Walking for a New Camp

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In just a few weeks, I will begin walking the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path in Northern England, along with 11 other dads. We are raising money to open a new Camp Kesem chapter at the University of Maryland in honor of our friend Oren Miller, who passed away last year. Camp Kesem is a free summer camp for kids that have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.

At Kesem, each child is given a special name tag during their stay. I have seven of these blank tags to bring with me on our week-long hike. For each day of the hike, I would like to wear the name of someone you know who has battled cancer or is currently fighting cancer.

In order for me to wear the name, donate at least $100 through our dads4kesem.org fundraising site. Make sure you list in the comments the name you want me to wear, or send a message to me directly. I will take pictures and video during the hike while wearing the name tag, and will honor your loved one’s memory all that day.

Thanks for any donation you can make. It will be greatly appreciated by the kids who get to spend a week at Camp Kesem.

The Walking Dads

Hadrian's Wall

“Bloody hell!”

That’s what my British friend exclaimed after I informed him of my plan to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path for a third time this summer.

He thought I was insane, to once again take on the 84 mile trail in the north of England, to suffer the blisters and twisted ankles, the rain and rough terrain, the sleepless nights in barns and hostels.

Yes, I would have to be a little crazy do it a third time.

Or, maybe, I would have a very, very good reason.

And that’s exactly what I have. A very good reason to pull on my boots, fly across the Atlantic, travel to the wilds of Northumberland, and walk in the footsteps of Roman Centurions as I did the first time in 2010, and again in 2014 with my son’s Boy Scout troop.

The reason this time is Oren Miller.

2631607_55e4b2017c72bOren was a dad blogger, but he is most remembered for establishing and maintaining the largest community of dad bloggers in the world, via Facebook. His efforts to bring together writers of all kinds who want to be a voice in support of modern fatherhood has paid off with a cohesive group of dads who support each other and support changes in how dads are viewed and treated.

Oren passed away in 2015 after a long battle with cancer. Since then, Oren has been honored for not only the work he did to support dad bloggers, but also for the beautiful and poignant words he wrote for his children during the time that he fought for his life.

And now, one more well-deserved honor for Oren.

Camp Kesem, the only national organization that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer, will be opening a new chapter of their summer camp at the University of Maryland in Oren’s name. It will join 80 other locations around the country which provide a free camping experience to over 6,000 children touched by a parent’s cancer. These week-long camps are run by passionate college student leaders and gives kids a peer-support network that understands their unique needs, builds confidence and strengthens their communication skills.

It’s an amazing organization, doing real good for children affected by a parent’s cancer. And all completely funded by generous donations from individuals and corporate support.

So, what does this have to do with my long walk?

12 well-known dad bloggers, writers and influencers, including myself, have taken on the challenge of walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path this July to call attention to and raise funds for Camp Kesem. All of the money that our group raises during this effort will go directly to launch the new Camp Kesem chapter at the University of Maryland, which happens to be the alma mater of Oren Miller and his wife, Beth.

It won’t just be a dozen dads hiking that trail. As one of the group, Brent Almond, recently commented, “This is a community effort – backed by so many members of the mom and dad blogging community. There may be 12 of us going on the walk. But there are literally thousands of us committed to the journey.”

Please be a part of this journey by visiting our Camp Kesem fundraising page, and making a donation. Or by helping us publicize the page. Or simply follow along as a bunch of dads take a very long walk for an amazing cause. Over the next four months, I will have much to discuss as we make preparations for the trip.

Again, our website and fundraising page is www.Dads4Kesem.org

Somewhere In My Memory

Alnwick Castle Memories

Try to remember what you had for dinner on the 16th of July this past summer.

Now try to remember what you were doing on the afternoon of June 5, 2012.

Anything?

If you can recall the details of those days, you must keep a daily diary, or you have a photographic memory. Or, maybe you looked it up on Facebook just now.

Most likely, you were traveling. Continue reading

London’s Burning

London is my favorite big city. I’ve visited twice, and always felt perfectly safe walking its streets. I love its history, architecture, culture, and diversity.

