Finnegan begin again

12:29 a.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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So, technically I'm not really a beginner, just getting back into the backcountry after much too long a hiatus...kids, career, all that jazz.  Before the kids and career there were plenty of adventures...hiking half the AT (Springer to Duncannon, PA), canoe camping in the Boundary Waters, a Grand Canyon hike, ski trips in Rocky Mountain and Teton National Parks.  Whenever we had the time and a few extra bucks (like after quitting yet another crappy restaurant job) my friends and I could be counted on to pack up and go.  And now I'm ready to go again, provided my body has weathered the intervening 30 years better than my old gear.  Honestly, that's been half the fun, getting myself re-outfitted (anyone interested in a "vintage" North Face Sierra tent?)...all that's left to do is head out my back door here in Fort Collins and get up in those mountains I stare at every day.  The Nike ads are right...just do it (or it will never happen).  Thought I would see if there were any last words of advice, you know, for we "mature" hikers, or if anyone would like to come along.

5:35 a.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Yea, at your age ease back into it.  You might want to get a physical first, and make sure the intervening years of inactivity haven't plugged your coronary arteries or created another health condition could be an issue. 

Ed

10:07 a.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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I am like you.....a big bunch of decades of butkis. But I sprung from the couch, geared up and headed to Everest Base Camp this year....it is not too late.....GO PLAY OUTSIDE!

10:08 a.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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If you need to rest, rest. You might have a goal in mine, but don't push to hard to accomplish it. There is allot to see and take in, and at our age that's what it is about.

BTW Nice looking tent. 

1:16 p.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Having had a similar experience, here's my advice. Take it easy. Stop and smell the roses ... often. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Let them go on ahead, you'll catch up. Get out with a full pack for some day hikes, establish what your current norms are, and then enjoy the hell out of the backcountry.

3:29 p.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Okay, perhaps I should qualify my situation/condition a little...it's not like I've been prone on the couch eating doughnuts and drinking bacon milkshakes for the last 3 decades. I still ride my bike a lot and take the occasional day hike with the brother-in-law (in fact, we skied the Peaks Trail from Breckenridge to Frisco back in February). I do plan to ease back into it gradually...don't think I'll be strapping 60 pounds to my back for an end-to-end assault on the Colorado Trail any time soon. As most of you have said, though, it's about appreciating the wilderness again...probably even more so this time around. I'll be sure and share photos. The mountains are calling and I must go...

4:23 p.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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HAHA....I did. Stayed on the couch that is....no...really. Lots of donuts and lots of bacon-everything. But alas, the mountains called me too and I rose from the cholesterol induced coma and hit the trail :)

5:22 p.m. on June 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Me too Gift! But I got ill, lost allot of weight, moved out to Oregon, started day hiking. Lost more weight, and finally started back packing. Never going back! 

11:35 a.m. on June 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Now I remember why I waited so long...was hoping someone would invent a jet-propelled backpack in the interim.

10:39 p.m. on June 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Even if you have been active, I suggest getting a cardio check up.  Physically fit folks eating the right things and living healthy can still acquire coronary disease with age, and not realize they are a ticking time bomb until too late.  The last place you want to have this type of emergency is out in the middle of nowhere. 

Ed

3:39 p.m. on June 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Agreed, Ed, a check up is a good idea, and I will be getting one shortly. But I have to disagree about having a medical emergency in the middle of nowhere...in my opinion there are far worse places to "kick it." One of Edward Abbey's stories from "Desert Solitaire" has always stuck with me, the one where he (as a park ranger at Arches N.M.) had to go out to recover the body of a dead tenderfoot. When they finally found the guy, he was lying under a juniper tree with a view that took in much of Utah's canyon country...even Abbey had to admit that it was a good place to die.

1:21 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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mountainmac said:

Agreed, Ed, a check up is a good idea, and I will be getting one shortly. But I have to disagree about having a medical emergency in the middle of nowhere...in my opinion there are far worse places to "kick it." One of Edward Abbey's stories from "Desert Solitaire" has always stuck with me, the one where he (as a park ranger at Arches N.M.) had to go out to recover the body of a dead tenderfoot. When they finally found the guy, he was lying under a juniper tree with a view that took in much of Utah's canyon country...even Abbey had to admit that it was a good place to die.

Well I imagine the wilds are a fine place to settle in forever, when your number is up, but I used the term emergency to imply timely intervention would preclude a significant event from being a fatal event.  Surely you are not debating you would rather needlessly die of a coronary in the wilds than survive one with minor repercussions in civilization.

Ed

9:28 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I would prefer to die when the maker pulls my ticket. That could be right here at my desk or on a freeway or falling from a cliff in Red Rock. I take care of myself, have check ups etc. But not going to worry much beyond that.

 

9:32 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

Even if you have been active, I suggest getting a cardio check up.  Physically fit folks eating the right things and living healthy can still acquire coronary disease with age, and not realize they are a ticking time bomb until too late.  The last place you want to have this type of emergency is out in the middle of nowhere. 

Ed

Absolutely. Anyone returning to an exercise program after a few years should get a checkup. You're not as young as you used to be!

