From neighborhood street to 14,000 feet

From neighborhood street to 14,000 feet

Avondale couple’s bucket list adventure

For several months, neighborhood residents have been remarking on the unusual sightings of a man and woman in mountaineering kit, apparently hiking the sidewalks of Avondale, Riverside and downtown Jacksonville.

In a relatively urban environment, trekking poles and technical packs are enough to raise a few eyebrows and more than a few questions. Were these hitchhikers? Misinformed adventure tourists? Perhaps some new “courier-on-foot” service?

The mystery is solved: the quirky pavement hikers are none other than Avondale’s own resident veterinarians, Drs. Alan and Beth Weldon, training to hike the Inca Trail in Peru.

With almost 14,000 feet of vertical difference between sea-level Jacksonville and the highest point of the Inca Trail, the Weldons included elevation conditioning by doing a few day-hikes above the snow line near Boulder, Col. in April prior to their departure for South America. Short acclimatization trips at elevation have been shown to help reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

The Weldons’ hike spanned a four-day, 20-mile mountainous route from Cusco, Peru to the 15th-century Inca settlement of Machu Picchu. Fortunately for their aching feet, the return trip was accomplished by train and bus.

Their next destination, on the Pacific side of the Andes Mountain Range, was the Nazca Desert near Ica, Peru, home of the enigmatic Nazca Lines. The Weldons joined Roberto Penny Cabrera, “The Desert Man,” a conservationist and advocate for the desert, to learn about the inhabitants of the ancient sea that once covered the land before the rise of the Andes.

The 60-foot shark, Megalodon, predatory whales, and giant five-foot penguins swam in the ocean more than 36 million years ago, and the Nazca and Paracas people later buried their dead in the area, which is threatened by exploitative artifact hunting.

Read Alan Weldon’s recap of their trip and advice for training for Machu Picchu at, which also covers daily life and his veterinary practice, Jacksonville Equine Associates.

By Katie Smith
Resident Community News

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