The plan was to get out for at least three winter trips in the mountains. I purchased a sleeping bag in anticipation of this. Here I sit, writing this article as February progresses, and I have not been out since October 12th, 2019.
Weather was a factor. A larger factor was the passing of my mother after her long battle with dementia. This is also why I’ve been absent from the forums.
The rest of February will be spent completing the move of my step-father into our house.
The following has been a typical week for me, absent my life events, as I’ve progressed through the months without making it to the mountains.
Sunday. I can feel my body dissolving into a lethargic state. I go out for a 2-mile jog/walk. A little weight lifting. Some stretching.
Monday. After work. I stare at my backpack. Then I look inside. All the things I packed from a canceled December trip are still there. Whew.
Tuesday. Another jog. More stretching.
Wednesday. I pull my new trekking poles out (Christmas present), and extend them. I wonder how long they’ll remain shiny and new. Forever, if I don’t get back out there.
Thursday. Life events prevent me from exercising (this could be any one of the days during the week). Later in the evening I look at my tent. I want to pull it out, but that’s just silly. Instead I move it to another location in my closet. There, that’s better.
Friday. Again no exercising. I inflate my sleeping pad and place it under my sheets. I slept on it that evening. Seriously. I did this. Yes, I am a 52-year old man. Two weeks later and it’s still there. It’s kind of comfortable.
Saturday. I go for a walk in my new hiking boots (another Christmas present). Merrells. They are nice. I’m pretty sure they will work great on those mountain trails. When I return from my walk I look at the sleeping bag I’ve never used. It’s hanging in my closet. I pull it down, pack it, and then throw my backpack on. All my water is still full. All my food is still there. I weigh my pack. No change since December.
Will I make it out in March? Maybe not. My hiking buddy is thinking mid to late April on a section of the AT in Georgia. The one we tried to hit at least three times this past winter. I’m worried about the AT thru-hiker bubble.
I will do that section. It’s morphed into a personal vendetta. If we have to hike SOBO against the grain of a hundred hikers, then so be it.
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I feel you Jerry. Much like you, my real life responsibilities conspire to keep me indoors and off of the trail. Backpacking is just one of my many interests (I'm an information junkie), but I often find myself lurking on backpacking forums, blogs, Youtube channels, and Facebook groups. I think this is one of the reasons people become gearaholics; it helps fill the in-between times. Thankfully, I'm way too poor for that! XD
All the best to you, and I hope your April trip goes without a hitch.
The journey is more important than the destination.
By "hiking" I assume you mean backpacking. Maybe it would help to look at how you define backpacking, camping, hiking, and walking. An rethink "where" you think these things should happen.
I live in an area where I could backpack year round if I had unlimited resources and no other obligations. When the mountains (the place I really want to be) snow in, there is the coast. When rainy season shuts down the coast, there is the desert. Moving here from a more limited environment I went overboard on getting out every last chance I got. Eventually, the trips began to feel more of a "must do" instead of a "want to do". When I retired, I felt I missed the boat if I did not use every last opportunity to backpack.
I have now stepped back, and give myself permission to just stay home. I have decided I really just want to be outdoors and I love to walk. Every trip does not have to be a big one. A short, close by overnighter is fine too. We now have a dog; a very active Border Collie who has to be exercised EVERY day. I now am an urban explorer of dog-friendly routes from 2 to 7 miles. We are lucky to have the wonderful American River Parkway a mile from the house. I pretty much just walk out my door and walk the dog, EVERY day. That keeps me in shape and I get my outdoor "fix". We have a trailer, so we do several camping trips like up the Oregon coast staying in state parks. Each campsite we choose has plenty of hiking trails to walk the dog. I am exploring my urban environment, finding new hikes all the time. In the past I have done more bicycling, but for some reason not much this year. When my motivation is low and I have the winter "funk" it is a lot easier to grab the dog leash and go out the door than get all geared-up for bicycling.
