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Camping – perfect summer vacation

By Shaun Kernahan; photos courtesy of the Zales family

Photo of rededication of the nature trail

Bryan with his mom, dad, and son Colter at a rededication of the nature trail and arboretum that dons his father’s name.

Camping in Colorado’s high country is perhaps the perfect 2020 summer vacation. Bryan Zales, Castle Pines resident, has always loved all the adventures being out in the mountains offered. He learned from the best, his dad.

When Dr. William Zales retired after more than 30 years of teaching at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, the school renamed the campus arboretum in his honor to recognize his contributions. Zales taught several science courses at the school including an outdoor ecology class where he would take his students on a backpacking adventure in Wyoming. His son, Bryan, would tag along.

Bryan remembers fondly the trips where they would get an outfitter, head to basecamp, then put in a seven-mile hike into the Wyoming wilderness and set up camp next to a lake. They would spend four to five nights and learn about the mountains, plants, birds and fish in the area. It was here he learned to properly name a plant, but it is also where he discovered his love of the outdoors.

After college, Bryan bought a chiropractic practice in Montana to be closer to the outdoors with easier access to hiking, camping, hunting and fishing. He developed a successful chiropractic business and was enjoying his new surroundings, but he was missing a Mrs. Zales to share it with. Then, on a work trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, he met Sarah in line at the airport. They exchanged email addresses at first, then phone numbers, then developed a long-distance relationship before she finally moved to Montana with him and became his wife.

Photo of Bryan Zales first backpacking trip

Bryan on his first backpacking trip at age eight.

In 2008, Bryan and Sarah moved to the Denver area, where she was from originally. They wanted to be closer to a big city, rather than small town Montana. They moved to Castle Pines in 2011 and that next summer they had their first child, Colter.

Now Bryan is passing on the love of camping and the outdoors to his son. Last summer, when Colter was 7, Bryan took him out to Guanella Pass where they experienced their first father-son overnight backpacking trip. Colter was convinced he would never get the chance to see a bear but saw two on that trip and bighorn sheep on the next.

Photo of son and father backpacking

Bryan and son Colter backpacking on Guanella Pass.

Backpacking has become a bit of a metaphor for how Bryan tries to live his life, making it clear what are needs and what are wants and trying to make the most of what you have. “If you forgot your socks, well the one pair of socks you have on will have to make do.”

Bryan and Sarah welcomed their second child, Aspen, 18 months ago. They look forward to the day she is old enough to go backpacking with the family but, for now, it is just a father-son bonding activity just like Bryan and his dad.



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