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I conceived of the 1,000 Mountains Project in December 2023, while ruminating on my future.  I was staring at the dying embers flickering in the fireplace when Pindar's advice came to mind: "Learn what you are and become that." I checked my training log and found that over the last ten years, I’d climbed 341 mountains without shoes. For someone still trying to figure himself out, this number seemed like an important clue.

The specific reasons for the 1,000 Mountains Project:

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

  • We mustn’t lose our connection with nature -- the full mind-body engagement of moving through the mountains like the animals we are.  We mustn’t forget the original human values of endurance, patience, observation, mindfulness, self-discipline, and gratitude – which the mountains naturally bring forth in people who spend time in them.  It’s hard for me to envision a happy outcome if people hide from nature, if they shield themselves with more and more technology, if they ultimately disappear into a digital matrix dominated by those who have more data and processing power

  • I’d like to put barefoot hiking on the map.  It’s a recreational activity that should be accessible to almost everybody.  Especially those who appreciate intensity and mindfulness, who accept a slower pace, and who cherish the experience of being part of the forest instead of merely passing through

  • Direct sole-to-ground contact brings me enormous mental health benefits: the calmness which comes from focusing on the basic act of movement – the spirit of adventure -- a sense of light-footedness -- the exhilaration of participating in nature.  Each barefoot step brings me energy in the form of simple joy

  • This project, which will take many years to complete, will require me to manage myself intelligently through the aging process and its inevitable challenges.

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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