Not all memorable hiking experiences by local trekkers take place in our back yards. Friends I’ve hiked with in the wilds of Pennsylvania have shared with me their joys as well as difficulties of venturing out on trails in remote regions of the world. Some — nay, most — of these trails make our local well-maintained paths in our section of the Appalachians look like walks in the park.
Good friends of mine, a couple from Covington who regularly join us on our weekly hikes, returned this fall from an excursion, accompanied by other Tioga County hikers, on trails in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Last year they also hiked out west in the Rockies. Another adventurous friend, Jan B., solo hiked Europe’s Camino de Santiago Trail, beginning in France and finishing 500 miles later in southern Spain. Not to be overlooked are Asaph Trail Club members who have completed the extremely difficult 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail, the longest continuousy-marked footpath in the world.
Henry B., a hiking friend who lives with his bride near the border of Tioga and Potter counties, relates his early November experience on a difficult trail out west. Here’s what he has to say about Mt. Pedernal, a 9,866-foot mesa in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico:
“Took one of the worst hikes yesterday. There is a mountain called Pedernal located in northern New Mexico made famous by a well-known artist from the middle 20th century. Georgia O’Keefe was her name and there is a museum dedicated to her works in Santa Fe. She painted the mountain many, many times through the years and lived at a location called Ghost Ranch where she could see this mountain every day. Now having hiked it, I am thinking she never did, because if she did, she would have probably felt differently about it.
“It was not the fact that the hike was an uphill climb, and I can’t blame the mountain for our decision to hike it on a hot sunny day; but the trail, and I use that term loosely, was often a pile of rocks. When you hike looking at your feet, you should not expect to see much except your feet, but on this trail there was little choice. Much of it was made up of boulders interspersed with stones that were rounded, and that made them prone to slide from under your feet. Bad footing, blazing hot sun and up hill does not make for a fun hike. Of course none of this takes away from the scenery and the higher I climbed, the more spectacular the views. That alone made me glad I did this hike. Spotting multiple horn toads and a gigantic elk only made it better.
“In the future I will enjoy just looking at this mountain and not from this mountain, as I now believe Georgia O’Keefe did.”
Thanks, Henry, for your description, written in a way that makes me want to go west.
Daryl Warren has been a serious hiker for several years.