November 1, 2016
By Kris Parfitt
Photo at right: Dan Travers, left, from Seattle, and Susie Alexander, from Lake Tahoe, California, after meeting by chance on the Tour of Mont Blanc trail and discovering they both know our editor.Photo by Tammy Leland
This year, Dan Travers, my husband, turns 50. To celebrate this half-century milestone, he and a good friend, Tammy Leland — who just turned the same age — walked from Italy to France through Switzerland around Mont Blanc this past September.
It’s the most popular trek in Europe, visited by more than 10,000 hikers each year, and in peak season it’s a veritable parade of hundreds of people a day hiking along this iconic trail. However, Dan and Tammy went off-season and encountered, on average, one or two people per hour. All the hikers they encountered, save two, were from Europe.
Similar to the Pacific Crest Trail in the western U.S., this trail has its share of day hikers, thru-hikers and four-day hikers, like Dan and Tammy who walked 65 miles, which is half the route — from Courmayeur, Italy to Chamonix, France.
On the third day, in a remote area, they heard English words spoken with an American accent. Previously, when passing other hikers, they said hello but did not engage in much conversation due to the language barrier. This time, though, they were eager to strike up conversation.
At a bend in the trail came two smiling Americans outfitted with backpacks and trekking poles who were thru-hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc and camping instead of hiking from hut to hut like Dan and Tammy.
Upon learning that Dan and Tammy were from Seattle, one of the thru-hikers mentioned having a friend who lives there.
“She’s the editor of OutdoorsNW and her name is Kris Parfitt,” said Susie Alexander, a friend of mine from Lake Tahoe, California. We both taught classes for the Tahoe Wilderness Institute in ’98 and ’99.
“That’s my wife!” Dan laughed at the odds of this chance encounter.
“You’re Dan?” Susie recognized his name from my Facebook posts.
Now, this isn’t the first time it’s happened that there is a common connection to me while traveling. It has happened to my parents multiple times as they have met and connected with someone I know while traveling through Europe.
The first time I heard about this happening, though, was when a high-school buddy of mine sat next to one of my college friends on a train heading to Rome sometime in the early ’90s. They didn’t know each other prior to this chance encounter and it was only through conversation that they realized they had a friend in common.
So it’s safe to say that it really is a small world and the people I know are friendly and easily connect with others.
What is your small-world story? Send it to me and if we receive several, we might publish them sometime in 2017.