Archive for category hiking

Early Life Of An Extreme Outdoorsman And Speed Junky (Part 1 Of 3)

idyllic cruising in the great outdoors

Met a new friend out West who described his life of total immersion in the outdoors and his love of fast cars and motorcycles. His stories were so astonishing and descriptive that I urged him to write them down. Who could have guessed that his prose would be extraordinary too. I told him he reminded me of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo style or other journalists I imagine writing about speed on speed…or some other hallucinogenic. You are in for a real treat! (I hope he doesn’t mind that I relocated the first paragraph from deep within the story to give you a perspective of what is going on)

For whatever reasons, not the least of which was my father having a triple bypass at 35, I always figured on needing to pack as much experience into one presumably short life as a person could. So I’ve had the pedal down as far back as I can remember. The joke is on me of course, I never developed heart disease, but I did break a few bones, lose a shitload of skin and probably deserve to be dead 30 times over doing various things. Also got a late start building a career, so I’ll probably be working until I am in fact dead—but I design/test outdoor gear. How bad can that be?

OK, a quick bio: I’ve always been bipolar or multi-polar regarding outdoor sports, grew up at the beach but was sneaking onto the Irvine Ranch (before it was developed) behind our house with my .22 to hunt rabbits and quail (yes, quail, you just have to make a head shot, and I don’t mean when they are flying) and started fly fishing in the mountains around LA whenever my mom could drive me or with the Boy Scouts, then Explorer Scouts. Luckily the Explorer group I joined was the mountaineering group in Anaheim, which gave me my first glimpse of the High Sierra’s, and I got as interested in Golden Trout as I did in peak bagging.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, it was good bye to the scouts, and I was off every winter weekend to cross country ski tour/snowcamp in the San Gorgonio or San Jacinto Wilderness areas, often alone, which would drive my mom crazy, then backpack with a fly rod in the summer. Surf, ski, climb, hunt, fish, and of course getting around when younger I got everywhere on a bike, which became a nicer and nicer bike which became another, lifelong passion including a little bit of road racing in high school. I quit that because I kept getting clobbered by motorists who in those days weren’t used to seeing humans on road racing bikes out in traffic. Last crash involved being hit from behind by a car and flung through traffic across three fast lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber and surviving without a scratch. The rear wheel and rear triangle of my bike absorbed most of the impact and I came to a stop on the center divider balancing on my crank set, still clipped in, cars whizzing by in both directions. I did not get religion, I just left the bike laying in the highway and hitched home. No more road bikes for me.

Then one summer I came through Ketchum on a fly fishing trip and saw my first mountain bike—one of Tom Ritchey’s first hand-made bikes at the Elephant’s Perch, and my life was wrecked. I was living in Laguna at the time and the steep coastal hills were crawling with jeep roads, single track and game trails.

In a fitting way I was wrapping up my involvement with motorhead activities. My first car was a red Alfa Romeo Duetto softail Spider which I rescued from ruin and re-built myself. My second car was a raging-fast Lotus Elan which followed the same pattern, find a junker and bring it back to life one turn of the wrench at a time. I’d had a go-kart my Dad built for me when I was about 7, motorcycles, etc. so high performance driving was written into the software by the time I was a teen, and I could really drive. At one point I actually thought about it as a career, maybe an F1 pilot like Dan Gurney, but as I started hanging out at various tracks I realized I couldn’t stand the people who were involved with the sport. They were like golfers on crack.

With some irony I had long been co-evolving into a leftist tree hugging wilderness freak motorhead. I joined David Brower’s F.O.E. (Friends of the Earth) when I was 16, was reading Abbey, getting pangs about joining Dave Foreman’s Earth First gang but didn’t like the idea of prison. Note that both cars I mentioned were small, light, fast, fuel-efficient machines. But showing up to a Sierra Club meeting with my Lotus (even though it got 30 mpg) didn’t go too well. Which I found really disappointing. The leftist tree huggers turned out to be like accountants on crack.

