My hiking body and mind is definitely different than it was when I was I was in my early 20s. As we age, not only does our body change, but so do our goals and other aspects of life. Welcome Contributor Kristine Huffman to blog today as she discusses a comparison of her hiking now and then.
I awake feeling the aches and pains of the proverbial cliché of my age. As I stretch my back and arms I compare present self to my younger self. That self would bounce out of bed planning the next goal or the next big summit. My present self spends much more time in contemplation and congratulation of my latest accomplishment. I have reached, dare I admit it, the mature hiker age. I am 50-plus!
Yesterday I completed a 6-mile hike with an eight-year-old. To the Mt Everest and peak baggers of the world this is nothing more than a blink of the eye. To the mature hiker with child in tow this can be quite an accomplishment.
Younger self would have decided spur of the moment to take the hike. Mature self spent two days planning for it.
Perhaps I am more picky now. I want from this hike much more than I used to ask. Gone are the carefree days of throwing on sneakers and grabbing a water bottle. Now I shop for boots because of the science behind healthy feet and muscles. I make my own trail mix recognizing the need for certain proteins and nutrients to keep me strong and feeling energized. The daypack has to be fitted now and not exceed a certain weight. Clothing? No more jeans. Hiking pants, leggings, spandex, yoga pants, the choices are endless! The art seems to be to look the part while not really caring what you look like. It can be quite daunting to pull off. Most times I still hike in capris made from denim.
Luckily comfort never goes out of style and I no longer feel the need to be seen in the trendiest gear. I research things now that I never thought about before. Things such as: elevation change, is the trail well marked and cleared, can I decipher the map, what is the weather for the entire day not just the first few hours, is there a cell phone tower nearby? I pack differently as well.
One of the most telling signs of aging is carrying aspirin with you. Just in case. I carry-in water but also have a water filter. We carry whistles, sun block, and mace. Things I would have never carried back in my youth.
My post-hike is different now too. With current technology it has become much easier to snap a picture of a wildflower or unusual plant and look it up at a later time eliminating the need to carry a big bulky wildlife identification book with you or even a sketch pad. After a hike my younger self may have stopped at a local pub or pizza joint to compare notes with other hikers. My mature self opts for home and a nice warm bath. I can share with my friends later on social media.
I never wrote anything down in my youth assuming I could always recall aspects of a great hike. My mature self likes to write notes in a journal as I reflect on the beauty of my most recent trail.
As I awake this morning I cherish the young hiker in me while I celebrate the mature hiker in me.
I stretch out any sore muscles. Perhaps I’ll take an over the counter pain tablet to ease the aches. I pour a warm cup of tea to savor the 6-mile hike as if it were the entirety of the Appalachian Trail instead of a 6-mile loop through a state park.
We did it though. We completed it. Well planned out, prepared for, and executed. My body may change, my plans may alter, but the call of the trail will be ever present. I still find in nature the same exhilaration I found as a young hiker and that comparison will never change.
Read more about Kristine on her blog, My Tiny Orchard.