To Walk a Little Longer!

Through the Woods
A stroll in the woods

I remember energy, I used to have some once!

It’s not been auspicious start to 2020 unfortunately as I have been down with a flu virus for some time. It started in mid December, masquerading in the form of lack of energy, weariness and aching but nothing more until the end of the year when it suddenly came out fully. I have still managed to get out for a few local walks but no real distances. Today though, I felt a little better, and the sun came out, so I made the most of it and went for a wander through the woods and heathlands for a few miles.

One of the good things about being laid up is that it gave me the chance to think over my activities for the coming year – I set out some possibilities in my previous post. Some of the ideas are beginning to crystallise a little but I think there is one conundrum that I have still not bottomed out!

The last long, full backpack I did was the Dales High Way some 15 months ago. That was 120 miles and I camped, meaning of course that I carried everything including tent, sleeping bag, roll mat, cooking gear etc. I am a ‘purist’ backpacker at heart and I started that walk by carrying everything. However, four days into the walk, my knees and ankles started seriously playing up and for a few days I was forced to use baggage transfer in order to reduce the weight of my pack, otherwise I would potentially have caused long term damage because of the amount of steep climbs and falls that were involved in that walk. At the time, I was gutted to have had to resort to what I saw as ‘cheating’, although it certainly enabled me to finish and enjoy the rest of the walk. Without it, I would have been in great pain and potentially had to give up the walk altogether.

In the autumn of that year, just to ‘prove’ to myself that I could still do it, I did a four day ‘purist’ backpack of the Dorset Coast Path and by minimising the weight I was carrying, using walking poles and knee braces etc, I managed to complete the walk without incident. Since then, I have backpacked the Pembrokeshire Coast Path but that was using B&B so there was no need to carry shelter, sleeping equipment nor cooking gear. I still had twinges along the way but nothing that pain killing cream couldn’t take care of.

Drying Time
Everything but the kitchen sink!

So my conundrum for this year is, do I aim to go ‘purist’ and try carrying everything again, or do I take the sensible option and use baggage transfer so that I can walk lightweight.

In some ways it leads to a more fundamental question – when is it time to accept that you are getting old! Now here, I think there is a conflict because whilst you need at some stage to accept that you can no longer do what you used to do when you were 20, or even 50, you definitely don’t want to become ‘old before your time’ and give up pushing yourself. It is good to stay young in heart and mind as long as possible, whilst at the same time applying a bit of common sense because it is not only energy level that drops as you get older, things like cognitive ability, balance, muscle mass, vulnerability etc are also affected, not to mention bones and joints becoming more creaky.

I will be 72 this year, and the older I get, the more essential I see it that you need to keep active, and regularly so as well because you lose your fitness quicker when you are older. I am also stubborn and, as someone who has been active and sporty all my life, don’t like to admit that I am ‘getting past it’ or nearing the end of my ‘purist’ backpacking days. Of course most wouldn’t even consider ‘pure’ backpacking at any age – statistics suggest only 2% of backpackers carry everything, the rest resorting to baggage transfer.

So perhaps the reality is, can I get my head round the fact that it is fine to use baggage transfer, it is not ‘cheating’, it doesn’t mean I am giving up, and it probably makes the whole experience more enjoyable?   At the moment, I think I am still struggling with that one!

Maybe I can manage one more year of pure backpacking…………but perhaps I’ll just keep the Sherpa telephone number with me just in case!

Anyone out there have a viewpoint on this?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings, and I hope you enjoy exploring with me.

Until next time,
Your friend
The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All words and pictures in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and may not be reproduced without permission.

18 Comments

  1. I don’t think that using baggage transfer is “cheating.” It’s a way to stretch your fitness, likely for many years. As you point out, most people at 72 can’t do what you’re doing. My husband and I do lots of walking and hiking, but we wouldn’t consider carrying everything or tenting for even one night, let alone several.

    It’s something you really love, so choosing to find ways to continue it while making allowances for ageing joints and muscles is a good thing, in my opinion.

