Friday, January 25, 2019

Whether to Hike?

There have been a couple of events in the past few months that have given me pause to think about my love of hiking and backpacking. 

First, mid-summer, I had a bout of vertigo.  This had never happened to me before.  I was on a four-day backpacking trip around the 4th of July, and the second night, the world started spinning.  I actually fell off my 2" air-filled pad.  It's taken several months, but the symptoms finally went away completely.  The problem was that for about a month, I was afraid to lay down in bed because of the potential for spinning and falling off.  At that time, I couldn't even conceive of the idea of trying to sleep reclined in a tent again.  I was pretty devastated worrying about not being able to backpack.  It made me realize how much I loved backpacking and what it would mean to be unable to backpack in the future.

A couple of months later, when I was feeling better, I started revisiting some of my old backpacking blog sites.  One site, 'Walking with Wired' had essentially been shut down with a good-bye message.  Wired was a triple-crowner, and had been doing thru-hikes around the world for about the last 7 years or so.  Her blogging was terrific.  I really don't know how she was able to do such a fantastic job with mixed text and pictures and interesting details.  Anyway, she said she found a life-partner and was going to stop doing thru hikes as her partner was not a hiker.

I figure she got a bit burnt out with the year-after-year thru's.  But it sure seemed like backpacking was in her blood. I may be wrong, but I suspect she will be back, maybe not with thru hikes, but at least with long backpacking trips.  My wife has always been unhappy with my trips, and at one point I promised her I would stop.  I skipped a year.  But I couldn't resist the lure of the trail, and I broke that promise.  There's only so much you can give up for a spouse.

The last thing that I wanted to mention was a recent decision by a friend that a hike in a certain area was not one that he wanted to repeat.  I wanted to go back and hit an area I walked last year, and inquired whether a couple of friends wanted to join me.  This very nice person pointed out his trip in the 80's to this location and said the scenery was monotonous and his hiking partner had a fall in the river.

It made me realize that not everyone loves the trail and the outdoors just for the joy of it.  I've had two situations that I would hesitate to repeat.  One was crossing nearly endless boulder fields with a high risk of breaking a bone.  The second is trying 13,000' and above peaks without spending the time to properly acclimatize.  Even so, I would be willing to practice on smaller boulder fields and to do some peaks after proper acclimatization (in a leisurely manner).

But every other trail I've been on has been fascinating.  It doesn't have to have majestic scenery or unique landscapes.  I like woods, rivers, desert, mountains, peaks, islands and pasture.  Even the desert sandstorm was fun.  I also liked hiking all day in the rain--though I'm not thrilled with multi-inch deep mud that doesn't end.  Just being out there gives me a feeling of peace.  It doesn't matter whether I'm alone or with other people, I enjoy my time outdoors.

Finally, I wanted to compare a couple of my hobbies.  First, you probably know I've always been a nerd.  My degrees are in physics and electrical engineering.  I love math and science.  My second favorite hobby is writing software.  But given the choice of writing some code or hiking a trail, I'll take the trail any day.

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