Trail Talk | Reemerging on the Trail

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, Craig Romano shares his personal reflections and growth during the pandemic.
Craig Romano Craig Romano
Mountaineers Books guidebook author
March 19, 2022
Trail Talk | Reemerging on the Trail

It’s been two long years now since COVID-19 emerged on the world and turned it upside-down. As we begin year three it looks like the virus won’t be going away for good, although we can all hope that it at least fades in prominence and influence. As the current wave is ebbing, I am trying to remain optimistic in the face of new potential variants. But while the pandemic has had many negative and disruptive effects, it has also been a game-changer for many of us on how we view our world, our relationship with others, and how we want to approach life moving forward.

I have lived through other crises, ranging in scale from 9/11 to deeply personal events like the death of loved ones, depression, and health challenges. In those times as well as this one, the natural world and staying physically active in it have been a godsend for my preservation. And like the cursed virus that has usurped our ways of life and continues to reemerge, I have learned to accept this disruption and reemerge as well.

The timing of the pandemic overlapped with big milestones for me: turning 60 and my acquiring an auto immune disease. This trifecta of events led to me to reexamine my life and how I want to live. It was also the lynchpin in realizing that my remaining time here on planet earth is growing short. Life is precious, and I cannot waste time by living anything less than a full life.

Seeking clarity

In the last two years, I have spent many long days on the trail hiking and running and thinking hard about what it all means. I am no closer now to realizing an answer than I was when I first began asking that question many decades ago. But I do feel validated in my choices, and I want to continue to spend as much time as possible on the trail and in the natural world. I want to continue hiking, running, pushing myself, and really feeling alive for as long as I can.

Long ago I realized that I could not live a normal life. I was cursed and blessed with an insatiable desire to experience as much of the natural world as possible. I crafted my entire career around it, and it has given me amazing satisfaction. Satisfying not only in that I get to do what I love to pay the bills that are necessary in our modern life, but also satisfied in being able to share my love for hiking, running, and the natural world with so many others.

Craig.jpegCraig enjoying a trail run among the flowers in the Sage Hills.

Rediscovering passions

As restrictions have begun to wane, I have once again been able to participate in both trail running and road running races. I absolutely love racing. Not for the competition, but for the camaraderie. It is synergistic to be out on a challenging trail run or road race with so many others. Not being able to race for a year and a half made me realize how much I missed socializing with others who shared my passion for running. Now I am determined to race more and to seek out runs I haven’t done before. I qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon when I was 29. I thought it was a one-time event for me. Now I realize how much I enjoy the process of training and working hard to qualify, and I have made it a goal to try to qualify and run that race again. Whether I am successful is not important. It’s the passion, focus, and process of living my life to the fullest that matters.

I have hiked many wonderful places throughout the world, but in the last two decades my work has kept me closer to home. I have no complaints as I absolutely love hiking in Washington, but I have begun to realize how much I miss other areas. It’s time to go back to many of my favorites and to visit some of the places I’ve always wanted to experience. Time is running out.

Prioritizing family

I also have a young son who I want to take to these places. I love my work, but I work a lot. Even as an outdoor writer I spend too much time in front of the computer dealing with deadlines. I’m making an effort now to work less, and hike, run, and travel more.

As I work on this piece I am packing for a trip back to Joshua Tree National Park. I was last there when my son was two, and we’re going to have so much more fun now that he’s seven. I also planned to visit the Gulf Coast later this spring. I haven’t been there since the 80s and I can’t wait to introduce it to my son. We are going to kayak with Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins in Mobile Bay, hike the Barrier Islands in Mississippi and Florida, and look for birds and plants we have never seen before. I’m planning a trip later in the summer to Arizona, a state I haven’t been to since 1993. I’ve always wanted to hike the San Francisco Peaks, and now I’m finally going to do it.

It’s ironic that I’ve spent most of my life hiking and running, and yet I feel as though I haven’t done enough and find myself in a mad scramble to do so much more. I know I will never be able to do everything I want to do, but when I lie on my deathbed I want to be satisfied knowing that I took every opportunity I could to experience the world. To have hiked as many trails as I could and to have run as far and long as I could endure.

Prioritize family.jpegCraig and his son atop Chelan Butte.

A new day

As COVID appears to abate and we all begin to slowly resume our old ways of life, I have vowed to spend as much time with my loved ones as I can, to share experiences and make memories together. I also have vowed to be the best person I can be. I hope to eschew negativity, to be more understanding and empathetic, and to spread positive thoughts and kindness.

It’s too easy to get wrapped up in our own thoughts, both when we are down and when we are doing well. But seeing beyond ourselves, acknowledging others, and making a positive difference in their lives pays great dividends for our lives as well. Time is running out, yet I have a lot of life left to live. You do too, and I hope that you too reemerge this spring as a more complete hiker, outdoorsperson, or family member. We may actually even realize that the last two years were not the drag we thought. That instead they were necessary for our development, and we are better off because of it.

Craig Romano is an award-winning guidebook author who has written more than 25 books, including Backpacking Washington 2nd edition, Urban Trails Vancouver WA, and 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Purchase his titles at our Seattle Program Center bookstore, online at, and everywhere books are sold.

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2022 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

Lead image of spring wildflowers in Wenatchee's Sage Hills. All photos by Craig Romano.  

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Linda Keith
Linda Keith says:
Mar 23, 2022 12:48 PM

Great post, Craig. I, too, hit the trails more this year. In the last 6 months I have averaged 2 major mountain hikes or snowshoe trips a month. I credit the Mountaineers snowshoe class with giving me the avalanche awareness and skills to go solo on many trips.

As COVID-19 starts the shift from pandemic to endemic, some trip leaders are still requiring vaccines, even for outdoor trips. Even though I chose to be vaccinated, I am aware that many of our members are not yet included in the return to the outdoors as a participant of our activities. Fingers crossed that changes soon.

I love your list of planned trips. Thanks for your work in opening up the outdoors to so many of us. At 68, I understand the sense of urgency to explore as much as possible.