At my age (83), I don’t get much satisfaction from the typical Father’s Day gifts. I don’t need a grill. I have plenty of ties. And as for golf accessories — golf was never my thing anyway. What I do enjoy is the great outdoors.
My children are grown up and have children of their own, so now I get the greatest pleasure sharing my love of nature with my grandchildren. Not only do I consider passing on this passion to be an important responsibility, it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. The best way I’ve found to do this is on a Road Scholar grandparent-grandchild learning adventure.
I happen to know a thing or two about Road Scholar, as I was hired as its first employee and have worked there for over 40 years. I’m still involved with the organization in several capacities, including as a participant. So far I have taken five Road Scholar grandparent adventures, and there are more to come.
If you are like me and prefer “experiences” over “things,” then in the best Father’s Day spirit, I present to you what the title of this blog has promised — The 5 Best Experiences You Can Give a Grandfather on Father’s Day.
This was my first Road Scholar Grandparent adventure and it was an extraordinary way to get started. I went with granddaughter Gwen and, as advertised, we rafted the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never had the pleasure of doing this, it’s even better than you can imagine. The soaring canyon walls. The chilled and churning Colorado River. It is beautiful and exciting. One of the highlights is riding a helicopter from the bottom of the canyon up and out. It was a truly incredible six days that neither of us will ever forget.
A couple of summers ago, I brought two of my grandchildren with me to Vancouver Island. One of the benefits of Road Scholar Grandparent programs is that you get time with your grandchild away from the parents, so you can bond in a special way. Our experience in Vancouver had the added benefit of giving my two grandchildren the opportunity to bond with each other, since they are cousins who don’t get to visit too frequently. Our base for the week was a wonderfully rustic lodge on the shores of Upper Campbell Lake, adjacent to Strathcona Provincial Park. From there we hiked, challenged ourselves on a zip line and ropes course, and even had an overnight canoe camping trip. We learned a lot about environmental stewardship, minimum-impact camping, natural history and navigation. The instructors were truly top-notch.
Granddaughter Evelyn and I took to the Grand Tetons for a true Western adventure. Horseback riding, rodeo and plenty of wildlife viewing were the perfect antidote for a couple of East Coasters like us. We had an expert naturalist teach us about eagles, elk, moose, grizzly bears and their habitats, but what I enjoyed most of all was the mountain bike ride on the eastern slopes of Grand Teton National Park, past the sagebrush and incredible peaks. I was so proud of Evelyn to have finished the whole ride.
There are few places in the United States that combine history and the great outdoors so dramatically as South Dakota. This program is one of Road Scholar’s most popular grandparent programs and for good reason. Grandson Nathaniel and I took a special chair-lift ride up for a close look at Mount Rushmore, we hunted for fossils, panned for gold, had spectacular views of the Crazy Horse Memorial and learned about Native American culture from members of the Sioux tribe. It was a life-changing adventure for both us.
My experience in the Grand Canyon with Gwen opened my eyes to the Southwest, and last summer I went back with two different grandchildren — Theodore and Evelyn. This time, we began in Utah’s Color Country. That landscape is so completely different from anything they had seen before, and it was a thrill to share it with them. You can’t beat the feeling you get when you show the kids something new. We hiked past the hoodoos of Bryce and deep into the breathtaking canyons of Zion National Park. We then made our way down the Colorado Plateau to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and its sandstone cliffs and narrow slot canyons, before finally arriving back to the site of my first Grandparent adventure — the Grand Canyon.
With my grandchildren by my side, I have seen and learned about the places in the United States I have always dreamed of exploring. Now my dreams are memories I share with the people I love most in the world. That, my friends, is the best Father’s Day gift of all.
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About the Author
Mike Zoob is Senior Advisor to the Road Scholar President and an avid Road Scholar participant.