Exploring Denali National Park
“Is it raining out?” Ryan, our 13-year-old nephew bellows from his sleeping bag. “I heard dripping on the tent all night and it still sounds like it is raining.”
I zip up my jacket a little more. “It’s only drizzling,” I assure him from the picnic table. “It’s mainly just falling from the trees. But wait until Uncle Justin finishes prepping breakfast to come out of the tent.”
My watch reads 6:15 am as Justin fires up our camp stove to boil some water.
“But if it keeps raining, are we really going to hike in this weather?” Ryan lets out a simultaneous whine and yawn as he finishes his sentence.
“Of course!” I reply enthusiastically, knowing there is no Plan B.
For Justin and I, who have built a life around the outdoors and have hiked more than 12,000 miles together, walking in the rain comes with the territory. But, for our Gen Z nephew who finds walking home from the bus stop a chore, this could be a catastrophe.
According to the Children & Nature network, only 6 percent of children between the age of 9 and 13 play outside in a typical week. In contrast, these kids spend 53 hours a week using entertainment media.
We are on Day 3 of our Alaskan adventure, an 8th-grade graduation gift for Ryan from us. Ryan is admittedly an electronics junkie. Whenever we visit him, we make it a point to get him outside and he loves it. But this trip is different. This involves several consecutive days of outdoor play.
Camped in Denali National Park and Preserve, we hope to spot all the famous animals today—including the two biggest: grizzly bear and moose. We review all the protocol with Ryan for keeping a safe distance from wildlife, but we have no need to worry about him taking any chances. Ryan claims he would rather see these wild animals from a football field away to be safe.
Five hours into the mostly rainy day in the national park, our nephew has not complained about the raindrops pouring off his hood. Instead, he is smiling ear to ear, excitedly losing count of the caribou, Dall sheep, bald eagles, ptarmigan and, as luck would have it, moose and bear.
As we bed down for the night in our tents listening to the continuing precipitation, Ryan makes a bold declaration.
“Camping in the rain is really not bad at all!”
Justin and I smile at each other and hope this is the start of a lifetime of exploring for Ryan.