Recently we made a quick trip to Utah for a family wedding. While packing for the trip I made sure to include the essentials one needs to have a proper celebration in the Beehive State: a dark suit, tie, dress shoes, fly-rod and reel, waders, float tube, fins and a fishing license. Though my wife questioned the need to bring along such “necessities,” I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the old suit and tie behind.
One of the things we talked about doing on our little up-and-back expedition was taking the grandkids somewhere for an outdoor adventure. I thought it might be a good opportunity for my wife to bond with the kids while watching me fish for trout on the Provo River, a blue ribbon fishery in the Wasatch Mountains southeast of Salt Lake City. She seemed a little unsure of that idea and lobbied for an activity that allowed for a little more bonding on my part.
The morning of the wedding found us in the community of Lehi, our plans for the grandkids’ outdoor adventure still unsure. I lay in bed dreaming of large trout until a phone call rudely interrupted what was no doubt the biggest catch of the morning. Probably one of the Provo’s big German browns.
As visions of trout battles and a bent-over fly-rod faded into reality, the conversation between my wife and the early-morning caller let me know it was my oldest daughter. The 3-year-old twins and their older siblings were on their way for a parentless “visit” with grandma and grandpa. The time for planning was over, but a glance at the clock let me know there was no time for a trip up the canyon and the fly-fishing experience I had in mind … for the kids.
Lucky for us, there just happens to be a Cabela’s outdoor store within five minutes of where were staying, and Calli, my favorite youngest daughter, reminded us of that little fact. Just what I needed, but was it enough to keep four energetic grandkids entertained and their grandpa out of trouble?
Everything was under control until we were ambushed by a half dozen bundles of black fur just outside of Cabela’s front door, Labrador retriever puppies a breeder from Idaho hoped to send home with a store customer or two. Despite my strenuous objections, each of the kids was soon cuddling a pup and asking, “Can I have it?” But my calendar and bank account both said I couldn’t have one, so I had to give my pup back.
Once we managed to free ourselves from the puppies’ collective grip and get inside the store, the twins made a dash for a display case containing two willow ptarmigan mounts in summer plumage. “Chicken,” called out Kamryn, one of the twins. “No,” I said, correcting her gently. “Ptarmigan.”
“Yeah, chicken,” she replied with a mischievous smile and then the kids were off to the next display. It was another chicken, this time disguised as a beautiful rooster pheasant will fall coloring and long tail feathers. But this time around I did manage to get Kamryn to say, “Yeah, pheasant.”
From there we made our way to a walk way that passes between two large freshwater aquariums full of multiple species of game fish. Then it was on to the Africa display with its mounts of lions, antelope, kudu, eland and other animals from that part of world. Next was the mountain display of the various North American ecosystems and the species that make them home.
At each display the kids’ collective excitement was accentuated by Kamryn’s loud exclamations such as “Yeah, moose!” or “Yeah, elk!” Caribou was in there too, but I was not sure how to correctly spell Kamryn’s version of pronunciation. And so we made our way through the outdoor world. Even though our adventure was a little on the make believe side, and my fly-rod remained in the truck, it was the means of sharing my love of outdoor things with yet another generation. It also was a good way to keep grandpa out of trouble.
Now where is that black lab pup?
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.