The Best Laid Plans

Plans gang aft agley, but it’s hard not to feel silly after one has posted one’s plans online, and then have those plans come to naught. All these months, I’ve been talking about the big road-camping-hiking-backpacking trip I’ve planned for May, and then zap! I caught a cold. A bad one.

I haven’t accomplished much of anything the past week— the book remains unfinished, the trip preparations have come to a halt, and trail foods never got fixed. (I haven’t even been blogging — didn’t want you to catch my cold.)

I still hope to be well enough to leave Wednesday as planned, but I even if I have stopped coughing by then, I might be too weak. If I left a few days later, driving mostly straight through and staying at motels instead of campgrounds, I’d still be able to visit the people I’d planned to visit (keeping my fingers crossed!) but I would have to forego some of the sights I wanted to see and the activities I’d hoped to experience.

But you never know. Everything could go as planned. And if not, well, I still have my trip book — the binder I’ve filled with maps and directions and descriptions of parks and places along the way — so I can take the trip another time.

It’s interesting (to me, anyway), the difference in my thinking when I am feeling well and when I am not. When I am well, I feel as if I can work toward impossible dreams and maybe even accomplish them. When I am weakened by illness (or by coughing fits), I feel as if even the possible would be impossible.

But thinking doesn’t change reality, even though people say it does. If you don’t think you can do something, you can still try to prove yourself wrong and end up accomplishing what you think you could not do. If you think you can do something, you can rely too much on the belief and do nothing to make it happen, you can fail to accomplish what you thought you could.

Whatever happens next week — and next month — I’ll continue working toward the goal of an eventual epic backpacking trip. That doesn’t necessarily mean I will take the trip because as we all know, plans don’t mean a whole lot if things change and you can’t implement them, but still, it’s the work that counts.

For now, I need to work on getting better.

Hope you all are doing okay.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Uncreating and Recreating my Life

It’s been exceptionally windy lately, and will continue to be windy through tomorrow. I still did my faux backpacking treks the past couple of days, though I must admit, I procrastinated this morning. It wasn’t just the wind I couldn’t face, but the struggle to get the backpack up onto my back. I can do it easily sitting on the bed, but I have it on good authority there are no such beds out in the wilderness. In the desert, there are often boulders the right size, but I’ve hiked many places where there wasn’t even a place to sit down except the ground, and sometimes not even that if the trail follows the side of a mountain or swings through a deep forest.

Yesterday, I had such a hard time getting the pack on, I was afraid I would wrench my back, but it’s something I have to learn — getting the darn pack on with nothing or no one to help. Then, it came to me: do the left side first. (The instructions for putting on a backpack were to haul it up on the bent right leg, put your right arm through the strap, then with the left hand gripping the haul strap, sling the thing onto your back, but my left hand isn’t strong enough and even if it were, the wonky arm no longer bends the way it’s supposed to.) I switched sides, and by golly, it worked. Despite the twenty-eight pound dead weight, the pack went on easily.

Then, of course, I had no excuse not to go out walking.

As I was sauntering along with all that weight on my back (plus two pounds of water in my belly pack), it occurred to me that I no longer feel the pull to do an epic backpacking trip. It’s not that I am giving up on the idea, it’s that I’ve already been pulled. It’s no longer an impossible dream, though the dream has to be tailored to my fitness level. It is and will probably always remain impossible for me to do the whole 2,700 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from beginning to end in one season. An average of twenty-miles a day for six months? Eek. Not even many young fit folk manage to do that. But I will be doing some of it, even if only a few miles — it’s just a matter of when and where.

I like the idea of doing the last hundred miles of the northern section and the first hundred miles of the southern section, and then filling in the center. Sort of like the way I colored when I was a kid — first the outline, then the middle. But we’ll see.

My May trip is getting closer, and I still have a lot to do to prepare, most notably searching through my storage unit and the closet in my room for all my camping and backpacking gear so I can decide what to take. (And make sure I don’t leave something important behind!)

