Mountain Dad is a magnet. A stranger magnet.
Unknown people ask him to take their pictures, or occasionally take pictures with him. If there is a car stuck in the snow he’s the one drivers approach. Every time we are on outdoor adventures a stranger approaches Mountain Dad for something – directions? Check. Recommendations? Check. Random small talk? Yep. Once we went UTVing and the only other person in sight struck up a conversation about suspension, towing capacity and aftermarket parts.
Some of the more outrageous stranger magnet moments he’s had? Two winters ago he and Big E were having a snowball fight in our yard when a random group of Korean tourists stopped and asked to take their photo.
Snowballs, flannel shirts, flushed faces, maybe it felt like an Eddie Bauer catalog moment?
Then at the Sundance Film Festival this year, no less than five different groups grabbed photos with him in a single night while hanging out down at the Resort. Maybe they thought he was famous? I’m not sure why anyone would want to take their photo with random strangers, but of if they did, Mountain Dad would be the one they would ask. If we are on a hike or at a campground people come over to chat, not with me, but with the bearded guy in a flannel shirt. Stranger magnet.
It’s not like he’s the only person around. It’s not like he exudes approachability. He’s a broad shouldered man with facial hair. He’s introverted. Between the two of us, I would be the one most open to talking to strangers. But something in the universe makes people gravitate toward him. This is the mystery of our adventures.
This interaction has happened so often in our lives that Mountain Dad has a nickname – American Friend James. What is it about a broad shouldered man in flannel that gives people a sense that he knows what he’s talking about? Does he exude friendliness? No.
He exudes expertise.
It’s true, Mountain Dad DOES know a lot. He researches, plans, and has experience with outdoor activities. When we invite other families to go camping with us I make a point to say, “It’s easier if you camp for your first time with us. We know what we are doing.”
Mountain Dad is confident. His quiet confidence leaks through everything we do in the outdoors. I trust his judgement with finding camping spots, loading up gear, and knowing where we’re going.
When we were dating, he took me on hikes and camp outs for the first time in my life. He introduced me to the fresh air feeling of enjoying the outdoors. When we first got together, I never would have expected how much the outdoors have become a part of our lives. It has enriched our time together, become our vacation choice, been our family bonding time. For our ten year anniversary we spent the week in Alaska, camping in Denali National Park, viewing glaciers fall in Kenai Fjords National Park, watching bald eagles and grizzly bears and wild salmon.
I love that. I love him. The outdoors has been a large part of our life and our love story. What about yours?