This past weekend I did a challenging overnite hike with a great group of Central Virginia Trailblazers up in W. Augusta, Va. in a place called Ramsey’s Draft. The weather was perfect and it was a great opportunity to work on some of those backpacking skills. The second day was a 9 mile hike back to civilization and after several miles my legs started to go. I really hate holding anybody back so I actually prayed to God for some help (I’ve been meditating lately instead of drinking beer and thought this might be a good opportunity to cash in some of those chips). Two minutes later there was Ginny sitting along the path munching on some trail mix she had made up herself and she offered some of it to the old granddad. And it was delicious!! Chocolate and those little yogurt eggs! Salty pretzels! We sat for awhile in the sun and relaxed. Drank some tasty water we had picked up at the spring on top of the mountain. And life seemed a lot better. So we walked awhile and came upon the rest of our group where a woman I had just met by the name of Mary said, “Trade packs with me”. She had managed to somehow get all her stuff into a 12 pound pack while mine was 22 pounds and I didn’t really want to do it, but she insisted. And she also introduced me to these delicious little Clif Shot Bloks that contain salt, potassium and some sugar. And off we went. I felt like the hike had just started! Total revival and the remainder of our time on the trail was full of happy comradery. Mary reminds me of one of the truly awesome online presences, Robin Easton, author of Naked in Eden: My Adventures and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest. She got everyone talking about their lives and feeling good about themselves. Which is really funny, because I asked Robin to be with me on this challenging hike. And here was Mary! And here was God, too, answering a prayer when I was about to give up my backpacking dreams forever.
But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Today is a sit and relax at the computer kind of day and I have been goofing off, looking at a lot of old pics and realizing what a puffy, overweight thing I used to be. But it’s never too late (as long as you can still walk around the block) to reverse course.
Out in the wilderness, at night, when the wind is howling and the temperature is dipping into the low 30′s and 20′s you have to face certain things. When you are walking along a narrow path on the side of a mountain with a 20 pound pack and your legs are dead you have to deal with a reality that eludes us, often, at home. You have to think and you have to be careful. It’s a physical and mental challenge for men and women, alike. And we are alike in so many ways away from our daily routines.
When you get to be over 60 years old you enter a battlefield that younger folks only imagine. How do you want to proceed when you get there? Do you want to spend your time in the field hospital? Sometimes this cannot be avoided. There are casualties in every war. But, often, I see people trying to avoid the realization that any of this is even happening. Nature, and the mountains that often surround our communities, offer us the opportunity to scrape off all the sedentary ways that gradually weigh us down. It’s going to hurt, no doubt, and not be very pretty for awhile. But it feels so much better each time we complete a mission.
You never know what you might meet in the woods. It could be a snake or a bear. It might be a bobcat or a coyote. But it’s frequently in the back of the mind, especially when fixing food. And what happens if you fall and shatter a bone 9 miles from the road?
What happens if your doctor tells you that you have one of those aging diseases? We have to face these things one way or another. And I would rather take my chances where the action is real. People are true and God is on my lips. Ironically, in the end you may end up happier, in a lot better shape and living a lot longer going down this path.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. –Dylan Thomas