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#203163 - 07/04/19 12:38 PM Adaptation for old hikers
GrumpyGord Online   content

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 939
Loc: Michigan
What are my fellow old hikers doing to adapt to the new old and slow? I am 79 and I am finding that loading up with my gear and sleeping on the ground does not work as well as it once did. I went out backpacking a couple of weeks ago and found that I am covering about 1/3 of the distance in the same time compared to what I did in the past. I hiked 8 miles because I had to get to a water source but I was beat and would have liked to have quit sooner.

I am fortunate because I live in Michigan and the North Country Trail goes right through the state. Much of the trail is on state forest land so dispersed camping is permitted on a lot of the trail. The last couple of years I have been parking my truck either in state forest campgrounds or near existing two track roads with access to the North Country Trail. I obtained a partial rear canopy which fits on the back of the truck which has a cap. This gives me a bug free space and a place to sleep on an air mattress. It allows me to cook on a two burner stove and have access to an ice chest so the eating is good. I walk one direction on the trail until I feel I have had enough and then turn around and come back to the truck to chill out and read for a while. The next day I do the same thing in the opposite direction. If I feel I want some more I move to a different spot and repeat. I have even stopped for lunch and listened to NPR for a while or read for a while before starting back.

It is not the backpacking I have done for the last 40+ years but it certainly beats soap operas on TV.

#203164 - 07/04/19 04:57 PM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: GrumpyGord]
balzaccom Offline

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2139
Loc: Napa, CA
Ha! Soap operas are a low bar!

We're doing more day-hiking, like you, and more car camping in distant destinations. Now that we have time, that's a real option. In the last sixteen months we've spent about three months in the Southwest, mainly car camping and day-hiking.

And we've adjusted gear, too. Neo airs to sleep on, hiking pokes to ease the stress on our knees, etc.

And like you, we bite of shorter hikes each day, and shorter trips overall. Not so many weeklong itineraries, more 2-4 trips with lighter packs.

But because we're retired we can take those long car trips and hike mid-week or even off season.
Check our our website:

Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra;

#203167 - 07/05/19 07:30 AM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: GrumpyGord]
PerryMK Online   content

Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1286
Loc: Florida panhandle
I'll be 54 this month so may not qualify as an old hiker wink .

There was a trail in the NC/TN area that I hiked when I was 19 or so. I was in the army at the time so generally fit, but most 19-20 year olds are probably generally fit. The guidebook said the trail was rated to take 6 hours. I did it in 2 without really trying.
I did the same trail when I was 32. I took the full 6 hours.

I follow several hikers on Facebook including Liz Thomas, former AT FKT holder. She was recently talking about urban hiking. It occurred to me that I've been urban hiking for years. The nice part is the day ends at a hotel with a shower and a meal I didn't have to prepare.

I have always enjoyed hiking in the woods and continue to do so. I also enjoy hiking through cities and towns and museums and other places. I enjoy walking by and looking at old buildings.

So what do I do? I hike as I enjoy and don't worry about it. I accept I'm not as fit as I once was. I walk and exercise daily to maintain fitness, both for health and also because daily walking maintains the fitness I need to do occasional longer walks, whether in the woods, on the beach, in a museum, or through an old neighborhood.

Maybe it helps that I live on a couple of acres near the end of a dead end street, mostly covered in trees (with the exception of where my garden is) and a stream in the back.

#203169 - 07/05/19 04:47 PM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: GrumpyGord]
Glenn Roberts Offline

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 2088
Loc: Southwest Ohio
At 69, I can see the changes happening. A year or so ago, I asked myself where I wanted to be 10 or 15 years from now, and the answer was "still backpacking." Having spent most of my life with "responsibilities" such as a family, mortgage, college, etc., I hadn't been extremely athletic, to put it mildly. Realistically, there's no real possibility that, as I retire (semi-retired now, fully retired in another 18 months), I'll suddenly morph into some physically enhanced version of myself. What I have will just have to last. (I'm not in horrible shape, but when I get up in the morning, everything works and nothing hurts - and it's all original equipment.)

The first big change came from realizing that my knees, which are in really good shape, are getting older and can't take the pounding they once could. So, I decided to lighten my load by losing another 10 pounds from me (I'm at 6 so far) and 10 from my pack. Mostly by figuring out what I didn't need, and by some sage gear-replacement advice from my Gearaholics 12-step sponsor (who also happens to own the local backpacking shop), I'm now carrying about 16 pounds, all in, on my weekend trips.

About those trips. I've reluctantly concluded that a three-night trip will be about my limit - mostly, that's about the longest chunk of time I seem able to snatch away from other demands (such as a 92-year-old mother nearby in assisted living) and things that my wife and I have put off too long. The up side is, the food weight doesn't become a crushing burden, and I get to go out more often. (I'm now getting out twice a month for two nights, usually in the middle of the week - avoiding weekend crowds is another unexpected retirement benefit.) To get the most out of those trips, I've also decided my destination must be no more than 4 hours away - which leaves me a lot of good hiking in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. No, it's not the heavenly hiking those of you in the West enjoy, but since I've never gotten the midwestern woods out of my system, it's enough for me.

I've also decided that heavy rain, snow, below-freezing forecasts, and other "been there, done that, got the T-shirt" trips are out. (I have plenty of T-shirts, all in good shape.) Again, not having to carry "mission-specific" gear lightens the load - but eliminating those conditions also reduces the chance of a non-lethal knee or back injury that could end my backpacking career. (Nothing like sliding down a mud-slicked, non-switchbacked 30-degree slope to get the old heart racing!)

