Monday, January 31st, 2011...11:25

Great Expectations

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In the summer of 2003, I read an article about the Tahoe Rim Trail being awarded national status. I was familiar with the big name trails e.g. Appalachian and Pacific Crest, for which completing a thru-hike was a many month commitment. This trail was only 165 miles long and there were less than 200 people who had officially registered a thru-hike (completing the trail in one trip). So it not only seemed like a more realistic endeavor compared to attempting a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, but if I did it in the next few years, I could likely be one of the first 1000 people.

Later that year I read an article about the shrinking ice field/glaciers on top of Mount Kilimanjaro disappearing by 2020. I figured that while they still might be there after 2010, they’d be significantly less impressive so if I wanted to see them for myself, I only had a few more years in which to do so.

At the time I was working as a contractor i.e. no vacation days or unlimited vacation days depending on how one looks at it, but was not sufficiently motivated to plan and train for either activity figuring I had at least 5 years before there would be any urgency. The following year, I hiked to the top of Mount Whitney which established a couple of important baselines; it was my first backpacking trip and highest elevation to which I had ever hiked.

Summit of Mount Whitney

The ideas continued gestating over the next 3 years but I took no further action. Vacation time was at a premium since I changed jobs twice and got married; and other more time-sensitive endeavours came up e.g. total solar eclipse in Turkey in 2006. Then I happened upon another article stating the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro were not going to disappear by 2020, they would likely be around through 2040. While that would allow me to procrastinate further I decided I should still stick to my original notion of visiting before 2010. I took a look at the thru-hiker count on the Tahoe Rim Trail and decided since the count was only up to about 600 I should plan the Kilimanjaro trek first.

I started training later that year, going for runs in all kinds of weather over the hills of San Francisco, hiking to the top of Mission Peak twice and then to the top of Mount Diablo (it even snowed at the top) on back to back days. Finally in February of 2008 I summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

In early 2009 I checked the thru-hiker count of the Tahoe Rim Trail. It was almost to 900, which meant that if I didn’t hike it that year I would likely not be one of the first thousand. So I decided to start training (I walked every single mile of Redwood Regional Park many times over), updated some of my backpacking gear and in August of 2009, with my wife as my trail angel, I thru-hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail, the 915th person to do so.

After that, people started asking me “what’s next?” I didn’t really have an answer and often wondered why people presumed I was going to embark on a physically strenuous endeavor every year. After shrugging my shoulders a few times I came up with one; perhaps I would run a marathon for time as I had completed one with my mom in 2004, but that was more to get her across the finish line than to test myself. Oakland was planning on holding its first marathon in a while sometime during March of 2010. There was no real sense of urgency or desire on my part so March came and went, no marathon. However, during that time my friend with whom I had hiked to the top of Mount Whitney had been talking about going on a backpacking trip somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. He had been going on some solo 1-2 night hikes in NJ and was itching to do something longer.

That materialized into an unsupported trip through the 100 Mile Wilderness last August. Needless to say, that fueled an increase in the number of “what’s next?” inquiries upon my return. Again, I have no answer. There are of course many things I’d like to do and see, people I’d like to spend time with etc. but nothing along the lines of the 3 excursions I’ve undertaken during the previous 3 years. It might be time for a break.

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