‘Walking Larry’ has a trek for you
There’s good reason Colfax resident Larry Hillberg is known as “Walking Larry.” He walked more than 2,000 miles to get to his high school reunion and another 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail.
He always parks at the far end of the parking lot and uses the stairs.
On April 7, he will lead a Treks Through Time walk for the Nevada County Land Trust on the Steven’s Trail with historian Jay Shuttleworth.
Seven years ago, Hillberg, then 57, set foot on a 2,000 mile walk from Albuquerque, N.M., to Lake Superior, Mich., for his 40th high school reunion. It was a trip inspired by the one his wife of 40 years took alone the year before, across the Pacific Crest Trail.
He carried $1,000 worth of gear stuffed into a red backpack that read “Save the Ales.” He had no route scheduled and relied on instinct and a handful of AAA maps.
Along the four-month journey, Hillberg regularly checked in with KVMR radio to share his adventures over the air. From the first time he dialed in, the station referred to him as “Walking Larry,” and the name stuck.
After years of holding down a job at IBM Corporation and raising his two kids, Hillberg finally had time to slow down. One night, a half hour before sundown in the New Mexico desert, he found himself with nothing to do.
“All you have to do is take care of yourself. It was a great life-changing experience,” Hillberg said.
He learned that things in life are not always as they appear, and many of his fears were turned on their head.
A rough-looking man in black leather wanted to buy him a beer, not rob him as he feared, and a well-to-do business man locked his car doors when Hillberg asked directions. A bearded, trail-scented Hillberg caused McDonald’s patrons to avert their eyes and move away from him.
He walked through rain, blizzards, hail storms and a Nebraska tornado. He kept a journal of his walk along backcountry roads and is working his writings of his vagabond life into a book.
He says walking makes him feel like a person again, and opens up his senses to the world all around.
“You’re a person instead of being detached,” Hillberg said.
Hillberg said his travels made him realize the importance of taking time for adventure and said that he hopes other people with ordinary lives will be inspired to do the same.
“What were you doing one year ago today? Think back about your life, what do you remember?” asked Hillberg.
“What we remember are our adventures. We don’t have enough of them in my estimation. It doesn’t have to be a hike on Mount Everest,” Hillberg said. He said it’s important to make a list of the things we want to do in life and put them on the calendar, so they happen.
“Maybe it’s just a weekend, or maybe you have to quit your job. Your life finds a way to make it happen. When you get to be my age, you’ll either have memories or regrets,” said Hillberg. In three years, Hillberg hopes to hike from Washington D.C. to his 50th high school reunion.
Hillberg continues to contribute to the radio station with a Saturday music show that airs from 7 to 10 a.m.
For those who want to hear about Walking Larry’s travels, a three-CD boxed set of those recorded phone interviews is available at KVMR.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4231.
For those who like strenuous hiking
Larry Hillberg (“Walking Larry”) and trail historian Jay Shuttleworth will lead a strenuous eight-mile hike along Steven’s Trail, north of Colfax.
The hike features a waterfall, remains of an abandoned mine shaft, railroad tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad and views of the American River canyon.
The hike takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 7. The cost is $12 for Nevada County Land Trust members and $17 for nonmembers. Call 272-5994 to sign up. Hillberg has hiked the trail hundreds of times.
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