Iím not sure if this is a case study in heading over the hill, a lesson for beginners, a trip report, or an expression of philosophy Ė so feel free to chime in on any or all of those topics.
Last week, I returned from a two-night trip with a 27-year-old friend (Clown, who thru-hiked the AT in 2004) along the Appalachian Trail near Damascus, Virginia (VA 603 road crossing to Elk Garden). We met when I was his Scoutmaster, both enjoyed backpacking, and had gotten together several times in the last few years (after he finished a tour in the SEALs) to go to Isle Royale and the Shenandoah Valley.
We had a memorable trip: we saw some of the most incredible scenery Iíve ever seen, and got to pet some wild ponies. We walked in sunny weather and light rain, and spent the second night in Thomas Knob shelter while thirty-mile winds whipped rain and fog around the shelter all night. The views from the high balds were incredible, with minimal signs of human encroachment. This was an altogether wonderful trip for me, since Iíd pretty much done all my hiking in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.
There was only one problem: this two-night trip was supposed to be a four-night trip. Our original plan was to hike from the VA 603 crossing back into Damascus. Clown did do the whole trip, but I bailed out at Elk Garden. Iíve been trying to analyze what went wrong, and think Iíve finally figured it out. It was a combination of rookie error (I should have known better), over-estimation of my current abilities, and a lack of physical preparation. I also came to realize that quite a few things went right: my gear worked perfectly, I enjoyed myself despite the problems, and (I think) I exercised good judgment in the bail-out decision.
Our first day started in early afternoon, hiking from the drop off point almost to the top of Pine Mountain Ė an elevation gain of 1,500 feet in 3 miles. About halfway up, my hips were hurting (sharp pain, in the sockets), and I was stopping for breath a lot more often than usual. The shortness of breath bothered me the whole hike, and it wasnít until I was reviewing the maps after I got home that I realized why: we were mostly hiking at 5,000 feet. Iíd always been able to hike moderately-high terrain such as Cumberland Gap (about 3,500 feet) without being out of breath, and I blithely figured this wouldnít be any different. I never realized that, in essence, Iíd gone from low-altitude Ohio to walk around in Denver-like conditions.
We camped on top of Pine Mountain the first night and my hips pretty well recovered overnight. I slept well, and we headed out the next morning for Thomas Knob shelter. This was a 10-mile day in which we lost 500 feet, then gained 1,500 feet before reaching the shelter. We spent much of the day hiking in and out of the woods, along the balds. We encountered several groups of wild ponies Ė ďwildĒ being a relative term, since they would wander up to you and let you pet them. Most of the day, my hips were again giving me problems, and I was still finding myself stopping frequently to catch my breath. The trail here is mostly rocks and small boulders, which put that much more impact onto my legs and thighs with each rock-hopping step. (This trail is even rockier than those at Isle Royale.) My poles helped, but couldnít solve the problem. In the afternoon, it began to rain very lightly Ė just enough that you needed a rain jacket, and just cool enough that you didnít overheat too much on the climb.
By the time we got to Thomas Knob shelter, my hips were screaming with each step, and one knee was a little sore. I was also exhausted Ė it had taken us all day to cover 10 miles, making a little better than a mile an hour. I crawled into my sleeping bag and took a little nap, then got up to make some tea and eat a granola bar, followed by supper (for which I had finally worked up an appetite as the exhaustion went away.) Although I was sleeping on a Prolite 4 pad, I didnít sleep very well. I couldnít lay on my sides or my back for more than 15 minutes without my hips complaining.
The next morning we headed toward Elk Garden, a drop of 1,000 feet in about 4 miles. My hips were howling by the time we got there around noon, and when I looked at the 2-mile, 1,000 foot climb facing us and thought about the 6 miles still to go after the climb, I knew I was done. I called back to Damascus for a shuttle, and left the trail. Clown hiked on into Damascus over the next day and a half. (He was kind enough to tell me afterward that I had done the roughest part of the trail, and seen all of the neat stuff; he said everything past Elk Garden was just a rainy walk in the fog and rain, with not good overlooks or other scenery.)
