Ambassador Spotlight: Karl Doll

We are kicking off our ambassador spotlight series with Karl, who has completed the NorCal challenge in each of the past three years. We also learn he's into more than just hiking and peak-bagging, and the origin of the name “alpharoaming.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you’re not hiking?

I'm typically riding one of my three ancient road bikes, two or three days a week, up and down the Santa Cruz Mountains, to a beach, taqueria, or brewery. I say “ancient” because two are from 1991, and one is an old Italian racing bike from 1978, that I inherited from a good friend who passed away. I also enjoy road trips to the desert and Gold Country, where I camp and hike, with an occasional backpacking trip thrown in!

What has the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge meant to you?

I like the social and motivational aspects of sharing adventures and challenges. Sharing and motivating others to push themselves a bit, as well as exploring new parts of the Bay Area is satisfying. Don't forget that we're also helping Big City Mountaineers to bring others into the great outdoors.

What is your favorite hike in the Six-Pack of Peaks and why?

Definitely Mt Sizer, though it is currently closed following the fires. Why? Well, there is a Geocache near the summit, and the owner of that Geocache has provided his own challenge. That challenge is to hike the steep “Shortcut” section, from the creek to the bench, in fewer minutes than your current age. He's done it every year for over 10 years. I've done it 12 times, ranging from 48 minutes to 160 minutes, pushing a mountain bike loaded with camping gear and water. I have yet to succeed in that challenge, but I've come close.

Share one of your most memorable adventures. What makes it so special?

“Memorable” would be almost stepping on a rattlesnake, when I was hiking off trail, and out of phone range (I carry my inReach now!).

Other memorable hikes include some Boy Scout trips in the Adirondacks, back in the 20th century, that involved various misadventures that tested our leader's patience. The only time we really got in trouble was when we were stomping on ketchup packets in the parking lot of McDonald's in Lake Placid, following a trip. The owner of a nearby car was not amused with the sudden need to wash his car.

I also day-hiked Mt Whitney when I was new to California, without acclimating to the elevation. Major altitude sickness!

What’s one piece of gear that you never hike without?

I have a little “23 Essentials” kit, as well as my inReach. My iPhone, with off-line maps from GaiaGPS, is always with me.

Share a quote, song, or another inspirational item that helps get you through the toughest hikes/life moments.

Jill Homer is an endurance athlete who holds the women's record for doing the Iditarod Trail, on foot, in the winter. She lived in our area for awhile, and we traded trail tips and cycled together once (she was kind enough to slow down for me). I've read all of her books, and when the going gets tough, I use her quote “just keep moving.”

That quote helped keep her from freezing to death when her leg punched thru the ice in a creek, and the nearest warming hut was 25 miles away. I find it to be a useful phrase when climbing big hills, even in milder weather!

What upcoming adventures are you looking forward to in the year ahead?

I have a desert roadtrip all planned-out for this winter, or early spring (COVID-permitting!) I plan to hit a few secret petroglyph sites, miners cabins, and check out Slab City and Salvation Mountain. I might even go to China Ranch again for a date shake and a walk along the Amargosa River!

Share a fun fact about you that most people wouldn’t know.

I'm actually not that interesting, but I can tell some long-winded stories.

One final question. What's the story behind your name @alpharoaming?

I have owned two Alfa Romeo automobiles, so I chose a web domain of a common misspelling:

After I sold the cars, and became more outdoor-oriented, I wanted to change my “handle”, but not enough that people would not know who i was. AlphaRoaming is a simple, but easy to understand, update of my name.

You can find Karl here on SocialHiker as @alpharoaming, as well as his blog and on Instagram at (naturally) @alpharoaming.

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