I’ve been thinking, writing, loving wilderness backpacking for many years – but sadly, not doing it.
It is now seven years later and I haven’t been “ready” yet.
I have found that when you put your life in someone else’s hands it just stops. All your dreams are swallowed up into someone else’s dreams and intentions. For my friend, it became a life of pain from which he’s slowly recovered.
It is time for me to fulfill my dreams. It is like the final hour of my opportunity to hike the wilderness trails, because I’m of that age. I don’t want to say it – but I will. I’m sixty now. If I put off this wilderness wanderlust any longer, it will likely be too late.
I’m still working on readiness issues.
Yesterday I walked a mere two and a half miles through the little mountain town I live in, and back again. I stopped at the river access to rest on the riverbank and give myself time to relax. I had to show myself that I’m at home in the wilderness.
This was a baby step. The truth is that I’ve been afraid of the wilderness for years – ever since I saw that mountain lion in the middle of the Klamath River Highway. I’ve also seen one on my front porch, and there was a big bear outside my kitchen window one night.
I’ve seen bears cross the road in front of me on several occasions as I was hiking near town. They generally are looking for food, not for humans to attack. They were big – huge in fact – but not interested in getting close to me.
I just read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (a best-selling trail memoir.) It is about her summer spent thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail when she was in her twenties. She solo-hiked and apparently a lot of other women do too. But the Pacific Crest Trail has enough hikers these days that one is never totally alone for long.
I am not ready for the Pacific Crest Trail. After five children and years of eating wheat I’ve put on weight. Oh, wheat… another issue! I recently became vegan and am about 85% gluten free as well. I’m having a problem giving up my Clifbars, which do contain gluten. Come to find out, gluten-free Larabars are no great replacement unless you just love the taste of unsweetened dates. I’m thinking of covering them with a coating of some sweetener – agave syrup, rice syrup, or maple syrup, and dipping them in hemp seeds before eating. I think that way I could enjoy them instead of dreading to eat them. The chocolate ones are fine (though not especially sweet) and the rest I’m having a hard time warming up to.
I have been backpacking before – in my youth. I’m writing now of ancient times, in terms of my lifespan. I had my first backpack at the age of 16 or 17, and hiked through the Desolation Wilderness with my high school hiking club. That was torture! I was totally unprepared.
I remember deciding to do this hike only about a week ahead of time, and didn’t have anything but cheap tennis shoes to wear. We’re not talking about the athletic shoes of today – but the super-cheap tennis shoes we now call “canvas shoes” to differentiate them from anything you’d want to actually wear to play tennis these days. Today’s athletic shoes are far different from what we had available back in the 1960’s.
I survived my Desolation Wilderness experience, which was full of blisters, pain, and majestic, unforgettable views, and it left me with a lifetime desire to spend more time in the wilderness, hiking, backpacking, and camping.
I managed to do some of that until I was twenty, and then my life veered away into motherhood and an organized religion that siphoned off my time, my youthful aspirations, and my sense-of-self.
Now that my children (all five) are adults and I’ve left the organized religion, I’m regaining some of what I lost, including that desire to spend time in the wilderness. Deep wilderness. And the wanderlust has returned. And I’m sixty.
I’m in training for my hikes. I’m hiking for my hikes, you could say. Mainly, at this time I’m still hiking around town. I’ve hiked so much in this area in and near my town, that I’m 100% burnt out on it… seeing the same old places, climbing the same old hills. They are still “good exercise” but I’m yearning for different vistas. That’s what you get after spending twelve years living in the same mountain valley. Same old trees. Same river.
Yesterday I hiked two and a half miles. I need to work up to being able to hike ten miles per day with a thirty-pound pack on my back. I plan to go lightweight, as much as possible.
I’d love to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail. In 2015, the John Muir Wilderness Trail beteween Mt. Whitney and Yosemite. I may never get to the Marble Mountain Wilderness, but will exercise every day between now and the day I die, God willing.
[Note: on days I can’t hike due to excessive bad weather, I use Leslie Sansone – Walk Away the Pounds Express – Super Challenge … a four-mile walk video.]