So, what went wrong with my plan? I think it was a combination of things:
1) I overestimated my own abilities. I discounted the fact that it had been two years since Iíd been on a trip with serious elevation gain and loss or more than 6 miles of hiking per day. I didnít give enough consideration to being 25 pounds overweight, and unrealistically assumed that I would be able to get a few practice trips in (despite competing demands for my time.) I also figured that, since 8 mile days hadnít been unusual for me in the past, I shouldnít have any trouble with 12 mile days Ė I hadnít actually done such a day for 10 years, but, hey, itís like riding a bike, right?
2) I wasnít sufficiently involved in planning the trip. I let Clown handle all the details; after all, he knew my hiking style, had thru-hiked the AT in 2004, and had made several return trips to this area. Donít get me wrong: he didnít bully or shame me into making the trip, and he asked for feedback all during the planning. But, in the end, I didnít spend enough time with the maps and trail descriptions to realistically assess distance versus difficulty, and I totally ignored the effect of hiking at a 5,000 foot elevation (that only applies out West, right?)
3) I didnít train for the trip. I meant to, and had some two-night trips to southern Kentucky planned. But, something always came up, and I couldnít get away at noon Friday, which ruined the whole thing...with the end result that I did nothing except a couple of late-afternoon hikes with a sleepover at the local state park.
However, I also think I did a couple of things right:
1) I did a good job of selecting gear and food. My gear functioned perfectly for me, and stayed in the background of the trip. It kept me warm, reasonably dry, and comfortable. I took almost the right amount of food Ė I just shouldnít have put the ramen noodles in at the last minute. It was nice not to have to worry about these details during the trip Ė and, considering that I was pretty tired most of the time, it was probably good that the gear had a low ďfiddle factor.Ē I had considered taking a lighter tent and water filter, and replacing my rain gear with a poncho. This would have saved me about two pounds (out of a 25 pound load), but I had concerns about suitability, durability, ease of use, and comfort. I feel fairly sure that, had I made these substitutions, I would have gotten wet in the windy rain. I also believe that, even though the tent and filter would have worked, Iíd have been constantly wondering about them, and gear would have gotten in the way of the experience.
2) I was able to keep a good mental state, and enjoy the hike despite the physical problems. I knew I had to keep going to reach the first feasible bail-out point, 20 miles into the hike, so I was able to separate the physical pain from the rest of the trip. I still enjoyed the views, and the ponies, and everything else Ė even the walk in the rain (as much as you ever can enjoy walking in the rain.) I may not have enjoyed it as much as I would have without the pain, but I didnít let the pain prevent me from having some enjoyment.
3) I was able to make the decision to bail out, even though I wanted to go on and Clown tried to help me go on. He offered to carry my pack up the big climbs (I refused, for obvious reasons, to make his hike more difficult because I hadnít properly prepared.) I didnít want to leave the trail Ė Iíd already done the hardest part. A couple more tough climbs, and the rest was downhill (more or less.) But, it was still 20 miles of downhill, my knees and hips were getting worse, not better, and it was getting colder and rainier. I sat down, pulled out a map, and took a half an hour to mull things over. In the end, I decided I could probably tough it out, but I also thought about the consequences of deciding to go on and being wrong about toughing it out. The next possible bailout point was another 10 miles away. What if my hips or knees completely gave out, or if I over-stressed my cardiovascular system and brought on a heart attack? (Yes, that was an overreaction Ė but I hadnít figured out the ďIím in DenverĒ part yet.) That would turn my selfish goal into Clownís (and maybe other peopleís) huge problem. So, much as I hated to, I decided it was best to leave the trail.
Where do I go from here?
