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Hiking two miles a day, for a year

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Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

On Dec. 31, Rick Metcalf completed his 2012 challenge of walking at least two miles every day. He walked his last two miles at Sabino Canyon.

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Throughout my life, friends and family have commented on my sometimes unique “to do” list.  Setting goals and making a commitment to successfully achieve them has provided personal satisfaction and success in my life’s achievements.

With years quickly adding up, I’ve come to realize I have a worthy and relentless opponent.  To successfully ward off the effects this warrior, Father Time, impacts on my body, continuing to remain active and strong is essential.  In the long run, we all know the outcome of this battle, but I refuse to give in without a fight.

Being a runner most of my life, I’ve competed in most every distance event, including marathons.  The full distance in the El Tour de Tucson was ridden.  I’ve stood at the highest point in 11 of the 50 United States.  I also reached the highest point in Japan, Mt. Fuji.  

A few years ago, the goal I set and achieved was to walk 1,000 miles in a year.  Several years ago, I joined my sons Kevin and Randy and work colleagues Jim and Robert in Utah, hiking 55 miles in four days down Buckskin Gulch into Paria Canyon, exiting at Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River.  

For 10 years I’ve been a cancer survivor.

For 2012, I set out to walk two miles.  Every day.  Not a difficult distance to meet, but doing so for 366 days straight, with 2012 being a Leap Year, would require dedication I was confident I could maintain.  

My pace is around three miles per hour, so the completion of two miles on a level path usually takes about 40 minutes.  For a 24-hour-day that translates to 2.7 percent of the 1,440 minutes in a day.  Time well spent.

On Jan. 1, 2012, I joined friends Kathy, Carolyn, and Marty for a four-mile walk in Sabino Canyon.  The challenge had begun.

The year’s mileage total would require no less than 732 miles.  Valentine’s Day  found me out on the coldest day of the year.  Heading east off Sabino Canyon Road along Tanque Verde Wash, the conditions were brisk and windy.  By the time one mile was completed, the wind blew stronger and a light rain began to fall.  Crossing the wash to the north bank for my return mile, it was raining hard.  Soon rain turned to hail, and as I closed in on completing two miles a heavy snow was falling.

In Colorado, for my grandson Dylan’s second birthday in early March, I had the joy of watching him during the week while his parents worked.  Bitingly cold weather Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday eliminated walking outdoors, so we walked the corridors of Colorado Mills Mall, Dylan riding his stroller.  At the completion of my daily distance, his reward came in the form of riding the carnival kiddy rides spread throughout the mall and lunch in the food court.  With temperatures warming, Thursday found us searching for deer and elk in Rocky Mountain National Park; Friday we walked in Boulder, site of Colorado University.

In March, I realized the activity seemed somewhat boring and excitement needed to be infused into what was becoming a daily grind.  An initial idea would require me to walk two miles at every hour of a 24-hour day.  On April 19, I walked at 6 a.m.  Completion of that decision came on Nov. 30 walking at midnight under a moon that had been full two days earlier, when I walked at 1 a.m.

Washes throughout the Tucson area would feel my footsteps.  Canyon Del Oro, Sutherland, Santa Cruz, Pantano, Rillito, Tanque Verde washes all were visited, some numerous times.  Acknowledging Christina-Taylor Green, I walked the trail named in her honor above Ina Road.

As a high school baseball and football official, I found that over two miles is covered calling a baseball doubleheader, and working the sidelines during a high scoring football game, you can cover two miles by halftime.  Hit in the ankle by a line drive working the bases in a March San Manuel High School game, my initial concern was whether or not the injury would cost me any days.  Though the ankle was sore and bruised, it didn’t.

Visiting California a few times during the year, I walked in La Cañada along a section of the Los Angeles River system and a beautiful equestrian trail near Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  North of San Francisco, Salmon Creek Beach, adjacent to Bodega Bay, was walked.  A few days later, prior to retiring for the night, I walked the streets of Bishop.  Driving south along U.S. Highway 395 the next day, my wife Kris waited patiently as I walked a trail west of Aberdeen toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Having just read “The Last Season,” I walked with National Park Ranger Randy Morgenson in mind, knowing he spent many of 27 summers high above my location in Kings Canyon National Park before he died while on duty in 1996.

