A Long Tangent

Book reflects changing point in author’s life


M. John Fayhee, one-time publisher of the famed Mountain Gazette magazine, will read from and sign copies of his latest book, “A Long Tangent: Musings from an old man and his young dog hiking every day for a year,” at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Light Hall Theatre on the Western New Mexico University campus in Silver City.
The book covers a lot of ground.
“As my 60th birthday approached, I decided to do something of relative note,” Fayhee said. “I had real-life responsibilities that did not allow me to, say, attempt to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I had to concoct a challenging scheme that I could integrate into my day-to-day life that would not incline my wife toward seeking the services of a divorce lawyer.”
The idea to hike every day for a solid year evolved from a similar, though less ambitious, endeavor undertaken the previous year when he hiked 41 straight days after determining to lose weight for a high-school reunion. Hiking was not a new concept for Fayhee, who had undertaken previous forays along the Appalachian, Colorado, Arizona and Continental Divide trails, but he said he never went more than a fortnight without taking what is known in backpacking circles as a “zero day.”
While sitting on a barstool one evening, Fayhee decided to expand that undertaking.
“I downed a few pints, scribbled some shockingly legible notes about embarking upon a quest to hike every day for a year on a cocktail napkin, walked out to my ancient 4Runner and bounced the idea off my dog, Casey, who had been contentedly snoozing on the back seat,” Fayhee says. “Casey responded positively to the notion. So, the next day we bushwhacked to the top of a local peak and hiked for 366 straight days.”
According to Fayhee, there were only two rules: First, each hike had to be at least 60 minutes (though most were longer) and each had to take place out in the forest. Strolls around town did not count.
“The overwhelming majority took place in my backyard – New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, which is home to the world’s first legally designated wilderness area,” he said.
Though Fayhee’s efforts were eventually successful, there were bumps along the way, including twisting an ankle avoiding a rattlesnake while jumping over a creek.
“At one point, Casey went completely blind for a week for reasons we never determined,” he said. “I mislaid my car keys while out on the trail. I mislaid my car while out on the trail. A cook at a restaurant died while preparing my lunch. There were logistical challenges galore.”
In the end, Fayhee and Casey logged an estimated 1,200 trail miles.
“A Long Tangent” is not just a linear tale. It includes many interfaces with memory lane. Fayhee writes about mortality, hiking sticks, trail names, the relationship hikers have with their vehicles, mystery mountains, stinky socks, debilitating hangovers, poison ivy, stupidity, getting lost, getting found, the gentrification of the American West and, most of all, his love of hiking through wild lands with his dog.
Fayhee’s previous books include “Up at Altitude: A celebration of life in the High Country,” “Bottoms Up” and “Smoke Signals.”