At 10.064, Mt. Baldy sits high above the Los Angeles skyline. For many, a hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy is their most grueling physical endeavor of the year. For Seuk Doo Kim, hiking to the summit of Mt. Baldy was a daily routine. Seuk, known as Sam, had hiked to the summit of Mt. Baldy more than 800 times, and had his sights set on reaching his goal of 1000 summits this year. Sadly, that goal was cut short this week. On Tuesday, news broke that Seuk (Sam) Doo Kim had passed away. Sam was reported missing by his family on Sunday after he failed to return home from a hike on Friday. Search and rescue teams scoured the wilderness area surrounding Mt. Baldy, and a flight team spotted and identified his body on Tuesday. Sam was 78.
“I’m feeling God’s embrace. This is better than church..” – Sam
As a local hiker that makes my way up to the summit of Mt. Baldy around 10 times a year, I ran into Sam all the time. I can remember our first encounter well. “How old are you?”, “How often do you hike?”, “Are you training for something?”, “What time did you start?” Sam peppered me with questions faster than I could reply. He then proceeded to tell me his age, and how he had summited Mt. Baldy and Iron Mountain more than anyone else around. I was amused more than anything. I stood there watching a man in his 70s tackle the mountain like a 20 year old. As I got to know Sam a little better with each trail crossing, I learned that he came to the US from South Korea in the 80s, and that he was also the authority on trails back home. I had been meaning to ask Sam more about hiking in Korea for future travel ideas, but I won’t be getting that opportunity. Sam often took photos at the summit of Mt. Baldy holding a Korean flag, as he desired a peaceful reunification of the North and South.
Sam was well known for handing out chips, jelly beans, and Clif bars. He always hiked fully prepared with all of his gear, alongside his iconic towel and a warm drink attached to the shoulder straps of his backpack.
Over the past few days, tributes and memories from hikers all over Southern California have been coming out. Sam was the unofficial ambassador of our local mountains, and it’s inspiring to see the amount of love and adoration I share with others who got to experience his energy.
The most inspiring tribute that I’ve read is on SoCalHiker.net, from Edward Kim. Edward created the hashtag #BeLikeSam. Like Edward, I hope to be like Sam as well. I hope to be physically active and fit when I’m 78. I hope to have the kind of impact on peoples lives that Sam did everyday. I hope to have the drive and ambition to pursue goals close to my heart, even when the rest of the world doesn’t understand. When I take my last breath, I hope I can say that I lived doing what I loved, even if it means that I might die doing it as well. The only solace to be had in the passing of Seuk Doo Kim, is the knowledge that he passed on doing what he truly loved.
Sam’s memory will not be forgotten anytime soon. As the spring thaw washes away the snow in the San Gabriels, hikers making their way to the summit of Mt. Baldy will have to make it without the man who inspired so many. It is here, that we can all Be Like Sam, by being a light and an inspiration to all that we meet.
19 thoughts on “Losing A Local Legend On The Summit Of Mt. Baldy”
What a touching tribute to Sam! His story is truly inspiring, and we hope we can #belikesam and keep hiking for as long as we live. Thanks for sharing, Drew.
Thank you. His passing is a reminder to make the most of each day and always #belikesam in all that we do.
He sounds like a really fantastic person. I hope he rests in peace. Thank you for the tribute.
Thanks for reading! He was a really nice man. I wish I had gotten to know him better.
Thank you, Drew. Through you, I now know one more beautiful person who lived life authentically and enthusiastically. My heart is full.
Thanks, Samson. Authenticity and enthusiasm are qualities that can fill the heart for sure. Very contagious attributes when we open ourselves up to them.
The guy was a legend. Rest in peace Sam. A lovely tribute from you Drew.
Thanks, Anna. He really is a legend. I’m hoping that a commemorative plaque can be placed somewhere along the trail in his honor.
Indeed, a nice tribute/memorial from you, Drew. Wish I could have crossed his path on the trail. There are definitely a lot of old folks out on the trails, and many have great stories associated with great places and people. Thanks for telling us about Sam!
Thanks, Mike. I love hearing the trail stories from the older generation on the trail as well. It gives me the inspiration I need to keep hiking well into my older years.
Great story! I’ll be sharing it with my fellow hiking club members. Thank you for a great tribute to another met somewhere along the trail.
Thank you for sharing!
It sounds like Sam was a really interesting and nice man, and will continue to be an inspiration to many. This is a beautiful tribute you have written.
He was a really nice man. Local hikers have put up a little shrine for him at the summit of Baldy and did a hike in his honor this weekend.
Ahoy Drew! Just wanted to thank you for your outstanding tribute to Sam. I never had the honor of meeting him (that I know of), but had heard of him from fellow hikers. Thanks again for the well-written and thoughtful post.
Thanks, James. Sam was a great ambassador for Mt. Baldy. I never could understand why he wanted to hike the same mountain 1000 times, but I respected the drive he had to accomplish that goal.
Sam was a nice man, I got to meet him on my descent from the bowl this winter. Insisted I take a selfie with him, and gave me a banana. I hope I go out doing what I love.
That’s awesome to hear! It’s great hearing these accounts from fellow SoCal hikers. I too, hope I go out doing what I love.
I’m a writer with Backpacker Magazine and I’m working on a story about Mr. Kim. If you have a second, could you shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org? I’d love to chat with you about meeting Mr. Kim and your experiences hiking Mt. Baldy.