I get a lot of people who take the view that "Well, I could easily do 20 km when I was 18. Now that I'm 40 and have been sitting behind a desk or in front of a TV for 20 years, I shouldn't have a problem doing that distance again".

12:22 p.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Point taken, Ed. I'm hoping my renewed backcountry presence will help prevent, rather than trigger, an untimely medical condition, but better safe than sorry.

12:48 p.m. on June 23, 2012 (EDT)
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I have had long gaps in backcountry recreation too.  I went from spending a whole summer camping, hiking, biking, and backpacking in the White Mountains of NH, to just doing a few backpacking/camping trips here and there, to finally getting caught up in other things in life and hardly doing anything in the outdoors except for occasional car camping.  The full summer thing was when I was 17.

Then about ~20 years later I moved to CA and started exploring the Sierra.  In the years since, I have done some day hiking, and off and on car camping (and camping off Jeep roads).  Then, finally, a few backpacking trips in 2007 ... then caught up in other life things again.  Then, last year I went on 5 weekend & long weekend backpacking trips and several car-camping trips.  That was my most active summer since I was 17.

This year I'll surpass that with my JMT hike ... I'm hoping to stretch it out to 4 weeks on the trail :).

The point to all of this is even if you've been away from it for a while, you can just start again anytime.  The suggestion to get a physical exam is probably good, especially if you go solo.  And I've found it helpful to ease into backpacking with short trips to condition myself (for example, on my first trip this year, my old Kelty pack straps actually made cuts around my waist - and those took several days to heal, so if I'd been on a longer trip I would have been hurting).

I'm hoping this "next half" (?) of my life will be more like last year and this year in terms of my activities.  I'm inspired by certain people here :).

The challenges I have are (1) that I live (depending on the destination) 4-7 hours from the places I like to go, and (2) I dislike cold weather, so I end up being "dormant" for a significant part of the year, making it that much harder to get started again the next summer.  Once I get there it's great.  But inertia is not my friend when I'm at home.

10:00 a.m. on June 25, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

(2) I dislike cold weather, so I end up being "dormant" for a significant part of the year, making it that much harder to get started again the next summer.  Once I get there it's great.  But inertia is not my friend when I'm at home.

I guess some of the CA desert places (Anza Borrego, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Mojave National Preserve/Kelso Dunes) are a bit of a haul from SF but might be worth the drive for weekend trips in winter and spring. It can still be cold at night (well, cool in Anza Borrego) but comfy during the day, and always exceptionally beautiful.

1:28 a.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

..I dislike cold weather...

 

I am right there with you.  My friends used to laugh at me bringing “too much cold gear.”  But I found if I can sleep warm and keep warm, my aversion to cold is greatly reduced.  To that end I have learned some tricks:

  • Reduce frost inside a tent by purposely leaving some openings unzipped to improve ventilation.
  • Use an oversize sleeping bag.  You can place the next day’s clothes, including boots (placed in plastic or stuff bag) inside the sleeping bag.  You can also change into your clothes next morning without exiting your sleeping bag.  I hate jumping out naked into a cold morning.  This trick eliminates most of the bite of a cold morning start.
  • Wear long johns, socks and a balaclava to bed.  You can be in a warm bag, but the walls that are not in direct contact with you will be cold, and are unpleasant when you roll around and contact them.  The bed clothes eliminate most of that discomfort.  And even though you may have a mummy bag, a balaclava greatly reduces chill from drafts in the face and neck area. 
  • Make sure your sleep mat insulates from the ground.  Not all air mats insulate.  This can cause significant night chill.
  • Some like to take a warm water bottle to bed.  As long as I have a real warm sleeping bag and bed clothes, I find this unnecessary.
  • Change out of skin layer hiking clothes after the exertions of hiking and setting up camp.  Sweaty clothes become cold clothes when you are done with the day’s hard work.
  • Consume lots of hot soups and other hot fluids.  Staying hydrated reduces one cause of feeling chilled.  Heating fluids may do little to add heat to your body, but it has significant psychological affect.
  • Get a warm down coat and down bib pants for lounging around camp. 
  • If camped in snow, dig in!  A snow shelter is way more quiet and warmer than a tent.  In the Sierras I can lounge in long johns and fleece inside a cave, when the same weather compels hunkering down in a tent, in your sleep bag or bundled in most of your cold gear.
  • Travel cool.  When under way I weather less than what feels warm.  This reduces sweating, which can dampen your layers, and lead to chill later on.  Crafting the number of layers worn is a chess game.  You want to peel them off before you get too warm and sweat.  You want to put them back on just a step ahead of getting chilled.  Stowing layers in your pack where they are readily available facilitates this practice.
  • If fires are allowed, build an Indian (small) fire, instead of a cowboy (large) fire.  A large fire radiates too much heat; you have to back away, and end up freezing your back side off.  But a small fire allows you to get within the zone of convection heat, providing more warmth to your back side, without the radiated heat overwhelming you.
  • When resting and sitting make sure to have a foam pad under you to prevent your seat from sucking the heat out of you.
  • Use plastic eating utensils.
  • If handling metal items and dish washing in the cold really bothers you, consider wearing dish washing gloves during these chores.  It sounds and looks goofy, but it works. 

Ed

December 26, 2014
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