Ageless Women Give Me Inspiration for My Thru-Hike

You want to do what?

I have read several social media posts from women who are disappointed and saddened that their parents, children, boyfriends, or husbands are not supportive of their plans to hike the Appalachian Trail. Or worse, many women are being told by friends and family that they will never succeed.

Whether I succeed or not in completing my hike, I can at least start the trail knowing that despite my family and friends thinking, “What the hell is she doing now?” they are also telling me, “You can do this!”

My first backpacking trip was an Outward Bound course when I was in high school in 1975.  Not long after that, I learned about the Appalachian Trail and I’ve been wanting to hike it ever since.  My husband and I hiked from Springer to Unicoi Gap in Georgia in 1991.  He passed away in 1999 at the age of 51.  In 2018, at the age of 61, I am hoping to complete the trail.  My inspiration for a thru-hike comes from the Red Lodge Hiking Club, which consists mostly of retired women who spend their Thursdays in every season of the year either hiking or cross country skiing.  I was initially skeptical of the group because the leaders of the club were 20 to 30 years older than me.  And then I realized that most of them could out hike me.

Strong Role Models

Two of my hiking club role models are pictured here.  The tiny one is Marlene, age 81.  In the last few years, Marlene has hiked in the Dolomites, walked across England, and along the coast of Scotland. She’s also hiked to the base camp of Mt. Everest and swam in the Antarctic among many other adventure travels.   On hiking club days, Marlene, a former public school teacher and mother of two with two granddaughters, still gets up early for a short jog or other exercise before a 14-mile-plus day hike above 9,000 feet elevation with a little tennis to relax in the evening of the same day.  In the winter she cross country skis as well as downhills.  She usually competes in two or three events in the Big Sky State Games and in 2008 she was named the National Congress of State Games’ female athlete of the year. And her active life started out as part of her rehab to recover from polio as a child. So, no excuses!

The other woman helping to celebrate my upcoming journey (as well as Mardi Gras) is Ruth, age 96.  Ruth is a great-grandmother and one of the early members of the Red Lodge Hiking Club (est. 1963) and she continued to backpack every year until she was about 90 years old.  Ruth was a college chemistry professor back in the days when very few female students enrolled in college-level chemistry classes.  She is still an active member of her church and the Red Lodge community, participating in weekly bridge games and several book clubs. Another of the hiking club’s founding members, Lucille, age 90ish, is still leading “shorter” summer hikes of five to six  miles.  And these are only a few of the amazing women in this group. So, as a youngster of only 61, I have no excuses to not give this a try.

Fortunately, I have been surrounded by many active women role models in my life.  My sister, now in her 70s, not only still rides thoroughbred horses taller than she is but also jumps over things on them.  That takes more courage than hiking.  My father, brother, and husband might have shaken their heads over whatever I set out to do in various stages of my life but they never discouraged me.  And I was also raised with camp counselors and coaches who not only told me, “You can do this,” but who also encouraged me to strive to be stronger or faster or braver.

So, thanks to everyone who has supported, encouraged, motivated, inspired and pushed me along in my life so far.  What’s another 2,100-plus miles?

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 14

  • Ruth Nasrullah : Feb 13th

    I’ll turn 58 on the trail next year. Hike on!

    • Sarah : Feb 17th

      56 and going sobo for my third thru hike …one step at a time . Kp it simple 🙂

  • Bob : Feb 13th

    Safe travels. Get out there and tear it up. If we keep moving the grim reaper can’t catch us. ?

  • Kathy McLemore : Feb 13th

    What an inspirational group for support!
    Have FUN

  • Marcy : Feb 13th

    2100 miles – as they say in Texas – no hill for a stepper like you!

  • Jaynn : Feb 13th

    I am in tears and not even through your whole post yet. YOU and the women you wrote of are ALL inspirational. I am not sure what else I want to say but just know that your words and your journey touch people you will never know (of course) in ways you will never know… The ripples of your words and intentions to hike the AT fan out like you have no idea… I am looking forward to reading about your trip and wish you love and peace as you prepare for this important journey! WOW!!!!! You are amazing!

    • Elaine Osmun : Feb 13th

      Thanks so much! Nice to hear that my inspirations can also inspire others! Happy Trails!

  • Spamtown rick : Feb 13th

    You go girl ! I once road up a chair lift with 3 other guys. The youngest was 88 ! This was out in Vail no less. It changed my view on aging. I’m doing this thing, and I’m gonna love it!! See you out there in 2 weeks. I’m Spamtown Rick. …Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Jim Knox : Feb 13th

    Wow! You are an amazing young lady. I am so very glad you are going to be able to cross off the AT on you bucket list. Please post so we can follow you. You are truly amazing!

    • Elaine Osmun : Feb 13th

      Thank you Jim!

  • Julianne Baker : Feb 13th

    GO Elaine!! I did most of the PCT (approx 1950miles) for my 60th birthday in 2010. I got knee replacement number 1 upon return. Five years later I got a second replacement. I have a hard time leaving Yellowstone to hike anywhere else, though I’ve done the beautiful Beaten Path twice. I hope to finish the PCT on my 70th birth year…. in a few years with a very fast friend. I’ve slowed considerably but we keep on moving and we’ll be fine. Best of luck to you, Elaine.

  • Kerry Tate : Feb 16th

    So proud of you, Ladyjack. Onward. Always.

  • Kelly : Mar 27th

    Love watching your progress and thanks for all the posts. I think my Grandmother was with the Red Lodge Hiking Club. She passed away several years ago at 89 – if she was still living she would have been 103.

  • Maribel Melendez : Sep 21st

    I’m 50 and recuperating from double total knee replacement and I think this post just make up my mind for me. My goal is to hike the AT in 2020. I’ll spend next year training and preparing. Thank you for the inspiration!


What Do You Think?