Mike Hayman of the Hiking Section has been named recipient of the Bay Chapter’s 2012 Mitchener Award for outstanding outings leadership.
Growing up in London England, Mike Hayman loved rugby for its combination of sport and socializing. “You’d play pretty rough, then go socialize with the competition,” says the 81-year-old.
In 1968, after moving to New York City for his work as a chemical engineer, Mike joined the Appalachian Mountain Club and started scouting and leading hikes. Hiking brought him the same combination of outdoor exertion and conviviality. “It’s where I’ve met most of my friends in the U.S.—hiking in one way or another.”
Moving to San Francisco, on his first local Sierra Club hike, in the Marin Headlands, he was struck by the difference in scenery from the East Coast. “The thing I remember about first hiking in this area were the open, beautiful views.” Mike started leading Bay Area outings in 1981, and his favorites include Castle Rock, Sunol, and Mount Tam. He’s also gone on two national Sierra Club outings in the southwest. “If you come from a country like England, where everything is lush, deserts are fascinating.” Even today, on his balcony he grows cacti and other succulents.
But he’s best-known for his innovative city hikes. Years ago, after going on an hour-long hike led by Adah Bakalinsky, author of Stairway Walks in San Francisco, he was inspired to create longer stairway hikes. He’d study maps, looking for apparent dead ends; driving there he’d usually find a stairway. It might keep drivers away, but that only added to the appeal of hiking there. “I try to get away from traffic as much as possible.” At stairways like the Harry Street stairs “You think you’re in the country,” he says.
The most memorable and most strenuous hike he’s led is “Bay to Breakers, by the scenic route”—from the Ferry Building via Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, Russian Hill, Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, and Seacliff to finish at Seal Rocks.
Regardless of the destination, all of Mike’s hikes end in time for a convivial dinner afterward. The people he meets are why Mike has continued to hike with the Sierra Club over the years.
Knee problems have slowed the stair-walker down. “One day on a hike in Berkeley, Mike was clearly in great pain because of the stairs, but he continued because it’s a place he wanted to show others,” says fellow Michener Award winner Guy Mayes (see July 2007, page 17; and May 2003, page 18), who has known Mike since the ’80s. “I think it represented a certain degree of courage.”
Since knee surgery in about 1997, he’s joined deep-water aerobic classes to exercise without the impact. Another outdoor hobby is tending a community-garden plot, where he grows flowers—currently dahlias.
Mike has shortened his outings, cutting out stairs, and hikes with a walking stick, but his leadership is just as appreciated.
“What he does fills an important gap in our hiking menu,” says fellow hike leader John Calderwood. “As I look through our schedule in the Yodeler, I see plenty of 2Bs, 3Cs, and even 4Ds. Thirty years ago I led 2Bs and 3Cs, but that was 30 years ago. I want something more than an hour’s walk on a level path. And Mike supplies the perfect compromise—an outing of several hours, with genuine but not excessive ups and downs in the company of delightful people. I get my exercise, I get my socialization. I’m one happy hiker thanks to Mike.”
Alison works as brochure editor and outdoor-activity webmaster for the Sierra Club’s national Outings Department.
You too can hike with Mike. For times and details, see the Chapter Calendar, on-line or in every Yodeler, starting on page A.