On 7/5/98, Roy Randall introduced himself to me with this email:It was your web site that brought John W. Robinson's Trails of the Angeles to my attention. Having acquired the book, I have set myself the task of trying each and every trail therein. Whether or not this is even possible remains to be seen. I have already found that much of the book's information is out of date. I will try to give a good account of what one can expect to find on these trails today.
Unlike most of us for most of the very ambitious tasks we assign ourselves, Roy actually met his goal, and I had the pleasure of hiking #100 with him on 12/19/99 when he finished.
Making it more difficult on himself, Roy had a very unusual approach toward doing the 100 hikes. He completely disregarded the season recommendations of Robinson, and blasted through the hikes in numeric order! That found him doing front-range hikes during the hot and smoggy conditions of summer, and high-country hikes during the snows of winter. Of course, occasionally he happened to be doing the hikes in the proper season.
Roy was not an experienced hiker when he started his hikes. He had done some hiking on the East Coast, but had not hiked for some years until he decided one day to sample Griffith Park. He did those hikes sans water and sans a pack, which mostly worked due to the shortness of the trails there and the availability of water.
As he began his SGM hikes, he quickly learned what was needed to do major hiking - adequate water and food at the top of the list, along with good maps - and became an experienced hiker long before he completed the 100 hikes.
His quest nearly ended as soon as it began. The low-numbered hikes are in the remote northwest corner of the ANF, and thus receive little traffic. Neglected trails of course disappear, making hiking them difficult. Being inexperienced with the SGM, Roy could only assume that this was representative of many of the 100 hikes, even though this wasn't the case. He writes:After having a leisurely hike up Liebre Mt. (#1), I took a drive to explore the trailheads for #2 and #3. When I saw that these trailheads were not easily accessed, I was frustrated and began to despair that this 'project' of mine was even possible. I had a week to think about it and my thinking turned around. I went from 'it can't be done' to 'what do I have to change to get it done?' In these two cases the answer was to hike longer approaches to the trailheads. The solution was simple, but I had to change my attitude to see it.Maybe there is a lesson here for guidebook authors to begin their books with some of the better hikes.
Moreover, Roy helped all SGM hikers by his prompt reporting of updated trail conditions. When Roy began, Robinson's book was eight years old, which meant that much of the trail information was over a decade old. Thus it was not surprising that Roy found many changes. Roy wrote up his hikes religiously up to hike #38, at which point he ran out of webspace. Fortunately, he continued to communicate updates to me, and I put that information online.
Roy's writeups are a pleasure to read. He writes from the point of view that all hikers have at some point who are trying to follow the directions for a trail, meeting obstacles, and trying to figure out "Just what am I going to do now" and "What have I gotten myself into?". His tongue-in-cheek, straightforward style of writing adds immeasurably to the experience. Some examples from an email and just his first nine writeups, excerpted by permission of Roy Randall:
- (referring to the paragraph quoted just above): This is starting to sound like one of those idiotic motivational speeches.
- (trip #2): This is a good trip if you suspect that you may be part coyote. Robinson lists this trail as "Moderate", but I would rate is as "extremely difficult". Satan himself has unleashed his minions in the form of deerflies. Their strategy is simple: harass you till you drop, then feast on your carcass.
- (trip #3): This is a wet trip. Robinson says to wear waterproof boots. I say forget it. Wear shoes that drain water as easily as it comes in.
- (trips #9 and 10, and my favorite for many reasons, among them that I have found myself in the same conditions many times before finally learning a few lessons that have cut down on the number of similar experiences):
I was making such good time up the canyon that I began to entertain thoughts of hiking the entire trail. It would be 22 to 24 miles round trip, not impossible for one day...
It was now almost 3:00 p.m. and I was beginning to realize that I was running out of time. But I had come too far to turn back now. I was almost there....
I made Indian Ben Saddle by about 6:00 p.m. I had about 2 hours of sunlight left, and about 4 hours of travel. I was getting worried. I was also worried that the hours around sundown are when rattlesnakes are supposed to be most active. I was hurrying down the trail as fast as I dared, slowing to probe ahead of me in spots where brush closed in on the trail. Almost on cue, I surprised a large rattlesnake on a rock ledge near the trail as I blustered through some rush in Big Cienega. A little adrenal rush plus the low-level fear I was trying to manage combined to keep me moving down the trail....
By the time I made the falls it was fully dark. I was worried, but intact. It looked like it was going to be all right...
It was pitch black under the trees. All I could do was wade through the creek. Rock hopping was suicide. At one crossing I couldn't find the trail on the other side. I had to backtrack three times to find the right crossing that led to the trail. I finally arrived at my car at about 10:00 p.m., alive and well, a bit shaken.
I suppose there are lessons to be learned from all this.
Many more gems are contained in his writeups. I strongly recommend your read his reports solely from a literary viewpoint, as well as for the beautiful pictures.
In late 1998, Robinson came out with a new edition, and Roy switched to using the new edition. Hence the hikes that he completed are 1-100 in the 1998 edition.
Roy went about his task with serious determination, and devoted nearly every single free day, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, toward the effort. During the course of his assault on Robinson hikes, he met the class 3 rock-climbing conditions for the west face of Strawberry Peak. He had the same reaction to it as I did: Yikes! Unlike me, he did something about it. Hence during his Robinson assault he also took Mountaineering courses, and ended up interspersing hikes in the Sierra and elsewhere, including a Mt. Whitney trip. Interestingly, he writes that this is now probably his favorite hike among the 100 "because it's still the one that scares the shit out of me".
When I asked Roy how his body was taking this relentless hiking experience, he said that the only real problem was his knees, and that plenty of Advil kept him going.
Roy kindly supplied me with a list of his hikes versus time, including the mileage hiked. Here's the summary of his quest:
Item Number Number of hikes required to finish all 100
(includes hikes where the goal wasn't met
due to changed conditions or bad weather)
102 Total miles hiked for all 100 1006 Shortest hike (Lewis Falls) 0.9 miles Longest hike (Gabrielino Trail), taking 3 days 28 miles Median hike distance 10.4 miles Number of hiking days to do the 102 hikes 96 Number of days spent hiking other hikes during this time period 20 Number of weekend days during this time period 158 Number of days spent hiking (all hikes)
divided by number of available weekend days
73% First hike (#1) 6/20/98 Last hike (#100) 12/19/99 Total number of days to do the 102 hikes 548
Roy's progress toward completing his quest is shown in the following plots:
- Hike Number vs. Date, showing how he covered the 100 hikes in time.
- Hike Number vs. Day Number. This is the same plot as above, but now the first hike day is day 1, and the other days are counted from that date.
- Cumulative Mileage vs. Trip Number, showing how he covered the miles for the 100.
If any reader has also done the 100 hikes, please let me know.
Copyright © 2000 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to Tom Chester at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester | Roy M. Randall
Last update: 5 January 2000.