Boulder musician and outdoorsman Loren Mach is a guy who's thrown himself into his passions one by one: The owner of percussion performance degrees from the Oberlin and Cincinnati conservatories and a former percussionist with the New Mexico Symphony, he shucked a career on the skins to take a walk. Actually, he took a grueling hike (in one season) from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian Trail in 1999. But the trail also eventually led him to Boulder's Zimbabwean music community, a tight-knit aggregate of musicians mutually charmed by the spiritually powerful, mbira-laced rhythms of Zimbabwe's Shona people, who in turn re-introduced him to music.
"My passion had became the outdoors," Mach says, "but Zimbabwe is the reason I'm a musician again." And now Mach wants to give a little something of himself back to the fount of his newfound enthusiasm while continuing to pursue his ardor for the outdoors. Along with his roommate and best friend, FJ Avellana, Mach will leave later this month on a six-month, 2,650-mile journey from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, a marathon footpath that winds its way through extremes of terrain, from the Mojave Desert to the snow-topped Cascades. The trip, officially called RhythmWalk and largely financed by Mach himself, will benefit three Zimbabwean charities. Along the way, he also plans to share Shona culture and music.
Is Mach nuts? Hardly. "There's a Shona saying: If you can walk, you can dance. If you can dance, you can sing," Mach says. "The idea of tying my two passions in life together was finally enough to make me want to walk twenty miles a day for the next six months." And the culmination -- a planned trip to Zimbabwe next year to hand-deliver some of the dollars raised -- is certain to make it all seem worthwhile.
Mach and his musician friends in Boulder bands Jaka, Kutandera and the Low-Flying Knobs will kick off the trek in style Friday night with a benefit concert and silent auction in Boulder, and Mach admits he needs all the help he can get. "I just have to trust that someday I'll be out of debt," he says. But that's just the stuff of passion.