- Nov 18, 2017 at 7:05 pm #3502783
Mina LoomisBPL Member
@elmvineLocale: Central Texas
My husband just retired. So now we have the time. I am 67, he is about to turn 62. He has had some back issues (3 successful surgeries) but we deal with that by having me take the shared stuff. I am the primary planner; he smiles and comes on along. The longest we have been out on the trail in one go (2013 Ozark Highlands Trail) is about 2 weeks with one resupply. We would like to start going out for longer. Standard advice for aspiring thru-hikers of any age is to start with easier trails and ramp it up as desired. But with our years eventually running out, maybe we don’t have all that “someday” time to play with. We are thinking of shooting for Pacific Northwest Trail in summer 2019. It is supposed to be one of the hardest of the National Scenic Trails. Not the longest–about 1,200 miles. But lots of ups and downs, some dicey navigation, remote. But we really want to do that one, and the longer we wait the more likely it becomes for failing health or something to knock us off the trail entirely. Does this make sense? We are looking at Colorado Trail for summer 2018 as a test run. Not the same conditions but could give an indication of stamina, psychological readiness, etc. We are not fast hikers but our basic strategy is to just keep going. Up early, hike until dark, not a lot of time in camp. Any thoughts, especially from the older set?Nov 18, 2017 at 8:06 pm #3502791
Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
Have you backpacked in areas of the Mountain West before (Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Cascades, etc)? And what kind of base weights are you and your husband carrying in the summer and for what area (back East, Ozarks, West, etc)?
As you probably know if you’re on this website, lightening your loads makes a HUGE difference on how easy it is to backpack. This is especially true for rough trails, like parts of the PNW trail. A few years back I was considering giving up on serious backpacking because it was getting too hard on the body. After going LW and then UL backpacking feels even better than it did back in my 30’s.
The PNW trail, or at least sections of it, are quite amazing, especially the section through the Pasayten Wilderness and North Cascades. Some sections of that trail I hiked this summer have infrequent maintenance, so be prepared for lots of deadfall, overgrowth, trail erosion and difficult on-trail navigation. Experience hiking trails like that is a really big plus, especially if you’re new to the mountain West.Nov 18, 2017 at 8:34 pm #3502792
Mina LoomisBPL Member
@elmvineLocale: Central Texas
Lester, good questions! We hiked the Wonderland Trail in 2009. We’ve done most of the JMT (2011/ 2012), the High Sierra Trail (2014), and some more recent backpacking in northern New Mexico (Pecos Wilderness) and southern Colorado (eastern Weminuche). WT and JMT of course receive thorough maintenance but Pecos and Weminuche not always so much. I think we can deal with blowdowns, as long as there is no rush. More concerned about navigation. I went on an Outward Bound course in the Idaho Sawtooths on an off-trail route but that was in 1975 when I was 24, and with a group, very different. My base weight with the shared shelter and cooking apparatus is about 12-13 lbs with the Bearikade Weekender, 2 lbs less without. My husband’s base weight is closer to 15 lbs because his warm clothes are larger and he likes to take more spares and contraptions. I have helped him winnow down a lot; we are making progress. I agree that the lightweight revolution has made a huge difference in our ability to keep going out. Especially to destinations in west Texas (Big Bend, Guadalupe Mts.) where there is 20 lbs of water in each pack to start. Fortunately big water carries are less of an issue in the Northwest. I guess my biggest worries are navigation and overall stamina. And nervousness about remoteness. I can practice to become a better navigator. And the stamina thing, well, may be better sooner and not better in later years. I sometimes feel a disconnect between advice (that hike will be too strenuous for you) and experience (but I hiked ___ and it was OK). Hoping that hearing about other folks’ experiences with growing older and continuing to backpack will help fill in some blanks in my thinking.Nov 18, 2017 at 11:41 pm #3502815
Remoteness, Navigation, Stamina, and Time
Remoteness – get a two-way communication device, like a Garmin SE or a rented satellite phone. You might sit for a day waiting for help, but you will know the appropriate help is on the way.
Navigation – map and compass by all means. But also consider a smart phone GPS application like ViewRanger or Gaia GPS. The “you are here” aspect is invaluable for maintaining confidence in your decisions. Turn it on as you approach critical junctions and it will “breadcrumb” your progress as you pick a course. You’ll soon know if you’re headed the right way. If you’re not, you can backtrack and try again.