In those years I tried everything that fit my personal ethos of small footprint, treading lightly, loving wild places, and having a fucking great time getting to those places. Think of hand-made (by me), aero cross-country ski racks and skis tucked behind the tiny roof line of a Lotus Elan howling through the desert North of LA at 2 A.M., on the way to Mammoth Tamarack lodge with the headlights off, navigating by the full moon at 120 mph with the Doors playing Riders on the Storm backed up by the sound of a nasty, tweaked-out twin cam motor pushing a low, smooth glass slipper through the void. Fuck the Sierra Club. (Continue to Part 2/3 in post below)

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Mr. Death Loves Thrill Seekers At Birthday Parties

Talking to some friends yesterday about thrills like parachuting and paragliding, I reached for my computer and showed the June 15th video on this site of people screaming excitedly during their maiden tandem BASE jump. Suddenly I saw that my friend was not smiling, but crying, and she asked me to turn it off. A neighbor and friend of a friend in her town was being buried as we talked after making a first-time, tandem parachute jump from a plane in which the chute never opened and both jumpers were killed. More poignantly, the jumps were gifts at a 50th birthday party for guests who had the courage and interest to try it out. I heard how the man’s wife also jumped and was walking along afterward looking for her lost husband. The CBS news story starts out like this:

David Winoker was a guy who didn’t take chances, always driving below the speed limit, always using several layers of sun block. His wife says she urged him to go skydiving Friday, and he reluctantly agreed. Taking that risk cost him his life…Three million people skydive in this country every year. In 2011, there were 21 related fatalities. Of those, just one was a tandem jump like Winoker’s.

As I started to tell my daughter about it later on, she interrupted and said she definitely wants to try jumping…and then I told her about this accident. A severe reminder that there is always danger in these thrilling adventures that take no skill, no practice. Just courage and money. When I jumped out of planes 50 years ago, it was after three weeks of conditioning under strict supervision. Yet people were killed and injured anyway. It’s a risky game. And jumping in tandem is definitely not a sport.

A few days earlier, I’d found this story about an experienced mountain climber who fell to his death. I knew two people who went hiking and fell over cliffs and died. It all sounds so idyllic, but accidents do happen, even to experienced professionals.

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How Actively Do You Relax?

I relax by writing, watching TV, surfing the internet, reading a book, looking at the grass grow. This morning I played 1 1/4 hours of squash games, lost every one, and am exhausted. I need to “relax.”

The other night I met a man who said he can only relax by being active. He said that he had hunted EVERY single Saturday for a solid year. Pheasants, quail, chukars, deer. If he couldn’t hunt near his home up north, he “hopped” a plane and went to Georgia or South Carolina. On Fridays or Sundays, he takes a golf lesson in the morning, plays 18 holes, then goes home and has a trainer give him a shooting lesson, and finally rounds out the afternoon by shooting 500 clay pigeons in his back yard. Probably just before going to a black tie dinner party.

How does a seemingly normal human being do all that activity?

But I remembered a lawyer I once hired who invited my family to his weekend house in Massachusetts. He was up by 5:30 am rowing his shell on a lake, then played two hours of tennis. As soon as we arrived around noon, we all ate lunch and went for a hike up a mountain. Back at the house, we were ushered onto a a speedboat for a spin around the lake. He said this was a normal day. Rowing is so beautiful when the mist is on the water. Gets you ready for the day.

But any one of these activities would have been enough activity for me. I was going crazy just talking, eating and hiking. I’d already driven a couple of hours to get there. The boat tour was fun, but way too much input for me.

Yesterday I heard from a friend that these guys may have ADD, which is attention deficit disorder or ADHD, which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some part of their brains need to be constantly stimulated to feel ok or calm or relaxed. Too much stimulation wears me out. I need to relax. Too little stimulation makes ADD brains go crazy. They need MORE activity to feel relaxed.

