Bill Walker (‘Skywalker’) Named ‘Outstanding Blue Ridge Athlete’ by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine
Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine article below on Bill Walker (‘Skywalker).
Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine is the premier outdoor magazine (distributed from Baltimore to Atlanta) in the eastern United States. Thus it was with surprise that I greeted the news that the magazine wanted to interview me. And I was outright amazed that the magazine named me an ‘outstanding Blue Ridge athlete’, along with biker, Chris Scott, and kayaker, Emily Jackson. But after second thought, it all began to make sense.
Don’t worry–I’m not claiming any special physical prowess. Yes, one does meet such laboratory specimens along the way on America’s great hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. For me they have always been objects of great wonder as they travel gazelle-like through mountainous and wilderness regions. One great thing about coming to long-distance hiking so late in life (I had never even spent the night outdoors until I was 44 years old) was that I have never had an hiker ego to speak of. I am completely objective about my abilities (I am almost 7-feet tall and have fought weight loss my entire life), and admire those who exhibit greater skills. In fact, I’m not shy about asking probing questions to learn from these people.
Perhaps my greatest discovery is that America’s great hiking trails (the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail) are trails of the masses. They are designed so that the average person–with above determination–can do them with a lot of effort and a bit of luck. In fact, they have allowed a middle-aged person of average abilities such as myself to do something that most people would consider a bit extraordinary–hike 14 states from Georgia to northern Maine, or in the case of the Pacific Crest Trail walk from Mexico to Canada.
In fact, I fit squarely within the Bell Curve of Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine’s clientele. So when they named me a Blue Ridge Outstanding Athlete they certainly weren’t saying I was one of the most capable or best athletes (I’m definitely not). They were just noting an average person who has had the good fortune of above-average experiences on America’s hiking trails. And I don’t know Emily Jackson or Chris Scott, other than the interesting stories told about them in this edition of Blue Ridge Outdoors. However, my guess is that they fall in the same boat of distinguishing themselves more by their determination and enthusiasm, than their actual physical abilities. That is the characteristic not just of us three ‘outstanding athletes’, but also many of the readers of this fine outdoor magazine.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail. He is also the author of other outdoor adventure narratives, including Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago, and Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.