Adventures of our Fathers — And Farewell Dad

Post by blogger | April 22, 2009      

My father Charles Craig Dawson passed away peacefully last night, at 86 years old, from natural causes. In deference to his memory I’ll hold of on the blogging frenzy today, and instead take time to reflect, and yes, grieve. I’ve added this intro to a previous post about him we’d put up a while ago, hence the existing comments.

Comments and condolences appreciated, as Dad’s various family and friends will be checking this out. Also, our Caring Bridge site.

Craig was a great guy. Smart, funny, and most of all quite adventurous both in intellect as well as physically bold in his younger and middle aged years. My own bent toward alpinism is easily attributed to his influence. When Craig was able, he enjoyed checking out the photos here at WildSnow, and was especially gleeful just a few days ago when I told him about my latest rambling around the Alps — something I think he’d always wanted to do when he was younger but never had the chance.

Someone pointed out that perhaps Dad waited till I got back from my latest adventure before he started his ultimate adventure. I’d like to think that. Thanks Dad!

We had a wonderful ski descent yesterday, near here in the Elk Mountains that Craig loved and first brought myself and my brothers to when we were children. His spirit was definitely with me, as it still is. RIP Dad!
Adventures of our Fathers (earlier post from October 2008)

Colorado backcountry skiing.
My father, Craig Dawson, with me and a furry friend way back when. Note the rope around my waist. My mom used to leash me in the yard, no wonder I became a climber!

Adventure lifestyle, where does it come from?

Many of us can trace our wanderlust straight back to our father.

My Dad is quite elderly. He still has a sharp mind. But he’s not been doing well physically, so I’ve been on the phone with him a bit more than usual. He’s stuck in a physical rehab facility, and pretty much unable to do much but lay there in his bed.

He’s a long way away, so tough to visit. Even so, I’ll be heading out east soon.

Wildsnow is a “hybrid” blog, in that we take a more magazine style approach, interlaced with true “blog” entries that are more autobiographical, e.g., trip reports and such. I don’t usually get too personal because of family privacy issues and my desire to keep our backcountry skiing focus. But today I thought I’d honor my dad. So here is a story that’s closer to the inside.

I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. Not only was my father quite the outdoorsman back then, but he loved gardening and had quite the green thumb. He also loved hiking and exploring. I was playing in the yard or something, and he says, “Lou, I’ve got to show you something, come with me.”

With a watering can in hand, he starts hiking back into the wild bramble behind our house in New Jersey. At that age I’m just doing a trusting stumble to keep up, taking in the earthy smells and dark mystery primal forest.

I loved the feeling of a new, mysterious place. No fear, just awe.

Some distance into the forest, my father stops. Holding my hand, he kneels down before a perfect single orchid flower springing out of the dark forest floor. It’s a Jack in the Pulpit, a stunning flower that orchid lovers the world over love to cultivate. Only this one is growing naturally, nestled between tree roots in a cozy pile of humus. A riff of light floats through branches above, saturating the colors; imprinting the bloom on my soul like exposing a frame of Kodachrome film.

As dad gently sprinkles water over the orchid, I stand in wonder.

(Charles Craig Dawson obit here.)


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54 Responses to “Adventures of our Fathers — And Farewell Dad”

  1. Jay October 1st, 2008 11:55 am

    Lou…this really hit home…

    I too am from NJ and it was my Dad that sparked the love my brother and I now have for the outdoors. Camping trips in the Poconos, canoe trips in the Pine Barrens, etc…Definitely swallowed a lump reading you post and wanted to thank you for the more personal than usual post…THANKS…

  2. Michael October 1st, 2008 1:19 pm

    Beautiful memory Lou, it’s wonderful to realize that the love of the natural world is passed down through the generations.
    My father learned to ski in Vermont on beartrap bindings in the early 1950s. He was the one who put me in ski school when I was five, he encouraged my passion for the sport and was at least partly responsible for my move to the mountains.
    When he passed in 2003, I honored him in a way that would have pleased him. I stopped to ski in Taos, NM on my way home from the funeral, my car brimming with his posessions and my head brimming with memories of a common bond.

