Yesterday my friend, Dennis Robins, and I hiked into the first stream-crossing on the West Fork of the trail, had lunch and were ambling back out.
We bumped into a bouncy bunch of Boomers out for a Labor Day Weekend of backpacking fun.
We stopped and couldn’t help chatting it up with these cheery chaps and their one lucky doll. And she just had been let out of hospital after a ruptured appendix!
We talked about camping conditions at the stream-crossing. There are beautiful meadows for perfect tenting on each side of the stream.
And I’ve rarely seen campers at either meadow.
We let them know that they would not have to wade the stream to reach the meadow on the far side, the one in which they’d like to camp. There is now a log in place for hikers to cross.
This is the first difficult place along the West Fork trail on its way up to the crest of the string of mountains running down the center of the vast Pecos Wilderness. Most years there’s been a couple of mammoth logs stretched across the stream for hikers to cross. But a couple of years ago the spring run-off took the logs out, leaving only a place where horses could wade across.
When they discovered I’d founded Backpacker magazine, they exuded over “those great early issues,” they’d read in their youth.
Of course, our obvious boomer reference was the amount of grey on our heads. My partner, Dennis, along with these folk, were all boomers. (I may be wrong though about Tobe, who they referred to as their youngster.)
And then I am old enough to be their father.
We were pleased that after all those passing years we were still enjoying the trails as we had in our younger days.
I’ve often had folks surprised I was still hoofing it at my age. So I’ll say a word about that.
No doubt our physical abilities are mostly a product of “who we choose as our parents,” as my long-time friend, Lou, used to say.
Still we all have a choice in how well we take care of our physical condition.
Let me confess, that I am not an athlete. Not at all!
I was lousy at all sports while growing up — the last kid chosen for sandlot baseball teams — too frail to make it in football — inept at basketball — a complete washout in all things physical.
It was a key reason I took to hiking. And to hiking alone. I figured anyone could walk almost anywhere. Furthermore, I loved the outdoors.
I admired a counselor I go to know on my one-week at a summer camp as a youngster. This fellow would depart at times to go off into the woods alone, saying he needed to “Commune with God.”
I liked that idea for some reason.
And while I couldn’t understand what he meant by “communing with God,” I sure knew that when I was out in the woods no one could make fun of me — me being too skinny, too clumsy, too weird, having too many funny ideas.
Moderation In All Things
Not that I meant my life to be this way, but it turned out that I was “moderate in all things.”
I got into rock climbing and mountaineering in my mid-twenties. And I became respectfully good.
But because I was not particularly strong muscled there were many climbs that I wouldn’t dare attempt — those requiring biceps big enough to haul myself out and over an overhanging rock roof or pulling myself up onto a high ledge with no footholds to help me up. So I was a “moderately” good climber.
I did the best with the body God gave me. And fully enjoyed doing it.
I skied at the low end of moderate.
I even came in “first” in a 10k running race, being the only one running in my age-group.
When I started publishing Backpacker magazine, people wanted to go backpacking with me, the owner of a magazine with such a name. Of course I turned down almost all these invitations, for I knew I wasn’t the speedy trail-burner they thought I was.
Today I still am not a speedy hiker. I just enjoy being out on a trail, moseying along at my steady pace of about two-and-a-half-miles per hour.
And, while I never knew it until lately, they say that walking is the healthiest activity there is for both body and mind.
That’s me. Mister average. Moderate in all things. Happy in them all.
And somehow, these duffers we met on the trail in the Pecos Wilderness yesterday seemed to be as moderate in their hiking as me. And seemingly as happy doing it too.
I hope they have a good weekend. I’m sure they will!