For the past two years, I have left camping trips early, making excuses, “it’s too cold, it’s rainy, or I’ve done all I can do here.” If I admitted to myself that it’s just uncomfortable and I’m not into it any longer, I felt that I would become part of the Washed-Up Generation. Gloom and doom. My identity would no longer be of a free spirit adventurer.
After one night in Tennessee, I was packing up and going home. I had traveled there over two days, so it was not just someplace around the corner. I had an uncomfortable night; my mattress started to deflate, even in my 25-degree sleeping bag, I was cold, and two people in a nearby campsite decided to have a disagreement at 6 am. (I truly hope they got tick bites). Then getting up, I started coffee on my camping stove after lugging all my equipment and supplies out of my car, which was a distance away. Things like this never used to bother me but it does now. Waiting for coffee is the worst of it!
On the way home, I took drastic (dramatic) measures. I left my tent by a dumpster in Winston Salem, NC, noting that this was a perfectly good tent free to a good home. I felt if I brought it home, I would be only fooling myself.
I have two backpacking tents that I am giving to family members. I am selling my 45-liter backpack, which I have enjoyed on numerous backpacking adventures, and having my hiking pals divvy up the rest of my gear. Instead of feeling washed up, I feel free of all this stuff. Just like a kid who outgrows her toys, they are part of my past too.
What I have learned from this experience is:
· That old saying, “When One Door Closes Another One Opens,” is true, even in my seventies. It doesn’t say, “When One Door Closes You May as Well Die.” I foolishly perceived it that way. Holding onto anything youthful was so important to me. It made me feel alive? No, it frustrated me.
· It is okay to mourn things that we can no longer do. Like mourning for anything else, give it a little time, but move on.
· Accept where you are in life. Look into new opportunities at any age. I started a walking group back in January where I have bonded with women my age. I listen to their life stories, and I relate mine also. The different paths that we all take in life are endless and so fascinating.
· Most of all have a sense of humor about getting older -- it’s not for the faint of heart. I find many humorous writers on Crows Feet that make me laugh out loud, relating so well to the pitfalls of aging.
So, I have passed the baton onto younger backpackers and campers -- eventually, they will pass it on too. I am still One with Nature and can enjoy its solitude. A five-mile walk is just as good as a ten-mile hike and more enjoyable to me. The only difference is I will be staying in a cabin or hotel instead of freezing my ass off in a tent. Need I say more.