John Fayhee is well-known locally as editor of The Mountain Gazette for 12 years and contributing editor at Backpacker magazine, and for his work with various local papers — most recently editing the Roaring Fork Weekly, a midvalley paper that folded at the onset of COVID-19.
Now a resident of New Mexico, Fayhee looks forward to traveling back to the Roaring Fork Valley on tour with his latest book, “A Long Tangent: Musings from an Old Man & His Young Dog Hiking Every Day for a Year.” On the surface, it’s about a mission which amounted to 1,200 miles hiked over 367 consecutive days. Contained within that structure, Fayhee explores many topics in what he admits may be his most personal book yet.
As he told The Sopris Sun, “I’m a baby boomer, man. We were never supposed to grow old. And here we are! We’re old!” Describing his station in life as more days in the rearview mirror than looking through the windshield, Fayhee said, “I wanted to own my age in this book, be honest about aches and pains,” while at the same time, “I wanted this to be a present, contemporary thing.” Like a wandering mind along a meandering trail, the book contemplates countless themes: the paradox of a hiker and their relationship with cars to arrive at trailheads, the beauty of a good walking stick, keeping the good hikes a secret and more.
Listed officially as a memoir, “A Long Tangent” is an amalgamation of essays — many humorous, some sad — and poetry, as opposed to a straightforward narrative. Some chapters are as short as a single line (“Sometimes the best course of action is no course of action.”) and the longest is around 6,000 words, featuring a younger Fayhee wagging his finger at his older self. “This is the book I’ve wanted to write my entire life,” Fayhee said.
As he approached his 60th birthday, Fayhee felt inspired “to do something of relative note,” a press release stated. “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.”
Central to the story is Casey, Fayhee’s canine companion. “I downed a few pints,” the press release continued, “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. … Casey responded positively to the notion. So that was that.”
A month before signing the book contract with Mimbres Press of Western New Mexico University, Fayhee lost Casey to old age. As he cut the manuscript of 125,000 words closer to 95,000, he left “tears on the page” reminiscing about their adventures. “In a way, this book is an homage to her and our relationship,” he told The Sopris Sun.
In the end, Fayhee hopes the book leaves its readers smiling, laughing and hugging their dog.
Catch the book signing at White River Books (65 N. 2nd St.) on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 6pm, or at Explore Booksellers in Aspen on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 4:30pm. In addition to local bookstores, “A Long Tangent” is available for purchase on Amazon.com