I knew that ADD/ADHD kids are given ritalin to relax them. I never knew before yesterday that the drug is a stimulant and helps decrease one’s need for activity and movement.

Whether the two adults I referenced have any disorder or not, they certainly have higher energy than I do or will ever have. The challenge is to discover what you need, what you like and figure out how to have them both.

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Anne Zimmerman’s Unbelievably Inspiring Cycling, Training, Mothering And Her Family’s Fundraising

Anne Zimmerman (ctr) pedals magnificently in the last hour of her all-day spinning marathon—2/12/12



To my left at Sunday’s Cycle for Survival was a woman who had been spinning for almost eight hours and inspired me to pedal faster than I wanted to and keep rising out of the saddle, rather than be seated like a wuss. Anne Zimmerman was the only woman in the group of just four EXTREMELY extreme cyclists this year who rode for both morning and afternoon sessions. And there were just 32 others who rode for four hours out of 10,000 people participating in this year’s event. She was magnificent.

I asked about her training to get ready and if she wanted to write about it. Little did I imagine that she spins 10 times a week, does 100 push ups, and road bikes 350 miles a week in the summer. I was also awed to learn that her team raised more money for the event than any of the other 2000 teams. Here is her amazing and powerful story.

Sunday I sat on a medium comfortable, ok, not so comfortable, spin bike for 8 hours sweating and panting but having the time of my life. Cycle for Survival raised almost 8 million dollars this year and our team, Team Perry, just crossed the $300,000 mark the other day. All of us riding for Team Perry draw our inspiration from one brave little girl, my daughter Perry Zimmerman.

But I think this story is supposed to be about me, not as easy a subject as my family and friends or the food that I write about on my blog, nutrimommy.com . Ok, me as an exerciser. I admit to being a fanatic, and I go to about 10 spin classes during a typical week here in New York City. I add to that one long treadmill run anywhere from 7 to 13 miles always before my Monday morning Darryl Gaines spin class, which is a rockin’ good time, plus one or two short runs, and a Thursday insane short run with Robert Pennino that often involves killer sprints up extremely steep inclines. I occasionally dabble in a duathlon, half iron length and am always prepared for that, so have never officially trained. Other than that, I do 100 push-ups of questionable form twice a week and occasionally pull-ups as I see fit. I do not seem to have achieved Ira’s abs quite yet.

The excessive spin classes are just a warm up for long summer and vacation bike rides. Last summer I had myself going about 350 miles a week with at least one 80 to 100 mile ride in there. Our marriage counselor, Gregg Cook,(hah, he is really a spin instructor) thinks I need to rest. Yet I assure you I do this all purely for fun. I know some people have questioned my wasting my precious babysitter (free) time this way, but I cannot think of a better way to explore my community and broaden my world beyond the gates some of my friends rarely pass through. By riding to farmers markets and grocery stores, I save myself from sitting in a car, something we city women cannot get our head around.

Outside our Maryland summer community, I have found amazing Chesapeake views, crazy hills, a swath of fishermen communities and farmers as income diverse as you can imagine. I’ve met people through my own flat tires, through my blabbering on about unhealthy sports drinks with artificial colors and through my poking around little farm stands like the one that always gives me a glass of water or the one where the woman cannot believe I am over 40:) I love that woman!

In Florida, I have discovered every health food store from Ft. Pierce to well north of Melbourne, and inland have found organic farms and bootlegged raw milk and illegal organic groceries. I even was carded buying Kombucha at Jungle in Melbourne…boy is Florida odd.

Every year in August, in spite of some whining and complaining by my husband, we take a hiking trip in eastern Canada. Last year, I let him talk me out of it, and we headed to Florida where we discovered an enormous lump in my daughter’s leg. Since she had had retinoblastoma as a baby, and a huge brain tumor as a two year old, I immediately suspected cancer, had it confirmed and came home to Sloan Kettering.

