With the “Swagger Wagon” packed and plenty of DVDs for the kids to watch, we left Missouri early in the morning for 10 days of family reunions, fun, and mountain grandeur in Idaho and Utah.
Our first destination was Mt. Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas.  We finally arrived late in the afternoon. It was a good break for the kids after sitting in the minivan for eight hours.  Wild Child wouldn’t stand still long enough for the picture but kept running around like a crazy baby.

We continued on to Denver, CO for a nice stay at a hotel.  The next day we arrived in Rexburg, ID, and the family fun comenced.
My brother-in-law Nate and I had planned to climb Borah Peak, Idaho’s High Point, for years. So on the second day of the reunion we packed our gear and made our preparations.  We left around 6 PM and drove 2 1/2 hours to the trailhead.  The mountain looked massive.  We started our steep hike by headlamp.  Soon the full moon arose and lighted our way.  We hiked under the eerie glow of the moonlight above the treeline to the first campsite near Chicken Out Ridge.  We pitched our tent, ate a little, and slept fitfully for four hours.

Then we woke up around 6 AM to begin our summit bid.  The view was already incredible, and I couldn’t wait for the views from the summit.  Borah’s shadow on the valley below was the most interesting to me.

We began our climb thinking we were the only ones on the mountain.  Here I am climbing on the Chicken Out Ridge as the sun emerges.

To my surprise however, I saw a man quickly making his way up behind us.  He soon reached us.  We made our introductions and found out this would be his 44th state high point if he made it. I told him it would be my 4th.  He asked how I from Missouri and Nate from Oregon had gotten together to climb.  We revealed that we had married sisters and that we were attending a family reunion.  But he had us figured out when he said, “Ah, so you’re escaping.”  We couldn’t deny it.  He asked if he could keep climbing with us.  We agreed and made the rest of the way up together.    We made it to the summit around 11:00.

The view was spectacular and the weather was perfect.  There were no wind or clouds.  The toil was rewarded.
This climb tested my abilities. There were many times I was scared as I scrambled up the exposed parts of Chicken Out Ridge and made my way up to the summit. The ascent was brutal, and the descent was just as bad.  I paid for being out of shape.  But it was well worth it.
We drove back to our family reunion and told our tales of the climb.  After the reunion we drove down to my sister’s house in Salt Lake City, UT.  There we spent a few days and attended another family reunion, this time on my side of the family.  We saw cousins and relatives whom we had not seen in over ten years.
Then we left for the cabin in Weber Canyon to meet more family for three more days of relaxation in mountain splendor.
Again, Nate and I planned a backpacking trip into the Uinta mountains while the rest of the family vegged in the cabin.  My 11 year old son and Nate’s four-year old-son came along with us.  My wife drove us to the trailhead which was about a mile down the road from the cabin.

The climbing was slow, and Nate carried his son on his shoulders for about half the way.  He was still faster than us!  I have to admire him for his strength.  He is a good mountaineer.
Looking back toward the trailhead we could see dark clouds following us.  It didn’t look good.  None of us had rain gear so we were worried.  We picked a sheltered area and huddled under the tent rain fly until the storm passed.  We continued on.
After two river crossing the mosquitoes waited in ambush.  It was very unpleasant, and I had over 100 bites on my arms, legs, and face to prove it.  We made it to the first lake, Round Lake, as it was getting dark, and lightning was threatening again.  We quickly pitched the tent and started to cook dinner.  A huge lighting bolt hit the ground about two miles away on the other side of the lake.  I saw Nate’s face, and for the first time ever, I saw genuine fear.  We cooked in the vestibule as wind and hail pounded our tent.
The Boy kept asking what would happen if we got attacked by a bear, or whether we would prefer to get hit by lightning or get mauled by a bear, or what we should do if a bear came into the tent.  We finally told him to be quiet.
We all slept well.  In the morning we continued up the trail  Nate and his son went on to Fish Lake, but I stayed at Sand Lake with my son so he could have some time to fish.  He caught two small fish and had a blast.

When got back down to the cabin our mother-in-law asked if we got rained on.  We told her yes, and she admitted they were worried about us. But we made it.
The Boy had an epic first-time backpacking experience–rain, lightning, hail, river crossings, fishing.  He’ll have great stories to tell his friends.

It was 39 degrees the morning we left Utah.  As we drove eastward, the air became progressively warmer and more humid.  The heatwave we had escaped for a while was still there when we got home.  But we had one last stop on our journey.  We took a detour from I-80 to visit Panorama Point, Nebraska’s high point.

On our way back to the interstate we saw an interesting dust devil up close.

Finally home, we slept well after a long journey. And I am recharged and ready for life again.


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