In a world saturated with virtual reality and online distractions, a diverse group of men, joined by Catholic priests, will soon be headed to the mountains for adventure and inspired conversation in Alaska’s backcountry.
For the seventh straight summer, this band of hikers will lace up mountain boots, strap on backpacks and march into the high country, beyond the reach of smart phones and city life.
The three-day trek, beginning on Sunday, July 10 and concluding on Tuesday, July 12 is known as the “Fathers’ Hike” and is open to Alaskans as well as visitors from out of state. The informal adventure aims to bring men together to forge friendship, deepen faith and test physical limits. Started by men from Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral, the annual event has the blessing of the Dominican priests and religious brothers who serve at the cathedral, some of whom have joined the hike in past years. The outings, though, are essentially informal adventures with friends — no fees, waivers or liability.
According to organizer Beav Deering, the overarching goal is to provide fathers and priests time to be together and build fraternity.
Priests who join the hike celebrate daily Mass on giant, moss-covered mountain boulders and hear confessions, when requested, along the alpine trails.
Once in higher elevations, the men regularly see mountain goats, Dall sheep and flocks of ptarmigan. The hikes, which go far afield from groomed trails, typically take place in the Chugach Mountain Range outside Anchorage or the Talkeetna Range north of Palmer. The group may also hike along the Kenai Peninsula. 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.
Open to priests, fathers and single men who are Catholic, the hike is also for men considering Catholicism or those who simply want to strengthen their commitment to fatherhood and family, Deering explained.
In past years 10 to 14 men have participated in the outing.
“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 a past 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 — every year novice hikers have successfully completed the trip.
For more information, contact Beav Deering at email@example.com or (907) 258-0386.