A night in Laughlin, Nev. provided an opportunity to walk beside the Colorado River outside the casinos.  Later in the year, I even walked two miles inside Casino Del Sol in Tucson.

In Texas, on May 31, I covered eight miles and summitted the 8,749-foot Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in that state.  Before crawling into my sleeping bag the previous night, I walked my miles around the campground after driving all day to get there.

Back in Colorado, in June, I walked more than two miles beside Busk Creek outside of Leadville, sharing a wonderful day trout fishing with my son.  Early the next morning, we hiked a trail leading to Colorado’s highest point, 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert.  Unfortunately, the altitude got the best of me and we were forced to turn around after only 2.5 miles of a planned 10-mile round trip summit climb.  

The following morning, with that memory fresh in our minds, we drove to Kansas, high  pointing that state, the seventh state I would be in for the year.

With my young grandson in a child carrier backpack, I walked a meadow beside Mammoth Creek on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains near Rollinsville.  At over 10,000-feet altitude, his weight became too much for me and I had to ask him to walk for a while.   Carrying him might have been the toughest distance of the entire year.

On the flipside of the cold February day, I walked along the Santa Cruz River on Aug. 8, sweating in 108 degrees.  Looking for more of the excitement, I walked the Rillito east of Swan Road during a Monsoon downpour, lightning striking in the distance, and I was grateful for the fragrance of fresh desert rain.  

On a hot August day, I recorded two miles at Pima Air Museum, enjoying the painted airplanes on display with sisters Ginny and Kathy.  A stroll through the Desert Museum quickly accounted for another day’s mileage.

Naturally, most of the miles were logged in Tucson, with close to 380 miles either starting or ending at my home.  But trails throughout the Santa Catalina Mountains received much attention as I walked Sutherland, Canyon Loop and Romero Trails in Catalina State Park. Also hiked were Pima Canyon, Finger Rock, Pontotoc and Ventana Canyon Trails across the southern slopes of the Catalinas as well as nearly every trail in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.  I found walking from Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley to a cookie store in Summerhaven is two miles, with a tasty reward at the end.

Visiting my sister in Phoenix several times, we covered many miles near her Chandler home.  

On two early October days, I walked the requisite miles along the South Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon, savoring the experience with my wife and her sister, Lisa.

November found me in New Mexico, where I logged part of the daily two miles at Pueblo De Cochiti Golf Course, one of my all time favorite places to play, later completing that day’s miles in Albuquerque.  The following day, my wife and I detoured off I-25 through Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge.  On a gorgeous Fall day, golden leafed cottonwood trees shining brilliantly along the banks of the Rio Grande River, we walked a soft sandy trail, ducks, geese and sandhill cranes flying overhead.  Thousands of snow geese cackled in a pond beside a scenic refuge road.

Numerous points along the trail system bordering the Rillito were used to tally miles.  I even walked around the horse track at Rillito Downs, picking up a lucky horseshoe along the way.  I walked enough laps around the track at Catalina Foothills High School to log two miles.  Woodland Lake Trail, Big Spring Trail and Rim Trail all were walked while visiting our friend’s cabin in Lakeside/Pinetop.

Counting days I exceeded my daily minimum, by the end of the year I had walked 779 miles.  On Dec. 31, finishing the year’s challenge in Sabino Canyon where it began, with my wife, her sister, our boys, their wives and our grandsons, I felt not relief but pride.  Many congratulations have been offered and they are greatly appreciated.  However, my sense of accomplishing a challenge established more than a year before provides an inner, personal reward not easily shared or maybe even understood by everyone.

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Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

On Dec. 31, Rick Metcalf completed his 2012 challenge of walking at least two miles every day. He walked his last two miles at Sabino Canyon.

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