100 Hikes?

[Top part written in 2010--edited since then]

Last month, I read an article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune about a guy (Kolby Kirk) who made a resolution in May 2009 to do 100 hikes before 2010.  I don't have a current working link to that story, but his blog appears to still be up here.

That sounded like an admirable goal.  And we all  need goals.  Being unemployed at the moment, having a goal to work towards can be particularly important.

I completed about 20 of these hikes before I got around to creating a blog to document my hikes. It's pretty unlikely that I'll go back and write trip reports of all of the missed hikes. In part, that's because a lot of them have been or will be revisited going forward. Since I'm going to be doing the vast majority of these as day hikes from home, it would be extremely difficult to do these 100 hikes without some repetition.


As 2010 drew to a close, I reflected on my progress towards 100 hikes:

As I approached the 100th hike of the year, the final scene from the movie, "The Candidate," kept coming to mind.

It's a classic movie, starring Robert Redford, basically playing Jerry Brown, circa 1974. He decides to run for U.S. Senate. So, like me, he set a goal, devised a strategy to achieve your goal, executed his plan, got elected, then. . . . What? So on election night, after he's been confirmed the winner, he asks his campaign manager, "What do we do, now?"

That's the same question I started asking myself in early November, as I neared my 100th hike of the year.

The impending milestone was a little bittersweet for me. I had set the goal, in part, because I wanted to give my life some structure and an outlet. They say looking for work is (or should be) a full time job, but you can't do that. The ups and downs are just too exhausting. It's too demoralizing to keep putting yourself out there everyday, particularly when so many of those applications just sort of slip into oblivion. I went through more than a few months without so much as an interview. I also went through a few months with multiple interviews. But none of them panned out.

Yeah, it's been a humbling experience.

And so I decided it would be a good thing to spend time doing something other than dwelling on the fact that I was still unemployed. That's where the 100 hike goal came from.

Well, it wasn't entirely my idea: I read about someone else (Kolby Kirk) who had set for himself that same goal in 2009. I never asked him his motivation, but I did like the bar he set.

Of course, it would be easier for me because I was making my resolution shortly after the new year. He had to do his 100 hikes in less than eight months. With 52 weeks for me, that meant I would only need to average two hikes a week, which would be possible (though more difficult) even after I started work. In the meantime, rather than just sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I was going to get out of the house and make something positive come out of my unemployment. And, with any luck, it would also help me lose some weight.

So that was it: An ambitious but achievable goal that would be fun and healthy to pursue.

I've always enjoyed hiking. But, like a lot of hobbies, it was always something I spent more time thinking and reading about than actually doing. So even though I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, I could probably count on my fingers (and possibly a few toes) the number of unique local trails I had been on. And I would probably only need the fingers on one hand to count the trails I had been on more than once.

It's a lot easier to find hiking trails now than it was when I was growing up. Back then, you either learned about trails through word of mouth or you bought a book and hoped it was a good one. Nowadays, once you get a name, you can google the place and often find dozens of descriptions of a trail destination or route.

Several sites proved particularly useful. Dan Simpson has a hiking website on www.simpsoncity.com with dozens of very detailed treks. So he not only had information about trails that I had heard about elsewhere, but he also had descriptions of trails I had never heard of. Modern Hiker, at www.modernhiker.com also provided both ideas for new trails and descriptions of trails I had heard about but wanted additional information. Also, coincidentally, there was this show called Motion that aired on channel 7.2 (Originally the Live Well HD Network, but now just the Live Well Network) that helped feed my hiking interest. Although most hikes were far away and not feasible for me, one show covered three hikes in the LA area that I ended up doing as part of my 100: Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains NRA, Mt. Lee (The Hollywood Sign), and the M*A*S*H hike in Malibu Creek State Park. The other shows simply reminded me of how much fun it was to get out into nature.

So how does it feel to have achieved the goal? Well, as I said earlier, it's a little bittersweet. When I started the march towards 100, I was sure it would be difficult because I would soon be working a regular, 40-hours a week job. Unfortunately, here it is, December 2010, and I'm still unemployed. That almost makes achieving the 100 seem like a badge of dishonor: "Congratulations on still being unemployed after over 100 hikes, you big loser of a putz!"

At the same time, what's the alternative? If I had stayed home and NOT done my 100 hikes and I was still unemployed, then I'd REALLY feel like a putz. I'd REALLY feel like I had wasted a year doing nothing but sitting on my butt.