    Happy New Year. 🙂

  2. At some point one has to consider quality over quantity in many things in life. Being able to do your amazing walks with a very minor amount of ‘help’ in using a transfer for many more years or pushing on trying to be purist and possibly irreparable damage which will limit future walks? You know where you will be happier.

  3. Happy New Year to you Terry and enjoy many more lovely walks, camping or using Sherpa.
    You’re keeping fit and doing well.
    John & Liz

  4. Most definitely NOT cheating to use hiking poles or a baggage transfer.
    The whole point of this is to keep walking! If you are still struggling with the “ethics” look at it this way: you seem a kindly sort of chap so you would not expect an elderly donkey to carry you PLUS your baggage, would you?
    Also, selfishly, I enjoy your ramblings. here’s to another year of enjoyment.Go well.

    1. Ah, thank you 🙂 The strange thing is that I wouldn’t mistreat a donkey, and if I was advising a walking companion even younger than myself, I would tell them to just go for it and use whatever means to help them keep walking. I’m just not good at taking my own advice 🙂

  5. I am in awe that you are still doing this in your 70s. It’s not something I have ever done, although I did go cycling and camping when I was much younger. It IS very hard to accept limitations though, I think it is human nature to fight against anything that threatens our freedom. I was struck down with chronic fatigue syndrome in 2012 and went from a high energy, always busy person to someone who slept for 18 hours a day. It was a huge adjustment and took several years to get to a point where life was meaningful again but it is. I now travel pretty much full time although it is very slow travel. I often think, if it hadn’t been for my illness I wouldn’t be experiencing the adventures that I am.
    So who knows, maybe if you have to make adjustments you may discover new possibilities that have never occurred to you before.

    1. Thanks Jill. I do consider myself very blessed that I can still do what I do, and you are right, a change of direction may open up fresh possibilities. I think I shall always ‘adventure’ in some way whatever happens. I was interested to hear your story and to hear how some good has come out of that. Keep enjoying life! Terry

  6. I suffer from arthritis in the feet and have been a walker all my life, so you have my sympathies. I don’t think the logistics are that important, only the walk. So keep on with your ambitions.

      1. Me too. I get good and bad days, though I find walking boots a help. In fact if we go out for a day in a city or somewhere I tend to wear a pair for support. I also use two trekking poles on hill walks, and a walking stick on lower rambles. But having been such a walker all my life I get fed up with it. I try to ignore the pain and walk on. And so far I’m managing it.

      2. Yes, I use boots although I prefer trail shoes really. I can only wear those on shorter walks now. I also apply Volterol if I am walking distance – prescribed by the doctor. I still consider myself fortunate to be as healthy as I am – I can cope with a bit of ankle pain 🙂

  7. Hello Terry
    I struggle just like you with having the will to walk and the rapidly deteriorating body’s ability to keep going . We are the same age! I am the lady you spoke to who lived in the end cottage at White Nothe . I grieved long and sorrowfully for my home on the cliff after I reluctantly sold it . I come back often and stay each winter in a more practical cottage in Ringstead .
    Now I accept that I was lucky and blessed to have lived in such a magical place with the sea and the downs on the doorstep for 12 years .
    Turning back the clock is not an option but savouring all those moments is . The beauty and peace experienced is always there . So I walk more slowly, less often , and stand and stare far more . Your blog is very inspiring .
    Keep going , however you can . Your photos are stunning . Best wishes for 2020

    1. Hi Sally. Great to hear from you again. And it is great to hear that you still come back to this area. I rarely seem to see anyone in your cottage these days – I guess they visit irregularly. It must have been a wrench to leave such a beautiful spot but it can’t have been easy living there despite the idyllic location. As you say, there are memories to be savoured. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog and for your good wishes! Maybe I will bump into you at Ringstead some day and be able to have that cup of tea with you 🙂 With every good wish to you too Sally. Keep in touch. Terry

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