It is really about how much I love the backcountry.
I’m 87 years old and still backpacking. I’m making my camp in my favorite Ponderosa pine forest during the full moon.
I try to do a backpacking trip each full moon from April to October at places I’ve always wanted to camp on trails near home, but over the years I’ve passed up to go to spots much further away.
This morning I carried my tent and water in to the spot where I will make camp tonight. Later this afternoon I will pack in the rest of my gear.
It’s not much of a distance, or a climb worth bragging about. It is just a three mile round trip.
It will be a dry camp; hence I’ll need a gallon and a half of water that I have carried in along with my tent.
Yes, a rule of thumb in backpacking is to carry about one third of your body weight, which for me would be about a fifty-pound pack.
But, I’m carrying only about half that amount on each of my trips in here. I am not trying to set any backpacking records.
As I said, it is all about my love of the backcountry.
And this particular spot is where my wife, Joy, and I stop on frequent day hikes. We just love to spend a bit of time listening to the sounds and resting with the beauty of the place.
I’ve also a great place here where I camp on some of my backpacking jaunts.
I savor the pleasure of being out here – all, all lone in the pine forest. I meditate on a log near my tent site. And have a place where I cook and eat my meals.
And what’s particularly nice about being there in the moonlight is that after the sun goes down I can still see well enough not to need a flashlight for most of the major chores I need to do around camp.
After I wrote that it sounds so dull.
It is the really all about beauty of the forest during a full moon!
I just love it.
Let me tell you about of some of the unintended consequences of hiking.
I’m not sure how much my hiking has actually contributed to my physical and mental well-being for my age. But I honestly do believe it has added to it. And so do a few other fellows I have lunch with once a week. We call ourselves “The Geezers.”
One Geezer friend, Wayne, in addition to being a hiker is an avid down-hill skier, and more limber than I was at forty. Wayne is ninety-two.
Geezers Bill, Eric and Newell, are also tireless hikers, all mid-seventies and above.
They all agree with me about this. I do not lose my balance. I have had only one fall in the past two dozen years, rare for an 87-year-old. And that fall occurred on a trail when a rock rolled from under my foot. I suffered only a scuffed shirt elbow.
Another huge benefit, I suffer no periods of depression. Again, rare for octo-generians.
Third, while I do have my “senior moments” I still have a good memory, better than most guys a decade or so younger than me.
Fourth, I believe I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. And that is definitely heavily due to my hiking.
All of my four friends agree with me about these benefits of hiking and skiing.
These days I spent more time on hikes than I used to, mainly visiting with other hikers.
We stop and gab longer than I used to do when I was so goal-oriented. It is very similar to how people used to stop and chat on Sunday’s walking home from church.
Today, while our dogs ran about with each other, I stopped and had a nice chat with Tom and Joan Ryan. We talked a good bit about hiking in Switzerland where his sister was once the US Ambassador.
Yesterday I stopped to chat with Dennis and Ariel, a lovely Parisian woman who is spending her three months here on a Wurlitzer Foundation scholarship. We spoke in ecclesiastical terms about the “sacred stillness” of the woods, the “Cathedral of the Pines” in a Ponderosa grove up higher, and just the “blessedness” of this warm, sunny fall day.
We three are representative of three generations of hikers. I the elder, Dennis the mature grey-haired, and Ariel the burgeoning artist.
I’ll sign off now for the evening on this post. I have to be up early to get in my hike before meeting another friend to explore an abandoned logging road in his four-by-four.