Dr. Mike Metke, president of Tyler Junior College, has a passion for adventure that’s driven him to go farther than most people ever imagine.
An avid outdoorsman, Metke began hiking and climbing mountains in Washington State in 1999.
After climbing Washington’s highest mountain (Rainier) in 2001, Metke started seeking summits and has bagged over 50 including the highest mountains in Africa (Kilimanjaro), Japan (Fuji), South Korea (Halla), as well as California (Whitney- the highest in the 48 states), Oregon (Hood), Colorado (Elbert), New Mexico (Wheeler) Arizona (Humphreys) and Texas (Guadalupe).
“Whenever I go somewhere I look for the highest point and try to fit it into the itinerary,” said Metke.
For instance, Metke was in Colorado for his sons wedding when he took time to summit Mount Elbert with an old friend whom he then traveled with to New Mexico and summited Mount Wheeler, in the same trip. When finally fulfilling his wife’s dream of visiting Scotland, he found a way to climb Mt. Ben Nevis despite harsh weather conditions.
“I couldn’t get anyone to guide, the weather was just really bad. So I thought, well, I’ll go for as far as I feel safe and the clouds opened up, the snow stopped for just a little while, and I got to summit,” said Metke.
Even while on an accreditation visit to Mississippi, Metke found the highest point there (Woodall Mountain). Most recently, during spring break, Metke was with family in Colorado for a skiing trip.
- In August 2015, he and his grandson hiked into and out of the Grand Canyon.
- In May 2015, he climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.
- In August 2014, Metke took his daughter and close friends on a wilderness trek through the Enchantments in Washington State.
- In July 2014, he led a small group including his daughter and grandson on the Salcantay Trail in Peru, hiking four days and over 40 miles, passing over a 15,200 ft. pass before descending into Machu Picchu.
- In July 2012, he and his daughter, along with a team of 25 Tyler riders, rode their bicycles 320 miles across Washington State, gaining 14,000 feet of altitude along the way.
- In July 2011, he and his son summited Mt. Humphrey, the highest mountain in Arizona.
- In July 2010, he took his daughter and several friends hiking through Washington’s Enchantment Wilderness Zone and then led a 25-person TJC team on their 320-mile bike ride across Washington State.
- In October 2010, he organized a group of 10 hikers, including his children and several TJC colleagues, for a 35-mile rim-to- rim hike of the Grand Canyon.
Metke has also led fundraising treks on the Inca Trail in Peru, as well as a five-day, 75-mile backpacking wilderness adventure along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail that stretches from Canada to Mexico.
“We chose the most beautiful part of the trail in Washington State, on top of the Cascades,” said Metke.
In 2007, he successfully summited Mount Baker, one of the snowiest places in the world- 1999 world record holder with over 100 ft. of snow.
Coming up in June, Metke will be travelling to Peru, to the lost city of Inca, Machu Picchu. With his daughter and her husband, his grandkids, Executive Assistant
Ellen Matthews and her husband Phil, and TJC Board Trustee, Peggy Smith and her husband Preston.
“The best adventures have been with my friends and family, being part of a group and a team, you’re kind of all committed to each other,” said Metke. “We’ve had a bunch of adventures and we enjoy doing them together as a family and having those shared memories.”
According to Metke, each trip is memorable in its own unique way.
“It’s probably the prettiest place I’ve ever been. It’s pure wilderness,” said Metke when mentioning Washington State.
“Mount Rainier was the first really big mountain I did. I think that, up to that time, that was the hardest thing I did voluntarily, and then I ended up pulling a muscle and really had trouble walking,” said Metke. “ I remember just telling myself that if I could still stand, I could still walk, and I could force myself to keep going.”
When asked which trip was the most memorable or which experience has been his favorite he explains that it isn’t easy to choose.
“Each one of them, sort of like, which is your favorite child, were special,” said Metke.
Metke hopes that there is a few adventures left but acknowledges time is not on his side.
“Time is running out in terms of significant mounts,” said Metke.
Ultimately, he is just glad that he has had the chance to experience all that he has been able to and that he still can keep up with his family.
“I have been blessed where I’m able to do some things, even now where I can certainly keep up with my kids and grandkids,” said Metke.