Camping in the shade of my father

My father, Victor White, would have turned 90 tomorrow (July 13.) Before his health began to decline rapidly in late winter, the whole family was making plans for a rustic vacation out on Catalina Island to celebrate his big day. One of my camping heroes, Horace Kephart, wrote that he camped “in the shade of Nessmuk in the Happy Hunting Ground.” (Nessmuk was the pen name of the great outdoors writer and master-camper George Washington Sears, a great inspiration for Kephart.) In a similar sense, I am always camping in the shade of my father because he is the one who took me out into the wild country when I was a boy, and brought the family back to the High Sierra every year without fail from the year I entered kindergarten to the year I moved away.

The Hudson Highlands were my father’s escape from his gritty neighborhood and impoverished circumstances during the Great Depression. Exploring that wild country gave him a sense that the world was wider than his crowded and stifling neighborhood. He worked his way out of there, made his way out to the west, and got us out among the glaciers and bears right around this time of year (always late July) for a week or so. Every time we headed up the highway toward Mammoth Lakes, we would look up at the Alabama Hills — the same strange potato-shaped rocks, with the Sierra escarpment rising up above them. Those rocks looked like a waking dream for my father, who used to while the hours away at the long-since-demolished Cannon Street Theater on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when he was a kid. For a nickel, he would watch cowboy movies all day long. It occurred to him that the Alabama Hills were a constant backdrop for many of those low-budget cowboy films. In taking us out to the wild country, he was making those matinee dreams a reality, not only for himself but for his four children.

My father passed away in late March. I’m so glad I had a chance to spend a couple of weeks with him at the hospital, and to share camping stories, and show him an early version of Under the Stars. He loved the fact that he has a starring role in the book’s final chapter. My Dad always liked to have the last word.

He will be on my mind tomorrow.


  1. Sheila

    A sad, yet beautiful tribute to your father.

  2. Dan White Post author

    Thank you

  3. jeannette langstaff

    Thank you for this most important book. I’ve written down your name and
    searched it on the website for your title again. Nature is our sustenance and
    inspiration and you remind us of that. My daughter and 2 girlfriends are happily
    starting their two night backpacking at Stanislaus National Forest. We’re both
    excited to have your book. How wise to treasure your father and have shared
    your writings with him. It’s with learning from Nature and caring for her that
    is true happiness. We need such education from your experiences in the wilderness and those of others you write about. Congratulations on your
    book that can help life and preserve its splendor.

  4. Dan White Post author

    to Jeannette Langstaff: Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. It means a lot to me, and I hope you have a wonderful time during your trip to the Stanislaus National Forest. (I love it out there, by the way — such beautiful country, minus the crowds of Yosemite.)

  5. Marlane

    May I again extend my condolenceses to you and
    Your family at the passing on of your father. The void will never leave however the
    Treasured memories that he has left for you to pass on will help to ease the pain……
    Several years ago I attended a class that was presented
    By Hospice where they advised us to “be aware of
    The signs ” They can be very comforting. My first one was
    A perfect double rainbow over the ocean on the Oregon coast right after my husband passed on. It might
    Be a sunset, a cloud, the stars ,wind through the pine trees
    or even glowing embers from the campfire bursting into flames. ……….
    It so happens that you sat at the same table where my daughter and I were having coffee while attending a convention in Washington State. this past weekend.
    Now that I have read your
    Book, Under the Stars which Will make wonderful Christmas gifts, and have seen your picture as a brave outdoorsman (feeding a
    squirrel) I would like to give you the name of our friend
    that once worked for the forestry and spends a lot of time in the area we referred
    You to.
    Now that I am aware of the type of writing that you do and how in depth you do your research, please feel free to contact us if we can be of any assistance to you
    Regarding this particular subject. I hope that you will.seriously consider writing a book on this subject…….

    1. Dan White Post author

      Great to hear from you, Marlane. Thank you very much for your kind thoughts about my father. And yes, I am certainly intrigued about the area you mentioned! We should follow up if I end up delving more deeply into all of this. Best wishes, and it was good to meet you the other day

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