Authored by Kent Larsen, Youth Services Licensed Family Therapist
Are family vacations important? Why would we want to go on vacations with our siblings? Our parent(s)? Wouldn’t we just argue with and torment each other in the car on the way?
Do any of these questions and statements sound familiar or have they ever come out of your mouths?
From the time I can remember I have looked forward to each summer. Yes, the summer is often full of fun opportunities for a kids, teenagers and adults. However there is something that was always the highlight of my summer–trips to Ferron Reservoir in Central Utah. Ferron Reservoir is nestled high in the mountains of the Manti La Sal National Forest (33 Miles from Manti, Sanpete County, Utah and 29 Miles from Ferron, Emery County, Utah). Each year I longed to be in the beautiful mountains where I could experience the deep blue sky met by heavily wooded mountain ridges. One can see the lush green meadows dotted with colorful mountain flowers. Birds are often heard flying from one tree to another chirping on their merry way, chipmunks heard as in the distance they scamper from place to place gathering nuts for winter, the pleasant sound of a brook winding down the mountain, or the rustle of leaves as the wind blows through the quacking aspens. Such a place to drink in and enjoy as it recharges the soul.
As I grew up activities included fishing, hiking, boating, horse-back-riding, singing at the top of our lungs obnoxious songs together, hot dog and marsh-mellow roasts followed by eating s’mores, and sitting around the camp fire telling tall tales and singing camp songs with the guitar and ukulele.
My family usually went to Ferron Reservoir twice each summer because my Dad and his siblings jumped at an opportunity to lease land from the U.S. forest service in the early 1960’s. It is also the area where my Dad spent much time during his early years and not far where he ran cattle during the summer. I often wondered why Ferron Reservoir is not only my favorite place, but also of my parents, each of my four siblings, our cousins and their parents (my aunts and uncles that share the cabin). Is it the incredible beauty and magic of the mountains? Is that area the most beautiful in the world?
As I got older, I came to realize that there are many places in Utah and outside of Utah as beautiful as Ferron Reservoir. The difference is the many fond memories I have there with my family and friends. There we were free to enjoy each other without interruptions television (no signal before the days of satellite TV), no phones (before the days of cell phones), no community demands, my parents were not stressed because of work and home demands, no heavy traffic, and anything else that night interrupt family time together. We were isolated from those interruptions. We had time to play board games together or cards with the whole family which we never seemed to have time to do at home. We would talk with and enjoy each other’s company, tell stories and laugh together, have picnics, and experience the beauties of the mountains together.
As a family therapist, I have realized that much of what made, and still makes Ferron Reservoir my favorite place can exist in a variety of different places families can go together. It might be in a beach-house on the Oregon coast or a campground on East Canyon. It might by touring one of the national and state parks or national monuments our state is so famous for. It might be a four-wheeling outing in the west desert near Moab. It could be on a fishing boat at Strawberry Reservoir or picnicking at Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It doesn’t matter where it is. In my opinion, every family needs to have its Ferron Reservoir(s). What is required for fond family memories to be made?
1. A place that promotes family fun and interactions and is removed from the employment, civic responsibilities.
2. It is removed from the normal distractions of life: such as cell phones, excessive electronics screen-time, and television).
3. It is helpful for the place to be of interest to the family.
4. It promotes conversations, interactive games with each other, and enjoyment for all.
Technology and electronics doesn’t have to be a detriment to family vacations, but can take over of they are not governed with time limits or some restrictions. (Cell phones can be very helpful to contact someone in case of an emergency or coordinate with people who are to arrive later on the vacation or campsite. However, if teenagers or parents spend the whole vacation talking with or texting friends and not with each other, the purpose of a family vacation is defeated.
5. Vacation options need to not so expensive that it can only happen on rare occasions (every 4 or 5 years). Family trips don’t require a cabin or an expensive RV (although access to those things doesn’t hurt the vacation possibilities). Only a tent or gear to sleep outside and a place to set them down are required. If you go to a campground and don’t have to dig a latrine, it is even better. A family vacation doesn’t have to be the same place every time either. It just needs to promote family togetherness. My fondness of Ferron Reservoir is that my family had access to the cabin there and so we went there every summer.
It is my desire that every family can discover their “Ferron Reservoir” so that fond memories can be made and family ties can be strengthened as mine have been. So many things work against positive family relationships in our day. Family vacations counter those forces and often even have siblings sitting together having fun. Yes, the scenes around Ferron Reservoir are beautiful to the eye and rejuvenating for the soul. But the many memories I have with family and friends have made it my favorite place on earth.