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“Contrary to popular belief, in this day and age it is easier than you think to escape and get away from it all” – Anonymous
Driving the Santa Lucia Preserve

Driving the Santa Lucia Preserve

  I’ve often used this blog to talk about the journey of life.  Well this weekend we took a real journey with real paths and real lessons to help a real relationship.  There was nothing really wrong with the relationship with my daughter. It just wasn’t as warm as I would have liked it to be.  We always talk about “Momma’s Boys” and “Daddy’s Little Girl”.  My wife and son definitely have the former but my daughter and I don’t quite have the latter.  So we took the opportunity of a Father-Daughter camping retreat with her classmates to a natural preserve near Carmel, CA.  Driving south from San Francisco to the Carmel Valley takes an hour and 45 minutes.  Our final destination although only 20 miles further through the Santa Lucia Preserve took an additional hour.  The winding climb up the mountain was a Tour de France paradise for cyclists.  We encounter many through the winding road barely wide enough for 2 cars.  Fortunately Herbie (see above) was small enough to deal with the winding switch backs up Robinson Canyon Road. 
 
As we left the Carmel Valley, my cell phone(s) went dead.  I was now “going dark”.  No messages from my wife.  It was just me and my seven year old daughter.  It was our time to be together and a chance to develop more of that dad and daughter bond.  Unfortunately my daughter is not like her older brother.  She’s quiet and loves to sleep in the car.  The drive was mostly in silence other than my DVD player so it gave me a time to get away from it all.   No online media, no clocks, no televisions.
Herbie overlooks the Carmell Valley

Herbie overlooks the Carmel Valley

  The deeper we went into the preserve, the narrower the roads became.  I was suddenly overcome by how easy it was to get away and leave the world behind.

  Just two hours away from one of the major cities in the U.S. I was now dodging chipmunks, squirrels and snakes.  I often stopped in the middle of this deserted road for several minutes waiting for another car to come by to confirm the directions, but no cars came along so I ventured forth wondering if I’d ever find the other fathers and their daughters.  My daughter woke up from her nap and asked if we were lost.  I kidded her that when we are in “Herbie” we are never lost.   Part of this trip was to help our daughter realize that her father is equally a parent that she can rely upon.
The 2-way road in life

The 2-way road in life

 

Our relationship is fine by most people’s standards but we don’t spend enough time together to really bond like a father and his son who play golf.  She is daddy’s little girl but hanging alone with her dad is tough for her, I can tell.  She has often indicated to me how uncomfortable she is driving with me in Herbie.

 
This time she screamed with joy and giggled as we rushed up and down over the hills as Herbie took her for a ride until we reached the Northern edge of the Los Padres National Forest.    I’ve always driven my car just to show my kids a fun side to growing up as well as to act a symbol that life is not full of material things such as expensive cars and other luxury items.  As I mentioned, my daughter is slightly shy and my goal of this trip was to get her out of her shell and to try to be more adventurous and show her the road less traveled.   With her mother’s battle with cancer in the past year, she has shown some hesitancy and cautiousness in life and I wanted to make sure she understood that there are risks in life that you can take without getting hurt.  Literally, Herbie and I were taking her on a new adventure to show another side of her father other than the working dad.    We finally arrived and pitched the tent and took a look around.  Some of the girls who arrived earlier were running around screaming.  I finally convinced her to put on her bathing suit and got her to join in a class hike.
Water Slide

Water Slide

 

That jump set the tone for the rest of our weekend as she got brave enough to go down the 200 foot waterslide that she had at first refused to try and later she fished frogs out of the pool with their sliminess in her hands for me to touch.   That night in the tent we talked and laughed.  For a dad, there is nothing that makes a dad’s heart beat more proudly than to hear his little girl laugh.   A close second is when your daughter shows you that she feels comfortable and safe when you are around them.  Usually every night I give my daughter a kiss on the cheek as I tuck her into bed.  That night out in the valley my daughter gave me the most special hug I’ve ever had.  She made me promise that we’d do this again next year.  I told her that as long as she had fun and we discovered new things together, we could do this forever.   I know this sounds like a simple trip and a simple lesson, but that is what life is all about. Small yet adventurous journeys.

 
The hike was pretty much a successful mission. We hiked a very treacherous path to a waterfall which was freezing cold. I held her hand along the trail which had areas of 100 foot drops and while she was very cautious at first, she eventually started displaying a sense of assuredness with her footing. Still it was good to get some insight into her personality. She wasn’t too adventurous and always exhibited a sense of caution (this is a good note for 10 years from now). At the waterfall she looked at me when one of the other dads jumped off the top. “Should I do it?” I asked her. She looked at me as if I was kidding and that there was no way her daddy would jump 30 feet down into freezing water. This was my chance. When I ripped off my shirt she wrinkled her face as if to say, “You can’t fool me. I’m your daughter and I know you’ll never do it.” As all the little girls cheered for me to jump I could see me daughter with her hands wanting to cover her eyes. The jump was more invigorating than you could imagine. Freezing cold, if I had any circulatory issues, my body is fine now! As I swam across to the rocks where she stood I could see her clapping and cheering with a hug smile. Her daddy was not scared and was pretty brave and very cold. I’m sure the water in Beijing must have been this cold because I broke any records that Michael Phelps had established at the Olympic Games. Later on, once back from the nature hike, I saw my daughter sitting around the outdoor whirlpool with some of the other girls and talking about the “cool dads”. She had a bright smile when one of the girls said I was cool because I jumped off the waterfall. When we eventually returned home the first thing she would tell my wife (although I told her not to) was about dad’s “crazy jump” off a waterfall.

The Recreation Area
The Recreation Area

Should you want to visit, there are many semi-private grounds in the preserve.  Here is the map to get there if you want to take a drive to one of the more peaceful and beautiful places in Northern California.  If you are visiting the famous Carmel by the Sea, the Monterey Bay Aquarium or famed Pebble Beach, the preserve is right there.

In the end though for me, it was just what my daughter and I needed.  I needed to find a daughter who’s love didn’t seem so stiff and awkward.  She needed to see a dad who was more fun and able to help her when her mother was not around.  Seeing her seek out my hand on the hike along our treacherous hike warmed my heart, but at the same time seeing no worry on her face as she held my hand while danger hung below us was a great metaphor for life with my little girl.  I smiled knowing “Daddy’s Little Girl” really did need her dad and we had a weekend that would carry us for a long time.
 
Hiking to the falls

Hiking to the falls

The drive home was still quiet but there was a different vibe as Herbie returned us safely from our little detour in life.   A detour that offered a more scenic route for a few days and created a great new rhythm to a relationship between a father and his “daddy’s little girl”.

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