Meantime, I am spending most of my mental time on my book, trying to figure out the last section. There needs to be more upheavals before they settle down, but I’ve already uncreated the world and recreated it, so I’m not sure what I can do that doesn’t set up echoes of what’s already been done. I’ll think of something though — in fact, I might take inspiration from one of my silly little water colors, and pull the stars down to earth and the flowers up into the sky. One can do that if one is a writer, especially if one is a writer who is playing god.

I’m still not sure whether to create a Garden of Eden or some sort of cave person environment. (I’ve been trying to find out what a Garden of Eden would look like, but to no avail.) Not that it really matters, but they have to settle somewhere. I don’t want to have to research a whole set of survival skills for them, so it has to be easy for them and for me, this primordial and primitive place where they will raise the baby they are going to have. (And yes, the poor kid will be named Adam. What else could his name be, this first boy child born into the recreated world?)

With any luck and a bit of determination, I might be able to finish the book before I head out, to free my mind for all the new adventures coming my way. So, while I uncreate and recreate the world in my book, I am also uncreating and recreating my own life as I finish the novel, prepare for my trip, and continue my backpacking conditioning.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What If?

I faced no traumas today, no conflicts with others, no conflicts with myself, just the normal difficulties that come with trying to haul one’s used body around and make it do what one wants it to do. Luckily, this aging body is only used, not used up, so it managed to do what I asked of it. Like get up in the morning. Like strap on the twenty-seven pound pack and walk three and a half miles. Like go on an errand with a friend.

Now, it’s giving out on me. Actually, no — this poor used body is not giving out, it’s the overused mind that does not want to be tethered to words. It wants to roam free, not thinking, just . . . well, just not thinking. But without words, there is not much of a blog.

Oh wait! Photos! I don’t have to write about where my mind is. I can show you.

Less than four weeks until I am on the road again!

I mentioned to my landlord today that I was going to be gone a month and why, and he said, “I hope you’re bringing mace and a firearm.” I just stared at him, wondering if he were making a joke. But no. He was utterly serious. Then I mentioned to a fellow renter about my trip, and she, too, said I needed mace and gun. Huh? Mine is supposed to be a spiritual journey. (First, of course, an escape. Then a spiritual journey.) There is no killing on a spiritual journey. I’ll just have to be extra careful.

“What if a wild animal attacks you?” they asked. “Or a person?” I had no response to that, of course. There never is a response to “what if,” unless it’s: What if an animal doesn’t attack me? What if I have a wonderful time? What if things go well, and I return refreshed?

What if?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

An Opportunity to Escape

This morning, it suddenly seemed absurd my researching narcissism and obsessing about one extremely unimportant individual in my life, and I had to laugh. Not that narcissism is absurd — the personality disorder has ruined many lives — but I have more important things to obsess about, such as my upcoming trip to visit my sisters. (One sister invited us other two to visit her around Mother’s Day to make chocolate-covered pecan and caramel turtles in honor of our mother.)  Now that is something worth obsessing about!

It’s entirely possible this narcissism thing could be a way of distracting me from the impending visit and the very real problems that could arise. Not that I am expecting problems, as such, but the truth is, my two sisters and I have never been alone together, and I mean never. We’ve all been together with other family members. We’ve each of us been alone with one other sister, but never in memory have just the three of us done anything together, possibly because we are so far apart in age. If I really thought there would be more than a little discomfort I would opt out, but I think, despite us three being almost opposites (visualize a unilateral triangle), we are mature enough — or old enough — to manage a weekend together.

Still, I am driving up to Seattle instead of flying to give me the opportunity to escape if need be. Or perhaps I’m driving because I need an excuse for an adventure, a reason to run away from my problems. Oh, who cares why I am driving. I want to. It’s as simple as that.

I am planning to take a couple of weeks to get there, which will allow me to visit friends along the way, to visit a few national parks and monuments and wilderness areas, and to do some camping and hiking and perhaps see some wildflowers.

