A couple of years back, Kimi and I were thrilled to get a call from our friend, world-famous adventurer John Goddard.
On that day he invited us to be a part of a group of twenty invited guests he would lead on a tour of Goddard Gables (his home in La Canada) followed by a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains.
We were instructed to meet on the lawn outside of his home promptly at 8:25 on a Saturday morning and to spend thirty minutes getting to know the other members of our party. The group included his son, who is a motion picture producer and marketer, three of his granddaughters, a noted musicologist, several of his friends from various adventurer and explorers clubs he frequents, along with couples who flew in for the tour from Colorado and Nebraska.
Five minutes before nine, the door opened, and we were ushered inside by John and his lovely wife Carol. Goddard Gables is part home, part museum, and is decorated with mementos collected from a lifetime of visits to exotic locales. Each item has a story, and John spent the next ninety minutes recounting tales of how he acquired such conversation pieces as a 10,000-year-old mammoth tooth, a twenty-foot python skin, and an intricate series of nine balls – one within the other – carved from a single piece of ivory.
He also showed us a knife given to him by a headhunter friend that was used to separate thirteen heads from their bodies. Also on display was a dagger that was only meant to be unsheathed when it was “thirsty” for human blood, and then put away only after it had “drunk its fill.”
Afterwards, John gathered everyone around the dining room table where a collection of airplane models were on display representing some of the military planes that he piloted during his career in the Air Force, including the F15 and the B1 Bomber.
Then it was time for the hike. We all piled in our cars and motored seven miles to the Chantry Flat trailhead north of Monrovia and began the two-mile walk to our destination, Sturtevant Falls.
It may seem that leading a four-mile hike is a bit too pedestrian of an activity for a man who has circled the globe four times, and who once survived being nearly buried alive by a sandstorm in the Sahara, but the hike was steep in places and required several creek crossings. John is now 86-years-old with bad hips, which slowed his pace down a bit, but he used the extra time as an opportunity to point out facts about the flora and fauna that we would have otherwise missed.
(We’ll complete our visit with the real “most interesting man in the world” tomorrow.)