September is here, and it is my favorite month for hiking. (Runner-up month: April.) Sure, it is still a bit hot for long hikes across the Santa Monica Mountains – my old SoCal stomping ground and home to the 65-mile Backbone Trail – but many higher-elevation peaks are at their most-accessible in this “shoulder season” month. I completed the four-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in September of 2005. I scaled Lembert Dome and Mount Hoffman – two prominent peaks in Yosemite National Park – in September of 2003. Just one year prior, I bagged the highest peak in the contiguous United States, 14,497-foot Mount Whitney. I have also climbed (hiked) Mount Baldy, the 10,064-foot SoCal landmark, three times, and two of those were in September (2004 and 2011).
But it is my successful climb to the summit marker atop Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro in September, 2010 that I am most proud of. Hiking is one of my great passions, you see, and if I haven’t been able to do as much of it over these past few years as I would have liked, I at least know that I have many years of great hiking memories to choose from. Kilimanjaro is my fondest, and the one I want to tell you more about in the paragraphs below.
Three Countries in Three Weeks
I took my second trip to sub-Saharan African in 2010. The trip was the brainchild of my friend Miles, just one year after our Great Southern African Adventure of 2009. This time we were joined by my friend Mark. Miles and Mark have expensive tastes, and make more money in a week than I make in a year, so they yearned for a pre-planned trip with guide/driver and first rate accommodations. They immediately declined when I suggested a Kilimanjaro add-on, but we compromised on four days in Zanzibar before they returned to the U.S. and I moved on to Moshi, Tanzania.