Just the thought of being in the open feels like a breath of fresh air on my soul. I hope the reality is the same. (I must admit I have a few reservations about my arm, but one way or another, I manage to do what is necessary, so I’m sure I will be able to continue doing so.)

I’d more or less considered not coming back to the desert at all, just continuing to travel, but since I promised to be back for a dance performance, I’m paying my room rent to give me a place to return to.

I really don’t want to spend another summer in the desert — it’s impossible to do much walking, not even in the early morning, and I would like to continue my backpack practice in preparation for a long hike. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be on the road when other people are out in force, and besides, it’s hot almost everywhere in the summer. Maybe not as hot as here, but still hot.

But that is a decision for another time.

Today the only decision I have to make is what national park land to research, what maps to print out. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, and just go without any sort of plans, but my idea of spontaneity is to drive. And drive. And keep on driving. That kind of driving becomes almost a zen-like experience, because as soon as a thought passes through your mind, you’ve left it behind, but it doesn’t satisfy my need for adventure.

So, I’ll close this post and go open my atlas and see where it will take me.

Wishing us all the best of adventures!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Gear Talk

I once read an article by a woman who quit the Pacific Crest Trail mid-hike. One of the reasons was that she never quite found her “trail family,” though I got the impression she was even more disappointed by her lack of “trail tail.” (Yep, that’s a real thing.) Another reason was that she found the thru-hiking culture elitist — apparently, all anyone ever talked about was how many miles they’d walked, when they’d started, and what gear they carried. Mostly they talked about their gear, with the ultra-ultra-light folks looking down on those who carried a few extra pounds, whether in their packs or on their bodies.

What made me think of this is that a woman contacted me a couple of days ago. Four years older than I am, she is also thinking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s been nice connecting with someone more in my demographic than is generally prevalent in the hiking forums, someone who shares my particular worries.

Our last few exchanges have been about — drum roll — you guessed it! Our gear.

Since neither she nor I are planning on doing monster miles (don’t you love all these thru-hike terms I’m throwing at you?), we both agree that comfort is more important than a bit of extra weight — a comfortable pack, a comfortable sleep system, a comforting amount of emergency supplies. (Some of the lightest of the ultra-light hikers dispense with such “unnecessary” things as an emergency medical kit, a compass, extra socks, iodine tablets or something like that for a backup water purifier.)

In case you’re curious, these are my “big three” — the term for pack, tent, sleep system: Gregory J53 pack; Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent, Big Agnes double z insulated sleeping pad, and a zero-rated Enlightened Equipment camping quilt.

I couldn’t decide what size tent to get, so I ordered the UL2 (which means an ultra light two person tent). I immediately regretted not ordering the UL1 (a one-person tent) because it would have been a bit of weight saving, but the tent I ordered is a good size for me, and the weight just doesn’t seem worth worrying about. (Though thru-hikers worry about every fraction of an ounce. Some even cut off the handle of their toothbrush and trim the various straps on their backpacks.) So far, the only time I’ve used the tent was on my cross-country trip — I was so cold, I put the Big Agnes inside my big dome tent. I really enjoyed having a canopied bed!

A zero-rated quilt or sleeping bag is one that will keep you alive, though not necessarily comfortable, at zero degrees. My quilt barely keeps me warm when the temperature drops to thirty-five degrees, but I also have a second, lighter quilt I could bring, or perhaps half of a fleece throw. Why a quilt? I don’t like sleeping bags. Too confining. And it takes too much time to unzip. With an aging bladder, I figure I need to be able to get up as quickly as possible. (Too much information, I know, but this is the sort of thing I have to contemplate that young hikers don’t.)

And the sleeping pad — what can I say? It’s a bit heavier than what some people bring, a lot heavier than what the ultra-ultra light hikers use, but it is comfortable, and it keeps the ground temperature from being a problem. (Normally, I sleep propped up on a few pillows, but somehow, I can’t see me wandering the wilderness with a huge mound of pillows tied to the outside of my pack, though it would provide amusement to anyone who saw me.)

