BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It’s not about the 1980s band. Nor is it about some great archaeological discovery in occupied Western Armenia. It’s simply about enjoying nature, while getting exercise, with good company, and more. It’s the Armenian Hiking Association.
While hiking early this year, we hit upon this great acronym. Robert Assarian has long wanted to put together a group of Armenian hikers, as have I. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of people and occasionally e-mailed them about hikes. Some of them asked to be on that list, while others got on it unwittingly.
Now, as things get more structured and regular, larger numbers will hopefully sign on. We will do difficult hikes and very easy ones. We’ve already been pretty regular about organizing a hike each weekend and full moon hikes (the most recent of which even featured wine as the hikers rested and enjoyed the glorious full moon.
But what makes this even more interesting is that I got a call from someone (who must have gotten wind of my reputation for loving to hike) just a few days ago. It turns out the Armenian Society of Los Angeles has also started up an Armenian hiking group. We will soon meet to merge our efforts.
After doing a little bit of fundraising for an Armenian team to summit Everest some fourteen years ago and since then hoping, but not having time, to organize Armenian hiking activities in the LA area, it looks like it’s finally happening. We’ll no doubt benefit from the rich tradition of hiking/mountaineering that our compatriots in Armenia and Iran have built up. To provide a sense of how deep this runs, there’s a picture of a young man, Felix Mnatzakanian, carrying an ice axe, adorning the walls of the Glendale Homenetmen chapter center’s walls. He is universally respected and loved by those who knew him. It turns out he died, a victim of rockfall, only minutes away returning to the camp of a French climbing team which he had guided to the summit of a noted peak in Iran, Alam Kooh.
In what for me is a very related arena, the Armenian Cycling Association also exists. This group has organized rides to commemorate Arpil 24, raise funds for the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, and just plain have fun.
These are the types of activities that have been in short supply in many of our post-Genocide communities. There are notable exceptions to this pattern. I have met a Garo Mooradian, who was a leading bicyclist in Lebanon. Now, at around 80 years of age, he still regularly inspires much younger folk with his incredible endurance, riding the streets and mountains of his new home, the Los Angeles area.
If interested, please contact any of these individuals or groups and join the fun, camaraderie, and good works they do.