1) Iíve lowered my expectations. Given my age (57), the competing demands on my time from my job and my other interests (golf, being with my wife and friends, and spending time with my grandchildren), I finally have to admit that I am no longer serious about backpacking. I still enjoy it, but I am now at best a weekend, recreational backpacker. Iím probably not going to get into significantly better shape (though I am going to lose the weight - 5 pounds are already gone.) So, the Appalachian Trail and other ďspectacularĒ trips are probably a thing of the past. Instead, my routine trips will be weekend visits to state parks and forest areas in Ohio and Indiana, with minimal elevation changes and 6 or 8 mile days being the norm. Some of these areas allow backpack camping; where they donít, Iíll go off-season, when the public campgrounds are nearly empty, and camp there using only what I carry. A ďbigĒ trip will be a long weekend at Kentuckyís Red River Gorge or Mammoth Cave, or maybe 4 nights at Isle Royale. The terrain there is rugged enough to offer some challenge, but not so much that Iíll have serious physical issues. Sure, Iíll miss a lot of spectacular experiences by limiting myself this way. However, I finally realize that Iíd rather relax and enjoy Ė and finish - a trip thatís within my capabilities than struggle to keep up on a trip that isnít.
2) Iím going to try to get out more often. This will dovetail nicely with my lowered expectations. As noted above, my long weekend trips invariably fall apart at the last minute. I believe Iíll be better off taking shorter trips in Ohio and Indiana than not going at all. I can leave after work Friday or early Saturday morning, hike comfortably for a day and a half, and be home for supper Sunday. Granted, I wonít get as many hiking miles or bragging rights, but at least Iíll actually go.
3) Iím going to look back fondly on this trip. Am I sorry I went? Absolutely not! I saw some incredibly beautiful country, wild ponies (wild ponies!), and got to spend some time catching up with Clown, who will shortly become a father for the second time. Those things were worth every ache and pain. I definietely would have done some things differently, if I was given a do-over, but Iíd still have gone.
"The Point of Diminishing Return" We'd all be wize to learn with you that enuff is enuff and to learn to plan for it. Bailing is no disgrace when the body screams enuff. If we continue when our bodies tell us to stop we'll do more damage than the body can repair. Out of shape is one thing but when the hips, knees and other joints say stop we'd be fools to continue.
...ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein... (Jeremiah)
If you honestly feel that your ambitious days of backpacking are behind you then I guess you are making the correct choice. But, if you still harbor even remote hopes of doing something like the AT or some other less time-consuming but challenging trip you may want to rethink your decision. Frankly, you sound a bit discouraged in your OP.
It has been said that "ones greatest remorse is saved for the sins one has failed to commit". I can paraphrase that to say that ones greatest remorse is saved for the trips one has failed to make. If you still enjoy your hikes then try to go down fighting!
It sounds to me as if what you really need is a regular, challenging fitness regimen and perhaps a temporary diet of less taxing trips. This, of course, is predicated on an absence of significant structural deterioration of your joints (eg arthritis) or cardiovascular disease (ie, see your doctor). From the description of your trip, it appears that you were out of shape for the plans that you made. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />
If you are willing to invest an hour per day on fitness, I suspect that by this coming summer, you would be back in the swing of things and approach the idea of backpacking with renewed energy. I would recommend mixing walking and biking as a base aerobic activity with 2-3 days of weight and core body exercises thrown in. Work up to it. If you can get involved in handball, squash or racquetball this can substitute for a lot of the walking and biking especially in winter. The main point, though, is that you need to maintain some level of activity between hikes or every hike you take will be hard on you. It needn't be strenuous; you can accomplish about 70% of your potential aerobic fitness goals by exercising at at 60% or less of your maximum heart rate.
A lot of my acquaintances tell me that they wish they had the time to exercise that I do. I noted to several of them that if they were to take one of their hours of TV watching and use it for exercise, that they would also have the time for exercise. None of them appreciated my pointing that out to them. I guess we find time to do the things that are important to us. I think it really is important to you.
