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The 1,000 Mountains Project represents my goal to climb 1,000 mountains in my remaining lifetime, ideally all barefoot, since that has become my practice in recent years. I conceived of the idea in December 2023. I was thinking about goals. The Greek philosopher Pindar's advice came to mind: "Learn what you are and become that." I checked my training log and found that I had already completed 341 barefoot peaks. Evidently, that is who I am.

The following are some of the reasons behind this project:

  • I believe that we must maintain our connection with nature. I struggle to envision a future for humanity in which we compete with machines purely on the basis of digital computation. The connection with nature reflects full mind-body engagement. It encompasses values like endurance, patience, observation, mindfulness, self-discipline, and gratitude. In my experience, the mountains naturally bring forth these qualities in people who spend time in them.

  • I'd like to put barefoot hiking on the map as a recreational activity. If I can do 1,000 peaks barefoot (or whatever number I can make it to), then surely the practice is accessible to many other people who appreciate intensity and mindfulness; who accept a slower pace; who appreciate the feeling of being part of the forest instead of merely passing through.

  • I have lots of sports, hobbies, and interests. This is what I keep coming back to. For the sense of "grounding" and mental calmness that comes from direct contact of sole to ground. The emotional well-being. The spirit of adventure. The sense of light-footedness. The exhilaration of participating in nature.

  • Reaching 1,000 peaks, if I'm able to, will require a multi-year effort. I will need to manage myself intelligently through the aging process and its inevitable challenges.

  • I like to take on big projects and get them done.

After committing myself to the 1,000 Mountain Project, I had some misgivings. I bagged 35 barefoot peaks in 2023. At this rate, it would take almost 20 years to complete the project, at which point I’d be 80 years old, assuming I was still around.  Also, as I was returning from Superstition Peak outside Phoenix, Arizona, my left knee began to ache. Making the 3,000-foot descent turned into an ordeal. Completing the 1,000 Mountain Project requires staying fit, healthy, and functional, which is no easy task as one ages. But as I limped slowly toward the trailhead, the sun sank, the western horizon flared orange, the colors spread, and the sky turned flaming vermilion. I took this as “proof of concept.” I decided I would go for it, as soon as my knee healed. 

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