Instead, I got this unexpected (not exactly wonderful) opportunity, and I did something with it. I got to see a great deal of the Angeles National Forest (at least the front range that's outside the Station Fire closure order). I got to take a few hikes in Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, where I had visited numerous times for their dark night time skies, but where I hadn't hiked before. I managed to hike Baldy several times without the assistance of any mechanical conveyance. I also made it up Mt. San Jacinto without the use of the tram. I had an extra excuse to drive all the way out to Great Basin National Park, where, even though the star party aspect of the trip was mostly clouded out, I got to hike Wheeler Peak.

And hiking is still a joy. I enjoy seeing the unexpected (well, deer, anyway. I have no particular desire to enjoy an unexpected encounter with a mountain lion!). I enjoy the sense of discovery and wonder that you experience when ever you go someplace you haven't been to before. I enjoy seeing new things even in places I've hiked many times before. And I enjoy the time alone.

It's not that I'm anti-social. It's just that, in the modern world, we're always being bombarded by people and things and the demands they put on our attention. It's nice to have time to let your mind wander.

And so, the answer to the question of, "What do we do now?" For me, for now, the answer is, "More of the same." More hikes: some to new places, and some to pay a return visit to old friends. I'm not sure if I should start renumbering the hikes in 2011, but I do intend to keep blogging about my hikes. It's become a bit of a habit for me: Hike, take lots of pictures, sort the pictures, write up the hike, upload the pictures, and repeat as necessary.

Besides, I'm still unemployed. So while I still spend plenty of time looking for and applying for work, preparing for and going to interviews and exams, I also still need breaks from that. It's just more of trying to make the best of a situation I never thought I would find myself in.


Addendum--August, 2011:

I'll be starting work in a few weeks. I had to move out of town to get a job, though I hope to return to the L.A. before too long. For the next X number of months, most of the hikes will be in Kentucky or Tennessee, especially around the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. It's the closest public hiking area to where I'm working and living, now.

Addendum--January, 2012:

Spent five months last year in Kentucky, and doing a lot of hiking in Land Between the Lakes. If it wasn't for the fact that living there meant living apart from my wife and cats, that would actually have been a pretty outstanding place to live. However, as the fall semester drew to a close, I knew I could not stand another six months living so far away from home. So, in November, I informed my employer there that I was going to resign at the end of the semester and return to California.

After making that decision, my employment prospects actually had a turn for the better. I was able to find full-time employment back in the L.A. area (something that I had been unable to do while actually living there!). That job started right after the new year. I've also been able to supplement that with a part-time job, teaching night classes. Come March 1, we'll even have health insurance!

I'm thrilled to be back home and gainfully employed. My hiking productivity will take a hit, though.

I'm going to miss the freedom to hike 3-4 times in a week.


Addendum -- May 20, 2020

I forgot to mention some time ago that this particular layout of Blogger appears to limit you to ten pages, which meant, after having done this for so long and added a new page each year, I ran out of new pages I was allowed to add! So I stopped adding new pages, and just kept adding new hikes to the existing main page, without the separate annual list and hyperlinks. It occurs to me that that I could choose to combine some of those years, and that might help the organization. On the other hand, I'm hiking less, and I get a lot fewer visitors (possibly because I'm posting less, possibly because fewer people are blogging, I'm not sure). Anyway, inertia suggest I won't change that, but I really should.

So, here I am in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic. The years since my last addendum have been pretty good, financially. I progressed in my primary job, and managed to continue working a part-time gig. Initially, that was out of necessity, but after a few promotions in my primary job, the second job became a luxury (and the third job an unnecessary drain, so I gave that one up). It's meant a lot of positive things, but, on the negative side, it meant less time for hiking and my other hobbies, which partially explains the drop in posts. Another reason for the drop in hikes and posts was more personal, as my mother spent three years in a nursing home. After-work visits became a regular part of my life, which was rewarding in and of itself, but obviously made hiking harder.

Sadly, she passed away last year. In just now hit me that it's just about one week short of a year ago, now.

It was hard to get back into the swing of things, hiking-wise. I kept setting ambitious goals, then something would come up. This year, it was the pandemic. Hiking took a holiday for about two months. It'll be tricky for months to come. But when I'm able to, I'm going to hike, and I'm going to keep blogging. At any rate, that's where things are with me.

Hope you all are living life as wisely and as well as possible.