Good news has arrived outside in 2021
Joy and excitement filled a perfect day on November 27 at Woodward Park in Fresno when California’s 2,007 high school distance runners gathered for the State Cross Country Championships. Brilliant performances broke records, in particular the incredible victory of the Newbury Park men’s team in Division 1 with a near-perfect 16 points total. The majority of teens who did not win medals still achieved personal bests, pride and memories that will last a lifetime.
Good news happened outside in 2021, as big group events like distance races, bike rides and triathlons returned from a pandemic hiatus. Athletes have recorded sensational achievements in multiple activities. Here are a few that stand out in California and Nevada.
Shane Trotter won the Silver State 508, a Nevada cycling race known as “the toughest 48 hours in sport”. But cycling 508 miles through the desert took just 26 hours and 53 minutes for the 38-year-old who calls himself “the fat cyclist” (he wasn’t always a skinny bike champion) .
Timothy Olson, 37, hiked the entire 2,650 Pacific Crest trail in 51 days, averaging 52 miles per day. “Know that you are more powerful than you can imagine,” he told his admirers after reaching the Canadian border.
Jordan Moon, 33, traveled 3,127 miles from San Francisco to New York in 71 days, averaging 44 miles per day, raising $ 20,000 for brain disease research and dedicating his efforts to mental health . “No matter how hard times are, you can get through these difficult times,” he said.
In a 12-hour effort, 14-year-old James Savage became the youngest person to swim the 21.3 miles of Lake Tahoe. Seven-year-old Radley Lacu hiked the 170-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in 13 days, with a little help from his family.
Jack Greener, 26, overcame a spinal cord injury and two broken neck vertebrae to climb Mount Whitney 14,505 feet. His fellow climbers burst into joy when he reached the top and burst into tears of joy.
Yosemite, as usual, saw amazing feats. SKiers Jason Torlano, 45, and Zach Milligan, 40, made the first known full descent of the Half Dome. The daring duo risked deadly avalanches and falls as they negotiated dangerously steep slopes between the summit and Mirror Lake, nearly 5,000 feet below.
Brothers Moises Monterrubio, 26, and Daniel Monterrubio, 23, led a group effort to rig and ride a highline at Taft Point, above the Yosemite Valley, over 2,800 feet. Their journey through the skies set a distance record in Yosemite and California.
And Dierdre Wolownick, 70, has become the oldest woman to climb El Capitan. She and her friends celebrated her birthday by tracing landlines with jumar ascending tools. Wolonick started climbing rocks ten years earlier to get closer to his son, rock climbing superstar Alex Honnold. His group toasted champagne and camped at the top. “I will never make it a camping experience or a birthday party,” she said.
A redesign of the map, a multi-year effort to replace offensive place names with more inclusive ones, continued with renewed vigor the year after George Floyd was murdered.
Squaw Valley changed its name to Palisades Tahoe after the ski resort recognized the racism and sexism of its old title. US Home Secretary Deb Haaland has declared “squaw” an offensive term and decided to change hundreds of names of racist and offensive federal landmarks.
Sue-meg State Park in California became the name of a coastal location in Humboldt County, previously called Patrick’s Point; a Yurok name replaced the name of accused killer Patrick Beegan.
Alameda renamed a park in honor of President Andrew Jackson, who enslaved hundreds of people and forced the Cherokees down the deadly trail of tears; Chochenyo Park now has a local indigenous name.
Just east of Yosemite, Route 120 has become Chiura Obata Great Nature Memorial Highway, in honor of an artist who created the region’s breathtaking works of art.
And a new Concord Park is named “Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50”, in honor of the Supreme Court Justice and World War II servicemen who opposed racist military policies and murderous.
Away from California, President Biden and Congress have passed a bipartisan infrastructure package that benefits national parks and forests. The law includes $ 1.7 billion for roads, bridges, wildlife protection and climate adaptations from the National Park Service, and $ 3.3 billion for wildfire management.
Can your columnist include some personal highlights? Running the Boston Marathon felt great; the crowd was even more enthusiastic than I expected. Amazing scenery and people made the two week hike on the Pacific Crest Trail delightful; I have about 2000 miles to go. I enjoyed climbing Mount Langley, my sixth of 14 Californians, leaving nine more to climb. And I’m glad I completed “California Summits,” a guide to summit hikes through the Golden State that took years of joyous effort to produce.
Of course, we should not completely overlook the difficulties that have impacted the outdoors, including drought, forest fires and Covid-19. Together, these tragedies have injured millions of people. As usual, the outdoor community has suffered losses, as has Philip Kreycik, the 37-year-old man who died after running in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park on July 10, possibly from heatstroke.
Thousands of supporters took part in a 24-day search for the Berkeley ultramarathoner, a group effort unprecedented in memory. Although the researchers were unable to save Kreycik, they eventually managed to find his remains a few hundred yards from the trail, ending his family. Most of those who combed the park for weeks had never met him.
Their tireless effort to help a stranger reminded me of the community spirit that prevails in outdoor circles. People help each other and they are good people to have with them in the good as well as in the most difficult.
Matt Johanson is the author of the new guide, California Peaks: A Guide to the Best Accessible Peak Experiences in the Golden State.
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Chiura Obata Parkway: Chiura Obata Great Nature Memorial Highway, named after the acclaimed artist, winds through Inyo National Forest.
Dierdre: 70-year-old Dierdre Wolownick broke a record on El Capitan de Yosemite.
Matt Johanson: Completing the Boston Marathon delighted columnist Matt Johanson.
Cross Country: High school race at the California Cross Country Championships.