Good Luck! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I did a cache trip four years ago or so with a guy in his upper 50's at the time, his son and sis-in-law, some others caught up late in the afternoon. He and his son were having some issues with the elevation, trailhead elev. was around 7500' and we bped up to 11,200' for the night. They weren't in shape and had a tough time with keeping moving, what with trying to catch their breath and leg burn. Not only were they packing 20 or more lbs. of extra body weight than they should, they had the extra bear canister to stash. They were getting set to do the Sierra High Route again. With me being in better shape then they were at the time, I would still hate to have to stay with them when they hit the trail for the SHR, a tough trip.
Some trips it seems, my knees and hips do better then on other trips. Four years ago, I went a different route than I planned because my knee was bothering me some. The next day it felt fine, but too late to go back. A great trip anyway, I got to see some lakes where I saw no one else at.
I'm in my mid 50's now and wish I exercised more. Since the loss of my dog 4 years ago, I don't go for a walk in the evenings anymore and I'm not in a situation where I can get another dog.
Hope you can find a way to swing a new mutt. They sure make the hikes feel younger. I was just saddled "temporarily" with another pup my daughter and her friends "rescued" from a homeless person for $20. This week end I told them the situation was not temporary.
You did the right thing backing off rather than pushing through the pain - you most likely avoided significant damage to your joints. Your post is very honest and contains many of the answers to your situation.
1) I think it is fair to take the time to find what your priorities are for your time and activities. Spending time with grandkids can be time very well spent. Ditto for spending more time with the rest of your family/loved ones. Backpacking sounds like it is an activity you enjoy, but one that takes you away from the people you enjoy.
2) No matter what you decide about your preferred activities, taking off the extra pounds and exercising yourself back to good cardio condition will enhance the time you spend on your preferred activities. Golf will be much more enjoyable if you don't feel pain in your hips, and walking 18 is healtheir than driving between each hole. Playing with the grandkids most certainly will be more enjoyable when Grandpa doesn't have to cry uncle because of pain. And of course, taking the weight off may help you live longer so you can enjoy the people in your life more.
If you have access to a swimming pool, water aerobics are a good way to get started, and low impact on your joints. When your joints are stronger you can add hill climbing and walking. Given the pain you experienced, I would go very slowly and as low impact as possible while you rebuild the muscles around the joints. A lack of exercise makes the muscles weaker, and also the tendons and ligaments more vulnerable to inflammation (tendonitis, for e.g.), and the stress on the joints also causes inflammation which could lead to arthritis if you're not careful (if you have arthritis in any joint, you are at risk of developing it in other joints). I do feel, though, that with a little work and investment, you can rebuild your strength and stamina and be able to do the trip you just tried without feeling as much pain or windedness.
Of course, if you haven't had one lately, a thorough physical is in order before starting on any kind of regular exercise plan. You windedness may simply be an indication that your cardio fitness has dropped off, but it could also be an indicator of other health problems (respiratory or cardiac).
YMMV. Viewer discretion is advised.
Loc: north carolina
A well-written, personal reflection. Thank you for writing it. I will say that Clown was right -- except for Buzzard Rocks at the top of Whitetop, the Trail south of Elk Garden is mostly in the woods. And the downhills are very tough on the knees and ankles. So you saw all the great stuff.
Good luck with your future hiking. My personal feeling is that -- if you want to -- you can get back into shape for more significant hikes. Just getting out more for local trips will help a lot. But everything comes down to priorities, and you sound like you have your head on pretty straight.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Hi Bob, I work out of town and unless I find something local, no dog for now. Having a dog got me out, since the poor guy was penned up all day and really looked forward to a walk, plus on bp trips, a great companion. My bear dog, only barked at bears. Only good thing is I can now visit National Parks because I wouldn't go bping without Pooch.
You got out and you had a good time. That is what really matters. It appears you did shock your body with too much given your less than ideal training. Backing off was the right thing to do. You would not want to ruin the whole season by doing something stupid in early spring!
