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First Snow- 1/4/13
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Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 15:35:56 MST Print View

Snow falls from the sky, the sun presses through densely congregated clouds. Such a beautiful contradiction in our desert landscape. Sharing a chocolate dipped cone on this cold afternoon, my four year old son Joel sits across from me patiently and deliberately enjoying every bite of the frozen treat promised him the day before. Outside the window of the ice-cream shop, delicate flakes are momentarily suspended, seemingly aware that this moment will never come again, the only magical display these intricately formed crystalline arrangements will perform. I am reminded of the fragility of time, the importance of being intentional on this earth with my family. I need these reminders constantly, because I frequently fail.

My wife and daughter are away in Missouri for some much needed time with extended family, leaving me and Joel with a healthy measure of father-son time. We had no plans, nothing on the agenda, just time for us to use as we saw fit. What would we do to avoid squandering it? I saw a break in the clouds for just a second, catching a glimpse of the Organ mountains in the distance, blanketed in a fresh layer of snow.

Our answer came. Today we were going on a hike. No overthinking, sorting of gear, extensive planning, or lofty goals. A simple walk and a modest adventure together on a snowy afternoon. We grab our coats, throw a few essentials into the ruck and head east for the trailhead.


My running escapades in the early hours of the morning before work are not lost on Joel, he knows where I go when everyone is asleep. It is my responsibility to share this with Joel and feed the curiosity rising up inside him of the outdoors. As soon as I put the car in park his mitten clad hands fumble with the buckle to his seatbelt. I can sense his excitement growing as I am slow to rise out of the car with our things. Swinging the pack over my shoulders, Joel takes off up ahead of me. I know he won't be able to maintain the pace he's established, but I let him discover this on his own. No more than an eight of a mile into the start of our 4 mile hike does he show the first signs of fatigue. He reaches up to me and says, "Dad, hold me", snot dripping down onto his upwardly curved tongue. I calmly instruct him that I will not be carrying him. This isn't warmly received and requires careful convincing and mindful words on my part to restore his fragile confidence.


We both finally fall into a more mutualistic pace, slowing down to enjoy the silence and the geological details that encompass us. I deliberately reduce my steps to not overwhelm him on the small climbs.


Cresting a small incline, the small canyon well ahead of us comes into view, hopefully we can reach it. Out of habit I meander along the trail within the imaginary confines of the trails edge, Joel on the other hand has taken to blazing his own steps through the snow, weaving in and out of the cactus buried under formless white mounds. I encourage him to stick closer to me but he insists on taking a different path along our journey.



Clouds erase away the familiar sights of this land, typically blown out in an excessive luminary display of the Sun's power. The monochromatic quality of light is easy on our eyes, we examine intricate details of the landscape both far and near, with clarity and truth. It really does seem magical on this day.


I sensed my son's pace begin to waver. Joel was about to hit the wall. He plopped right down along the trail face first into the snow. I knew there was a chance he would sandbag on me, but I didn't think that moment would come so soon.


Carefully selected words lift his spirit and we carry on, only this time his small hand held in mine. Onward.



As we near the small water feature at the end of the slot canyon, Joel can sense we are close, his pace quickens with anticipation. The snow deepens along the walls of the canyon and there are small obstacles now to navigate. I turn around every minute or so to check on his progress through the small canyon and catch him straddling a snow covered log.




We reached our "destination" and decidedly stop to rest and play in the snow for a few minutes. We share the area briefly with a small group, but they soon leave and we have the place to ourselves. It is an intimate wintery nook cut out in the rock with several oak trees tucked away along the perimeter.

Heading out of the garage before we left on our hike I reached into a bin and grabbed my small solo esbit stove and mug for a spot of hot chocolate, with a little forethought, I knew the small treat would be a highlight for Joel on our hike. A few minutes pass and we have boiling water for our sugary drink. Joel can barely contain himself with excitement and takes to warming himself with a strong serving of cocoa. Sometimes it is the small things, the simple things.

Pure contentment.



