Walking as a tonic…

Why do people turn to walking as the activity that will soothe their roiling souls?

A 33 year old recently divorced, long time overweight man who suffers from Crohn’s Disease decided to radically change his life by taking an unpaid leave from work to spend six months on a personal odyssey and hike the Continental Divide Trail, raising awareness about Crohn’s as well. The trail begins in the Big Hatchets Wilderness area in Mexico and ends 3,100 miles north in Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border.

Route of the Continental Divide Trail

Route of the Continental Divide Trail

Unlike the Appalachian Trail which originated around 1925 and is well blazed and fairly close to civilization, the CDT was only designated as a National Scenic Trail by Congress in 1978 and meanders far from city lights. Moreover only 72% of the trail is considered to be in its final location. Once entering the United States the trail traverses New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The Continental Divide is a line of mountain ranges that begins in Alaska and continue into South America. The Divide divides rainfall: rain on the west wends its way to the Pacific Ocean; rainfall on the east runs into the Mississippi River system and Atlantic Ocean. The CDT could rightly be considered the ‘spine’ of the continental United States.

The trail goes north and south. Water flows east and west.

The trail goes north and south. Water flows east and west.

In couchtocdt.wordpress.com, blogger Pete decided to hike the CDT after looking in the mirror in 2011 and “seeing a sad fat and depressed person staring back”, he writes in an early blog post.  The trail would be a challenge he could embrace, help cure him of his laziness and procrastination, help him lose weight and make him into someone people could look up to, he writes. And now the hike is underway. Pete posts regularly from the trail, tweets more frequently and posts his breadcrumbs on a Delorme map, techno trekking modes that are becoming commonplace among wilderness adventurers.

Is walking more of a tonic than writing? More than learning to paint? Volunteering in a soup kitchen? When the spirit is roiling, moving seems to be the preferred elixir, and moving through the grandeur of open space among mountains and valleys subject to the vagaries of mountain and valley weather seems to be the specific prescription. After more than 580 miles Pete is already sounding a more positive confident tone, especially as he offers support to others who suffer from Crohn’s. In a recent post he wrote: “I can’t imagine not being out here and I know that making it this far is a privilege that many other suffers can’t do”. Read more at: www.couchtocdt.wordpress.com

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Everest and the end of terrestrial exploration…

1963 Everest expedition

1963 Everest expedition

May 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the American summit of Mt. Everest by James W. Whittaker along with Sherpa Nawang Gombu in 1963. This summit success was ten years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first ones to successfully summit the peak in May 1953. But Whittaker’s summit of Everest was important for America at the time and his success together with the subsequent success of Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld who reached the summit on May 22nd, 1963 helped kindle a fascination with mountaineering and outdoors pursuits in this country.

But 50 years later Everest is not the same place it was when Whittaker climbed, when one could not pay a guide tens of thousands of dollars to lead him or her to the summit. And no one could have virtually traversed the route up Everest via Google Earth or, even have imagined doing so.

National Geographic together with the American Alpine Club have posted a video just under six minutes listening to the views of Whittaker, other principals in that historic climb and other mountaineers and adventurers on what we gained that May 1963, what we have lost since then and what we still have.

Here is a short sample of the thoughts of mountaineer Conrad Anker who went to look for George Mallory’s remains on Everest in 1999:

“Terrestrial exploration in the way Livingston and Lewis and Clark and the great explorers of the past 200 years, thousands of years explored is no longer there. You can open your tablet or your smartphone and you can explore anywhere on the world. But what’s left is that internal exploration, that journey of exploration. That is worth celebrating.”