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An Ode to My Dad: The Expert S’more Roaster

My dad is a world-class marshmallow roasting connoisseur.

Everyone knows that the most important skill of any outdoorsman or woman is the ability to roast a good marshmallow. I mean, is it really camping at all if you don’t make a s’more? And is it really a s’more if you haven’t toasted that Jet-Puffed white glob of sugar into golden brown bliss?

No, no it’s not.

Some of the most scarring memories I have from childhood camping trips are visions of flaming marshmallows falling from my whittled stick to their gelatinous, charred deaths among the coals.

Who taught me how to avoid these tragic accidents? My dad. “It’s all about patience” (a virtue that has never been my strong suit) he would tell me, as he slowly rotated his stick at the most precise distance from a flickering coal oven. I may never live up to my dad’s marshmallow-roasting standards, but I’d like to think that with the help of his measured guidance and a shared love for the whimsical combination of graham cracker, chocolate, and gooey golden perfection, I’ve become the avid outdoors enthusiast that I am today.

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A proud display of my graham cracker ~1998

Alright, so my dad did a lot more than just teach me to make s’mores. And maybe his fame came from winning a Boy Scout marshmallow roasting competition, but hey, it’s all relative, right? The important connection here is the one that associates s’mores with nature. I don’t know anybody with a more profound, personal, respectful coexistence with all things wild than my dad. And the best part?  I never realized he was quietly imparting his wisdom to me and my siblings throughout our childhood, and continues to do so today.

“I don’t know anybody with a more profound, personal, respectful coexistence with all things wild than my dad.

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Blueberry picking in the Chugach Mountains, AK circa 1997. I’m in the middle.

Every dad carries their kids in some capacity, but my dad and his sinewy calf muscles never failed to tote me, the youngest (and probably most obnoxious) child, where my body could not yet take me. Bike rides had me sitting in the back of a trailer, on hikes I rode in a backpack that rested on his shoulders, and while XC skiing I sat bundled in a sled strapped to his waist. He carried my weight where I should not have been able to go, bringing me outside to places I will never remember… but those extra breaths of fresh mountain air, the simple fact of being outside has fostered in me a natural attraction to all the wonder found outside of our homes, schools and office buildings.

Everyone has something or someone who inspired them to venture into the great outdoors. For me, that person was my father. I was constantly encouraged, and never discouraged from exploring; my dad led me and my siblings to the ripest and fullest patch of blueberries in the mountains, quizzed us on identifying the type of bird singing incognito in the woods, and named wildflowers and animal skat as we meandered down the trail. However, all the sweet, blueberry-flavored memories, as tasty and romantic as they are to recollect, also reminds me how my dad made sure we understood that nature does not always love you back.

“Everyone has something or someone who inspired them to venture into the great outdoors. For me, that person was my father.

A caution, yet also a dare, my dad has always walked the line between safety and adventure that the outdoors teases us with. This line is one that the three of us have learned to recognize though the experiences of my dad, those including but not limited to: a Bald Eagle swiping a fresh caught salmon from his hands, smacking moose on their hindquarters to chase them from our garden, eating a daddy-long-legs, completing the world’s longest XC ski race twice, and killing a pesky, camp-invading, food-stealing nuisance of a squirrel.

My dad is always ready, humble and callously yet cautiously determined to accept the next challenge that mother nature presents. I admire so much his quiet and reverent demeanor that he balances expertly with the propensity to be a total, nutso goof ball. He’ll always be the voice of pragmatism in the back of my mind that somehow also gently nudges me to push myself beyond the next level; never would I doubt a decision that my dad makes in the wilderness or in any other setting, even if a squirrel must die at his hand.

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Even though my marshmallows still sometimes catch fire, I still manage to make a dad-worthy s’more every time I go camping. For that skill, and for all the others, I am very grateful.

About the author: Born and raised in Alaska, Katy is no stranger to adventure. She has been traveling solo since the age of 15 and loves to spend her free time camping, hiking, and scuba diving. She currently studies Biology and Spanish at Colorado College.