For the fifth straight year, a group of Catholic men, joined by several priests, will don heavy backpacks and head into an Alaska mountain range.
The three-day trek, beginning on Sunday, July 13 and concluding on Tuesday, July 15, is known as the “Fathers’ Hike.” The informal adventure is a chance for men to forge friendship, deepen faith and test physical limits. A brainchild of parishioners at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, the loosely organized outing has the informal backing of the Dominican priests and religious brothers who serve at the cathedral.
The trek is a hike with those of like mind.
“There are no fees, no waivers, no liability; you are simply going hiking with friends,” explained organizer Beav Deering in an email to potential participants.
He added: “Good fathers are often so busy with family and jobs that they become isolated. 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.”
The ‘Fathers’ Hike’ aims to allow fathers to pursue their vocation “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,” Deering observed.
As past years, several priests are expected to join the hike, celebrating daily Masses and hearing confessions along the trail as requested.
“It is a retreat for priests and fathers/men who are Catholic, or fathers/men considering Catholicism or who have a Catholic spouse, who would like to strengthen their commitment to their vocation of fatherhood and family,” Deering said. “It is simply a group of good men with common interests getting together for a challenging and adventurous and hopefully enjoyable outdoor experience in a setting that will foster interest, questions and understanding of our role in our family and our church.”
The trek is not intended to be a “fathers and sons” hike, but intended to challenge adults physically and spiritually.
“Young men are welcome, but if you feel you might have to take care of your son, or that serious adult conversations would not be appropriate or of interest to him, then this hike is not appropriate for him,” Deering noted. “We hope to build physical and spiritual confidence in fathers and priests so they can pass on that confidence to their family and flock in everyday life.”
The hike will take place in the Chugach Mountain Range outside of Anchorage. It begins and ends at the popular Flat Top parking area, but the trek goes far afield from groomed trails.
The first day, Sunday, will include a seven-mile march up Powerline Pass Trail, then up the Hidden Valley Trail over Ship Lake Pass, where the party will set up camp along a secluded alpine lake.
Hikers who need to leave the next morning, can walk back seven miles to the parking lot.
Day two of the trip includes the most challenging terrain — an off-trail hike north of Ship Lake and then a climb up the steep tundra slopes to the ridgeline of Mt. Williwaw. The day will end with a descent to the base of Mt. Williwaw where the party will set up camp. Total distance for day two is about five miles.
“The climbing will not be technical but it will be strenuous,” Deering noted. “The reward for our effort will be a beautiful summit and a long walk in the sky on a dramatic knife-edge ridge top with magnificent views of the Chugach mountains in every direction.”
The final day of the trip will include a six to seven mile moderate hike back to the Flat Top parking area.
The entire trip is less than 20 miles and is not particularly dangerous, Deering said, but it is “a difficult, challenging and strenuous hike that will definitely get your attention!”
In past years 10 to 12 men have participated in each hike and organizers are cautiously optimistic that the number will grow over time.
“It does have some self-limiting factors, though, and because of that I doubt it will ever be huge,” Deering told the Catholic Anchor after last year’s trip. He noted that the hikes are “intentionally difficult” with the aim “to challenge and push the comfort levels of even some of the most savvy outdoorsmen in the group.” But he clarified that one need not be an accomplished mountaineer to join the trip — novice hikers have successfully completed the trip.
For more information, contact Beav Deering at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 258-0386.