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Family Travel Ink
Parent Trips: Alex Tilley's Great Walks of the World
Alex Tilley, master of the art of making the perfect traveling hat and quick-drying underwear, has not been without his share of hiking adventures. There was the time in Nepal when he pulled his hamstring muscle and had to airlifted out by helicopter, or the 3-day hike in New Zealand where a ravishing wind storm toppled huge timbers across the path. He and his daughter, Alison, had to be helicoptered out of that one too. But then, it seems as if his he and his hiking boots are somehow drawn to extreme landscape-the coastal cliffs of Cornwall, the glacier-draped Canadian Rockies or the volcanic craters of Hawaii. Hiking not only gives him the opportunity to test his new clothing samples. It's his way of connecting with the things that he likes about the world-rocks, earth, glaciers, pieces of lava or quartz-and the people with whom he shares his life. Here are his five favorite places in the world for a good walk. So far, that is. As for Tilley's next endeavour? "I'd like to walk into Machu Pichu," he modestly says.
The Routeburn Track, New Zealand
My daughter Alison and I signed on a three-day hike of the Routeburn Track, close to the famed Milford Sound Track. Part way along it, walking downhill along a treed slope, a 100 mph wind swooped down the mountainside, prostrating huge trees. I took out my camera but Alison yelled at me. "Run! Now is not the time, my beloved father, to take f... photographs!" When the wind abated, we ran. When it returned, we hid, huddled behind huge boulders. A limb fell on Alison but no damage. When we got to our destination, the roadway was overgrown with horizontal timber. We had to helicopter out. I figure it was the closest I ever came to being in combat.
About three years ago, I walked along the Cornish Coast with Ken and Margaret Ward of Lord Winston's Hiking Tours. Ken, a former paratrooper led the walk, while lovely Margaret toted our luggage to the next very pleasant hotel. We started at St. Ives and walked about 100 miles in two weeks. The Cornwall coast was all up and down and there was rain and gorse, all prickles. With each side of the path encumbered, we had to walk in single file. One day, we were tramping along in the wet for a long time. What a joy to see Margaret waiting for us on the beach with a bottle of rum. Another highlight was being taken one evening to Minack Theatre which overlooked the water. I like Cornwall because it has such grandeur. You're up so high that you can see the ocean from almost everywhere you're walking.
Haleakala Crater, Maui, Hawaii
Walking across Mt. Haleakala, my fiance, Domenique, and I got into trouble. We started out in the morning on a walk that I thought was only six miles long. It actually said so on this little map we had. But the circuit turned out to be 11 miles and we almost didn't make it back to our car in the parking lot. It was dark and we had no lights. It turned out that the six miles indicated was one way, not round trip. That experience was not pleasant, although the crater is exceptional. It's an easy walk down from the observation tower. There's nothing high to step over. We even met a German woman who was walking along on crutches.
On the island of Kilhouea, we lucked across a cave created by a lava eruption where you could take shelter from the rain. Inside were the most beautiful oranges and reds hanging like droplets. To see such a sight surrounded by the blackness and grey of volcanic rock was just glorious.
Lake O'Hara Lodge, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
At Lake O'Hara, we walked through beautiful fir forests and climbed partway up the Rocky Mountains. It is superb for photography. I was there to test out a new hat, the T4 with protection fore and aft, and we walked way around the lake. It's an easy walk as you don't have to step high over things. There are pathways everywhere, some pretty challenging.The food is first class and the experience can be as rustic as you like as soon as you leave the Lodge. We stayed at one of the chalets and it was a very solitary experience. For three days, we didn't talk to other people although we did get very close to a tame marmot. The reflection in the lake is so clear.
The road to Lake O'Hara is closed to private vehicles. Summer access is provided by a scheduled Lodge bus. There are trails to six remote alpine valleys and 16 clear mountain lakes.
Mount Everest, Nepal
In 1991, I joined Sir Edmund Hillary for a hike up Mount Everest. After only ten days, I went out for a short walk, stepped on a rock and fell because I didn't have my walking stick. I hurt my hamstring muscle and had to be helicoptered out. It cost me $1000. It turned out that Sir Hillary had to be helicoptered out too because of altitude sickness. Now, I always carry my walking stick and trust it as my third leg.
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