My “big three” weighs a total of ten pounds, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider all the other stuff I will need to carry. I’m hoping to keep clothes and the small bits of gear to a maximum of eight pounds, which would give me a base weight of 18 pounds, which is respectable, but I don’t know if I can do it. I, for one, need to have extra socks and other such amenities. And then, on top of that, there is all the food and water that needs to be carried. This should be enough to make me want to give up on my impossible dream, but oddly, all it does it make me consider how to get rid of the impossible part and keep only the dream.

There. Now you too got to participate in gear talk. Wasn’t that fun?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Maybe Something Is Working

Yesterday I had to cut my backpack saunter short because of a cramp in my calf. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t want to keep on going and maybe make things worse. This answers a question I’ve been pondering about whether I should take my supplements with me on a backpacking trip — both times I ended up with a bit of a problem — the calf this week and the thigh last week — came after several days of being too lazy to take a handful of pills. As silly as it is to get nutrition (and fractured nutrition at that) from various capsules and tablets, apparently, these supplements do help keep me active.

Another potential problem is that I do the backpacking practice from Friday to Sunday, and people who only exercise on weekends often end up with injuries. I figured I wouldn’t have a problem because the days I don’t hike, I take dance classes, but perhaps it’s time to change my hiking schedule. If I only saunter a couple of miles, I have no problem doing other physical things, so I am going to attempt to take shorter saunters more frequently to see if that will help build strength.

It’s one thing if I never build up enough strength to do some sort of epic hike, but it’s another thing entirely if I am prevented from even attempting the dream because of injury. (Besides, one iffy limb is enough!)

Because of the calf situation, the friend who keeps me company while I struggle with the backpack on Sundays suggested we practice tap instead. So that’s we did. And then, when I got back, I still went trudging for a couple of miles. I don’t feel as if I’m getting any stronger, and yet I can remember that just a few weeks ago such a walk carrying a weighted pack would have worn me out. So, maybe something is working?

It seems odd to me, even now that I’m focused on finishing my decade-old work in progress, I am still interested in an epic hike.

In a mythic hike.

I recently came across a really great hiking term — MYTH: Multi-Year Thru Hike. Isn’t that a cool acronym? A MYTH could be something more practical for me to work toward — doing the whole Pacific Crest Trail, but not all in one year. It sounds like it would be a lot more fun that way, especially since so many people who do the thru hike in one year (five months, actually), seem to feel lost afterward, or depressed, or suffering various ills. (Generally, those are younger folks, so I doubt I’d have the same reaction, but who knows.)

Still, a hike of any magnitude is far in the future. More immediately is my May trip. Even more immediately, as in right now, I have a literary trek to take. My characters are about to leave the oasis where they’ve been resting and are heading out across the desert. Considering how frequently bits of my novels come to life, I won’t be too hard on them lest it backfire on me.

See you on down the road.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Blogging, Writing, Planning

This doesn’t seem to be a night for writing a blog — I’ve been sitting here playing games for the last hour with a totally blank mind — and yet, I hate to break the habit of daily blogging. It’s one of my few creative disciplines, and generally, if I let myself take a night off, the next thing I know, weeks have gone by without a single post.

To be honest, I already broke the string of daily blogs at about day 101, but since it was a mistake — I thought I posted something but didn’t — it didn’t affect the habit. But I suppose that raises the question — is it better to blog with nothing to say, or is it better to keep my computer closed?

Well, since I’m here, I might as well bring you up to date on the plans for my May trip. So far, I haven’t done much except schedule visits with friends on my way to Seattle. I had planned to camp at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but the roads to campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are not paved, and I’m not sure I want to risk getting caught on muddy roads, especially since I would be there in the middle of the week when there would be no park personnel.

I’m thinking now I’ll drive in to the plain as far as I can on the paved road to see what if anything I can see — last year there was a super bloom of wildflowers, but this year, because of the lack of precipitation, they are not expecting much color at all. (Same with the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, but one can hope! I sure would like to see those orange fields again.)