I've also eliminated trips to places named "Mountain" or "Highland." My stamina is not what it was at thirty, and I no longer can take on several days of large (for me) elevation gain and loss like I'd find on the AT. I've also shortened my hiking day to 8 or 10 miles. These changes mean I'm not exhausted at the end of the day. The side benefit is that I walk slower, and see more (or more deeply.)

This also means I don't go on as many group trips as I used to (and my days of leading beginner groups are over.) I can't keep up with the increasingly-younger demographics of those groups. As compensation, I now hike with one or two people my own age that I know well and who share my limitations. We find a lot of pleasure talking and in observing the natural world more carefully than we used to (amazing how much we missed on the same trails, when we were younger.) I'm finding I'm having more fun, sleeping better, and grinning more as a result of limiting the types of trips I take.

Luckily, in Dayton, Ohio, we're blessed with a nice regional system of parks and trails. Within 20 minutes of my house, there's a 35-mile backpacking trail, complete with elevation changes, old-growth forest, and backcountry camping, that I can day-hike to my heart's content, and get an overnight permit for with an hour's notice. And my buddy and I usually have it all to ourselves. Within my 4-hour limit are half a dozen state and national forests with 20 or more (often many more) miles of trail each, plus Kentucky's Red River Gorge and Sheltowee Trace - they're not the Wonderland Trail or the Winds, but for what I can and want to do, they're hiking heaven.

And perhaps that's the greatest adjustment of all: finally figuring out what my own personal hiking heaven looks like, and then finding it on my doorstep.

I'll let you know how my plan worked out in 2030. smile

#203177 - 07/08/19 01:16 AM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: Glenn Roberts]
Lonerock Offline

Registered: 12/10/15
Posts: 55
Loc: Southern Oregon
I bought a 1990 Toyota motorhome made by Winnebago a couple of years ago.It's very compact and takes me over some difficult forest service and BLM roads so I can enjoy some remote places yet enjoy comfortable nights. I get to some area, often trailess and head into the woods to explore. I've accepted some limitations at age 74 in terms of distances but still seek new adventures. Fortunately I live on 16 fairly remote acres and my property borders several million acres of national forest so the wild is just a few steps away. The bottom line for me has always been that being out in nature is all important and it's not neccessary to rack up 30 miles a day to find it. If you find a place you can connect with then mission accomplished.

#203300 - 07/28/19 06:27 PM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: GrumpyGord]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
Lighter pack weight! I do not think I would still be backpacking if the gear nowadays was like it was in the 1970's. I slowly convert to lighter stuff when the old gear wears out.

Moderate but every day exercise off season. I used to be a weekend warrior. Now I walk the dog 5 miles every day.

Avoid gaining weight. I am very disciplined about keeping my weight steady. If I want a desert or other goodie, I have to "earn it" before I eat it" with an equivalent calorie work out.

Save the joints! No longer running or doing activities that stress my joints. No heavy lifting or shoveling (had a bad spell of sciatica in my late 30's).

Go solo. Although some family members do not like this choice and it really is a bit safer in a group, I can go my own pace and stop and camp when I get a tweak in my knees or take a short day if I had a bad night's sleep.

Found alternate activity to pushing long mile days;fishing! And it also supplements my food so I can take less.

PS, am 70 this year. Do not notice much difference in abilities yet, knock on wood!

#203355 - 08/20/19 12:25 PM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: GrumpyGord]
HPD Offline

Registered: 12/22/16
Posts: 75
Loc: Colorado High Plains
I suppose most of us old timers are feeling the same about not being able to push it like we used to. I'm not quite 70 but it's just over the hill and it ain't a big hill. So far, my last backpack was a year ago. Might go on something short/easy yet this year because my daughter has expressed an interest in heading out with the old man.

My thinking is starting to shift toward still going to the places I love but staying in the frontcountry, taking day trips into the backcountry. Been going to Pinedale, Wy. the last 3 years, camping in our little trailer, day hiking, fishing, boating, etc. and having a blast! I find that for me at least, I get kind of the same thrill out of it, without some of the down sides. Though Frontcountry camping has it own set of downsides.

While my last big backpack into the Winds was great-weather near perfect tho on the warm side, ended up in a beautiful place, which is not hard to do in the Winds and got away from the hoardes of people hitting the high spots, which is getting a little harder these days, it was an eye opener for me.

Problem was that at 2 points during the trip I felt myself crossing a line that I shouldn't have. Exhaustion and dehydration caught up with me. I could feel it and it wasn't good. I'm sure part of it was the heat but I can't escape the thought that the underlying cause was the fragility of advancing age.

I find it hard to dial things back a little because when I get out there, I still want to go over that next hill, like I always have, fish that next lake and so on.

Haven't closed any doors yet but finding the Frontcountry option a good alternative.

#203360 - 08/20/19 10:20 PM Re: Adaptation for old hikers [Re: HPD]
JustWalking Offline

Registered: 01/12/16
Posts: 272
Loc: PNW
Got back recently from a yearly Sierra trip with a couple of friends. This year we went up over Sawmill Pass and mucked about. Last year we went over Kearsarge Pass and Glen Pass and settled into 60 Lakes Basin. Nice trips.

One of the friends is 79. I want to be like him when I grow up.


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