hiking

Getting Old: Wise, or Missing Out on the Fun?

I think I’m getting old.

I can hear your sarcasm loud and clear already. Eric, that’s so amazing, you’re thinking. Weird how time marches on and people age. Yeah, yeah, whatever.

And before you older folks verbally accost me for the misuse of what appears to be my youth, hear me out.

The other day I was on wind hold at a Kirkwood lodge with a huge group of meetup.com pals. Ages varied, from those in their early ’20s to those of us not in our early ’20s.

The lifts weren’t spinning, nor were they going to anytime soon. Snow was blowing sideways at a rate of an inch per hour. Wisdom and experience said we weren’t going anywhere. So I joined two new friends, both of them grey in the goatee, for a few rounds of rummy.

Eventually the youngsters grew restless and decided to hike a ways uphill to take a few hard-earned powder turns. Several of them asked us older gentlemen if we’d like to join in on the fun. We took one incredulous look at each other and simultaneously said “you kids go on.”

That they did. I thought nothing of it at first, as my main priority was to destroy my rummy opponents. Later, when the the kiddies returned to the lodge exhausted, covered in snow, and jubilant, I had a moment of regret.

Maybe I should’ve went for a hike. A young Eric would not play cards waiting for the storm to pass. A young Eric would’ve went for a hike.

Sad story, right? Those of you who are many years my senior can now verbally accost me.

My point, though, is that maybe as we age, we develop a “been there, done that” mentality. We miss out on more opportunities to have fun.

Or maybe we’re a smarter bunch. How is a grueling hike uphill in waist deep powder considered fun, anyway?

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Hiking? Let someone know!

The story out of Utah about a 59-year-old hiker surviving four days in the wilderness with a broken leg offers an important lesson.

From the Associated Press:

A hiker who endured four days with a broken leg and no food and shelter in the remote southern Utah high desert says her faith and medical background helped her pull through the ordeal.

Victoria Grover, 59, a physician assistant from Wade, Maine, was recovering in a Utah hospital after being rescued Saturday in a rugged section of Dixie National Forest, north of the town of Escalante.

Grover set out on a short day hike Tuesday from Hell’s Backbone Road, and broke her leg on the return hike while jumping off a 4-foot ledge about two miles from the trailhead. She then holed up along a creek at an elevation of about 4,500 feet.

To say she was lucky to survive might be an understatement. If you know anything about the high desert of Utah, you know it’s an especially harsh, unforgiving environment.

While Grover claims to be a “veteran outdoor enthusiast,” she made one potentially fatal error: She didn’t let anyone know where she was going!

Authorities were able to locate her through a rental car agreement found in her room at a guest ranch where she was staying. The establishment notified the sheriff’s office when she failed to check out Thursday as scheduled. Grover didn’t leave an itinerary of her hike behind.

If it wasn’t for her rental car agreement, or the alertness of the guest ranch to contact the sheriff’s office, chances are highly likely Grover would be dead.

Always, always leave an itinerary of your hike with someone! Hiking alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But hiking alone and not telling someone about your plans is just plain stupid.

Click here for the full story.

How to choose the right hiking buddy

Choosing the right hiking buddy shouldn’t be a problem. If both hikers have the will, and enjoy spending time outdoors, then you’re good to go.

But there are a few considerations you should take into account when making this decision.

Durability & Distance

One of the greatest things about hiking is its infinite variations on distance. From short casual rambles to epic multiday hauls, hikers can easily adjust distance requirements to suit their durability levels.

It’s fairly important to pair up with somebody who’s in the mood to hike the same distance as you. I’ve been on hikes where I felt like I could go on forever, but the person I was with was totally beat. I was a little bummed we had to make camp earlier than expected.

Sometimes your potential buddy will talk a good talk about how rugged he/she is, but when it comes down to it, they just don’t possess the durability it often requires to take on burly routes.

On the other hand, it will work out great if the two of you prefer low-key strolls.

Skills

Skills play into the durability and distance factor. The longer, more technical the hike, the more skills you and your buddy should possess.

You and your buddy can get away with wearing flip flops and T-shirts on those short walks through the woods.

Both of you are going to want to know how to read maps, find water, administer first aid, and much, much more if you plan on staying a few nights out there.

Outdoor skill levels vary greatly. You probably won’t enjoy being the only person on an overnighter who knows how to do everything.

Gear

An equally important consideration, gear also boils down to short casual rambles versus epic multiday hauls.

Relying on cheap gear between the two of you is acceptable if you’re cruising around the woods for the day.

Try using the same subpar gear on longer trips, and you’ll regret every minute of your life.

I’ve been on a few overnighters with hiking buddies whose gear was complete garbage. We’d have to stop often to adjust their faulty pack straps, leaky hydration tubes, and more. It can become frustrating for the one hiker with decent gear.

If your buddy doesn’t have the proper gear, but really wants to spend a few nights in the wild, suggest rentals. It will keep both of you happier in the long run.

What do you look for in a hiking buddy, if anything at all?

My favorite hiking buddy meets all the requirements. She's durable. Her outdoor skills are excellent. She has great gear. And she just so happens to be my wife. High five!