I might end up spending that first night in a motel, which doesn’t seem very adventurous, but I’m not sure I’d make it all the way up to The Pinnacles National Park, which was to be my next stop. (My map says it’s a national monument; apparently, somewhere along the way, it got a promotion.)

I still have weeks before I go, so I’m not particularly concerned about not having any plans yet. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, just take off and see what happens, but I know what would happen. I would drive until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, get a motel room, then finish the drive the next day. Admittedly, that sort of trip is its own form of adventure, but not the eye-satisfying, spirit-expanding commune with nature that I crave. And anyway, I might have to do that sort of drive on the return trip to get back before the Memorial Day weekend, and I’d prefer not to do it both ways.

Well, what do you know — I wrote a blog tonight after all. Now let’s see if I can manage to do my novel writing stint, too.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Doing Not Much

It’s been a long time since I’ve done nothing. Every day, there is a compelling item on my calendar — either dance classes or backpacking practice — but ever since I popped something in my thigh on Friday, I haven’t done anything. Well, nothing physical, that is. I’ve been taking it easy, reading and writing. Mostly writing.

I still don’t know what happened to my thigh. The tiny pop I felt/heard was definitely some sort of tear, but it doesn’t seem to have caused major damage. There is no bruise, no pain, no limitation of movement except for the limitations I’ve put on myself. I was concerned about exacerbating the tear, but with no real effects from the pop, I don’t suppose it’s necessary to continue resting. Too bad. I’ve really enjoyed these two days of doing not much.

If all continues to be well, I will go to my dance classes this week and hope that by Friday, I will be able to practice backpacking again without ill effects. Unfortunately, I will probably have to reduce the weight in the pack, so that will set me further back in the conditioning process than I want to be, but better such a setback than shouldering the same poundage and destroying my thigh permanently.

Even if I couldn’t go hiking today, I can do it vicariously through my poor benighted (and gaily bedighted) hero since, oddly, he is setting out on a journey across the desert. (Well, not so oddly considering who the author of this journey is!) Luckily, when I go out to the desert for real, I get to wear clothes that cover almost all exposed skin. My poor hero is clad only in that silly pink and lime green polka-dotted loincloth.

Maybe I’ll write an oasis to give him a break from the relentless sun.

But first . . . more of doing “not much.”

I hope you are having as enjoyable day as I am, and with as little to do.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Pop Goes the . . .

Today as I was walking — simply walking slowly with a weighted backpack, no false step or stumble — I heard a tiny pop in the front of my thigh. There was no pain, but after walking a bit farther, I felt a faint ache. I had no trouble walking back — the road was downhill all the way, which uses more hamstrings than quadriceps — and when I got to the house and shucked off my pack, I iced the thigh. Now I have it wrapped in an Ace bandage to contain any damage, though there’s still no real pain. It’s entirely possible the effects of any damage will show up tomorrow, in which case I will have to decide if I should rest or if it would be possible to continue my backpack training.

Or it could be nothing.

Still, this is the sort of thing I’ve been concerned about — I know a person can develop muscles at any age. Even the feeblest person can get stronger with a bit of effort. The trouble is that as one is getting in better shape, the body continues to age. My quandary has always been to see if I can get strong enough for a backpacking trip before my body falls apart enough to make it impossible. People always say age is a state of mind, which is true to a certain extent, but age is also a state of body. As of right now, there is no way an average person can reverse the aging process. (I say average person because who knows what mad scientists, holed away in secret laboratories, are cooking up to create everlasting bodies.)

But, as one friend said recently, “What other choice do you have?” We can’t just stagnate, waiting for age to take its toll. We have to try . . . something . . . whatever that something might be. And, for lack of any other dream pulling on me, this fabled backpacking trip is my something.