So it saddens me to read the news of London’s riots. And not just for the heartbreak it causes to the people hit hardest by the looting and arson. But also because it reminds me that there are so many kids out there being raised with no moral center.

In other words, these hooded thugs running through the streets breaking windows and setting buses on fire, were apparently never taught the difference between right and wrong.

What, did the parents think the school system was supposed to do that?

Did not their mother, father, grandmother, uncle, or neighbor ever point out that stealing from someone is bad? That setting fire to a building might cause pain and suffering? That spreading fear and panic is probably not the best choice to make?

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Walking the Wall, Again

Walking the Wall, Again

It was a little over a year ago that I spent a week walking the width of England, following the National Trail that runs along Hadrian’s Wall.

It was a memorable adventure that raised a lot of money for charity. But as I hiked those scenic crags, it always felt like something was missing. I soon realized that I wanted my family to be there with me to experience the ancient Roman wall and the breathtaking English countryside.

Almost a year later, I was able to share the walk with my wife and kids. Well, maybe not the entire 91 miles. In fact, we just walked the best bits of the wall. 5 miles of it in total.

Oh, and this time I left home the stiff boots and overweight backpack.

We started out at Birdoswald Fort, touring the museum there while we waited out an early morning rain shower. After the sun appeared, we walked east to the village of Gilsland, where the kids rejoiced over an ice cream shop.

From there, a short bus ride deposited us at Housesteads Fort, a dazzling Roman site which includes one of the best preserved latrines from nearly 2000 years ago.

Roman latrines

You wouldn’t think we could get excited over an old army latrine, but it was kind of cool to see where the Centurions did their business.

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Sharing Memories

I’ve been away for awhile, sharing memories with my wife and kids.

Last year I traveled to England for an 86-mile charity walk along the Hadrian’s Wall Path. It was quite successful, both for the charity and for me.

I made some awesome memories.

Then, I came home and agonized that my family did not share these memories. They could not know the thrill of following in the path of the Roman Centurions, of exploring ruined forts and castles, or of looking out over the windswept crags to imagine what life must have been like 2000 years ago.

Of course I told them about my week-long walk and the people and places I experienced, and they eagerly listened at first. But, after awhile, they were bored. They just couldn’t relate to my amazing adventure.

So, I decided to do something about that. Either I would keep my memories to myself, or I would find a way to share them for real.

You already know that I shared rather than shut up.

First chance we had, as school came to a close two weeks ago, we packed our bags and headed for England’s north country.

My family walked the wall!

No, not all 86 miles of it, but we covered nearly five. The best bits between Housesteads and Birdoswald Forts.

We also climbed to the top of St. Paul’s, wandered the streets of Carlisle, and visited the castle where the Harry Potter movies were filmed.

In short, my memories are now their memories. That’s just the way I like it.

You can certainly expect a few blog posts about our family adventures in Great Britain. Like our brush with Charles and Camilla, or my daughter helping us escape from a locked Tower of London.

In the meantime, however, we have school to finish up. The kids will have no problem coming up with topics for their next history paper.

History is Boring

Bored at The British Museum

While walking through what I consider to be one of the best museums in the world, I spotted this kid who was more interested in his Nintendo DS than in the staggering amount of world history that was on display all around him.

Right in front of him were Ancient Egyptian mummies! But his attention was focused on electronic zombies instead.

Maybe he’d taken it all in already. The British Museum is a big place, and you can certainly feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.

I was thinking, “Would that have been me when I was ten?” My passion for history didn’t develop until college, so I very well could’ve been that kid on the floor, rolling his eyes at one more 5,000-year-old statue.

My own kids are different. They both have a much stronger appreciation for the past than I did. My son, especially, loves Egyptian and Roman history, and would’ve been walking on air in the British Museum.

History doesn’t have to be boring. If a child understands the passage of time and how different people and events relate to each other on a timeline, they can learn to love history at an early age.

One key is to help kids understand what it all has to do with them right now. Find a good starting point (the classical republics of ancient Rome and Greece are the most obvious), hit the major events, keep it simple, and make it fun. After they see the connections to the modern world, you can go back and fill in the gaps.

