Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forever Young

meadow along the PCT
Back in my twenties, I always felt like the people I hiked with viewed me as "just a kid". They didn't seem to think I had anything of value to add to the group and, to them, all it seemed like I wanted to do was have fun (still true today, of course, life is about having fun). In my thirties, I went on a lot of private (non-organized) trips with friends so there was near-total equality, as either my friends and I were similar in age or my older friend was a love interest who wouldn't dare put me down for having fewer years on the earth.

Now, in my forties, a time when I feel comfortable with my self, my age and my intellectual standing (wherever that may be), I have found the way to stay forever young. I hike with older people so that no matter how much older I get, up until a certain point, I will still be younger than the rest of the group.

I was on just such a hike yesterday with the Snoqualmie Valley Trails Club, a small group of dedicated hikers who go to less-trodden places in the Cascades. I knew most of the other hikers, either from other SVTC trips I'd been on, or from trips in the Mountaineers, where a lot of them either have been leaders or currently lead hikes for both groups. They are good hikers: they move at a good pace, they have years of experience with gear, destinations and natural history and are generally a pleasant group of people to hike with and be in the mountains with for an entire day.

Daisy at Trap Lake

photogenic pika
The hike started at the Tunnel Creek trailhead near Stevens Pass and connected to the Pacific Crest Trail, where we headed south to Trap Lake, one lake shy of Surprise Lake and with markedly fewer visitors.  I had brought hiking poles for this trip, since I have a problem with my knee/hip; many of the other hikers had poles that they swear by to reduce knee strain. I heard a couple of women talking about momentarily misplacing their wallet, only to find it minutes later, like putting glasses on your forehead and thinking you've lost them. I related a story of "losing" my camera, only to find it in its proper storage spot at home. It was only when we neared the trailhead on the return and everyone talked about the various anti-inflammatories they needed to take before the drive home that I realized that, younger or not, I am more like those old hikers than I had led myself to believe. Hiking – the age equalizer.

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