Since then, I gave up most of my career-related activity, I do not advise on nutrition, nor take law school classes toward that LLM in environmental law. I no longer research and write about unreasonably ridiculous FDA laws, nor do I visit the NYC public schools to check on the vegetarian lunch program. I rarely get the chance to take my younger three kids to an after-school activity, but I do still exercise.

I think the sacrifices are small, and the time at the hospital with my recovering daughter who has three more months of chemotherapy is worth every sacrifice. But the exercise keeps my mind and body strong for her.

And believe me there has been heavy lifting involved. After her 15-hour surgery I squatted for a half hour holding her leg up…OMG that hurt. Hauling a few backpacks of her school work and her IV fluids a block to hail a cab, or pushing a wheelchair sometimes for more than an hour or two, is not physically easy either.

If I look back on this cancer experience since August, the incredible support of friends and family, my husband and my other three nutty kids, the crazy rockin’ fun heavy exercise of Darryl’s spins, and the seriously tough exercise of Avery Washington and Robert get me through my long, sedentary, often stressful hospital days. So, I am already looking forward to next year’s 8 hours, when I am again a regular mom with four healthy kids.

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World’s Scariest Hiking Trail

The entrances for this trail are closed but not policed. It was built in the
1920’s for hydro workers. There is no rail but there is a chain to hold
onto but it doesn’t hold much weight and several people have fallen to their
deaths. This is an amazing walk! This should have you on the edge of your
seat possibly feeling slightly dizzy. You should watch this, if you can,
till the very end.

To intensify the experience, click on the full screen button (it
looks like four arrows on the lower right hand side of the screen when the
player comes up). It’s enough to make you nauseated. In fact I tried to show it to a friend, but she was too frightened to look at more than 10 seconds…

And to think that people do this kind of thing for the fun of it…AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!! I am such a wimp…or so much smarter. What do you think? Would you do it? Write me and I will give you directions how to get to the trail.

Exercising In The Heat Can Be Deadly

First I read an article back in July describing dedicated exercise enthusiasts who are so disciplined that 90+ degree temperatures don’t interrupt their regular schedules. Very impressive. Then I read another article this week that reported the death of a famous film editor who went hiking in Los Angeles, when the temperature reached 113 degrees, and appears to have died from heat exhaustion and disorientation. Too much heat can really be dangerous.

Sally Menke and Quentin Tarantino

This editor, Sally Menke, 56, was the daughter-in-law of famed cellist Aldo Simoes Parisot. She edited every Quentin Tarantino film from “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992 to last year’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which earned her an Academy Award nomination.

Menke’s other film credits include “Death Proof” (2007), “Grindhouse” (2007), “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004), “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” (2003), “Daddy and Them” (2001), “D.C. Smalls” (2001), “All the Pretty Horses” (2000), “Jackie Brown” (1997), “Nightwatch” (1997), “Mulholland Falls” (1996), “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” (1991).

She was talented and must have been smart. I saw many of the films she worked on. Too bad that she thought it was still okay to hike in such hot heat. Even more upsetting is that she started the hike with a friend, when temperatures were already in the 90s, “and had been walking for about 45 minutes when Menke, who had a history of seizures, complained of dizziness and said she would return to her car. Her friend actually left her and continued hiking alone.” What kind of friend leaves you when you’re dizzy? Hope none of my friends would abandon me like that. I can hear the excuse now, “Gotta finish my hike, Sally. See you around.” But she never saw her again.

About 15 minutes after the two split up, another hiker spotted Menke on a trail. She appeared disoriented but declined any help. She never returned, and her body was found much later.

Why didn’t she accept any help? People are strange.

There is another story I read yesterday about a guy who was drinking a pint of vodka in four seconds…and he died of alcohol poisoning. His friend said, “I did try to take the glass off him, but he turned his back on me, pushed me away, and drank it all.” Are these people suicidal?

