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Trail Geezers


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When I started backpacking I could carry anything, and usually did. My packs were made of canvas and were filled with weight. My equipment and I have come along way. I have enough stories and memories to qualify me as a Geezer. Most of my trips throughout the years have been solo.

Now I  am a couple of years away from my seventies. I am wondering how long I can keep going. My pace is much slower, my tent has more cushion and I tend to carry warmer clothes. I still enjoy the world from a trail view. The fishing is better than ever.

Where am I going with this thread? I would like to hear from other "aging" backpackers and any adjustments they have made and future plans. I am looking at some day having to rent LLamas and maybe have someone horseback me into an area and pick me up after a couple of weeks.

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Above: me on the left, brother on the right in 1969 at the Mosquito Flats trailhead. External frame packs with our coats draped over the packs. Boots and bluejeans?

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Brooke and me on the Manzana River during the drought. I do some packing in this area during the winter to try and stay in shape for summer/fall fishing trips.

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Love this topic.  And love the photo.  My first trip was when I was twelve, and I wore Converse tennis shoes!

My wife and I are in our mid-sixties, and we still consider our backpacking trips as the best "quality time" we have.  But you are right, our trips tend to be shorter now (3-4 days...not so many that are a full week!) shorter days as well (4-8 miles usually.  No more 12 or 14 mile days)  But that still doesn't keep us from getting out into the backcountry many times over the course of a summer.  And while we do more car camping and day hikes, and less long treks, we still get out on the trail whenever we can.

The idea of a base camp does appeal to us as well...

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Balzaccom...A slight jump in topic. You mentioned quality time with your favorite trail partner. About 5 years ago my wife and I took 2 weeks to do a loop trip. Part of the trip was cross-country across Italy Pass. It was a tough trip for us, but we still talk about the trip. The thing that you triggered with your comment was how we worked together through the no dotted line area. It was such a couples bonding/problem solving exercise trying to determine routes. She and I still have relationship skills that we reinforced on that trip. .When she has time off we are on the trail together

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Exactly.  And it doesn't have to involve large navigation problems like yours...just working out where to camp, what to eat, and what to do each day is a level of intimacy that we don't have at home, where we each often have our own separate interests and activities.  And in the wilderness we are free from the usual distractions from phone calls and emails to television and shopping. 

True quality time!

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  • 3 weeks later...
Acorn the Elder

At the age of 66 I have discovered that I am an Extreme Athlete.  Of course this is rather easy at my age:  all you have to do is show up. I started hunting in Alaska as a wee boy with my dad.  In Scouts I did my first '50 Miler' in 1968 on the PCT in Central Oregon.  From there I went on to climb for many decades.   I discovered that I was often the oldest man on the trail I was on.  I noticed this in 2008 when I hiked the Israel National Trail at the age of 54.  Then the PCT, the AT, the PCT again and now I am finishing up the AZT.  As a RN I can tell you that many, many of our HS friends are impacted by a lifetime of NOT exercising.  My friends, we are the luck ones!  Acorn the Elder

PS:  Planning NOBO PCT at age 70 in 2024.  Allons, mes ami.  Allons!

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I'm afraid I DON'T have years of backpacking behind me (at 68 y.o.) but I have done some backpacking and have been a car camper/day hiker roughly forever.  The one thing I might add to this discussion is to recommend all of us older types is to get involved on some activity (preferably competitive) with younger people. I compete in 2 or 3 events monthly with people in their 20's, 30's and 40's. I never win, but that isn't why I'm there. I keep up, I learn, and I enjoy their company. All this motivates me to continue doing what I'm doing and train to at least not feel like I'm wasting my time. 

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Wishful_Hiker

I can no longer carry 40 lb pack for 8 miles.  The last time I did that it caused a pinched nerve that made my arm numb and the trip uncomfortable.  My doctor told me to carry no more than 15lb but with pairing down my gear I hope to be at 20lbs.  The bear cannister requirement in the Sierra's doesn't help.  I don't want to spend the $$$ for ultra-light gear.  My goal is less weight and shorter miles.  I don't want to give up the backcountry experience.  As Bette Davis said "Old age ain't no place for sissies."

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Check out used equipment...We've found some good deals from time to time, and that's allowed us to get lighter without getting much poorer...

And you are right.  40 pounds is too heavy.  And with our lighter packs, we still think 8 miles is a pretty good day.

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Wishful_Hiker...Llamas? Rentals?

I'm hoping to read a report or two about Llama travels. I've read several accounts , but they are owners trying sell their services. Need a practical, objective view.

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Jill Wilson

Hello Tom and others,

Fun to hear of your experiences.  In my mid 70's the wilderness still calls strongly.  I continue to chip away sections of the PCT and last year I finally got to the Maroon Bells in CO.  A place I have longed to see for years.   I noticed a big change last year.  Interestingly my body remains quite strong but I had trouble mentally.  I just didn’t seem to have the grit or determination to always forge ahead when I was wet and hungry etc.  I did it , but not with the grace or enthusiasm I once had.  I’m cheating this year and going to Switzerland to hike from hut to hut.  Surprisingly it makes me feel like a wuss, but secretly I’m looking forward to it!  We’ll carry on.  I can’t imagine life without immersion of some sort in the wonderful outdoors!  Jill

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