  3. ScottN October 1st, 2008 2:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing part of your story Lou. It is a good reminder to remember our roots. I know my love for the mountains started with my Dad. He would take us regularly up to the Mogollon Rim area in Arizona to camp, hike, fish, off-roading (back when 31 inchers were big tires…) and a little further up the road at Sunrise Ski Area, got me on skis as a young kid. Those are the memories I’ll never forget. Probably played a big part of why I even moved to Colorado and left the city behind.

  4. C Dawson October 1st, 2008 6:28 pm

    Hey Lou, thanks for the story.
    I, too, have been remembering some old tales of adventures with dad.
    I think the Lake Powell trip tops my list. Riding a small platform boat while the Lake was filling up, exploring the many side canyons with joy, and sharing the sadness of our discoveries as some of the most beautiful canyon country was covered by water.

    It is those few quality moments that we, as parents, can pass on a world of ideas to our children.
    See you soon.

  5. Erin Woodward October 1st, 2008 7:40 pm

    Lou, I am working on a market research project for my class at BYU-Idaho. I wanted to interview someone on the avalanche airbag system to gain some more understaning of the character that is interested in backcountry skiing & the ABS pack. I am very intrigued and impressed with your awareness quiz. You seem so knowledgeable that I would love to talk with you a bit. Would you be willing to answer some questions for me via e-mail up through Saturday, October 4th? Or could you direct me to someone you know that would be able and willing to help me? THANK YOU!

  6. Tony October 2nd, 2008 6:41 am

    Lou, your post today was very poignant for me today. I just talked to my parents this morning and my Dad’s skin cancer might be back. He sees an oncologist tommorow. They removed his ear a few months ago and they thought they had taken care of it. He took loosing the ear like a trooper, working in his study the next day on an article about the permanent lease in Japanese property law. He is disinclined to deal with the complications of chemo, as he is already in his mid 80’s and has a weakend immune system.

    My dad was more of an intellectual than an outdoors man, but he had a very adventurous imagination. I am trying to get him to write down a story he told all the children and grandchildren of the family when we were young. It started about Smashin Pashin and Natasha Pasha humming their way across the Taklamakan Dessert on the back of a cammel, and went on from there. Little wonder my niece is named Natasha and my brothers most adventurous trip abroad was to the Taklamakan. My dad says he wants to spend his energy finishing his article and says he will dictate the children’s story when he is done with the article.

  7. Lou October 2nd, 2008 6:52 am

    Thanks for the comment Tony. My dad Craig Sr. led quite a life of the mind as an avid reader and intellectual, his outdoorsman days were more confined to his 20s and 30s, as in his generation you didn’t extend it out the way we who came after do. He taught me that philosophy and intellect are as much or perhaps more of an adventure than anything.

  8. randosteve October 2nd, 2008 7:36 am

    Thanks Lou!

    Wish I spent more time with my Dad. He taught me to ski, but unfortunately can’t do it anymore because of a bad back. He encouraged me greatly when I decided I wanted to move to Jackson…and never got on my back about being a ski bum. DADS RULE!!!!

  9. Lou October 2nd, 2008 8:00 am

    Yeah Steve! Like many guys I’ve had my disagreements with my dad, but he always supported my life choices, perhaps even to a fault and sometimes in a rather bemused fashion. But that’s better than going too far the other way, and I appreciate that immensely as I look back. His collection of mountaineering books is what stung me at an early age. They were mostly armchair for him, but I made it a reality and I think he always enjoyed that.

  10. Yuani October 2nd, 2008 10:53 am

    I think I like “Kids in the Mountains” the best. I kind of reminds me of those old “Grandpa and the Kid” Field and Stream articles from the late ’80’s and early ’90’s.

  11. Marilyn Monforte April 6th, 2009 4:47 pm

    Hi. Read your entry…curious to know if you are related to Nicholas Dawson (wife Marion Dawson) of Boonton, NJ. Is Craig Dawson the son of Louie Dawson? Louie and Nick (and Palmer is the 3rd) are brothers. I am Marion Dawson’s neice and I’m in possession of Dawson family memorabilia that you may be interested in. Let me know.

  12. andyw April 22nd, 2009 9:04 am

    lou, sorry to hear your families loss.

    Sounds like a wonderful man though may he rest in piece and re-join the earth he obviously loved so much.

