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Old friends take a long walk

by Nicole Nolan
| June 26, 2010 9:00 PM

A decades old friendship paved the way for a unique tradition to take hold in the life of a 73-year-old California man.

Charles Wohl has been hiking the road from Wallace, over Moon Pass Road, to Avery each June since the late 1990s after an old college friend, Ron Roizen of Wallace, took him on that very road trip to show off the wonders of the valley.

"We didn't know it would become a thing at the time," Roizen said. "Once he did it, it almost instantaneously became something he wanted to do."

Roizen relocated to the Silver Valley in November of 1997 and Wohl, who teaches physics at the University of California at Berkeley visits to catch up on old times.

"He comes up here to beat me at chess and to walk that walk," Roizen said.

In the 1960s the two friends would play chess at a bar in Berkely called The Albatross. To Wohl, Roizen was "just some guy at the other end of the table." Wohl was a graduate student in physics while Roizen was an undergraduate at Berkeley interested in learning the game of chess, and a friendship blossomed to last through the years.

Now, many years and a few gray hairs later, Wohl reminded Roizen that he was the master and Roizen was still the pupil as Wohl won six and three on the chess board.

"He is remarkably fit," Roizen said. "And unfortunately his chess game hasn't degraded very much."

Along with the customary games of chess, Wohl gears up for his annual walk to Avery, shouldering a backpack with provisions before stepping out onto his journey.

The route from Wallace to Avery is a little over 30 miles, partially overlapping with the Route of the Hiawatha. The scenery that originally captured Wohl's interest, from the seven railroad tunnels and two trestles, continues to astound him.

"Charles is a bit monkish," Roizen said. "He's 73 years old and he's walking 30-some-odd miles for no reason, it's ridiculous," he continued jokingly.

Setting out from Wallace at 8 a.m., Wohl made his way to Avery, where Roizen met up with him at a local bar to provide a ride back to his home in Wallace.

"I started hiking in Boy Scouts," Wohl said. "I do it to prove I'm not dead yet."

During his annual journey, Wohl has encountered everything from the scenic beauty unique to North Idaho to the abundant wildlife of the region.

One year, Wohl said he encountered a Jeep that was pulled over to the side of the dirt road. Approaching the driver, he gave a simple hello and the driver told him to turn around. Standing not that far away was a moose with her calf.

"I just think it's part of a history that we share up here of people who walked a long way, people like John Mullan and Andrew Prichard," Roizen said. "People who walked a long way to find their treasures."

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