A storied life

Start'em young

Words by Dustin Randall
Pictures by Natalie and Dustin Randall

Dustin and Natalie spend their time in the Utah frontier with their son Roman. They explore the region by rope, skis, and bikes; in no particular order and often in combination. Together they own and operate Roam Industry, a guide and outfitter out of Monticello Utah. They enjoy small town living and all things human powered adventure.

Our son Roman loves bedtime stories. 

His favorite genre is action adventure starring himself or a mythical version of himself (big surprise). I am often bewildered by his continued request for the off the cuff verbal mashup I come up with. One night he pointed out a few commonly used genres of my own that I weave into the stories.

If there is a mountain (and there always is) he knows the protagonist is going to need skis. Big water in the way? Deploy packraft. A never ending dark forest littered with trolls or witch infested desert to cross? Beckon the bike to leave them in the dust. Rocky heights or crumbling castle walls in the way? Slip on rock climbing shoes.

I give him the challenge, he gives me the solution. I unrepentantly confess to the unabashed inception of outdoor pursuits during his bedtime regimen from the day he showed up in this world. The goal is not to “brainwash” him into liking these pursuits, but for him to recognize that these activities can be done by virtually anyone, especially himself. He can’t shoot webs, turn massive and green, or have a hammer fly him around or boomerang back after a mighty throw. But he can step into skis and thunder down a mountain, grip the handlebars and crush a trail faster than the Hulk ever could. These are super things that can be done in real life, super actions are real. And a few weeks ago Natalie and I witnessed our five year old “supe” up.

It has been a busy summer and Roman has spent so much time on the tablet he can teach classes to the elderly on how to use it. We needed to get out, more than our local climbing crag and bike laps around town. We needed a family adventure straight out of the bedtime stories of old. I pondered over maps, calculated distances and came up with a 12 mile loop. Bike six miles out and packraft six back. It takes place at Strawberry Lake, utilizing my sharp wit I christened the trip “Strawberry Shortcake” (I am a dad).

Nat cleared her schedule, we packed gear, prepped Roman with treats, games, toys, all the stuff you need to keep the attention of a five year old fiend. The trip started off with a classic late start followed up by a two hour detour on the highway. In the end we got to the trailhead at dark. We didn’t have the time to stretch the trip out another day, and had to get right into this quest regardless of the absent sunlight. I frequently talk of witches, trolls and the krampus in Roman’s bedtime stories but make sure to point out that none of them are real (I may give a shoulder shrug on the existence of the Krampus). Yet as I was strapping his life vest onto his pack he asked for a confirmation that witches and trolls are not real. Staring into the dark forest we were about to plunge into, I didn’t blame him. 

Packrafts strapped to the handlebars, paddles on Nat’s pack, Roman with a bag full of treats, and a friend we had invited along to be the rear guard we mounted up and rolled out – then dismounted and pushed our bikes up a hill. 

We turned wheels till midnight and still fell short of the planned camp site. But by Thor’s red beard Roman crushed it. Despite his bike light crapping out and a few good diggers he uttered not a word of complaint (for real). 

When we started looking for a campsite he urged us onward, but we set up the tent and he was the first one to pass out. He slept until ten AM, that never happens. 

When we spotted water we drew up, blew up, and paddled out with bikes strapped to packrafts (which impressed Roman greatly) thus starting the aquatic leg of the trip. 

It was long and uneventful besides a spontaneous plunge into the wet by Roman. An hour or so of paddling under a July sun brought us back to the wellspring of our journey. 

That night I don’t remember why I showed Roman a clip of some guys jumping off cliffs with wingsuits but he asked if I could tell a story with those in it. What will the future bring? Awesome things, if we keep living our stories.

4 thoughts on “A storied life”

  1. Platt Merri Allyson Merri Allyson

    I miss your family. I can hardly believe Roman is five! Thanks for sharing your adventure. It made me feel like I was there. I’m sure I might have complained a little. Great job Roman and mom and dad!

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