"Less talk, more walk," is the motto of an outfit called Intrepid Northern California Hikers (INCH for short), which stopped by Ed Levin County Park on Saturday. I signed up to go along because the park’s only three miles down the road. INCH is revenge of the nerds come to the countryside — the club was started by some Intel techies in the ’90s and prides itself on three things: time, distance and difficulty. Their idea of fun is maintaining a 3 mile-per-hour pace on a 28-mile hike with three mountains in the middle. I knew from the get-go I no business on the same trail with these folks but I figured what heck, how fast could they be?
Well, they left me in the dust in the first 15 minutes. Well, not dust, exactly. Mud. See it rained all Friday night, which made Saturday’s travels all the more fun with four pounds of gooey clay stuck to each shoe. Adding to the general cheer was a cloudbank that parked itself over the hill all morning. Cloudy, windy and steep-ass trails for four miles up and four more down.
All that mucked-up ground there is their tracks on the trail ahead. There’s sunshine a couple miles over to the west. Days like this offer time for quiet contemplation of such things as why people haven’t got enought sense not to hike on muddy trails. But anyway….
Up here, it’s fog city.
As I worked my way up the hill I noticed a couple people on the hill behind me.
"Are you with INCH," one of them asked as they caught up.
"Sorta, they’re all the way up to the top by now, though."
They were fine company on the way back. Wei-Kei, the guy, told me about his experience in the Taiwanese army… seems he worked in tanks. Old ones from the Korean War era. I impressed them with my knowledge of Taiwan’s history (not that I know so much, but it’s probably 98 percent more than most Armericans know about the place. Times like this reward all those who remembered to do their history homework.)
The clouds broke and the sun came out as we got to the top of the hill.
The rest of the club caught sight of us nearing the top of Monument Peak, which was their signal to head back down the hill. I never saw any of them again till I got to the parking lot — but they did leave arrows in the mud telling us which way to turn on the way down. Some of ’em were at the cars waiting for us (they’d probably been there a half-hour or so), and they gave us a big cheer when we got back.
There’s something inherently cool about being the last one back from the trail. Good for the finisher because it causes people to applaud tenacity in the face of gross lack of ability; good for everybody else because it just reinforces that they’ve done something worth doing.