As the first article mentioned, some exercisers just tune out the heat. Listen to these excerpts: On Wednesday, inside a small, mirrored yoga studio in Midtown that was as sticky as a jungle, 21 people twisted their otter-slick limbs into knots as sweat soaked through their towels and dripped to the floor.

Outside, it was 87 degrees. Inside, it was 106 — and as sour-smelling as a gym locker…“It’s not going to feel hot outside when I go out,” said Celester Rich, whose bald head was glistening after class. “I used to complain, ‘Oh, it’s so hot out.’ But now I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t even bother me.”

“If you can handle this,” he added, “you can handle everything.”

… Many runners preparing for the New York marathon, to be held on Nov. 7, have had to carry on their training programs through the hottest days of July.

For them, this summer has been a game of balancing miles and degrees: on one scale there was 26.2, and on the other there were 103, 100 and a bushel of 90s. Usually, the 26.2 wins out.

“I’ve got an obsession with my training, so even on days when I probably shouldn’t have gone out, I’ve forced myself to,” said Aled Jones, an information technology specialist preparing for his first marathon.

Now that is vision, discipline and dedication that should inspire all of us. Just don’t let it kill you. No matter how much you like it. Remember that I have written about tennis players who loved the game to death. Literally. And they died on the court.

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Hiking In The Alps

Alps vista


Last week I was in beautiful mountains—the Austrian Alps—with trails that in winter are covered with snow and skiers. But in the summer, when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, there are thousands of

mountain hikers


people walking on the trails with one or two extendable hiking sticks for balance. Amazingly, more than half of the people seemed to be gray hairs over 60. My friend said that his sister is 82 and has been “walking” all over the world. Some of the old folks who had just finished hiking would sit down in the gondola or on a bench and be unsteady, shaking and seem like they were barely able to balance without their hiking sticks.

hiking sticks in town

Who would believe that such elderly people could walk so far and up and down the hills on narrow footpaths or wider paved surfaces strewn with pebbles and rocks that were treacherous and could easily lead to a misstep, slip and fall. Of course there were young people too, with babies on their backs or five-year-olds somehow taking shorter walks. But it is all very impressive.

busloads of elders

Many hikers took the chair lifts and gondolas to start their hikes at higher altitudes. Although I was only 4700-6600 feet above sea level, I found myself breathing heavily sometimes to take in enough oxygen. I thought I was in decent shape from all my tennis playing, but it was definitely an effort on occasion.

joy in the world

Personally I didn’t find it as challenging or exciting as some of my other sports, but, like tennis, it has the great advantage of being do-able when your ancient. And clearly it is an activity that many find satisfying, healthful and glorious.

meadow view


Maybe you want to try it yourself.

Here is the Wikipedia description:

“Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. Many beautiful places can only be reached overland by hiking, and enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature. Hikers see it as better than a tour in a vehicle of any kind or on an animal, because the hiker’s senses are not intruded upon by distractions such as windows, engine noise, airborne dust and fellow passengers. Hiking over long distances or over difficult terrain requires both the physical ability to do the hike and the knowledge of the route and its pitfalls.

distant Alps

“In the United States and United Kingdom, hiking refers to cross-country walking of a longer duration than a simple walk and usually over terrain where hiking boots are required.[2] A day hike refers to a hike that can be completed in a single day, often applied to mountain hikes to a lake or summit, but not requiring an overnight camp. Bushwhacking specifically refers to difficult walking through dense forest, undergrowth, or bushes, where forward progress requires pushing vegetation aside. In extreme cases of bushwhacking where the vegetation is so dense that human passage is impeded, a machete is used to clear a pathway. Multi-day hiking in the mountainous regions of India, Nepal, North America, South America, and in the highlands of East Africa is also called trekking; the Dutch refer to trekking also. Hiking a long-distance trail from end-to-end is also referred to as trekking and as thru-hiking in some places, for example on the Appalachian Trail (AT) or Long Trail (LT) in Vermont. The AT is almost 2200 miles. The Long Trail is 272 miles and the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States.”

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