Posted by: GeekHiker | July 2, 2007

Follow the leader

Saturday I did something that, in all my years of hiking, I’ve never actually done before: I led a hike.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’ve taken friends out hiking before.  Small groups, usually no more than four people total, that I’ve taken on trails that I’m familiar with.  Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy sharing the places and trails that I love with others.

This hike, however, was something entirely new: an actual hike, posted on a big-time online board with an open invitation for anyone & everyone to sign up.  Even people I *gasp* didn’t know.

17 people signed up, and of those, 7 actually made it to the trailhead.  That kind of attrition is pretty normal for this sort of thing, and to be completely honest, I was just as happy that the crowd wasn’t larger.  Almost 20 people showing up, all of them looking at me expectantly, trusting that I would confidently lead them into the wilderness (and, one would assume, back out again alive (people are so demanding these days)) would have made me nervous as hell.

But show up at the trailhead seven of them did, a couple of friends, but mostly strangers.  I nervously introduced myself, there were introductions all around, I pointed to the peak we’d be surmounting, and up the trail we went.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that I still happened to be running a fever of 99.3 at the time (my normal temp is a degree below normal).  This begs the question: what the hell was I doing leading people into the wilderness? 

Well, gee, I never said I was all that smart, now did I?

Actually, I mainly didn’t feel like I could bail, since I was the leader of the hike and (potentially) 17 people were going to drive 50 miles out to a trailhead and sit there, waiting for me.  Logically, at over three bucks a gallon, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d sent me bills for the gas had I not shown up.  I probably would have paid ’em for it, too.

So, even though I’ve never hiked the trail so slowly (or drenched in so much sweat not derived from the outside temperature), I did manage to lead the little group to the top.  We watched the Sun set over the ocean and a distorted, blood red moon rise over the opposite horizon a few minutes later.

We hiked down after the moon was well up in the sky, the trail lit by moonlight and headlamps.  Nearby, the only sounds were the crickets and the breeze in the chaparral.  In the distance, coyotes howled, an odd juxtaposition with the lights of a few million people clearly lighting up the valleys only a few miles away.

In the end everyone made it back to their car safely and thanked me for leading such a good hike.

“Ooh,” I thought, “the ego likes this.”

Perhaps it’s time to share my hiking love a bit more broadly…



  1. At least you are posting again.

    But, um…. where are these epiphany posts you promised? I’m still waiting…

  2. Way to go! Now you’re an experienced trail hiking leader and this will all be old hat next time! Hope you’re better and not running a fever anymore.

  3. Yeah, that’s awesome!! So glad you did it, now it will only get easier!!

  4. AWESOME! You are way ahead of me! I just went on my first official (aka not friends) group hike a couple of months ago. I was in the follower role though.

    Your hike sounds awesome– particularly the sunset over the ocean. Bet you didn’t turn around as soon as the sun drifted out of the horizon. 😉


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