I’d like to take credit for my son’s love of history, but I think he was mostly inspired by the Horrible Histories book series that highlights all the awful, gross, repugnant things that humans have done throughout the years. Kids love that stuff. It’s like Halloween!

We also watch a couple of historical documentaries each week. Netflix is a treasure trove for these. One of the earliest shows we watched was Digging For The Truth, a slick History Channel production that is part history, part archaeology, and part myth, with a little bit of Indiana Jones thrown in.

Someday, I hope to take my kids to The British Museum, and I don’t think either of them will end up on the floor, staring at a video game, while all around them the history of the world is on display.

Idaho Dad Walking – Day 5 & 6

Walking across it wasn't easy

All good things must come to an end. And that would include the summary of my walk across England for charity.

The last two days of the walk were something of a letdown, at least with the scenery. The landscape had flattened out and the ancient wall was far behind us.

Day 5 began in the usual farm pastures, dodging cow patties and friendly ponies. The map showed 16 miles of Hadrian’s Wall Path ahead of us, but the trail looked reasonably flat most of the way into the city of Carlisle – our stop for the night.

Mind the pony

16 miles earlier in the week had me worried, but not now. After five days, and nearly 60 miles, of walking, I was starting to feel mentally confident and physically strong.

Also, my legs were swelling up, so I couldn’t feel them.

Everyone was looking strong that morning, and I quickly fell in with the usual crowd of slow walkers. Only, we were now the not-so-slow walkers. Our pace felt a little faster.

A freshly mowed path

My group was Arjan, Sherry, Steve, Ellie, and Jo, with occasional glimpses of Richard and Catherine. It was nice to have them to walk with, as the scenery wasn’t holding my attention. At the end of the day, I was shocked to see that I had snapped only 32 photos along the trail. Most other days I had taken over a hundred.

I’d love to write about the first ten miles of Day 5, but nothing about it really stood out. Cows, horses, and farms are pretty much all that come to mind.

I visited with Arjan much of the way, and learned more about Warhammer than I ever knew before.

A lovely country cottage

Soon the path was taking us through the suburbs of Carlisle, and we found ourselves literally walking through people’s yards. I imagine some of those folks weren’t too happy to learn there would be a national trail running through their backyard when the path was made official in 2003.

A few land owners have taken advantage of the situation by setting up snack shacks that work under the honor system. One of them was quite luxurious, with a toilet, picnic table, refrigerated drinks, and even a few souvenirs.

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Idaho Dad Walking – Day 4

Further up and further in

Day 4 of my walk across England was a curious day, filled with pleasant surprises and strange encounters.

It was also the day we had to make a deadline.

That night we would be staying in the village of Greenhead, which was only 8 miles away. Sounds like a nice, leisurely stroll, right? Unfortunately, that would turn Day 5 into a 20-mile death march.

So, in order to balance out the mileage, we would be walking right past that night’s accommodations in Greenhead and continue another four miles down the path to the village of Banks, where a bus would be picking us up at precisely 4:30pm to take us back to Greenhead. It would also return us to Banks in the morning so we wouldn’t miss out on a single step along the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

With that 4:30 deadline in mind, several slow walkers conferred over maps and breakfast cereal, deciding it would be best to start down the trail early. You know, in case of wrong turns, twisted ankles, or pagan abductions.

Oh, and by “several slow walkers” I really mean Martin and me.

Above Winshields Farm Camp

The steep climb from Winshields Farm Camp back to the wall path was invigorating, and it felt good to be ahead of the pack, even if I did feel a slight tinge of guilt over not helping take down tents.

Martin and I were determined not to miss that bus.

At the summit above the farm, I stopped for a breather and to take pictures of the countryside. Nearby sheep were mocking me with their nimble footwork on the rocky crags.

Hadrian's Wall Sheep

It was a minute, maybe two, of snapping photos and admiring the view, and then I turned back around to continue on the trail.

And Martin was gone!

It was deja vu all over again.

I was perplexed for a moment, and then I thought maybe he had simply picked up the pace and was over the next rise.

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