What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Father and son hiking in Alaska.

By Dr. Perry Francis, DDS

This is the first year that we sponsored our summer contests asking patients to share how many books they had read and how many miles they had hiked. What is the connection to Wild About Smiles? These are both activities that I enjoy, and they both contribute to better overall health.

The last book I read was Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mount McKinley. It’s a riveting first-hand account of the first people to climb Alaska’s Mt. Denali in the winter. When they accomplished this feat in 1967, it was known as Mt. McKinley, and nobody had any idea how cold it could get. They experienced it when they were trapped above 14,000 feet at -148 degrees Fahrenheit.

A view from our hike to Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield.

One of the reasons I was interested in this book is that my son Michael and I decided to hike parts of Alaska this summer. We had been talking about it for years, and we knew we needed to do it before he started dental school, since we would have a hard time seeing each other afterward. We spent a week hiking areas from Kenai to Denali National Park; two of my favorite hikes were Exit Glacier, and up to the Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjord National Park. This was an eight-mile hike with a 2,500-foot elevation gain/loss.

The other hike that I really enjoyed on that trip was Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park. One of the reasons this ridge is so popular is that on a clear day, you can get a beautiful view of Mt. Denali in all of its majesty. This 12-mile hike was probably the toughest one we did, with more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. It was a very warm day, with temperatures close to 85 degrees, which is quite hot by Alaskan standards.

Exploring Glacier National Park in Montana with my family.

I also hiked parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail, especially around Brockway Summit. My favorite family hike of the year was the Grinnell Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park in Montana. As you get older and your children grow and start their own lives, the opportunities to spend time together as a family are fewer and far in between. It was really special because I had that opportunity.

I look forward to completing many more hikes in this beautiful world we live in. And when I can’t be hiking, I will be reading about them. How about you? What do you like to do for fun? What are some books you would recommend?

Congratulations to this year’s winners and to everyone who participated. I strongly believe that the more we appreciate the planet we live in, the better we will take care of it.