52 Hike Challenge Memoirs 

So what did I learn on my 52 Hike Challenge?  After all, I had a lot of time to think.  Surely something worthwhile came from this effort.  I finished 52 hikes, 178 miles in total, in 10 1/2 months.  I hiked Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Spain.  I must have learned something, and I did indeed.

First, I learned Alabama, my part of the world is as pretty as any other, you are just familiar with it.  You have to leave the car to find the prettiest spots.

Not only did I hike and confirm my love of the outdoors, I also stopped to smell the roses.  I explored the small towns.

I learned you can still be physically and mentally strong at 50 (ok 48).

I learned there are no cellphone signals at the best hikes.  Hike prepared and be safe.

Spider webs across trails mean you are the first one hiking today.  Watch for snakes and bears.  While on the subject, big lizards sound like snakes when you’re alone.

Climbing hills in life sucks, but the top has the best view.  Stay strong my friends, and never quit.

Mental toughness and work ethic will carry you as far as your education.

I would love to have shown you everything but you can’t live broadcast waterfalls, they are always in a hole. You’ll have to visit yourself.

Anytime you catch a break going down, you’ll eventually have to walk back up, just like life.

I don’t hate snakes as much, they are fascinating at a safe distance.

I learned how to offset my pictures so my Facebook profile picture doesn’t mess it up.

I love and miss my family when they’re not with me.

I had 72 degrees temperature variances in hike temperature, plan for it.

Proper equipment makes things easier.

To my daughter, don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do, lift those weights, jump those horses, get off the couch and find your life passion.

Sometimes planes fly into mountains, what legacy are you leaving?

Keep toenails short for downhill walking, just sayin.

Shortcuts always, always end poorly!  Stay on the trail.

Lastly, please keep Gatlinburg in your prayers.  We left town Sunday morning before the fires made it to town.  I’m hearing that our cabin on Sunday was burned down on Monday.  We drove past the fire as we were leaving but I never thought it would make it to town.


Hike #20 (n/a) – Mijas Urban Hike

So sad, our last day in Spain.  We made a quick trip over to Mijas, another small coastal village.  We went to the old part of town for some quick shopping.  Our first sight was the donkey taxi system.  


Mijas was a charming village.  We had our best homemade chocolate con churros here.



 We mostly shopped for our last items.  We visited a small bull ring also.  It stood in sharp contrast to the large bull ring in Madrid.  It reminded me of the small gladiator rings in the movie “Gladiators” prior to going to Rome.

We returned to Malaga for our final evening.  We decided to return to the beach for one last visit.  We had, in my opinion, our finest meal.  We enjoyed tapas at a beach view restaurant for a couple of hours.  We had sangria, grilled sardines, garlic shrimp and chicken skewers before some final shopping.  Tomorrow, we hiked an additional 2.5 miles, through Paris, on our return home.  

Until next time.    

Hike #19 (n/a) – Granada Urban Hike


Today, after a spectacular sunrise, we traveled to Granada for a tour of the Alhambra.  The Alhambra is one of the most impressive structures I’ve ever seen.  It is impressive in both its physical structure but also its unique blend of Muslim/Christian history.  Spain was occupied by Muslim forces for over 800 years.  Once retaken by the Christians, the fortress had Christian elements added.  While I’ve been here before, I never grow tired of special places.   This place is indeed special to me.  The last time I was here, Lucy was about 5 months pregnant with Megan.  We took a special picture here in front of one of the entrances.  We were able to reproduce that picture today.  We also had a young expecting couple with us on our tour.  They took their picture in the same spot as well as a group photo with us.  What a special moment.  We managed 5.6 miles today.

After our tour of the grounds, we had more time to shop.  Granada is known for inlaid wooden items (and Spanish Guitars).  We picked up a few items for ourselves and some friends.  We had time to continue our shopping once we returned to Malaga attempting to remember everyone.


We decided to have dinner in Malaga instead of our prepaid dinner since we were nearing the end of our journey.  We opted for a dinner at an Irish pub tonight.  I had fish and chips with mushy peas.




Tomorrow is our last day.  I’m starting to want to move permanently to Spain.  I’m in love with their way of life.  One odd but special thing I’ve noticed here.  I was never given a restaurant bill before asking for it.  The Spanish appreciate their customers are are willing for you to stay until you are ready to leave, no table flipping here. 

Hike #18 (n/a) – Malaga Urban Hike



Today we’re moving our home base from Madrid to the coastal town of Malaga by way of high speed train.  We had a long way to go, but still managed to get in 6.07 miles before bed.  We checked out early in the morning and made our way to the train station.   Sadly, this station was the site of the fairly recent Madrid terrorist attack.  These high speed train rides are really an event in and of themselves.  I wish we had these in the states.  Our ride today was three hours through beautiful countryside at 186 mph, at least once outside the cities.

Once in Malaga, we checked into our new hotel.  We lucked into an ocean view room.  I could have slept on the balcony.  At lunch, we had a slightly difficult time ordering due to the language barrier.  The waiter worked hard to help us understand our options.  Lucy and I both ordered what he called Chorizo.  What I hoped would be sausage ended up being a bowl of spicy broth with various pig parts.  While I skipped the organs, I did try tripe for the first time.  I found it to be mostly flavorless and tasted mostly of the rich broth.  Oh well, when in Spain.
We had a large amount of shopping time today around a central plaza.  We explored the shops and streets with euros hot in our pockets.  Lucy and Megan had to try a unique luxury, the fish foot spa.  You have to take care of both your feet and purple pedicures while hiking, so they jumped at this opportunity.  I was the cameraman for this operation.