If you simply like being in the wilderness you do not have to do 10 miles a day to enjoy it. I am not sure I ever enjoyed those long mileage days! I actually have found that off-trail travel is easier as I get older because you go slower and stop a lot to read the map and the route finding keeps your mind occupied so small aches and pains seem less of an issue. Trail walking tends to really beat me up! Particulary my feet (my personal "weakest link")
I suggest you 1) find an older backpack partner, 2) think about off-trail, 3) get out a lot more often - gradually build up to longer trips and 4) re-think your trip goals. If you gradually get in shape and your hips still keep hurting you should go see a doc and find out if there is anything wrong that can be fixed.
I did the same hike last August and it is a difficult hike for some of us over 50. It's all up in the beginning. The balds and ponies make up for it. And also, there's some very rocky parts where you just have ot watch where you're going. I ended up completing it, but not in the time I thought. I added an extra day because of all the climbing in the heat...little water so, I camped out in the trees somewhere. I would have bailed as well if my hips were in pain. As others have said, the downhill from White top is a killer.
I've learned to change my sleeping pad to the Big Agnes Core for that extra comfort. I don't know if you may have arthritis in your hips or if it is just not being in shape. As I am aging, I have noticed that I have to slow down now, take more breaks, fuel myself more often and make my campsite very comfy..that is, softer sleeping, washing up more, and yes, a hit of whiskey! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />
I think you did a wise thing and there is no shame in getting off the trail. That area is gorgeous and you witnessed the best part. Hiking 'gracefully' is just as much fun.
HikerDuane. I appreciate your situation on the out-of-town work and not wanting to leave the pooch home alone all day alone. Your looking on the bright side about the park visits is refreshing.
I skip on lots of areas because the dogs can't come, too. But I can get away without the dogs when mom is going to stay home with them.
Depending on how almost over the hill you are, that canine companion sounds like a good something to look forward to when the working days are over. I like thinking of the time and peace to even form a small pack.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Good morning Bob, not only do I work out of town, I am gone all week long, back home on Friday late afternoon. The dog would get me out more, I do jog a couple days a week and used to ride my mountain bike inbetween, but my neck bothers me most of the time, so I have stopped that until I remember to pick up a taller stem or higher rising handle bars. I can still make good time on bp trips, just the multiply days are tiring, unless it is the terrain I am going over. I had a trip last year where it seemed everyother day was a tough day but I made it. The location where I had a layover day, the next day I cruised up Glen Pass in SEKI in CA. A little over 2 miles up from Rae Lakes and I did it in a little over an hour for an average of 2 mph exactly, very happy with that as it is just about all uphill from the lakes. See you later, off to work.
I feel your pain--both literally and figuratively! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> When I read accounts of people older than I doing through hikes of the AT & the PCT, I feel like a complete wuss. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> But there is also a certain amount of freedom in knowing my limitations and I am more apt to indulge in shorter, solo hikes where I can go at my own pace and more day hikes. Last challenging hike I did, my left knee [I had the right one replaced almost two years ago] started hurting so badly on the descents that I didn't think I'd make it back. Sheer grit and a conscious effort to block out the searing pain helped me to reach my destination. Thinking my hiking days were done, I nevertheless wrapped my knee and headed out again the following week with minimal discomfort.
Kayak camping has given me a new--and far less demanding--way of exploring the backcountry and I am blessed to live where this is very possible. But I still want to backpack, too, and plan to continue on my own terms. Maybe we just need to get a bunch of us 'old folks' together for some milder excursions. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> Good luck, keep us posted.
I agree - my hiking days aren't over. I'm going to do as you say - hike on my own terms, not the terms "They" say I should. I'm merely recognizing that for several reasons, both personal and physical, I'm going to take trips that give me pleasure, not simply bragging rights about the great places I've been. Besides, I've still got to finish teaching my niece to backpack, a couple of my co-worker's sons have expressed an interest in learning, and I've got two granddaughters who will be old enough to learn in about 10 years. I can do that: teach them the fundamentals on the short, easy trips I enjoy, then send them out to do the trips I no longer can or want to do!
