Slipping Away. Hiking Alone.

Heading up the Eagle Slide on Giant Mountain
Average read time 3 min

I feel things slipping away. Years of joy and fun. Looking out to the future of my next chapter of back-country adventures, alone. You see for the past 23 years or so I’ve had hiking buddies. Really the only hiking companions I have that enjoyed the deep wilderness with. The ones who would enjoy (or at least put up with) my obsessive want to be away from civilization.

My sons on the trail to Table and Peekamoose in the Catskills
My sons on the trail to Table and Peekamoose in the Catskills

However, for me, the wilderness is civil. I feel at home there. But you see, I’ve “lived” there with only a few people and a fewer who would really head to the deep remote places. These people have “grown-up”. Really, they have all been grown for a while, but my last hiking buddy is now getting ready to head off to college. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have had the time getting them ready and experiencing college with them as a Dad. It’s been great! But this time it’s starting to sting a bit. It’s a bit different.

It’s October, one more backpacking trip

Early October backpacking in the morning
Early October backpacking in the Catskill’s Neversink Valley in the morning

Chris leaves for the spring term. I have two older kids who have gone to college and graduated, so I know the drill. They get busy and eventually too busy to get home except for holidays. They are grown and independent. Right now Chris and I are attempting to put in what we both know may well be our last backpacking trip for a long time. Bittersweet. Hopefully, God will let the weather shine on us, not that we don’t mind the wet stuff, but this time out – maybe just sun?

Some winter stuff too

Chris catch some great views on the way up Camel's Hump
Chris catching some great views on the way up Camel’s Hump

Chris and I were driving home the other day and talking about our favorite time of the year. For me, I don’t have one, it’s more like when one gets old I’m glad to see the next. Chris likes winter, the cold, the views open up and the absence of heat. That’s good, we’ll head out before he goes and get some good late fall and early winter stuff done. Maybe, just maybe a quick overnight after a snowfall.

Where’d the heck the time go?

It feels like yesterday that I stepped out on the trail with Jarrett for the first time. It was about 23 years ago. With Chris, I carried him in a child carrier. For 20+ years all my kids have been part of my hiking world. I got to watch them grow from young and timid hikers to hikers beyond their years. Confident, strong and in love with wild places. I knew this time would come, but just not so fast.

Chris scrambling up a 30 - 40 foot rock wall heading up Slide Mountain
Chris scrambling up a 30 – 40-foot rock wall heading up Slide Mountain

On being grateful

I’m grateful. Studying human nature is part of what I do professionally. That’s the stuff I do while I’m thinking of being on the trail. I delve into how people physically, psychologically and spiritually engage their world. What has fascinated me is that the stuff many people focus on day-to-day is not the stuff they feel good about when they are about to die. In my opinion, if you want to write your bucket list google this “regrets of the dying” and start there.

Kelcy on the summit of Slide Mountain age 12
Kelcy on the summit of Slide Mountain age 12 on a backpacking trip

My read on it is that people felt they worked too hard, did not make enough time for family/friends, did not express feelings, and did not do things to improve themselves and their relationships. I realized something, hiking and backpacking has let me do this with my family.

Retooling for the future

I see a hiker in this young athlete!
I see a hiker in this young athlete!

Chris will be home for school breaks. My wife is not a deep woods camper. However, she enjoys walks in the woods and car camping (something I resist). I will hike and backpack alone. I will also enjoy the walks in the woods to shorter spots with my wife and plan some great car camping trips to places we have never been.

Maybe I can get my youngest really hooked (doubt it, she’s a die-hard stunt/cheer athlete and involved at her school). My wife says maybe a dog? Maybe. I could talk more then. In any case, awareness is 90% of change and I’m open and optimistic that it is going to be okay.

My older daughter is now married and my son will be married soon. Maybe there will be grandkids in the picture. Maybe new hiking buddies. Never know.