Tom Ross: Anyone for a game of Butt Darts?
Buchanan authors kid-friendly approach to outdoor adventure
May 1, 2010
Steamboat Springs — One of the most telling sights in Steamboat Springs this time of year is that of an exceptionally fit young man or woman jogging along with a grim look of determination while pushing a two-seater, full-suspension baby stroller up the street.
Parenthood finally caught up to another hard-core Rocky Mountain athlete.
Hey, we all came to Steamboat to push our limits in the mountains and on the rivers, but the name of the game changes at least temporarily when offspring arrive on the scene.
The Steamboat-based editor of Paddling Life magazine, Eugene Buchanan, and his wife, Denise, have been through it all with daughters Brooke, 11, and Casey, 7. And this month, Eugene Buchanan came out with a book on the subject of introducing children to a life in the outdoors.
"Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids" is published by The Heliconia Press. It's dedicated to "recreationally challenged parents" and based on a foundation of promoting healthy lifestyles among the next generation. The book guides parents in how best to introduce their youngsters to outdoor adventures.
Already, "Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids" has won its first award. Buchanan's second book just received a gold medal from the 2010 Living Now Book Awards in the family books category.
The book arrives almost simultaneously with President Barack Obama's first White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors. The goal is to persuade youngsters to spend less than the typical 53 hours weekly with electronic media and more time in healthy outdoor recreation.
However, Buchanan's style is anything but preachy. The book is packed with genuinely funny cartoons by Dennis Hengeveld that will resonate with Steamboat readers — such as the one depicting a father deflating an inflatable boat while his youngster squeals, "The kayak farted!"
The book begins with a chapter on "The Art of the Handoff," packed with time-saving tips on how to prepare for a distance run while covering child care chores and handing the youngster to a spouse on the way out the door.
Each succeeding chapter deals with strategies for introducing children to adventure sports from cycling to snow sports, backpacking, kayaking, climbing, fishing and more.
Buchanan's book goes way beyond wry humor to providing an amazing amount of practical advice. He explains everything from how to teach a child to properly insert a mitten into the strap of a ski pole to how to pick a kid-friendly sea kayak.
A veteran of first descents on wild rivers in South America and Asia, Buchanan also offers advice on undertaking mildly epic adventures such as backcountry skiing to Tenth Mountain Division Huts in the Colorado High Country (hint: Dad will be towing a sled packed with gear behind him).
The Buchanan family's favorite game for amusing the kids on hut trips is called "butt darts." It involves backgammon pieces, Dixie cups and much giggling. You'll have to read the book because I'm not going to explain it in this newspaper.
Humor can solve many kiddie crises in the wilderness, but it didn't help the Buchanans' neighbors last summer on a raft trip down Desolation Canyon on the Green River. Right in the middle of a nasty mosquito attack that was pushing some of the adults in the campsite over the brink, the zipper on a tent broke. The kids were covered with bites, and all the adults could do was lead a singalong.
Even experts like Buchanan have embarrassing tales to tell about the ups and downs experienced while instilling their progeny with a love for the outdoors. Consider the time he took Casey Alpine skiing in a backpack on Mount Werner while she was still a toddler.
"I heard some whining back there, and I said something like, 'Suck it up, princess!' and kept on skiing," he said. "When I got to the bottom, I took the backpack off and noticed one of her feet was bare. Her boot had fallen off and took the sock with it."
A day later, a friend cruised the lost and found at the ski area and spied a little ski boot with the name Brooke written on it and crossed off. She surmised that Casey had lost it, and Eugene was busted.
Don't let it happen to you. Buy the book — available any day in local bookstores.