Don't look for that gear list any time soon. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Thanks; I agree with your suggestions. Companions - agreeable companions, at least - may be a bit of a challenge. But, for one or two nights, I'm quite comfortable with my own company. (The places I'm planning to go usually have a few people camped in the backcountry camping area, so there's always the chance to stroll over to the next camp and talk about gear or what we saw today. That's enough.)
The hips recovered fairly quickly, and haven't troubled me since. Of course, I haven't been climbing up and down hills! As I've thought more about it, I'm wondering if my hipbelt might have been the culprit. The few short-hike trips I've taken over the last year were done carrying an ultralight pack (Granite Gear Virga), which uses a thin, unpadded webbing hipbelt - virtually no pressure on the hips. For this trip, I reverted back to the padded hipbelt of the Vapor Trail, and I'm wondering if I just need some readjustment time. I'm going to try a weekend trip to a park where I'll make half a dozen 150-foot climbs and descents in a couple of weeks - that should be enough to tell me whether it was training or something I need to see a doctor about.
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm really not discouraged - in fact, almost the opposite. I had been struggling with conflicting priorities for a while now, and I'm actually happy and relieved that I've now figured it out. I've found that, in the overall scheme of things, backpacking just isn't at the top of the list the way it was 10 years ago. Now that I've figured out what I want to do (not what I can do, but what I want to do), I'm really looking forward to that next trip, and plan on taking it in the next two or three weeks.
For a long time, I kept struggling with doing a "worthy" trip versus doing the trip I really wanted to do: just mucking around in the front country for a day and a half, stopping to sit and look down on the canoes in the creek 100 feet below my cliff, and so forth - then driving home to have a nice dinner out with Karol.
I agree that I need more exercise, but it's probably not going to happen - and it's not TV that's the culprit (a couple of hours, a couple of evenings a week, is it.) I'm in a challenging part of my professional career right now and, though it's consuming a little more time, I'm really enjoying it. My wife and I have 3 parents in their late 70's and 80's to keep track of, which is a little more time taken. We also like to go see the kids and grandkids, but there's not a lot of real exercise playing with them. Yes, we do yard chores - but what with tillers, self-propelled mowers,etc., that's not real exercise either. About the best I'm going to be able to manage, realistically, is to increase the walking regime - and I'm not sure how regular that will become.
Golf would seem to offer an opportunity. I do walk when I play alone, but that's not on a regular basis. The guys I normally play with don't want to walk (one has a foot problem that prevents it, the other two just don't want to), so we use carts most of the time. I won't switch partners; these guys are all good friends, and we enjoy each other's company.
Thanks for the suggestions; I'll try to take them when I can. But, again, I'm actually encouraged. The "busted" trip was quite memorable, very beautiful, and it let me do the serious thinking I needed to do to get my priorities sorted out. My only real regret was not getting to spend more time with my buddy; we don't get the chance to get together very often, since he lives in Virginia and I live in Ohio, but he's also very mature and understanding, so it worked out fine.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Exercise is vitally important as we get older--"use it or lose it" is the key. It's not just backpacking but your present and future health that depends on it! Try a brisk walk at noon for half an hour (or exercise at a gym if your work is near one) and a brown bag "working lunch" at your desk. (Good way to cut calories and expenses, too, by avoiding restaurant lunches.) Now that the days are longer you can do another brisk half-hour in the evenings. There is no rule that you have to do all your exercising at one stretch; I've seen a number of articles that claim splitting your exercise into two or more sessions is just as effective if not more so. You could get an exercise bike and bike through the evening news (the news is easier to bear if you are working up some endorphins via exercise!). The bike will exercise your hip and knee joints with much less stress (increase the bike's resistance very slowly). You could combine the exercise bike and weight lifting (or other "core" body exercise), alternating days for each. These are all things I tried to do when I was working long hours. It really helps if you can persuade some of your colleagues to walk with you, but go alone if you can't.
