How does a family tradition start? Over Thanksgiving weekend my family and I took advantage of the time off and headed out to Death Valley National Park for some exploring. This trip was going to be extra special as it would become my son, Hunter’s, first time visiting the park. It would also be his moment to become the third generation Gadecki to stand at Badwater Basin.
We arrived at the park late the first night and checked into our room at the Furnace Creek Ranch. Everyone was hungry so we met up with my brother and sister-in-law who had just arrived in the park for dinner.
The next morning I was the first one up and the excitement was over flowing as I was eager to get on the road. With my son being only 18 mos. old, I’m still learning to evaluate my expectations of what can be accomplished when visiting places. When we were in the Everglades two weeks prior, I decided to pick just three destinations to focus on. That seemed to work well for us, so I stuck to the same game plan for our full day in the park.
The background on Badwater Basin and my family: In the 80s my father traveled out to Vegas a lot for work and on days off, he and his co-workers would visit surrounding area parks. On one trip they traveled out to Death Valley where he posed next to the ‘Badwater’ sign. As a boy growing up in Binghamton, NY, I always looked at the picture hoping to see the desert one day. It wasn’t until my move to California that I finally made it to the park and stood where my father had once stood. For Christmas that year I framed both pictures and gave it to him as a gift. It was an awesome moment watching him unwrap the frame in amazement, as he’d totally forgotten about the picture.
That morning after breakfast, we got on the road and were finally on our way. It was still early so the park was quiet and the light seemed to encapsulate everything as the sun rose. There were a couple of cars at the parking lot when we finally arrived, but it looked like everyone had moved out on to the valley floor. Taking advantage of the opportunity, we headed straight for the sign and took our pictures right away. There was such a build up for this moment that I was glad it was finally here. I was so incredibly proud and as Hunter stood by the sign, I thought, “No matter what happens in life, my son will always be bonded to his father and grandfather through this one spot.” The legacy would continue and Christmas was going to be extra special again for my dad.
I didn’t realize how much it would affect me at the time, but looking back to when Hunter gave Grandpa his gift for Christmas. It’s definitely a moment that I’ll never forget. No matter how far away I grow from it.
The rest of our trip went great and Dante’s View was our last stop that day. We posed as a family over looking Badwater and then headed back to the ranch to relax. It was a long journey to get there but I was glad we made it.
On a separate note, I’ve recently been invited into “The Discovery Project” for L.L.Bean; where they’ve asked me to test and proof gear for them over the next year. When I accepted the invitation, I thought, “A year from now, what will I wish I had done with this opportunity?” It’s rare to be given such a chance in life and I wanted to experience this moment to the fullest. So I sat down and wrote a “Discover” list of where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to see, especially through Hunter’s eyes. I wanted to really make this an experience that I’ll never forget. So I made up a “Discover” sign and have been taking it everywhere I go. Writing in my destinations along the way and taking a picture with it. Following L.L.Bean's “Million Moment Mission” campaign from 2012, where the National Park Foundation was a direct benefactor. Every goal and moment that I accomplish on my "Discover" list, a donation will be made to the National Park Foundation on behalf of the people that affect my life. You can follow the adventures at #LLBDiscovery or my blog.