A group of priests and laymen, will once again head into the mountains of Southcentral Alaska for the 10th annual Father’s Hike.
The trek is an informal retreat for Catholic men, or men interested in Catholicism, who would like to strengthen their commitment to the vocation of fatherhood and family.
This year’s adventure will start on Wednesday evening, July 10, and conclude on Saturday, July 13. Visitors from outside the state are also welcome to attend.
The four-day trip will take hikers along a route called Grizzly Bear Lake. It is a traverse that starts at the Crow Pass trailhead near Girdwood, over Crow Pass, and then it leaves the trail to go over Paradise Pass and into the headwaters of Ship Creek, which is Grizzly Bear Lake. From there hikers will follow the tundra down to the headwaters to Bird Creek, and follow Bird Creek out to the Turnagain Arm.
“Distances are not extreme and it has an appropriate mix of very challenging and pleasantly moderate terrain,” said organizer Beav Deering. “The country is amazingly remote and beautiful with abundant wildlife and solitude.”
The Father’s Hike tradition began with a handful of men from Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral, and it has the blessing of the Dominican priests and religious brothers who serve at the cathedral, some of whom have joined the hike. The outings, though, are essentially informal adventures with friends — no fees, waivers or liability.
“Good fathers are often so busy with family and jobs that they become isolated,” Deering said. “They see other fathers briefly at church or at get-togethers on special occasions, but rarely do they have enough time together to discuss much more than trivial things. We are trying to pursue our vocation of Catholic fatherhood in an increasingly secular humanist world which is becoming more and more hostile toward our church, our morals, our families, and our way of life.”
The hike includes clergymen in the mix because they too “need the company and support of other dedicated Christian men,” Deering said.
Priests who join the hike celebrate daily Mass on giant, moss-covered mountain boulders and hear confessions, when requested, along the trail.
The men regularly see mountain goats, Dall sheep and flocks of ptarmigan. The hikes go far afield from groomed trails and evening camps are typically pitched next to alpine lakes or in view of massive glaciers.
The trek is not meant to be a “fathers and sons” hike, but intended to challenge adults physically and spiritually. At the day’s end the men gather for evening prayer before relaxing together for dinner.
‘The hike is designed to be entirely challenging, occasionally difficult, and physically strenuous,” Deering noted. “All are welcome, including novices, but be aware that what you lack in physical conditioning and experience you will have to make up with fortitude.”