Palos Verdes Peninsula News, December 20, 2003


By Chris Boyd

He’s walked 1,200 miles from Redondo Beach to Denver, more than
1,100 miles from Baja, Calif., to the Oregon border and 867 miles
from one end of the United Kingdom to the other.

He is 32-year-Rancho Palos Verdes resident Alan Cook, and his new
book, “Walking the World: Memories and Adventures,” details these
and other journeys on foot.

“I’ve been walking all my life. I guess the book is part memoir,
part adventure,” Cook says. “I actually went out and solicited
stories from other people as well.”

One chapter is dedicated to hiker Ethan Loewenthal’s walk on the
Appalachian Trail. “His writing is poetic, but in talking with him
you wouldn’t think so,” Cook says of the East Coast engineer.

There are also chapters about Peninsula walks, including the
adventures of Cook’s son, Andy, who trekked 700 feet up and down
a hill every day when he attended Malaga Cove Intermediate School
in the 1980s. “He went to Malaga Cove when it was part of the
school system,” Cook says. “He and I found a route to walk down
there (from RPV), kind of going straight down the canyon.”

When Andy got home from his trek, Cook gave him money for baseball
cards as an incentive. “He added greatly to his baseball collection
during his three years at Malaga Cove,” Cook says. “Physically, it
really was good for him, too.”

Cook also details his 18-year walk from Redondo Beach to Denver.
Why did it take him so long? Well, rather than walking the miles
all at once—Cook had to hold down a job, after all—he walked in
long increments during weekends and holidays. He even took lunch
breaks from his job in Long Beach to walk part of the easterly
route. When he was visiting relatives in Denver, Cook walked part
of the western end.

“For the last stretch, I actually walked for nine days,” he says.
“There were months and occasionally years that passed without me
accomplishing anything… It was not in sequence. If it had to be in
sequence, I never would have finished it.”

Also while visiting relatives in Colorado, Cook hiked in the forest
near Mount Evans, a 14,264-foot peak outside Denver. “Walking the
World” details his harrowing June 1990 story of being lost in the
wilderness there for eight hours at night but getting out of his
own accord. All the while, the Alpine Rescue Team was on his tail.
“It was the most lost I’ve ever been,” he says. “I was up as high
as 10,000 feet or more.”

Time to Write

Cook doesn’t have another major trek in the works. “I’m probably not
going to do any (walks) like that anytime soon, so it was time to
write it down,” says the 65-year-old. “Part of it is a travelogue
of trips we took to various parts of the world.”

When Cook says we, he refers to himself and his right-hand woman,
Bonny, who is always there to drop him off and pick him up in a car
after a long day of walking.

“He loves people and he has met many interesting people from all
over the world because of his walking,” Bonny says. “I love to
see him happy, and walking really makes him happy. It’s keeping
him so healthy.”

Cook even includes a chapter about giving directions. This is
particularly important for Peninsula walkers, Cook laughs as he
recalls a man who asked him how to get to a “Via something” in
Palos Verdes Estates.

“Drivers ask for directions a lot in Palos Verdes because people
who don’t know the area get lost,” he says. “Sometimes, I give the
wrong directions and later realize what I’ve done.”

Though “Walking the World” was published just recently, Cook has
been collecting stories throughout his life. “I really got going
on the book after I finished the British end-to-end (walk) in June
2002,” he says. “Some of the individual chapters I had written
long before… All I had to do was edit them a little bit and put
them in the book.”

As for his current regimen, Cook walks 4.3 miles every morning on
the inclines of Palos Verdes. He also hikes Mount San Jacinto
every year. “I do well on hills because of this kind of training,”
he says. “Right now I’m walking between 1,500 and 2,000 miles a year.”

Cook, who buys two pairs of shoes at a time because he wears them
down so quickly, is approaching the 100,000-mile mark in his
lifetime of walking. That translates into about 180 pairs of
sneakers to date.

Cook’s passion for walking ignited in 1971, when the family moved
to Palos Verdes and he began taking hikes to the beach. He then
read stories in the Peninsula News about a family that made treks
up and down the California coast.

“I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” he says. “That’s
how I started walking the coast.”

Why does Cook walk? “It’s more than just the exercise and the physical
part because you can get that by walking a few miles in the morning,”
he says. “A woman who was a psychic once told me that I needed to be
alone some.”

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