Posts Tagged 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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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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