A Hiker’s New Year’s Resolutions

Tis the time of year, the New Year that is, to take stock of what was 2006 and set course for 2007. Last year was particularly poignant for me – prominent articles in “Backpacker” magazine, the Valley Times and a short piece on the CBS “Early Show” provided features, and brought my message to a national audience. It’s a message that I’ve had a terrible time conveying locally – that a disability is not the end of the world. Every life comes with certain limitations, even those of sports and Hollywood types whom we seem to worship. Better to be able to wander on trails and chase rattlesnakes than to have to defend one’s privacy without letup. I’m fortunate to have those abilities I have retained, and encourage everyone to experience life at every turn, to the fullest extent possible.

2007 brings with it quite an ambitious schedule. While I’m “working”, somewhat half – heartedly, on a book that may go down in history as the Work Most Deterred By Procrastination, its completion will inevitably occur. But with so many weekends on the calendar, so many excuses to hike or camp or fish away the most productive time….writing will require a firm foot to the seat of my jeans from my wife and friends. It’s something I just have to do. At some point!

My schedule will include at least one more attempt at 14,246 foot high White Mountain Peak, east of Bishop in Mono County. After two unsuccessful attempts this year, I think I figured out that some more time to acclimatize to the altitude is probably a good thing. I’ll do some warm ups, a couple of 11,000 foot – plus peaks north of Sonora Pass, and the more grueling local hikes, most notably at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve and on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail from Lake Del Valle. These are unreal trails, and at local elevations it’s almost luxurious to have oxygen. They are also excellent methods for gauging my progress at the gym. Will all that weightlifting amount only to sore shoulders, or might it result in a successful hiking year? Only time will tell, and I can barely hang on until the trails dry out.

I’m also set to try a more difficult trail – from Onion Valley in the eastern Sierra westward until I make it to Road’s End at Kings Canyon National Park. This trail has been on my list for a couple of years. The limiting factor will be those points where the trail narrows to a foot – wide ribbon of dirt, barely enough for a fawn to traverse. Those sections may be troubling, but I’ve been assured they’re short, and the drop from them should I teeter over is not too….dramatic. This trail is almost 40 miles long, and will require several days to complete. I hope to solo it, or have a small party with me. But it must be done, and this will be the year.

I will continue exploring the ever – increasing expanse of land operated by the East Bay Regional Park District, too. At least 50 more trails within this comprehensive recreational system have called to me, tempting me to get out and test new boundaries. I can’t say enough about the EBRPD. They’ve been on the cutting edge of creating experiences for every ability. They say you have to drive to Orange County to find the Magic Kingdom? Not so – it’s right here in our backyard, available to everyone who has the spirit to explore. I endorse fully the yearly membership pass, which enables individuals or families to visit their favorite Regional Parks for a full year without paying entrance fees. Mine is usually paid for in entrance fee savings by February. And don’t let me forget the yearly Trails Challenge, from which I earned my first pin this year. Check out ebparks.org for 2007 details. The Livermore Area Parks and Recreation District (LARPD) offers a similar program, which is a “must” for frequent visitors to Sycamore Grove or Veteran’s Parks. I have one of those, too. And I’m not afraid to use it, pardner!

I have such a long list of trails to try out, an almost insurmountable number. I want to summit Mt. Lassen once more. I want to explore in greater detail the Carrizo Plain National Monument, east of San Luis Obispo, during the awesome displays of wildflowers found there in the Spring. The Plain also affords the opportunity to see the San Andreas Fault up close and very personal. I’ve been known to tell out of state tourist types that if they park on the fault line, and all start jumping up and down at the same time, they may be able to register on the Richter Scale! Ah, Tourists…they can be such a good time!

Educationally, I want to learn more map and compass skills. Frankly, I have a pretty good sense of direction. But you can’t learn too much about navigation when you’re idea of a good time is a 15 - mile ramble from Mt. Diablo to Round Valley Open Space. Being able to get out and get back without incident is not always as simple as it sounds. The more I can learn about basic route finding and compass orientation the better.

Wow! I’m scaring myself. I know the only real limitations for me, as for you, are time and the will to get out and do it. We can talk all year long about the things we saw on TV or in the paper and how wonderful it would be to toss them into our own Personal “Done” List. But hopes and wishes won’t get fulfilled without you taking that first step – put it on the schedule, on your calendar. Pick a park, plot and plan, and partake of the pastoral places you’ll pluck!

Finally, I hope to run across as many of you as I can when I’m out toodling around. Don’t be bashful – I look forward to meeting all who sojourn in our parks and wild places. Finally, here’s a quote that neatly sums up my feelings about life, and how to live it:

Make each day your masterpiece” – Coach John Wooden

If you have ideas about a hike, or something new to try, please e – mail me at


I look forward to reading your resolutions for the New Year!