We ended our day by finding our way to the beach.  Finally the elusive Mediterranean stretched in front of me.  It was all I hoped it would be.  Beautiful water and grayish volcanic sand as far as you could see.  

Our guide surprised me a dinner with a wrapped present.  She had found the red wine Torrijas that seemed absent in Madrid.  We enjoyed it in our room as we got ready for bed.  It was better to me than the milk version.  Maybe it was the baker, but more likely the thoughtfulness of our guide that made this great.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.


Hike #17 (n/a) – Toledo Urban Hike

Another fun filled day in Spain.  Today brought another 5.4 miles in hiking.  We had nice variety today.  We spent the morning in Madrid, the afternoon in Toledo, and the evening back in Madrid.

We started today with a formal Madrid city tour.  We made stops today at the Madrid bullring, Real Madrid soccer stadium, an Egyptian temple given to Spain, and the Royal palace.  Spain’s monarchy is a figurehead much as it is in Britain.  The palace is no longer lived in but rather a meeting place and occasional formal state dinner location.  I couldn’t help but think the palace is opulent but completely impractical as a home.

The afternoon brought a trip to Toledo.  Toledo was possibly my favorite stop on this trip.  I’ve always enjoyed the smaller, older towns over the big cities.  Toledo had it all.  The town was an invincible fortress in its day.  It was built on a steep hill that was surrounded on three sides by a river.  Only a small percentage of the population could swim at the time, but certainly not in armor.  The forth side was protected by a wall.  The topography of the land would allow half a day to see an approaching army.  Toledo was in a sweet location.

Once at Toledo, we walked the old city, visited the Toledo Cathedral, the Church of Santo Tome, and St Mary’s Synagogue. Some interesting points about these locations.  The cathedral had shackles hanging on the outside to represent the reconquest of Spain from Muslim control.  St Mary’s synagogue was actually built by Muslims for the Jewish population in the city.  Such an interesting mix of culture.  Toledo was a place you could easily spend a month.  After a visit to a sword factory for some Spanish steel, we returned to Madrid.

Tonight brought a tapas dinner followed by a flamenco show.  I had my first paella today.  In fact, I had it twice.  Seafood paella for lunch and chicken paella for dinner.  No doubt today was a full day.

Hike #16 (n/a) – El Escorial/Segovia Urban Hike

My second urban hike was in El Escorial and Segovia for 6.38 miles.  Palm Sunday added some special flair to the atmosphere today as we toured the monastery at El Escorial.  In fact, I found Holy Week in Spain to be very interesting.  We happened upon a Palm Sunday procession as we left the monastery.

The area was a large complex that held a monastery, palace and Basilica.  A very special part of today’s tour was a visit to a unique crypt that has the remains of the deceased kings and queens of Spain along with other family members.  The kings and queens crypt was ornately decorated and segregated from the other family members.  There was also a large stone ossuary that resembled a birthday cake for the royal children.  Pictures were not allowed, but I found some on the Internet.


Afterwords, we traveled to Segovia for lunch and a tour.  I had suckling pig in the shadow of a Roman aqueduct.

After lunch, we took a walk through the old town to both a castle and cathedral.  The castle was situated high upon a hill making it virtually impervious to attack.  The castle contained many examples of medieval armor and weapons.  From the high windows, you could see a Knights Templar church.  I want to search for the Holy Grail, but not enough time for today.

On the way back to our bus, we hiked along a stream that served as a moat for the castle.  It was a lovely hike.

After a full day, we went back to Madrid for dinner to close out our day.  The restaurant walls were filled with bull ring victims.  Each victim had a picture from their day in the ring beneath.  

The bed will feel good tonight.


Hike #15 (n/a) – Madrid Urban Hike

Hola from Espana!  The day that never ended.  The first day of a tour this far away tends to be tough.  We flew through the night to Madrid by way of Amsterdam.  Once landed, we immediately met our tour guide, dropped off our luggage, had lunch on our own and then hit the city.  We hiked 7.68 miles.

While most found lunch in a shopping area, we ventured across the street to try something more local.  I was able to try my first Iberico Jamon carved from the hoof.  I didn’t try this on my last visit and had it on my mind.  It was served with over easy eggs and potatoes.  It met my expectations.

After lunch, we walked through Bien Retiro Park.  This park is Madrid’s version of Central Park in New York.  The park was bustling with both locals and tour groups.  

We visited the Crystal Palace located in the park.  The Crystal Palace is a copy of a similar structure from England that housed Winter gardens for the royals.

At the edge of the park is the Prado museum.  We had about an hour to explore the building and monumental works of art by the old masters.  I’m not well educated on this subject, but the art was mostly of darker subject matter.

Afterwords, we walked to Puerto del Sol to explore and have dinner.  This plaza is Madrid’s version of Time Square.  We had a little time before dinner so our guide took us to a famous pastry shop for Torrijas.   My understanding is that Torrijas are only available around Easter.  There are two versions, one made with milk and one with red wine.  We had the milk version today.  I would describe it as a French toast, egg custard, bread pudding type of desert.  It was wonderfully different than anything I’ve had before.

We finished our marathon first day having dinner, getting to know each other better and walking back to the hotel.  I did slip out briefly to explore the block around the hotel before falling into a coma like sleep.