Stamina – determining that is entirely up to you and what you’ve got to work with. Year around cardio-intensive efforts will pay huge rewards in terms of endurance. Rest assured that there are a lot of 70+ folks wandering around out there. Strategically, optimize the use of resupplies. You get no points for passing them by.
Time – “…the longer we wait the more likely it becomes for failing health or something to knock us off the trail entirely.”
Yep. You’ve had enough “practice”. Move the PNT to the top of the list.
(I am a card-carrying member of the “older set.)
Nov 19, 2017 at 1:55 am #3502847
- This reply was modified 4 months ago by Greg Mihalik.
Rick MBPL Member
Maybe consider Europe, especially if you have time. Not as remote, advanced trekking infrastructure, no permits or bears, and great food. Wont need to carry so much and planning logistics is easy. Good starter long trails are the SW Coast Path in England and Tour du Mont Blanc in France/Swiss/Italy.Nov 19, 2017 at 3:14 am #3502854
Larry HBPL Member
I am envious of your plan. My wife is not into backpacking so I’ll be soloing the Colorado Trail in the summer of 2018. To prepare for this, I have started Crossfit (scaled back a bit). I’m 56 and not retired yet but have some flexibility in my time off. My plan is to spend the next 6 months working on ‘Legs and Lungs’ with the thinking that better shape I’m in the more I will enjoy the hike. The CT is a lot of ups and downs with a lot of high altitude so the plan will be to take it slow and steady. My advice is to take your time and ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY! You’ve both earned it.Nov 19, 2017 at 5:02 am #3502862
Terry SparksBPL Member
@firebugLocale: Santa Barbara County Coast
I’m 61 and have thru hiked the PCT and, after surgery to both feet this past January, hiked roughly 700 miles of the CDT/CT (Winter Park,CO – Grants, NM) this past Sept/Oct to begin getting myself ready to thru-hike the CDT next year. To give you a better perspective of my thoughts, as a wilderness EMT, Volunteer Wilderness Ranger for Los Padres NF and as a thru-hiker, I’m concerned about your husbands ability to hike extended miles with a heavy pack (food) on remote trail with few resupply points. I’d like to suggest looking at the PCT from the CA/OR border to Manning Park which is a beautiful hike, roughly 1,000 miles, has many more resupply options, easier trail and in my humble opinion, would be a very suitable hike with more rest stops and lighter packs for you and your husband. Also as others have mentioned, an In Reach satillite communicator is a good thing to have.Nov 19, 2017 at 5:33 am #3502864
I’m 72 and my wife is ‘a little younger’. We still do long hard hikes, in Australia and in Europe. So it is possible. That said, ramping up is absolutely the way to go. Build stamina.
Yes, get your pack weight DOWN. It is remarkable how much this helps. Really really.
Yes, consider some of the GR routes in Europe. You can do almost every one withOUT a tent, and carrying little food. The Europeans are smart: their GR routes have a Refuge or small mountain hotel every night. Day pack, jacket, towel, water bottle and credit card.
We have never carried a GPS, although these days we do carry a minimal mobile phone. NOT an iPhone or anything complex like that; just something cheap which could reach 000 (= 911 in USA).
CheersNov 19, 2017 at 5:59 am #3502869
Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
I think that you would want to do a difficult practice hike under the most similar conditions with all the same equipment- at least 7 days. Most things will appear by then.
I have two friends in their later 60’s who are physically very active but discovered rather suddenly that they have half-strength in one leg. It is something that appeared quickly and requires a very good PT so that you can do exactly what is needed at least 6 months before taking off.
The navigation part is easy; practice using the compass, and learn to use the GAIA app.
“Rough” trails and precipitous descents seem to be what bother my older friends the most.
Topical NSAIDs work great, without introducing stomach problems.
Definitely go for it!Nov 19, 2017 at 3:16 pm #3502890
+1 on finding a good PT who is performance oriented.
In addition to leg strength get your “stabilizer” muscles evaluated – aductors, abductors, gluteus medius, etc. Uneven ground and longer-than-usual strides can quickly lead to ITB issues. Strengthening and maintenance is easy once you know what to do.
A simple test is walking down a flight of stairs that are “tall”. Pay attention during the final inch before your heel lands. If you are unable to accomplish a slow controlled landing you have work to do.
Nov 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm #3502897
- This reply was modified 4 months ago by Greg Mihalik.
