Friday, March 18, 2011


I think most of us left from Boston, but I met our mostly New England group at Los Angeles Airport. We eventually made our way to Nelson, on the South Island, for a night in the Youth Hostel, where we got organizied.

More or less.

We are all reasonably experienced walkers, and almost all of a certain age. We understand teamwork, but we’ve developed our own styles, and, for want of a better term, our own physicalities.

I’m definitely a social walker. I really like having someone to appreciate the landscape and chat with. On my aborted TGO Challenge in 2008, I also enjoyed the more elastic fellowship of others going more or less our way at more or less our speed. At home, I love walking with old friends and, especially, my daughter and son-in-law.

What I’ve never liked is walking with any sort of formal group. I’m too shy, too set in my ways, too resentful of being told what to do. For example, I don’t like to stop more than a few minutes for lunch. I prefer the common American approach of snacking from breakfast to supper. But our group stopped not only for a leisurely lunch, but for relatively frequent rest breaks that seemed perfectly timed to keep me from getting inside a good rhythm. Milling about eating or “resting,” I always wanted to run screaming into the bush and emulate Charlie Brown: “Arrrrgh!”

There were other issues, too. Some minor acrimony over food, a gentle rebuke for exceeding the approved pace up a long rise and bringing “social pressure” to bear on less hyper walkers....

But here’s the thing: I enjoyed this trip, these walks, and this group of people enormously. Yes, I’d rather walk my own walk, in my own time, at my own speed, with my own food in my own stomach.

But I would have missed so much. Blister company, of course, but also the kidding and stories we traded as we cleaned and taped. Running (well, moderate walking) jokes. Never getting up so early that J didn’t already have water on the boil. Never wanting tea so late that J didn’t still have water on the boil. Being accepted into the Keen sisterhood. Dinner out with the boys in Te Anau and Queenstown (who knows why the women chose those elegant places?) Losing loud games of “Bones”—a game with five dice and rules I never fully understood. Laughing company in cold water in stunning locations.

AMC leaders are trained volunteers. They get a free trip for doing the work of organization, but they don’t get a dime of pay—more “first among equals” than “Leaders.” J (a different J) and C did a fine job. They handled our travel logistics without a flaw, and they employed a usually effective light hand in dealing with individual oddities and faux pas.

So, no, I won’t be joining a lot of these AMC trips. I don't really like my oddities and faux pas dealt with at all. But if the right trip, to the right place, with a bunch of these people comes up....


Phreerunner said...

Very interesting, Mark... did, of course, 'make your own bed'!
We are looking forward to the next instalment...

Mark Alvarez said...

Advisedly, Martin. And I lay in it quite happily, too, though with a little of that tossing and turning.