A to Z:
Hiking the Alphabet Soup of Parks
in the San Francisco Bay Area

by Dinesh Desai

Confessions of a Novice Hiker

by Patrick Cloherty

It sounded like a good idea. The challenge was to hike fourteen miles every day beginning May 1st for 26 straight days. Hiking at a different park, open space preserve or beach with a name corresponding to each letter of the alphabet (in alphabetical order, of course) would be a great chance for me to experience the Bay Area. Home every night, my wife in Wisconsin for the month, and my calendar clear, all led me to believe that the gods of hikers were calling to me.

Being a weekend hiker in my mid-sixties, I thought this was doable. My one major reservation was the fact that I had been experiencing neuromas on each foot for the last six months. My podiatrist gave me shots of cortisone with little positive results. Out of frustration, for the first time in my life, I made an appointment with an acupuncturist. After visiting Dr. Ng for eight consecutive weeks (my last a few days before May 1st), I decided to commit to the A to Z.

To make a long, long story (365+ miles long) short, Joy, Dinesh and I finished our trek on Monday, May 26th at 3:21 p.m. at Zmudowski State Beach. To ask if I was happy would be similar to asking "Does a bear shit in the woods?" or "Is the Pope Catholic?". I was ecstatic!! All that remained was to uncork the champagne and head to Round Table Pizza in Castroville to celebrate.

Between May 1st at Almaden Quicksilver and the 26th at Zmudowski, many thoughts and emotions went through my head. The first was how honored I was to be invited by Dinesh to participate in this journey. This was only the latest in a series of adventures that he has put together and documented at his website. Another thought that kept running through my head was "Why the hell am I beating up my body like this?" After the first 10 or 12 days, I actually thought that I might be able to finish this. For most of the 26 days, I was in "automatic pilot" mode.

I would come home, soak my feet, take a shower, do some laundry, eat and go to bed early. In the morning I would be up at 5:00 a.m. and out by 7:00 a.m. after taping my feet, checking e-mails, eating breakfast, and packing my day pack with water, etc. News of the world via newspapers and TV were very limited the four weeks in May.

As in many of life's experiences, it is most enjoyable looking BACK at the adventure. The two aspects of the Marathon that I appreciated the most were the opportunity to meet so many interesting people, and the exposure to the many beautiful and natural settings that the Bay Area has to offer.

Lastly, if you get an invitation to join Dinesh on one of his outings, take him up on it! It is guaranteed to be a "one-of-a-kind" adventure!