I just got back from a 21 day trip in the mountains of TN/NC and hauled all my food and most of my winter gear with no resupply. I’m 67. Pack weight at beginning was over 80 lbs.
I don’t do high mile days but I move everyday and set a trip itinerary and stick with it. You guys could haul out 3 weeks worth of food and “attack” one single large area with loops and other explorations. I always set an overall trip goal or “Quest” and write out a list of my trip goals.
Not all backpacking trips have to be linear on some long trail thruhike—there are various wilderness areas a backpacker can enter and with a proper map do all the trails in that area with even some repeat loops. The goal then is exploration with an emphasis on staying in an area without interruption and to get away from the long trail idea of the “forced march”.
Advancing age for me means still pulling long trips but doing shorter mile days. I can haul my 80+ lb pack into the woods and still be happy with pulling 4 or 5 mile days from camp to camp along various trails. I can still live in the woods — the whole goal after all—and still read my books and eat like a king and stay warm and dry—and still hike and camp everyday.
Nov 19, 2017 at 8:01 pm #3502921
- This reply was modified 4 months ago by Tipi Walter.
I’m 56 and I haven’t found anything I can’t still do, but dang!, it takes a lot longer to condition beforehand. Of course, ideally, if you STAY in condition, you’re not only always ready for a trip, but in far better health as a result.
A few ideas to plow your desire to hit the trail into
(1) getting some exercise into every day. Even if it is doing laps around Walmart, but going out rain-or-shine will also help you dial in your rain gear, other clothing, and develop a mindset of shrugging off the minor discomforts of the outdoors.
(2) lose some weight. The cheapest way for most of us to drop total weight carried is to eat a bit less every day while at home. Smart phone apps now make logging your food intake and exercise much easier and a bit of video game – trying to improve your “score” each day can motivate better habits.
(3) Be willing to spend some money (you can’t take it with you, right?). European routes with huts, bunks, and meal plans let you get into the high country for multiple days with only a toothbrush and clean set of underwear. Domestically, consider hiring a young buck (or doe) to schlep in your resupplies. They need the $, you benefit by not carrying all those pounds the whole way.
(4) Don’t know if you bring a stove, but going no-cook saves me weight and time. Nibbling cold food while hiking more hours warms me up more than sitting in camp over a stove, waiting for a hot drink or meal. It also minimizes critter problems in camp.
(5) realize that if you’re on a popular trail, the next person along will have . . . whatever: a SPOT, a phone, a camera, too much food, etc. Of course, be prepared for what you expect to happen, but let someone else “pack your fears” – they get to be the hero that saved the old folks from some mishap.Nov 19, 2017 at 8:43 pm #3502933
realize that if you’re on a popular trail, the next person along will have . . . whatever
Well … nice idea, except that on our last week-long trip the only people we saw were within crawling distance of the trackhead!
No stove? Hot coffee!
CheersNov 19, 2017 at 8:58 pm #3502945
Say it isn’t so, David Thomas. Your quote—
“(5) realize that if you’re on a popular trail, the next person along will have . . . whatever: a SPOT, a phone, a camera, too much food, etc. Of course, be prepared for what you expect to happen, but let someone else “pack your fears” – they get to be the hero that saved the old folks from some mishap.”
Surely you jest. In long forum discussions on UL backpacking, this idea of using other people’s stuff and not carrying it yourself gets mentioned as the one big Negative of ultralighters. Then again, it’s a great plan for climbing clients who make sherpas do all the work.Nov 20, 2017 at 12:58 am #3503006
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I have “moderately large L-4 and L-5 herniated discs”.
Nov 20, 2017 at 3:20 am #3503035
- Get a pack frame one size longer than “recommended”. This takes most of the load off the shoulders and permit it to be carried on the pelvic girdle. ex. My Osprey EXOS 58 is a size Large and I’m 5′ 10″.
- Not to be a smart@ss because this sounds like a no-brainer but try your best to buy the very lightest gear. It’s spendy and that may be holding your back, but it’s well worth it in the long run. ex. I often use a Trail Designs Sidewinder stove (ESBIT tabs, alcohol or wood with the optional Inferno insert) B/C it’s very light titanium sheet. For two people get the larger Tri-Ti version and fitted pot. Amazing how much two ESBIT tablets, side-by-side, can cook. I used my Sidewinder stove W/ ESBIT tabs and matching 3 cup pot for a Grand Canyon N. Rim-to-S. Rim backpack this Nov. 6 – 9. Worked just fine.