When my mind is fighting doing anything, I say to myself, "just get out and go one mile". Before I know it I am going 5 miles. Getting out the door is actually the hardest part. Same with backpacking. Getting in the car and on the way to the trailhead seems to be the harder part. There is ALWYAS a reason not to go, to postpone, other obligations that are pressing, etc, etc.
I am not a gear person; I am a big-time "planner"- so rather than get in my sleeping bag at home, I plan! It is my entertainment. I build elaborate spreadsheets with a database that allows me to easily look at any route going any direction. I pour over Google Earth images. Scrutinize topo maps. Use my gear spreadsheet to make a packing list for hikes I plan to do. Start re-packaging backpack food. Check my equipment, which usually is pretty rag-tag. Get a few new items.
I too have obligations- lots of Granny duty, home upkeep, never ending cooking cleaning ugh! But I just make taking the dog on a walk for 2 miles minimum, a priority. My mother of nearly 100 years old died this fall too; I can relate to your experience. There are mixed feelings, lots of little chores, grief mixed with relief, that puts you into a bit of a "funk".
BUT, backpack season starts soon! I have hundreds of pre-planned trips to choose from. I am in reasonable, if not great shape (so is my dog). It will start very small- an overnight close to home, perhaps with one of the grandkids. My annual Point Reyes National Seashore conditioning trip, perhaps a drive south to Joshua Tree. Then crazy over-the-top 3-5 day backpacks out of Yosemite Valley. Then play the game of out-running the nasty mosquitoes by going higher and higher until mosquitoes reign for about 2 weeks, whereupon, I go to the coast or we do a trailer trip. Then the real season starts -big time High Seirra or Wind River trips. Cannot wait!
I'm surly to my wife, friends, kids, grandkids, their dogs...
I also tend to spend time checking the 10-day forecast to see when I can go sleep in the nearby woods for a night or two. (Karol says doing that takes the edge off of me. She's probably right.)
But mostly, I'm in the same boat with Daisy (except for all the wonderful places to hike.) I'm semi-retired (10 months, 17 days, 6 hours, 54 minutes, but who's counting?), and I also have other responsibilities (my condolences, Daisy; I didn't realize you'd lost your mother. Mine is 92, in assisted living about 2 miles away, but doing pretty well.)
I'm blessed with an excellent Metropark system of walking trails in former farm fields, hiking trails in rolling woods along streams, and a 35-mile backpacking trail (with backcountry camping allowed) - all within a half hour's drive. Some days, I just load my pack and go day-hike a 2-, 3-, or 5-mile loop; sometimes, when the temperatures and precipitation cooperate, it's a 7- to 20-mile overnight (or two night) backpack. The weather cooperates 10 or 11 months of the year.
Now, this isn't "true" backpacking to most people (the way spending a week on the AT or the Wonderland trail would be), but it provides me with a great deal of pleasure. I've found I don't need the big trips or the hero-treks-in-the-rain (been there, done that, T-shirt's finally dry and still in good shape.) Mostly, it's now just the pleasure of walking to my heart's content, with no real goal and no need to "conquer"; I'm finding real pleasure visiting the same handful of places and watching the seasons change. I don't need a campsite with incredible views anymore; it's the snug, cozy little spot in the woods, letting it get dark around me, that appeals.
Not that I'd turn down a chance to visit Isle Royale again...
Great responses everyone. Thank you. I think, perhaps, another area where all of us "backpackers" on this board are similar, is that we write to help relieve our anxieties? At least that is true for me.
I didn't intend for my post to sound like a long complaint.
I have a pretty good life. I own & run a business, and I can go backpacking fairly often. I have less disposable income than at any point in my life, and yet I'm the happiest I've ever been.
I'll get back out there. It felt good to sort of vent.
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
I happen to be in a location and a situation very different. If my friends can't get out there are some trails not far away where I can put in a few miles and not too much further from home trails where I can gain some significant elevation and get in any distance I want. If I'm feeling like NOT doing anything I simply put on my (rain?) coat and walk out the door and walk up the hill and get in a half hour. I am retired and in a place where I can hike or backpack all year long (Olympic Mountains).
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