My dad is a great story teller. Always has been, always will be. Add in the fact that I had an extremely active imagination at six-years-old, and it is not a stretch that I truly thought I was going to Hogwarts.

It was about this time my dad starting telling us stories of Echo Mountain, part of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Angeles Crest National Forest. One of the amazing things about my childhood is that I grew up ten minutes from the Echo Mountain trailhead.

What makes Echo Mountain so special is actually a tragedy. In the early 1900’s there was a resort at the top of Echo Mountain, with a train that scaled up the side of the mountain to take people to the it. Tragically, a fire that burned the entire place down. What made it awesome for me, were the ruins that are still there. You can hike to it even to this day.

Before bed, my dad captivated me with stories about how he had hiked it as a teanager and explored for hours discovering old bits of the resort. It was magical. I pictured the ruins in my head, and could not wait to explore them myself.

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When I was about seven and half, my dad finally said I was ready to take the three and half mile hike.

I was so excited I could not sleep that night. We got our backpacks ready with all our supplies. My dad even took us on a special trip to Trader Joes to get Cliff hiking bars and bags of nuts. I was beyond excited. I could do this.

It Was So Hard!

I was young, and had never hiked that long. For a seven-year-old, this was some serious elevation gain. We stopped numerous times. In fact, as I am writing this, I am remembering that we did not make it to the top that first time.

A couple months later and we tried it again. I was hot; I was tired; and my feet hurt really bad. I will never forget turning that final switchback, arriving at the the top of the mountain, and walking on a flat path towards the ruins. What a cool experience. We spent hours hiking around, looking at the ruins, digging through rubble. I am sure that it is not this way anymore, but at the time, we were still able to find an old railway spike.

My dad was patient; he was kind. He encouraged me when I thought I could not go on. My dad was a runner, and had done some decent long distant races. He could have hiked up the trail in a breeze. Instead he let me enjoy the experience, and in the process he created in me a love of hiking that I hope to pass on to my daughters.

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I recently took my daughter for a walk on a trail. I let her walk as much as she wanted, yet she kept stopping to investigate the ground. The person with a purpose in my brain was telling me to “keep it moving.” The other side of me who had a dad who encouraged exploration, told that side of my brain to chill.

The pictures tell the story. She stood exploring the ground for thirty minutes. She had an amazing time and I was really able to enjoy watching how her little brain was growing and developing.

This is the kind of magic that can occur when you take a child outside for a hike.

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We often say “stop and smell the roses”, but I like to say, “stop and explore the ruins.”

About the Author

Drew Dilisio, LPC is a graduate of Evangel University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, a husband and father. Drew formerly worked as Good Dads’ Director of Counseling Services and Community Support Specialist.

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