By Art Copoulos
Shawn Lyons was well known for his monster endurance hikes like the Chugach 12 peak challenge of 40 miles and 18,000 vertical feet in a day, his multiple wins in the Iditasport long distance snow shoe competitions, his many superlative hiking books, his much loved hiking columns in the Anchorage Daily News, and his years as a classical guitarist performing at local restaurants. All remarkable accomplishments in themselves, and all worthy of great recognition and adulation. But beyond all these incredible accomplishments, was a truly unique person and an authentic Alaskan, I think a true Alaskan Treasure.
I think of Shawn as inspirational. I found inspiration in his books, in his passionate descriptions of the trails and mountains, intermixed with prose and poetry. Through his books he inspired me and countless others to push the limits of hiking in Alaska. He taught us to be creative in the mountains-to explore the ridgelines, to go off trail, to walk freely and openly wherever we could go.
I also think of Shawn as the truly authentic Alaskan. He hiked with an old wood stick that his grandfather gave him, not a slick modern ice axe or hiking poles. He hiked in sneakers, not in the latest high tech ultra-light hiking boot. He brought minimal amounts of food, instead preferring to live simply, off the land as best he could. His actions reflected his true nature and beliefs, that of the simple hiker who finds sustenance in the woods and mountains, not in the trappings of modern comfort and technology.
I also think of Shawn as determined and fierce. He called himself “a pig-headed Irishman!” When he picked a route, he never gave up. He hiked endlessly and tirelessly. He gave it everything until he accomplished his objective, no matter how dangerous or how long it took. He cussed and swore and fought the rock, snow, and ice without any faintness of heart.
I also think of Shawn as someone who loved people, and loved to talk and tell stories. He was always gregarious and friendly. He always reached out to meet strangers, to hear their stories, share his, and make others feel happy and comfortable.
I also think of Shawn as devoted to and passionate about his work. His devotion poured from the pages of his remarkable hiking books. He opened up the forest and the mountains so we could see them, as he did, with his creative and passionate eye for beauty.
Inspirational, authentic, determined and fierce, gregarious and friendly, devoted to and passionate about his work were the qualities of this man. A truly authentic Alaskan and a true Alaskan Treasure. They don’t make guys like that anymore.
–Art Copoulos, a KMTA board member, has read all of Shawn Lyon’s books which inspired him to seek out and explore the ridges and trails in the Kenai Corridor, especially in the Hope area. In recent years, through their shared interest in Kenai history, Shawn led Art on some exploratory hikes in the corridor that according to Shawn, “needed some tweaking.”
To read about one of Art and Shawn’s hiking excursion from Turnagain Pass to Spencer Glacker click here.
To read some of Shawn’s self published poetry click here.