It is the Little Hikes that Imply the Most

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In 1997 I hiked the Alpine Cross Route (APR), a 340 km (211 mi) path that spans the breadth of Switzerland. Beginning within the village of Sargans on the border with Liechtenstein, the route traverses sixteen mountain passes earlier than reaching its western terminus at Montreux, situated on Lake Geneva. Though I’d been mountain climbing and backpacking for a few years previous to the APR, for all intents and functions that was my first “long-distance” hike.

Yours actually on move #7 of the Alpine Cross Route / Switzerland, 1997.

The Swiss Bombadil

One of the vital memorable points of the APR was assembly and spending time with Marc, a 66-year-old gentleman who hailed from the Bernese Oberland area. Marc had a sage-like high quality that struck me from the second we met. He had spent his total life within the Alps and had trodden a lot of its huge community of pathways. In his youth, he accompanied his father and grandfather, and as he bought older, he launched his personal kids and grandkids to the wonders of strolling within the Swiss mountains.

When Marc spoke of his ‘mountain climbing life,’ the abiding connection he felt for his native area shone by in each phrase. The way in which through which he described every valley, peak, meadow, cirque, and lake was as if he was speaking a few beloved member of the family or an expensive good friend. The identical utilized when he talked about native fauna, such because the sure-footed ibex and chamois, or the majestic golden eagle. No element was too trivial or small. The heat in his voice was equally evident in his deep smile traces and weather-beaten countenance. He was like a Swiss Tom Bombadil – with out the endearingly foolish songs and yellow boots (although he did have a blue jacket). Talking of footwear, one of many many issues I keep in mind about Marc was that he had been utilizing the identical leather-based strolling boots (they have been Raichles) for 33 years. He instructed me that he wanted to go to his village cobbler each three or 4 years to resole them! 

In the event you’ve gotten this far, it’s possible you’ll be questioning why I’m reminiscing about an aged Swiss chap I met nearly 1 / 4 of a century in the past? What’s the story behind the story?

Lake Oeschinen | Alpine Cross Route, Switzerland, 1997

Discovering the Extraordinary within the Bizarre (and the optimistic within the crappy)

Once I met Marc, I used to be in my mid-20s – a wayfarer whose creativeness brimmed over with desires of experiencing the world’s far-flung corners. In distinction, he was an ambulatory homebody who was on a first-name foundation with each root, rock, and blade of grass in his native space. Regardless of this distinction in our ages and mountain climbing inclinations, Marc could have influenced my out of doors life as a lot as anybody I’ve met. 

In him, I sensed a mutual affinity with the pure world that went past the norm. I keep in mind writing in my Spiral pocket book journal on the time, “I ponder if I’ll nonetheless have the identical twinkle in my eye and skip in my step forty years down the observe?” Nonetheless, I additionally discerned one other high quality to which I aspired however hadn’t totally realized till then –  the flexibility to establish and embrace surprise throughout the parameters of my on a regular basis life. Or, to place it one other means, discover the extraordinary within the bizarre.

You is perhaps pondering, “that doesn’t sound so powerful in a spot as lovely because the Swiss Alps.” Maybe, nonetheless, I might counter with the next factors: 1. Familiarity is usually a harbinger of disinterest, no matter how aesthetically pleasing a panorama could also be, and; 2. The climate was uniformly crappy for the 2 days Marc and I spent mountain climbing collectively. 

Concerning the primary level, whether or not on path or off, the wide-eyed curiosity we now have as kids can usually be dulled by the repetitions and obligations of our on a regular basis lives. The reverse gave the impression to be true with Marc. In his case, familiarity had led to a extra profound degree of appreciation. Each pure function and creature meant one thing to him. As for the second level, he was mountain climbing in moist and wild circumstances on a path he’d executed numerous instances earlier than. In contrast to myself, he wasn’t on a schedule; he had no practice or flight to catch. And but, there he was happier than a St.Bernard with two tails and a bottomless meals bowl. He was on the market just because he beloved it. I’ve by no means forgotten that.

Channeling my interior Marc on the infamously inclement Arthur Vary Traverse / Tasmania, 2015.

Taking Discover

Not lengthy after saying my farewells to Marc, I completed the APR and flew again to Mexico. The fantastic thing about the Swiss Alps had left an indelible impression, however maybe extra importantly, there was a change in how I felt in regards to the every day walks I took within the mountains round my dwelling. I’d all the time beloved these hikes and had by no means taken them with no consideration, however after coming back from Switzerland, I made a concerted effort to not overlook the little issues just because they have been acquainted. That shift in perspective was refined fairly than seismic, however by upping the attention ante, I began noticing extra of nature’s mini-miracles, and the emotions of union I had for my environment grew even stronger. 

Climbing regionally in Mexico’s Sierra Madre / October 2021.


Within the years since my trek throughout Switzerland, I’ve had the nice fortune to do many extra long-distance hikes around the globe. Amongst these journeys have been historical pilgrimage paths, well-known basic trails, and difficult routes in distant backcountry areas. I’ve loved all of them, and a number of the most memorable instances of my life have occurred throughout these prolonged wilderness journeys. 

Nonetheless (you knew that was coming), it’s the little hikes on trails I’ve executed lots of of instances that I finally cherish probably the most. Identical to the constant and unbidden small gestures of affection which might be extra essential than grandiose items in a relationship, these common walks characterize the cornerstones of my ‘mountain climbing life.’ They’re the paths I stroll on chilly mornings, within the pouring rain, on steamy mid-summer days, at dawn, at sundown, and generally underneath the sunshine of a full moon. They’re the portal by which I endeavor to see the “world in a grain of sand.” And for this present of perspective, I have to say thanks to a venerable Swiss gentleman with probably the most well-worn pair of mountain climbing boots I’ve ever seen.

Marc – Swiss Alps, 1997

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