Horton goes hiking – 168-mile Tahoe Rim trek tackled for charity
Gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe – that’s what Grass Valley resident Chuck Horton grew up with as a kid, and that is what he’s gazing at. But he will have to pay a price. He’s walking for two weeks, covering 168 miles, and climbing up and down a total of 8,500 vertical feet. And he’s doing all this after recently tearing a calf muscle.
Is this man crazy? Well, yes, he’s crazy for kids, and is doing this for charity.
Horton is a purposeful man who is intensely goal driven when he deems a cause worthy. The fact he has chosen to express his support by hiking for dollars comes from a love of walking in nature that started when he was a wee one.
“I was a toddler when we started on day hikes,” he said. “My father’s love for the outdoors, his enthusiasm, rubbed off on me, and our primary hiking playground was Lake Tahoe.”
Now, some 40 years later, Horton is nothing short of a hiking fool, having summited 30 mountains both abroad and here. They include the Alps, Diamond Head in Hawaii, Mt. Lassen, the Sierra Buttes, Yosemite’s Half Dome and the king of U.S. mountains, Mt. Whitney, his highest at 14,500 feet, along with his 70-year-old dad and wife Brenda.
To keep in shape, in addition to hiking at the drop of a hat, he kayaks, skis, runs, and plays basketball – and that’s how he hurt himself.
“I thought someone with a boot on had kicked me as hard as they could during the game,” he said, but it was just the calf muscle tearing of its own accord. “The doctor said ‘Stay off it,’ just the opposite of what I wanted to be doing (being in training).”
Even though it was nerve-wracking, he did just that, and by July 10 was ready for a test hike. “Fourteen miles and no problems – what a relief,” he said. He set off on his round-the-lake trek on July 24, and plans to reach the end of the trail on Aug. 6.
How he finds time to do his work as a business consultant, primarily in the technology industry, is anybody’s guess, but his cell phone is always with him, ready to do business. “I help my clients flip the model of using up more natural resources and employing fewer people to where they’re using wind and solar and putting more people to work – a transition, in other words, to sustainability.”
Joining him along the trail that took 20 years to complete will be family members, including his wife Brenda, who will be in charge of resupplying him. Family is important to Horton, who grew up with five brothers and sisters.
“They all think it’s great what I’m doing and have been very supportive in donating ($14,000 all told so far) and participating.”
The agency he’s contributing to is Sierra Adoption Services (SAS) in Grass Valley. Why is this cause so important to him? Imagining himself in a position of being 18, having $400 in his pocket, and being on his own is something that haunts him after he has talked with kids in such a situation.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a loving, tight, supportive family, and I can’t imagine being without one.”
Already he has raised $23,000 for the agency from his family, friends, and sponsors such as Network Real Estate and the Safeway Foundation, and is pushing for $25,000 to help five kids – or $36,000 and seven kids, if you count all three of his hiking challenges. (It costs approximately $20,000 for the agency to place a child in a home, 75 percent of which is absorbed by county and state government. The remaining $5,000 must be raised through community support.)
The only thing he asks of sponsors is that “they give money up front even if I don’t make it. But I said I would do it, and it would take an ambulance to stop me.”
And while the money he’s helped raise is a great boon, more needs to be done, he feels. “The need is huge. In the greater Sacramento area, 2,500 kids are waiting for homes.”
Back on the trail, Horton didn’t expect anyone to be with him the first two days, during which planned to hike about 20 miles each. “Day Two is actually the hardest: 5,000 vertical feet up and 3,000 vertical feet down. Not many will hang with me on that one,” he said before departure.
Because of his injury, Horton planned to take the unusual step of repairing to a friend’s cabin the first two evenings to soak in a Jacuzzi. “I can’t afford to have my leg seize up on me.”
The two weeks of walking will include lots of day hikes made possible because food will be dropped off at strategic points. “One of the beauties of the Tahoe Rim Trail,” said Horton, “is all the road crossings. If I had to carry two weeks of food, it would slow me way down.”
Being a techie, he is carrying a walkie-talkie, cell phone, and altimeter (on his watch), as well as maps generated from his topographical map software. “Maps are key after food and water,” he said.
Going light is the other key. He’s be wearing lightweight shoes and carrying a super-lightweight pack – Go Lite’s Lightest – which was designed by a couple who did the 2,700-mile Pacific Crest Trail.
Was Horton worried about anything, like meeting a bear or climbing to the highest point, 10,000 feet on Mt. Rose? No. Rather, it’s feet.
“This hike,” he said, “is like going up the equivalent of Mt. Everest in terms of its up and downs. My biggest worry is my feet. The last day of last summer’s hike (for SAS), the balls of my feet were like two big blisters, very painful. But I’ve been getting foot care and advice, so I put some down days just in case I have to have my feet worked on.”
Horton sees this experience as a challenge on a number of fronts – the physical (“I’ve never hiked this far before,” he said), the fund-raising, and sustainability (eating only organic, as in peanut butter and celery and trail mix; and having as little impact on the earth as possible, which means taking a car that gets the best gas mileage and perhaps not swatting at the hordes of accompanying mosquitoes – just kidding).
“The Tahoe Rim Trail is phenomenal,” said Horton, who is a member of the association that was responsible for finally, after 20 years, getting the trail completed.
“It’s well-engineered, with big swooping switchbacks and an average grade of 10 percent. Every day I’ll see the lake. I’ll also be seeing alpine meadows, canyons, and thick forest a lot. I’ll enjoy it and have fun.”
Desolation Wilderness, where the Tahoe Rim Trail meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail (around Emerald Bay), is the most remote part of the trip and requires a permit.
Was Horton ready? “I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m looking forward to those two weeks, away from a busy life. I’m so happy. This is great for my mental well-being and for SAS.”
To donate or to watch Horton’s progress, go on line at http://www.hware.com/hc – it has a link to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. Or call Brenda Tello-Horton at 530-320-4990.
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