The more I practice backpacking, the more the dream changes, and it remains to be seen what, if anything, I will end up doing. My research into the Pacific Crest Trail culture makes a thru hike, or even a long section hike, seem less a spiritual journey and more of a bacchanalia, though how people who have hiked all day can have any energy for drinking or sex is more than I can understand. (Admittedly, this is only a small part of the culture, but nothing I want to have anything to do with.)

And then there are the problems of feral dogs, wild bulls, and hikers that disappear off the grid.

Not exactly my idea of a spiritual journey.

I get a bit embarrassed at times when people express their appreciation of my courage and adventurous spirit, because as of right now, my only backpacking experience comes from my local weekend saunters. But even that is something. I mean, how many people strap on a twenty-six pound pack (plus a two-pound belly pack) and go walking. For fun.

Well, we shall see what happens. I hope this “pop” turns out not to be anything serious. I’d certainly hate to give up the dream — whatever that dream might turn out to be — because of something that doesn’t even hurt.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Too Old to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail?

Ever since I’ve started walking with a twenty-five pound pack two or three days a week, I’ve been waking up extremely stiff and sore and wobbly even on non-hiking days. Apparently, that’s what I get for trying to build up my strength!

Still, I would have thought that increased activity would eventually translate to an increase in agility and and mobility, but that’s not happening. At my age, tendons and ligaments lose elasticity, muscles lose strength (at a whopping 30% per decade without high intensity workouts and additional protein intake to offset the loss), and joints can be painful even if there is nothing particularly wrong with them. (So if I weren’t trying to build up my strength, I’d probably still wake up stiff and sore.)

Once I’ve “oiled” my muscles and joints by moving around and stretching a bit, I am okay, but I worry about the night stiffness and early morning adjustment on the trail, so I’ve been researching the feasibility of long-distance backpacking for older adults. I know there are quite a few famous folks who backpacked well into their eighties, but some of them were life-long athletes, others seem naturally strong or obstinate. But what about regular folks like me who aren’t particularly athletic and who come to backpacking later in life? The prospect of a long distance backpacking trip, or even a short one, is daunting enough without adding the challenge of age to the mix.

Apparently, though, for someone in reasonable health, there’s no reason not to attempt such a trek, (though anyone with even the beginnings of heart or lung problems would need to check with their doctor before setting out). From what I can gather, everyone, no matter what their age, hurts on the trail. Older folks just have to be careful to stretch when possible, use trekking poles to save knees, elevate the legs when resting to redistribute the blood flow, and carry as light a pack as is feasible. (Feasible for an older person is different than for a younger one. Some hikers can get by with a tarp for a tent, or an almost non-existent sleeping pad, but not me. I need a bit of comfort or I’d never sleep, and if I never slept, I wouldn’t get very far.)

Of course, age is truly relative when it comes to backpacking. I recently came across a demographic survey of hikers, comparing the younger folks with the older folks, and the cut-off age was thirty-four. (The “young” group was under thirty-four, the “old” group was thirty-four and up.) And, in a forum discussing the advisability of older folks thru hiking, I came across a query from a fellow who said he was going to be turning thirty, and he wanted to know if he was too old to attempt a thru hike.

Interestingly, older folks who did long-distance backpacking trips after retirement seemed to have more fun than the younger ones because they knew what they wanted from a hike. Some wanted to go the distance, others just wanted to be out in the wilderness for five months. While a lot of the younger folks complained about the hardships, the older folks enjoyed all of it, even the rain and such because often they were fulfilling a lifelong dream. Some of the experienced older hikers did the same sort of insane mileage as the younger ones, but most seemed okay with going slower and savoring the journey, whatever the length. Older people are also more liable to enjoy the hike because after a certain age, pain and stiffness are a fact of life, so physical discomfort might not as much as an affront as it would be to a younger person.

If I were looking for reasons to give up my idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (more than the day hikes I have already done, that is), I didn’t find them.

So, this weekend I will add another pound to my pack weight for my conditioning hike and bring my impossible dream a step closer to possible.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.