You do need to work up gradually to trips like the one you took; even if you're exercising daily, that is a pretty strenuous effort you just did! I suspect that at least part of the hip problem is that your joints need good strong musculature to support them, and if you haven't been exercising regularly it's the joints themselves, rather than the muscles, that get the wear and tear. So it's really a good thing that you bailed.
At 72 I still go out backpacking a lot, thanks mostly to this site for helping me cut my load by more than half. My trips are a lot less strenuous than they used to be--maybe 5-6 miles a day. While I'm slower, I enjoy the trips more because I'm looking around at my surroundings a lot more instead of putting one foot in front of another. I also do more of the backpack in/set up basecamp/dayhike a couple of days/backpack out sort of outing rather than trying to go long distances with a full pack every day.
As you mentioned, altitude was undoubtedly a factor. While I acclimatize relatively fast, having grown up in Wyoming --home at 7000 ft and spending summers up at 10,000-11,000 ft., I still try to take it easy the first few days at higher altitude. While I acclimatize rapidly, my hiking buddy--my dog--was raised and lives at sea level, so he needs more time to acclimatize (or at least that's as good an excuse as any!),
Edited by OregonMouse (03/24/0809:18 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
This is my first post, I recently returned from a 3 day ,2 night backpack trip to Lawn Lake in the rocky mountain national park. My hiking partner who is also my best friend and wife has had one hell of a past six years health wise, beating ovarian cancer and having both knees replaced. The distance from trailhead to Lawn lake is approx. 6.5 mile and 2500 feet elevation gain. The trailhead is at 8600 feet, the first night camp was 2.5 miles in at 9600 feet elevation. We slept fine on thermarest pro light 4 pads and aleve. The worst part of back-packing is getting up off the ground, getting out of our tent. Our packs were 27 and 21 pounds respectively. The second day we left camp and continued 4 miles and 1500 feet elevation to Lawn Lake. We spent a couple of hours there and returned to "base camp". We were both asleep both nights by dark and up at the crack of dawn, which is our usual waking hours. We seem to "hike', walk or backpack at about a mile to a mile and a quarter per hour, no matter the elevation gain or loss. We hike or walk year-round using snowshoes in the winter, mostly at Glacier Gorge. We figure a mile per hour is plenty fast enough, we have all day, no need to get back to the car early. We like to be the first on the trail in the morning and the last out that evening. Friends ask how long are we going to be out hiking, and my reply is usually how far are we going in miles? and multiply that by one, which gives me the time, in hours,ha, ha. At the first sign of any kind of duress out of the usual mode we will return to the car. We have snow-shoed on snowy minus 20 F. days and hiked on sunny 90 degree summer days and have all the equipment needed for hiking, snowshoeing and back-packing. We go slow and easy hoping to return again the next week. I enjoy listening to John Denver between weekly trips. thanks for reading. hondahak
Thanks for sharing your story, Glenn .... been there done that to some degree. Some great advice and comments by all who responded, and I'll add the following.
The group I hike with numbers between 7 and 9 guys - the oldest is 63, and the youngin' of the group is 16. Fitness within the group varies to the extreme; one guy is only 5'6" / 150 lbs and carries 55+ pounds .... 10-12 miles a day for him is just a warm-up exercise. The 16 yr old skips along like we're walking through the mall. The rest are somewhere in the middle, being between the ages of 35 and 45 years old and in average or better shape.
As my Username implies - I walk slow. I can do decent mileage - I just have go at my own speed. In our little group, we all hike at our own pace - and arrive at lunch stops or evening campsite at varios times. The main thing is that we all enjoy the hike, even if we don't always hike "together" in a bunch. If I attempted to keep up with some of the guys I hike with - I'd have stopped backpacking a long time ago.
Hike with a group or partner that allows for such flexibility and enjoy the solitude of hiking at your own pace what ever that ends up being. At the end of the day enjoy the time in camp with your friends. HYOH implies just what it says .... any hiking is better than NO hiking!