Sierra Club stories from the front lines

Celebrating Father's Day with a Father and Sons Outings Leader Team

Bart and sons

Bart Carlson is a longtime Sierra Club Outings leader with a pretty special reason why he loves leading outings so much: Because he frequently gets to do it with one or both of his sons, Zach and Bart Jr.

Bart has led rafting trips, weekend trips, and multi-day expeditions for the Sierra Club, and as a nature lover, it just made sense to teach his kids to love being outside, too.

"It's where life-long memories are made," Bart says. "What a great legacy to leave - having my children loving others and the outdoors as much as I do."

Bart's son Zach agrees about the memories. "When my brother Bart Jr. and I were young, we were so blessed to have our father slap life jackets on us and throw us into big blue boats on the river," says the 17-year-old. "To the two of us this meant a day of massive waves and fun in the water."

Over the years, Zach says his dad slowly let the two boys take on more and more responsibility, and it wasn't long before they earned their own place as Sierra Club Outings whitewater rafting guides. "I am a very blessed man and father to have such an opportunity," says Bart.

One of Bart's favorite memories of leading an outing with his sons is a recent trip on California's East Fork Carson River. They were leading a group of eight teenage boys from a center for troubled youth.

"The beauty was beyond our expectations - back-side Sierra views, hot springs, desert plateaus, and an amazing group of kids and Sierra Club Inner City Outings guides," says Bart.

Sierra Club Outings' Mel MacInnis describes it as such: "The last night of the trip, one of the group chaperones shared a great gift with Bart. Most of these boys did not know their fathers or had bad experiences with theirs. Moreover, most of the counselors at Hanna Boys Center are women, so it is rare for them to interact, play and engage with a positive 'father figure.' Bart and his son were total hits with the Hanna Boys, who got to see a positive father/son relationship, while they got some positive male attention too."
Bart and his two sons
For Zach, the whitewater training and trips with his dad have been so much more than learning to be safe on the water.

"He has been guiding us through rapids ever since we were young, and more symbolically he has been guiding us through life to become young men," Zach says. "So when the question is asked, 'what's it like to serve and lead on outings with my father,' the only response I have is that it's an honor to lead beside the man whom I learned everything from."

Bart hopes to keep leading outings with his sons for many years to come.  "As a father, I could not ask for a better opportunity to model to my children the impact of serving others and caring for our environment. I am a very blessed man and father to have such an opportunity."

Happy Father's Day, Bart!