  13. ScottN April 22nd, 2009 9:14 am

    My condolences Lou. Glad that you were able to make that ski descent yesterday. What a beautiful day it was. And that rope around your waist in the picture is too funny. You must have been a wild child.

  14. Lou April 22nd, 2009 9:16 am

    Andy, yeah, along with his many other talents the guy was an amazing gardener! Scott, I’ve been trying to untie that rope ever since (grin). Thanks for the kind words.

  15. cjw April 22nd, 2009 10:25 am

    Best wishes,

  16. Nick April 22nd, 2009 10:31 am

    Lou – best regards to you and your entire family. Sorry for your loss, and the original posting was quite moving.

  17. El Jefe April 22nd, 2009 10:33 am


    great pic of you and your pops…… Kodachrome

  18. Randonnee April 22nd, 2009 10:42 am


    Heartfelt condolences for you and your family for the loss of your father. I appreciate that “Craig was a great guy” simply because many of us know that his son Lou is a great guy.

    My father died at age 86 in 2005. He and I shared the outdoors and mountains, so a fond memory is that my last conversation with dad on my cell phone was as I sat on my most frequented local randonnee ski tour peak. My dad also found joy in sharing my life and mountain adventures.

    I continue to grieve my father and also fondly remember much about his life and events in his life, this small sharing of your loss brings a tear again for me. Lou, you will be in our prayers.

    Best, Rob

  19. Tony April 22nd, 2009 10:53 am


    I am also going through the grieving process as my dad passed away in the last few days. I posted about him previously in the comments above. In retrospect, he should have been on hospice a month earlier, but for our family it is good not to have to second guess ourselves. The day after he died a large portion of his many and diverse friends came over and told “Dick” stories, he was quite a character. While we all mourned for him, it wasn’t too somber an occaision surrounded by his friends and given that it was time for him to pass on.

  20. Tom Gos April 22nd, 2009 11:12 am

    Lou, best wishes to you and your family.

  21. Daniel Dunn April 22nd, 2009 11:24 am

    Lou, so sorry to read about the passing of your father. My condolences to you and you family. I feel as if I’ve gotten to know your family by reading your blog. It hurts me, as when any friend’s family member passes on. All the best, daniel

  22. Tomas April 22nd, 2009 11:41 am

    Lou.. It is a great gift of the outdoors that he has left us.

  23. Lou April 22nd, 2009 11:44 am

    Thanks you guys. This blog is indeed a community, as is the world of ski alpinism. As such I know your support is heartfelt and genuine. I was just speaking with my brothers about our dad, and we enjoyed remembering where we came from as lovers of the mountains and adventure. Indeed, anything we’ve accomplished here at WildSnow we can trace back to the guy’s creative, involved, and frequently contrarian and puckish spirit. He definitely thought outside the box. Sometimes too far outside! But hey, I’m not unfamiliar with this sort of thing (grin). I’ve of course got all sorts of stories about the guy, most of which will remain private among the family. But some are comfortably shared. One of the best ones: Back when we moved to Aspen permanently in the 1960s instead of just visiting). Craig had been wearing a rather bushy beard for quite a while, and had a fairly scruffy mountain man demeanor which at the time was best termed the “beat look,” and would soon segue to “hippy.” Of course, there was this fascist restaurant owner who’d come from the old country and had HIS ideas of who proper people were. This didn’t include beards. Guido posted a sign in his eatery window: “No beatnicks allowed,” or something to that extent. Craig goes in there to eat, and Guido kicks him out because of his beard! Of this, roll models are made (grin).

  24. Andrew_L April 22nd, 2009 1:20 pm


    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family! Like you, my love of hiking, skiing, and being outdoors comes directly from my father. We owe our fathers a debt that can never be repayed…except by passing that love on to our own sons and daughters.

  25. Stephane April 22nd, 2009 1:31 pm

    I lost my father on Easter April 12th . He instilled the adventurer in me, which led me to many roadtrips across the world and eventually to backcountry skiing. Rest in peace to your father and mine. I am doing my best to pass this sense of adventure down to my three children.

  26. Owen April 22nd, 2009 6:55 pm


    I just lost my Dad yesterday at the age of 82- He also passed away peacefully in his sleep and all the memories are flooding back. He had been recovering from a back operation and it was looking like he was going to have to go into a nursing home. My dad would have hated that. Reading this post is helping me with the healing process. I am sorry for your loss.

