I went on a hike last year with my boss. Not one of the lower level managers but the real cheese. The head honcho. We hiked up Mt. Baldy–that big humpback of a mountain that sits over Los Angeles. Is was about a ten hour hike and I was surprised at how well I did. My boss was in the middle of a New Year’s goal of his, to hike 60 peaks. I think he ended up at around 150. Most of those peaks were repeats of the various hikes sprinkled throughout the Angeles Forest right here in Los Angeles. The rest were in the Sierras. Colin Fletcher always said how walking can become an addiction. I think my boss certainly qualifies for that. I enjoy it a great deal but it never has become an addiction. Not that I’m without my neuroses.
I asked him why, if he is so driven that he could climb 150 peaks in a year–which amounts to one or two serious all day hikes a week–why not attempt even greater feats? Hikes and climbs and adventures he has never done before. Colorado has its 14,000 footers. Alaska has Denali. The Himalayas have the roof of the world. Why not make a run at Everest Base Camp, or hell, Everest itself? He was not exactly interested. His goals are not so ego driven. He is one of Colin Fletcher’s walking addicts.
If I was addict-driven I would walk every day. A free few hours? How about Switzer Falls, or maybe Baden-Powell once again? I could probably even tolerate Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon. Serious hikes are like books. Every so often one pops up I want to read again, but usually there are too many other options that I just keep pushing forward. I want to try bigger and badder hikes. I want my adventures to scare me. I want my lists to break the seams and spill over my breaches.
After I graduated college I went on a trip through Italy with my girlfriend at the time. It was three weeks and we had a great time. The biggest conflict came early on when we had a chance to scrap all of our plans and spend a week on an island off the coast. We decided against it. My argument was that we were here in Italy to see Italy and not hang out on the beach so we should try to do as much as we possibly could. She had already been traveling for a couple of weeks so the prospect of relaxing on a beautiful beach was obviously enticing. I was too much of a asshole to agree. When we got back I decided my next trip would not involve so much. I didn’t want to to see every spot I could for some vain purpose of checking off destinations on a map. It’s been six years since that trip and I haven’t really gone anywhere since. Until now.
I’m traveling now to fulfill both these desires. Two days ago I booked a flight to Tanzania. At the same time I reserved a spot on a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro. The trip is for three weeks. The trek is for 8 days. A part of me wants to spend those remaining two weeks seeing every part of the country. Maybe I could go into other countries or try to take a train across all of Africa? Or maybe I could just spend two weeks unwinding on the island of Zanzibar, walking in the sand and spending time with turtles. I think that sounds fucking glorious. The Kilimanjaro trek will probably be the hardest physical feat I’ve ever accomplished. Maybe the first thing I’ve attempted that demands me being in better shape. The idea of trying something big–climbing the biggest mountain in all of Africa, losing brain cells around 20,000 feet–well, I don’t deny that the motivation is ego and selfishly driven. If it’s just the hike I want I could go into the Angeles and climb every peak over and over again. But my desires are not so pure. I want to see what I’ve never seen. I want to do what I’ve never done. I want to try things few have attempted. That big old mountain is just sitting there. Why not give it a shot?