Aug 03 2010

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Keep Moving

Posted at 3:57 pm under Blog Post

Recently my friend John Woodyard and I agreed to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail this coming September.  We’ll hike about four days together, then he’ll continue hiking by himself a few days more.  I figure I can’t keep up with John much longer than that.  John’s a strong hiker in good shape.  I’m not.

A few days ago, I grabbed my pack, put my dog in the car, then headed for the hills.  Short on time, I wanted to make the hike count.  So I headed for a peak in the Green Mountains called White Face.  I knew that a round trip to the summit was a bit more than I could handle, but I’d give it a shot anyway.  I figured the more of it I did, the better.

On the way to the trailhead, I picked up a pair of twenty-ish thru hikers on their way back to the Long Trail.  During our short drive together, we talked about long distance hiking, physical endurance and growing older.  They don’t expect to continue backpacking more than another fifteen years.  I told them they could easily go another thirty years if they want.  “Keep moving,” I said, “No matter what.”  Then they headed north to finish their end-to-end hike, while I headed south just to stretch my legs.

Blue sky day.  Sunlight filtered through the leafy canopy overhead, illuminating the forest floor in places.  The trail narrowed as Matika and I charged uphill, forcing us into single file.  She wanted to be up front, of course.  We took turns.  Soon enough we reached Bear Hollow Shelter, about two and a half miles back.  Then the trail grew steep.  We kept going another hour, until the trail kissed the last feeder stream before the summit.  There we stopped and ate lunch.  I was tempted to keep going, but thought it smarter to turn around.  Nearly four miles back; 1500 feet climbed.  About two-thirds of the way.  Good enough for an 85-degree day.

It’s humbling to grow older, especially when you’re still engaging in the same activities that you enjoyed decades earlier.  I’m not nearly as strong a hiker as I was thirty years ago, but I like hiking as much now as I did then.  I like it more, actually, since every hike feels like an extension of youth.  Oh sure, I keep the ibuprofen, walking sticks and Ace bandage close at hand, and I sweat a lot more than I used to, but it’s worth it.  It’s invigorating, joyful, life-affirming.  So I keep moving, no matter what.  And if I hike hard enough this year, then maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to keep up with my old buddy John next year.  It’s worth a shot, anyhow.

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