The Importance of Male Bonding, and finding the time to do so.
In 1986 my friend Al Lopez went on a Father’s Day camping trip with his dad, Big Al. Big Al decided to invite his brothers and their sons to join them. This was a “guys only” camping trip, so they left the wives and daughters at home. The men camped in California’s beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, and with the help of a few fishing poles, some target shooting, and lots of red meat, these guys rediscovered the importance of male bonding. They were gone for only a few days, but Big Al and his brothers started something that I feel incredibly thankful to be a part of.
Sitting around the campfire on the final evening of their trip, they decided that they should try to do this trip every year. Better yet – They decided that they should invite their closest friends and their son’s to join them.
When they returned home, Big Al’s wife asked him how his “He-Man Woman Haters” trip had gone. He told her all about the trip ….and Heman Camping was born.
This year marked the 30-year anniversary of that Father’s Day trip, and Big Al and his brothers stayed true to their word. They have been returning to camp in the same area on the first weekend after Father’s Day ever since. Also true to their word, they have been inviting close friends and their sons each year. Of course now there are 3 generations of the Lopez family camping on that trip, and the friend count has grown as well. During the last 30-year anniversary trip, the attendance count was upward of 45 men, and the year before that had a whopping 75 men. I am proud to say that I am one among them. I have been attending the annual Heman Camping Trips for 6-years now.
For one week in June, every year, all of us guys gather up our gear and head out to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some guys bring sons, some bring dads, some bring both, and some guys come alone. We spend the week camping, fishing, target shooting, hiking, playing cards, playing liars dice, swimming, drinking, relaxing, and most importantly, catching up with each other’s lives (the majority of us all went to school together). We all lead busy lives and don’t get to spend the kind of time with friends as we would like to during the year. That one week a year is our open chance.
I recently got engaged to my girlfriend of three years. My fiancé has an 11-year old son. I have been taking him to Heman since he was 8. He and I look forward to Father’s Day all year long. My dad died in a traffic accident back in 1986 (just a few months after Big Al and his brothers started this whole thing), so I especially know the importance of spending time with men in your life that you look up to.
In 2017 I’ll be inviting my new father-in-law to join me and his grandson on our annual Heman Camping trip.
Do any of you guys have a group of friends that do something like this? If so, I would love to hear about it.
One last thing…. Big Al and his brothers still come camping with us every year. Big Al is our Patron Saint of Heman, and is a surrogate father figure to me.