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How Do You Cope During Long Periods of No Hiking?

The plan was to get out for at least three winter trips in the mountains. I purchased a sleeping bag in anticipation of this. Here I sit, writing this article as February progresses, and I have not been out since October 12th, 2019.

Weather was a factor. A larger factor was the passing of my mother after her long battle with dementia. This is also why I’ve been absent from the forums.

The rest of February will be spent completing the move of my step-father into our house.

Life happens.

The following has been a typical week for me, absent my life events, as I’ve progressed through the months without making it to the mountains.

Sunday. I can feel my body dissolving into a lethargic state. I go out for a 2-mile jog/walk. A little weight lifting. Some stretching.

Monday. After work. I stare at my backpack. Then I look inside. All the things I packed from a canceled December trip are still there. Whew.

Tuesday. Another jog. More stretching.

Wednesday. I pull my new trekking poles out (Christmas present), and extend them. I wonder how long they’ll remain shiny and new. Forever, if I don’t get back out there.

Thursday. Life events prevent me from exercising (this could be any one of the days during the week). Later in the evening I look at my tent. I want to pull it out, but that’s just silly. Instead I move it to another location in my closet. There, that’s better.

Friday. Again no exercising. I inflate my sleeping pad and place it under my sheets. I slept on it that evening. Seriously. I did this. Yes, I am a 52-year old man.
Two weeks later and it’s still there. It’s kind of comfortable.

Saturday. I go for a walk in my new hiking boots (another Christmas present). Merrells. They are nice. I’m pretty sure they will work great on those mountain trails. When I return from my walk I look at the sleeping bag I’ve never used. It’s hanging in my closet. I pull it down, pack it, and then throw my backpack on. All my water is still full. All my food is still there. I weigh my pack. No change since December.

Will I make it out in March? Maybe not. My hiking buddy is thinking mid to late April on a section of the AT in Georgia. The one we tried to hit at least three times this past winter. I’m worried about the AT thru-hiker bubble.

I will do that section. It’s morphed into a personal vendetta. If we have to hike SOBO against the grain of a hundred hikers, then so be it.

April. I’m ready for you.

Life is really the biggest obstacle for most of us, so don't feel alone in that. I'm sure we'd all prefer to be out there more often, but attending to real life stuff is what separates us from hobos :)

When life or weather prevent me from going where I want to be I make an effort to appreciate where I am. Local preserves near me offer short trails to stomp on so we try to hit those up when we can. Getting out in the trees for an hour or two isn't as good as a week, but it helps.

Finding a way to exercise indoors is important too if you live where weather can be an issue. We have our bikes up on rollers in the basement and my wife does regular yoga and kettlebell workouts. Staying active during the "off" season not only keeps you from going nuts over a long Winter, but will make you stronger come Spring. Has a lot of mental health benefits as well.

Rather than dwell on what you can't do, focus on doing what you can and then kick yourself in the butt and make yourself do that. The more you do now the more you'll enjoy your time on trail later.

I listen to hiking podcasts and watch hiking films on Netflix, Amazon (and even Disney+). It motivates me to get moving, and when I can't it just helps me dream of nicer weather. 

I feel for you. As I have posted here, 2019 was a mess for me due to similar reasons as yourself as well as an injury and health issues. Four trips last year in total compared to my usual monthly trip plus at least one longer walk. I found myself depressed and not wanting to engage in the forum here etc. Just seemed to make it worse.

Having an elliptical in the house, I spend an hour a day on that except when hiking to keep me in shape. To motivate myself I keep track of the relative miles and try to "rewalk" a favorite trip. Right now I'm half way across my crossing of Scotland from 2018. I often change the settings to reflect a climb. In fact today I'm setting it tougher to ascend a peak I had to miss on my trip due to a tender knee. Only takes a couple of extra minutes and I really enjoy on days when I feel tired due to health issues I still climb on to knock out a "mile or so" and often I get energy to continue for the full hour.

My other strategy when life gets in the way is to scale back my expectations....just getting out for even one night if I'm busy is better than none at all. 

Weather never stops me unless it's extreme and dangerous...I actually prefer hiking in rain, wind, and snow to the rest of the year when I just sweat. 

Aging takes away some of the desire.  I used to cross country and telemark ski all winter and played in basketball leagues until I was 51.

Now I go outside in the beautiful yard we call Minden National Park.  I hike around the neighborhood and in the hills behind the house. 

In a week and half we are off to Death Valley to soak up the sun like reptiles. 

I sit by the big back window and stare out it with old blues lp's playing in the background, while eating cheese and crackers and pepperoni or maybe apples and homemade cookies, remembering old trips,  dreaming and planning new ones some which have no chance of happening, and scanning multiple outdoor related forums while praying for more snow and cold, happy for where I've been and hoping for many more years here  on Earth.

I remember when I had to move my Mom out of NC back in 2007 and didn't backpack for 3 months straight.  Solution?  I set up my tent in her front yard and didn't spend a single night indoors.  I wore earplugs for the city noise.


And you can also spend every night in the backyard or on a deck or on a porch and still get your bag nights.  My feeling is---as long as there's a night sky and open air and Nature there's no excuse not to sleep outside---summer or winter.

Great responses everyone! I loved reading them all.

It's supposed to get a little cold this weekend. I might just pitch a tent in my yard. My wife already knows I'm craaazy! :)

Jerry Caldwell said:

Great responses everyone! I loved reading them all.

It's supposed to get a little cold this weekend. I might just pitch a tent in my yard. My wife already knows I'm craaazy! :)

 You aren't crazy until you go to bed with snowshoes on!

I spend most of my vacation time visiting our (mostly) adult kids, and we have a 9 month old puppy who demands a lot of time and attention, so overnights are out, for the most part. i appreciate the long walks with her leaving 6-6:30 a.m. every morning, no matter what the weather is doing, and she can handle reasonable day hikes on the weekends.

i don't know what the pup would think about sleeping in a tent, but it might be fun to find out.  

Around here, the local Costco stores sell an interesting and fairly good set of outdoor gear. For example,  recently a good price for snowshoes and poles.

Just doing things in close areas can be very satisfying. We get out for hikes, both long and short on a daily basis. the local mountains range up to the a couple thousand feet. Low down, we have lots of birds in the Bay Lands  Within 10 miles, we have campsites, which are great for the short getaway. I have also tested some of the sleeping gear, on our balcony. This provides a good way to learn how to test  some of the smaller interesting sleeping gear.

This and an anniversary of our first date (30 years ago) led to me staying home for the most part....a quick trip for a local overnight on Friday since it was low 20s and am testing sleeping pads. After returning home yesterday, set up camp in the back yard, slept outside to continue testing the pads.  Today, a celebration with my wonderful wife who lets me do this crazy stuff (says I'm a better person after I have slept outside).

I feel for you Jerry, that is really tough for those like us who feel the call of the outdoors. Massive props and kudos to you for taking in your step-father. Elder care in our country is often a very sad affair. It makes my heart swell and encourages me when I hear about others taking on the thankless and dirty work of loving our fellow humans.

My wife and I are caring for her mother who has dementia. She's been living with us for the last 5 years (though we helped her via weekly visits for the previous 5 years) and as you are well aware, it doesn't get better, only worse.

I don't get out quite as often as I want to and my future surely holds more constraints. So i think about this topic a lot. A whole lot. Hang in there...

October 30, 2020
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