The temperature begins to fall quickly as the 5 o'clock hour approaches. Tidying up the contents of my pack and shaking out the snow from my sit pad, we load up and begin to head back down the trail before nightfall sets in. One last time, we take in the sights of the rock and ice knowing that this wintery world will depart as quickly as it arrived.




Joel put all he had into the approach hike and I was proud of him. With limited daylight left, I hoist him up onto my shoulders for the return hike. Faint orange, pink, red, and blue hues can be faintly made out behind the veil of gray as the sun nears the distant horizon. There was a wonderful display of light at work and we were properly situated in the right place at the right time to appreciate the moment.

This snowy afternoon with my son was well spent, not squandered, purposeful, and rewarding. I can't wait for the next one.

Edited by Eugeneius on 01/06/2013 15:41:35 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 15:41:41 MST Print View

Ah, great story, great photos. As always.

Thanks for sharing, Eugene.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
First Snow-1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 16:02:34 MST Print View

Literally COOL stuff. Black & white photos make it seem very cold.


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: First Snow-1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 16:17:21 MST Print View

Good stuff Eugene.

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Re: First Snow-1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 16:53:59 MST Print View

Beautiful story and photos Eugene. The photo of your son and accompanying description of him "hitting the wall" is hilarious.

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: Re: First Snow-1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 18:10:51 MST Print View


Robert Burke
(coastiebob) - MLife

Locale: Wishing I was Backpacking
First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 20:50:42 MST Print View


Awesome photos and story. Wife and I enjoyed it!

Bob Burke

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
OMG! on 01/06/2013 21:07:33 MST Print View

I read this while I had some music playing in the background,

one word,


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: First Snow-1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 21:42:25 MST Print View

An EXTREMELY well told tale of a father and son savering nature's joint gift to them!

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/06/2013 21:49:31 MST Print View

What a great father. Good job Eugene.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/07/2013 00:13:33 MST Print View

Eugene, what a great outing and time well spent. The picture of Joel with the Hot Chocolate is priceless (especially the wet drip on his upper lip).

Too many of us would have just spent the time cleaning the garage, thinking we were using the time wisely. Your choice will have a far better outcome in the distant future.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/07/2013 06:31:07 MST Print View

"Eugene, what a great outing and time well spent. The picture of Joel with the Hot Chocolate is priceless (especially the wet drip on his upper lip)."

Agree, the chocolate picture was the money shot. Great to seem love for the outdoors being passed down to another generation.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/07/2013 08:07:25 MST Print View

Fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Beautiful... on 01/07/2013 14:18:44 MST Print View

Great father + son story, along with beautiful pics.

As a father of a 6yo myself, I felt I was right there...kudos for getting him out there.

I have found that the cocoa promise is a powerful tool...

-Mark in St. Louis

Ben Wortman
(bwortman) - M

Locale: Nebraska
Greaet on 01/07/2013 14:43:55 MST Print View

Thanks for taking the time to share that!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/07/2013 14:57:25 MST Print View


Great trip. Kudos to both you and Wisner for continually taking your kids out on all kinds of spur of the moment trips. I predict both of you will end up raising (developing) your kids to have values and character.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/07/2013 17:16:34 MST Print View

He will come to cherish those photos of him and memories of hiking with you for decades to come. Good job.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/07/2013 23:33:10 MST Print View

Very nice Eugene. Love that shot of the hot chocolate. And are those mini marshmallows I see there? That is doing the thing properly.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/08/2013 08:33:35 MST Print View

Joel makes these little outings much more enjoyable than they would solo. He has an honest enthusiasm for playing outdoors that I often lack as an adult, for him it's all fun and entirely about the moment, sometimes I lose that and it becomes about something else entirely. It's always good to be brought down to earth by my 4 year old boy. I'm always looking for the next opportunity with him outdoors.

Those are definitely marshmallows in his cup, wouldn't have it any other way!

Not to go on a gear tangent here, but I love my BPL Trappers mug and esbit stove setup, so simple, just throw it in the pack and I have it if I need it, doesn't take up any room or weight if I don't.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Re: Re: First Snow- 1/4/13 on 01/09/2013 08:06:19 MST Print View

Thanks Eugene, really enjoyed the read and pics.