- Since you backpack together you already know you can share most items like a GPS, stove, tent, etc. Maybe even a double sleeping bag will work and cut down some weight.
- Food can be heavy so try to use freeze dried or dehydrated (at home) food whenever possible.
It always gets a rise from Southerners – the concept that other hikers might help you out. Maybe it’s an Alaskan perceptive – people actually stop to help other motorists and no one wouldn’t assist a fellow hiker or dog musher.
But that’s been my practice and my experience in such dog-eat-dog places like Washington, California, and Italy. It isn’t only in Alaska and New Zealand where people are friendly (although they are ridiculously friendly).
I’m not talking about not bringing enough food or fuel or clothing. But if you start thinking “if we went far slower, we’d need to have more food; if we broke a leg on top of the pass, we’d want a splint, etc.” then relax a bit and realize that you may be better able to visualize all the bad outcomes than you can all the creative solutions you and others can figure out.
Go off trail – this doesn’t apply. Be a dick – this doesn’t apply. Be a stereotypical guy who won’t ask for help – this doesn’t apply. But otherwise, I’ve found other hikers to as unfailingly helpful as I have been. There’s a camaraderie on the trail similar to a small town that’s very different from metropolitan areas.Nov 21, 2017 at 2:15 am #3503197
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Roger, you are like me, a “geezer”! (I’m 74). And we’re still havin’ fun.
I backpacked the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago (Nov. 6 – 9) N. Rim to S. Rim with a 71 year old friend. He and I hit it off well on our first trip together. And the trip was spectacular. It was his 1st G.C. backpack and he was blown away by the views.
And yep, every backpacker was friendly.Nov 21, 2017 at 5:41 am #3503229
Long before the BPL R2R2R at the Grand Canyon, I’ve had older hikers blow past me. Most notably, in my 20s on Whitney when an 80-year-old *ran* past me, uphill and at a Utah ski resort where I could barely keep up with a different 80-year-old.
There’s some luck involving (genetics, avoiding injuries), but to a large extent, if you use it, you won’t lose it.Nov 21, 2017 at 5:49 am #3503230
OK, time for an Australian bushwalking story.
A young lady, hoping to find energetic young (unattached) males, decided to join her friend’s walking club. Her friend had described several fun trips.
So she went to a club meeting and signed up. Then she decided to sign up for a simple day walk next weekend as well. After all, that was the point of it all.
There was a brief get-together of the participants towards the end of the club meeting. Um, er, oh dear: they were all OLD people! Don’t worry said her friend: they are all very nice.
Despite being full of misgivings about geriatric shambles, she turned up on the day, suitable attired and equipped, and off they went. And indeed they turned out to be very nice people.
After all, those geriatric oldies waited patiently for her to catch up at the top of every hill.
CheersNov 21, 2017 at 1:33 pm #3503276
Andrew SrnaBPL Member
.Nov 21, 2017 at 2:28 pm #3503280
Larry HBPL Member
Great advice Andrew – could not agree moreNov 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm #3503294
1. Resupply often if possible, every 3 to 4 days, eat a good meal in town. Large food carries sound easier at the start of a trip than messing with contstant resupply, but resupplying often will save alot on your body. Enjoy the people and quirky stuff that happens on the way.
Not so great advice, Andrew. At least for me. Can’t agree with you here, but then we’re all different, right? I mean, I go backpacking to avoid at all costs roads and commerce and folding money and “civilian” non-backpackers and aghast, Towns. A person can still carry a heavy no-resupply food load by just doing shorter mile days—and thereby avoid Syphilization. And for a misanthrope like me, “enjoy the people” sounds like a terrible idea.
“I’ve been to a town, Del”. See, Jeremiah Johnson agrees with me.Nov 21, 2017 at 4:50 pm #3503299
MJ HBPL Member
and thereby avoid Syphilization
What are you doing in town?Nov 21, 2017 at 5:08 pm #3503303
Ken T.BPL Member
hey you old hikersNov 21, 2017 at 8:11 pm #3503331
Let’s see …
80 pounds of gear at 5 miles a day versus 25 pounds of gear at 15 to 20 miles a day.
1200 miles/15 = 80 days. 1200/5 = 240 days
Hummm, boy, that’s a tough one.
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