This past spring I had the good fortune to take movie star and star of The Dark Knight Rises, Marion Cotillard, on a short hike through the Lake Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New York. I got a call that the Sierra Club's executive director, Michael Brune, needed me to guide a hike right before I was set to disappear into the Gila Wilderness on another trip for veterans. I felt like Batman when he sees the Bat-Signal from Commissioner Gordon. Someone wanted to get outside and needed my help? That was all I needed to hear as I reached for my hiking boots.
When I was called, I had no idea who I'd be hiking with, but I wasn't all that worried. Other than once complimenting Reinhold Messner on his hair, I recognize the outdoors to be a great leveler and a place where truly paupers and princes can connect. When I found it was Ms. Cotillard though, I could not help but be a bit nervous; perhaps my girlfriend was as well.
The whole hike was planned as a unique interview setting for Marion and the writer who would be profiling her for an August Vogue cover story, which is now on newsstands. I'm used to seeing a lot of different kinds of cars at a trailhead, but will admit I was surprised when a chauffeured SUV pulled up in the parking lot before we started our tromp through the woods and around the lake. Emerging from the backseat was the glamorous sprite who is Marion Cotillard. Then again, as I stand at 6''8" a lot of people look awful spritely to me.
We had a solid rain coming down as we hiked through the trees and stopped a few times to see and feel the ancient worn-down rocks of the Shawangunk Ridge. We also stopped to look out over the lake where magnificent resorts for the "'discerning middle class" once stood. One could imagine that a hundred years before Batman, the luckier of Gotham's residents may have retreated to a similar area when the hijinks of the Joker or Bane's predecessors' became too much to bear.
Like all things outside, nature and even the semi-wild places of Lake Minnewaska are a great leveler, and the conversation flowed easily between the three of us. We discussed everything from her upcoming movie (check out Tom Shone's great interview in August's Vogue magazine to read about that), to the Wisconsin glaciation (the last glacier movements through the region), to how, as Marion put it, "Having the opportunity to hike in such a beautiful place when the rain was pouring down from the clouds made the whole experience so special." I was glad the rain proved to be a joy for her, not an added impediment. The reporter and I had been sure that the rain meant the hike would be cancelled. Thankfully, Marion preferred it.
In an era where many Hollywood stars make the papers for what seem like trivial or boneheaded decisions and statements, it was fantastic to meet an actress so committed to getting outside and a real joy to share the trail with her for a short time. No matter how you get to the trailhead, the important thing is that you get there, rain or shine. And you never know who might be sharing the trail with you that day.
If you need help figuring out which trailhead to get to or want to meet great new people on your next trip, your local Sierra Club Outings group is there to help. You can find out how to get in touch here.