Hiking Past 60: Get Smart !

Train and Wizard heading into the Wind River Range ( 2013)
Train and Wizard heading into the Wind River Range ( 2013)

Here is my best thinking about hiking as you get older. I’ve backpacked approximately 8,000 miles since age 57.

Practice meditation for one hour daily. Allows feelings and thoughts to pass through your mind without judging or reacting to them;  meditation helps create a sense of detachment from negative experiences.

Enlist the power of youth. It’s essential to spend time walking with people who are much younger than you are. We get set in our ways as we age, and if we hold exclusively to  associating with our same-aged peers, we get stale, avert our eyes to fresh ideas, and tend to view our perspectives in old frames.

Try not to get overweight.  I’ve lost 27-33 pounds on each my three long thru hikes.  In 2007 and 2010 I gained it all back.  Being 15 pounds lighter, and dipping under 200  this year has been the best thing I’ve done for being a better backpacker and bicyclist.

Put yourself through hell as much as you can bear.  Regular doses of measured suffering via being outside in the rain, snow, and cold allows one to be conditioned to discomfort, and backpacking has it’s share of discomfort, even in the best of times.

Don’t be chained to the plow. Break the rules, and modify the recipe. Accept any offer to explore the side rails of life.

Banish gear obsession.  It really doesn’t matter that you don’t have the latest waterproof membrane in your foul weather gear. Read about Grandma Gatewood (1888-1973), who never carried a sleeping bag, tent, backpack, map, or wore hiking boots.  

Coffee and music are both legal performance enhancements.  True.

It’s all about the feet.  Numerous hikers leave the trail due to ravaged feet, some to never return.  No one should experience blisters or lose a toenail, ever. Pickles give the foot talk at ADZPCTKO in 2010.  She told us that we had to accept blisters as part of the hiking game. I never had even one blister on the PCT or the CDT.  

Recognize that fear and excitement are close to the same emotion.  Be comfortable with a little unease as you even think about walking into the forest.  It’s part of being a real human being.

3 thoughts on “Hiking Past 60: Get Smart !

  1. Paul Glazebrooks Gmail

    Good stuff. I’ll try to enlist the power of youth. I’m defiantly in a rut hiking,and,canoeing with people my age. Need to reboot my experience.

    from Paul Glazebrook



  2. Tom Tanner

    Uncle Tom,
    Well said (as always) and from a very tried, true and proven perspective.
    I just did a few very short AT hikes around the Smokies- much reflection on ’07 AT hike and can agree with your weight comment. These short hikes have convinced me to get back closer to hike weight. Let the extra pounds be in a pack outside the body – vs. carrying around always!
    Be safe,
    Evil Eye


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