Deciding Whether to Do a Long Distance Hike at 68

Contemplating the joy of hiking.

Contemplating the joy of hiking.

This is the first entry of the  journal I started almost a year ago as I contemplated hiking the Appalachian Trail in April of 2015:

June 8, 2014

Yesterday, I said to Mel*, “I have a question. If you do the Appalachian Trail again next year, how would you feel if I decided to go too?” After his initial shock (because I had never ever expressed an interest in a hike of this magnitude), his first question was, “What would we do with the dogs?”

The dogs I'd leave behind

The dogs I’d leave behind

“Well, I was thinking maybe the kids  might be willing to take Brandy and my friend, Joni, might be willing to take Corky.”

Then came my second question, “If I did go, what would be your biggest concern?”

“That you’d be able to keep up.”

Really?? I thought, that’s your biggest worry??  This was a very curious worry in light of the fact that I am the one who exercises every day while he does not. In all fairness to Mel though, when we have hiked in the past, he has often been faster than I have. But, I really don’t think it will be an issue. I am a fast walker.  I had expected that Mel might be worried that I’d twist my ankle and have to be rescued –a much more likely scenario given my tendency to get all wobbly and wonky on the smallest of pebbles.
In the last 24 hours, my brain has gone into overdrive thinking about this. Was I up for the challenge?  Undoubtedly, a 2,000 mile hike would  be the hardest thing I’ve ever done–mentally and physically. It’s hard for me to leave my creature comforts and everyday routines for more than a month at a time. It’s hard for me to leave the dogs and it’s hard for me to be sweaty and smelly and sticky for days on end. But it’s not impossible.

Contemplating the dirty, smelly, exhausting side of hiking long distances.

Contemplating the dirty, smelly, exhausting side of hiking long distances.

 

Does the joy of succeeding outweigh the pain and suffering?  Do I have what it takes?  Yep. But, I also know that I would be wise to put  in a LOT of strength training as well as some aerobic training —and  increase my daily walking mileage over time– oh, and wear my backpack in the months before leaving.

I recently read that the oldest woman to complete the trail was 71. I’ll be 68 when we start out next spring. Piece of cake!

So many things to think about–closing up the house for 6 months, paying up bills in advance, canceling the mail and the paper and yada, yada, yada. At least we wouldn’t be out of the country if an emergency arose.

It feels like a worthwhile goal though, something really challenging to look forward to. Fortunately, I have almost a year to work out the details!

*My husband of 26 years

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Comments 5

  • Avatar
    Kristen Kimm : Feb 11th

    Jeanne….I will be thinking of you and Mel often….you are an inspiration for me as I look for opportunities to stretch and grow.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Jeanne Church : Feb 13th

      Thanks, Kristen!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Jeanne : Feb 20th

      Thanks, Kristen!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Timex : Feb 14th

    You’re definitely not too old!! I’m a 76 yr. young woman, and began a thru-hike in 04 only to have to leave the Trail in PA due to the deaths of 2 younger siblings (including the care of one). Since then, I’ve been getting out every chance I can and picking up where I left off. Finishing the last 900 miles is still on my bucket list! If I can do it you guys can!! Happy trails to you both! Timex ’04

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Jeanne : Feb 20th

      Thanks! Happy trails to you too!

      Reply

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