The Importance of Male Bonding, and finding the time to do so.

General Posted by dewtattoo 7 years, 1 month ago

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.

5 replies

  • glen

    This sounds like an awesome annual event.

    I used to be a part of a group of guys who would meet every other Thursday ("Odd Thursdays") at a pub to catch up and have a beer. But nothing to the extent of your camping trips... those sound incredible.


  • Razorback

    First, congratulations on your engagement! Sounds like you are already off to a great start in your relationship.

    I believe that male bonding is very important. Sadly, it does not happen often enough for me. This is largely due to the fact that my wife and I never had kids (voluntarily) but almost all of my friends did. Therefore, I tend to have more free time than they do. Also, with everyone have different numbers of children at different ages, scheduling anything longer than a weekend is difficult.

    When we were all younger, we always had one week in November that we got together to camp and deer hunt at this one particular spot. We managed to do that for nine years straight and it was a blast every single time.

    I have recently been trying to convince a few close buddies to take an annual trip somewhere for a week of fishing. No luck in moving that forward yet but I hope my persistence will pay off and I might finally get them to commit.


    • dewtattoo

      I know the feeling. My fiance and I have been trying to get couple friends to do things with on the weekend, such as bowling, dinner, etc. It a ridiculously hard task to accomplish. Everyone has kids and no babysitters, or divorced friends have their kids on opposite weekends as my fiances son. We have practically given up on asking friends out to do thing with us.

      Good luck on getting your buddies to join you on that fishing trip. I would keep pestering them until they cave. Once the trip is successful they will give in to making it an annual event.

      Our Heman trips fluctuate in attendance numbers from year to year, but their is always those core dudes that plan for the trip and make sure their vacation time is turned in at work at the very beginning of each year. I'm one of those guys. We even have a facebook page. Research "Heman Camping" on facebook and look for the picture of Alfalfa from The Little Rascals.


  • brian

    This is seriously impressive. I greatly admire the founders and the people that have kept something like this going. It takes a lot of fortitude to commit to something like this and the consistency it takes to make it into an annual event is something that many, many people lack.

    It used to be so easy to get my friends together to go on a trip or just hang out and do something. Now it is damn near impossible. I have attempted on a couple of occasions to assemble my closest friends for a "guys" trip, but have found it to be increasingly difficult to coordinate. Maybe I lack the fortitude that I described above and gave up too soon. I'll readily admit how discouraged I was to find that simply asking something as easy as "hey, let's all get together and go on a trip to Austin" wasn't doable by the majority of my friends.

    Honestly, how hard is it to set aside one weekend a year to hang out with your buddies? It is a bizarre world when that seems like one of the hardest things to accomplish in life, but I found it to be so.

    On a related note, Glen and I have wanted to do something like this for the Gentlemint community since we started the site basically. An outdoorsy trip where we could all meet up in person, do some cool stuff and talk about life is something we'd like to do at some point, but again it is tough to coordinate and see through. Hopefully someday.

    Thanks for sharing your personal story about this yearly trip, it has inspired me to get back to trying to arrange a trip for myself and my friends, as well as contemplate a Gentlemint adventure someday.