  27. Lou April 22nd, 2009 7:09 pm

    Hi Owen, thanks for speaking up. Best wishes from us!

  28. Tony Nitti April 22nd, 2009 7:12 pm

    Lou, my thoughts are with you and your family. I’m very sorry for your loss.

  29. Frank Konsella April 22nd, 2009 7:32 pm

    Nice post to remember your dad. Sorry for your loss.

  30. Simon Isbister April 22nd, 2009 8:59 pm

    Hi Lou- I was quite touched by your original post last fall, and saddened to hear about your family’s loss.

    My thoughts are also with Louie; I was about his age when my grandfather passed away, and it was a very difficult period. Primarily, it was the first glimps I had of my own father’s potential mortality.

    Go do a few turns with your son!

  31. Chad April 22nd, 2009 9:05 pm


    I’m saddened for the loss of your fathers. Lou, the post about your father is truly a touching piece, and helps me to reflect upon my relationship with my father. I recently lost my father this February at the age of 63. He along with his best friend of 40yrs were tragically killed in a head on car collision back in Rochester, NY. I was introduced to skiing through my father when he took me to Swain Mt. when I was 9yrs old. That started my passion for skiing, the culture that surrounds the sport, and the pursuit of a lifestyle that affords me ability to ski regularly. Although I never skied with my father after that day, I owe my passion for the sport, and the outdoors to him. At the time of his death I was skiing in Marble with a friend enjoying some of the finest powder skiing of the year. Everytime I return to Marble Pk. I feel very close to him, as if he were watching over me and smiling as I rejoice in the spirit of skiing. He didn’t visit much while I lived in CO, but he always knew my passion for outdoor pursuits was something I truly enjoyed. I believe that my passion for these made him very proud…..

  32. Colin April 22nd, 2009 9:31 pm

    My condolences Lou. Sounds like your dad was a fantastic guy.

  33. Matt April 22nd, 2009 10:10 pm

    Lou, Sorry to hear about your loss, my condolences to your family. Without our fathers we would not be the men we are today. Remember well.

  34. Ryan J. April 22nd, 2009 11:16 pm

    So sorry for your loss. I have recently become a father and only now begin see the impact my father had on my life. May him forever adventure onward.

  35. Halsted April 23rd, 2009 10:03 am

    Sadly, as we grow older we lose our parents. It’s one of those things in life that we have no power to change. But, we do have the power of our memories.

  36. Lee Lau April 23rd, 2009 10:25 am


    My condolences to you and your family on your dad’s passing. My mum and dad got all of us kids into hiking. A lot of the reason I live in Canada and enjoy the outdoors to them. Thankfully they are still hale and hearty and I thoroughly enjoy hanging around and spending time with them to this day.

    Thanks for the reminder of what’s truly important.

  37. Lou April 23rd, 2009 10:37 am

    Wow you guys, thanks all for such kind words! I’m overwhelmed!

  38. Carl Pelletier April 23rd, 2009 11:02 am


    Thank you for the reflections. I got a bit choked up reading it. It brought back a flood of memories about my own father. I still remember getting a chance to ski with him once back in the midwest before he died….I remember being terrified that he had just finished open heart surgery not long before….and watched him in horror as he pointed his skis down the only black diamond run at the ski hill…not making one turn.

    My thoughts go out to you and your family.



  39. Peter Banta April 23rd, 2009 11:05 am

    My condolences to you and your family, Lou. While I’m sure the sense of loss is great, take solace in knowing he had a good run and left behind people who loved him and whom are doing their part to make the world a better place, each in their own way. I think that is all that any of us can ever really hope to do here.

    My father introduced me to skiing as at the age of 6, and while he no longer can go himself (not so much age, as back & knees), he enjoys hearing of my exploits, and I love to share them with him in word and with media. I owe much of the happiness I find there to him and his encouragement to get out in winter.

  40. NORTH.BEND April 23rd, 2009 11:16 am


    My condolences to you on the passing of your father. As someone too that has in recent years become a dad, I’ve realized the massive impact a positive person like a strong father figure has on kids…that eventually turn to adults. You, clearly had this. My appreciation for my own father has grown. I appreciate him so much, that I recently took him for his first small ski tour! He’s still not sold, but I wouldnt trade the memory of that day for anything.

