more fathers to go camping with their daughters. Two years ago, when my daughter was in first grade, I started encouraging fathers of my daughter’s friends to bring their daughters camping with us. I try to make their initial trip painless by handling the logistics and loaning them gear if they need it. So far about a dozen have joined us for a weekend of camping. These weekend trips are wonderful opportunities for fathers to spend some uninterrupted and unscheduled time with their daughters. My goal is to organize a group camping trip of just dads and daughters.

For quick thoughts and photos, Twitter: @XVCrosstrek

For commentary, adventure reports, and more photos: www.crosstrekcountry.com (migrating the site now, so stay tuned)

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