I grew up in a camping family. We never went on any vacations that didn’t involve sleeping bags and mountains. My parents would pack up their three kids and we’d pile into our green VW bus and head into the high country, where we could truly be wild children. When I was five, my dad built a canoe and most of our camping trips after that involved paddling around a lake.
I started backpacking when I was ten, the first year I went to Camp Jack Hazard. CJH is a high Sierra Nevada summer camp, where kids learn backpacking and leadership skills. Being a kid at camp in the mountains was always the highlight of my summers. My dad recognized the fact that I loved backpacking so he started taking me along on trips he’d plan with his friends. At the age of 14, I started working at CJH, becoming a wilderness leader. I learned to play the guitar so I could sing songs around the campfire. That’s where I first fell in love with the idea of being a musician. Playing folk songs high up in the mountains. I continued working at CJH every summer until the age of 22.
[A five-year-old Brett in the canoe his dad built. Photo: Brett Dennen Collection]