    My best to you and your family.



  41. Lou April 23rd, 2009 11:19 am

    Carl, hearing that about your Dad’s ski style explains a lot (grin)! Thanks for sharing your memories. Let’s hear it for the skiing dads!

  42. Bill April 23rd, 2009 12:25 pm

    Hey Lou
    Sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. In you, he can be proud of what he raised. I lost my dad a number of years ago and it was like loosing an arm. I still feel the loss every day. I have to be greatful though for having the great dad I had, and, for the times we enjoyed together. Best wishes to you Lou, and I hope the memories can help ease the pain.

  43. Paul Beiser April 23rd, 2009 12:34 pm

    Hi Lou,
    Sorry to hear of your father’s passing away, I got choked up reading about it. My deepest condolences.

    That is an awesome pic (I hope u have one of Louie and you like this).

    Your entry and photo remind us to really live our lives to the fullest, and enjoy them all the time.


  44. Jonathan S. Shefftz April 23rd, 2009 5:36 pm

    Lou, my condolences on your loss, and thanks for sharing the memories of your father with us.
    My brother and I grew up skiing together with our father, and although he no longer can ski, he loves to follow our ski trips in words and pictures, so your story really hit home.

  45. scott messina April 23rd, 2009 8:13 pm

    Our thoughts are with you and we are sorry for your loss

    Scott and Debbie

  46. Lou April 24th, 2009 5:05 am

    Thanks you guys!

  47. Andrew McLean April 24th, 2009 9:47 am

    Hi Lou – Condolences from Polly and myself. Our thoughts are with you and your family.

  48. Dave Johnson April 25th, 2009 8:13 am

    P;ease accept my condolences for the loss of your father. I am sure your dad was proud of you.
    My mother passed away in January and I can relate to the emotions you are feeling. It’s easy to be philosophical when a parent passes away in their 80’s, but it’s still tough. You just miss them so much. The toughest part for me is reaching for the phone to give her a call. Small stuff like that.

  49. Brandt April 26th, 2009 2:50 pm

    Lou, my thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Thanks for sharing. You are an inspiration to me to be the best father I can be to my little girls.

  50. justin April 27th, 2009 3:02 pm

    Lou, haven’t been online much the past week and just saw this. My condolences on your loss.

  51. Mark W April 27th, 2009 4:43 pm

    Sorry for the loss of your dad Lou. I lost my father in 2002, and the things he taught were indelibly etched in my mind. The flowers along the trail, the species of finches in the back yard: These details helped me learn to love the outdoors as well. Peace to you and your family as you remember your dad.

  52. Geof April 28th, 2009 12:13 am


    Condolences and prayers for you and your family. It is never easy to loose a loved one, the one blessing in this is your father obviously lived a full, rich, life and was able to watch his son do the same. What more could a father ask?

    Take good care!

  53. mike marolt May 11th, 2009 8:24 am

    Lou, sorry for the delay, am in Tibet and in the mountains for the past few weeks. But my condolences to you on your father’s passing. It seems like yesterday i lost my father, and it is just tough. My thoughts and prayers go out to you that with confidence in your faith, you will get through this. For what it is worth, my faith was the only thing that gave me releif, and actually it thrived to make life better through the loss. It takes time, but it will happen if you fall back on what you know through your faith. Hard to explain, but i guess if anyone could get it, it would be you.

    Best to you and yours, and thinking about you.


  54. Jay Tyzzer August 10th, 2009 2:19 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Sorry to hear about your dad. The picture of you and your dad brought back memories from when we both were little and we would have picnics in your back yard in Boonton. I also have fond memories of you, Craig Jr., Andy, me and our fathers camping out together. Of course there was that time I spent living with you all in Aspen back in the ’60s. 😉 I was so excited to have a dark room in the house. Even though I was only developing B and W. You dad taught me allot about photography that I will never forget. I even remember going up on the Highlands with him to take pictures. It must have been hard as I was just learning to ski! He along with your mom brought up 4 boys that became good men. That is his lasting legacy.

    Cousin Jay

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