A Change Late in Life
In terms of age, the trail is a diverse place. Despite popular perception, the trail is not a young persons adventure land. I’ve met Mountain Goat, a 13 year old hiking with his mother. I’ve also met No Justice, who finished her thru-hike when she was 71 years old.
Every hiker is in a different time of life. Some left their jobs and sold their house. Others are recent graduates. Many, I have found, are recently retired.
So far a majority of my conversations are with people that have retired and embarked on this journey.
Each story is unique, but there’s a common thread I’ve found: the AT is something they have wanted to do for much of their life but never had the opportunity, or felt it was a prudent choice.
I met Lennaus and her brother, Razz...something. I can’t recall his trail name. I originally thought these two were a married couple. After this conversation I realized they are siblings, hiking the trail together. Both Lennaus and her brother are retired.
Listen to Razz’s story HERE
I find it inspiring that he wanted to hike this trail and made it a priority as soon as he could. It’s not as risky as some stories to get out here, but that doesn’t make it less meaningful. I haven’t seen Lennaus and her brother in a couple weeks, but I’m hoping they are still hiking along together.
I met Cahoona while I was taking a break on the trail with my friend, Toast, who has a lovely way of starting conversation with others. She asked Cahoona about his hike. He and his wife hiked a lot in the White Mountains and planned to thru-hike together. Unfortunately Cahoona’s wife has back issues and had to undergo major surgery. Cahoona decided to stay home and care for his wife instead of hike. After a year of recovery, she encouraged him to go without her. She’ll be joining him in the White Mountains for his AT section.
Cahoona is a practical person and his reasoning for the trail reflects this. He feels that there are limited times one can take a trip like this: after school, before having a family or major job, and in retirement.
Listen to Cahoona’s perspective HERE
I continue to experience change in my life, to the point that I can’t imagine what it’s like to work for decades, in one profession, and then set off to live in the woods for 5-6 months. It’s got to be a shock, but it seems that the hikers I’ve spoken to with this similar story were all hungry for a change. Whether or not they waited explicitly for permission from their financial guy, all had this dream and desire while they worked hard for years.
I spoke to Grizzly. A big man with a perfectly white beard, and pleasant demeanor [yes he dresses up as Santa during the holidays. I saw picures]. His name either came from the bear mace he accidentally wiped onto his face, or from his jolly, warm, bear-like appearance.
Like Cahoona, he stayed home to care for his wife. She went through cancer treatment. after years of working and caring for her, she wanted to give him a gift in return. She told him to go hike the trail.
Grizzly is also in retirement and doesn’t miss work a bit:
Grizzly’s words HERE
There are perks and downsides to taking a hike in retirement. On the upside it’s nice to have a comfortable financial situation [most likely] and to have minimal responsibilities looming ahead of you when you get home. on the downside, it can be more physically difficult and strenuous to hike in a later time of life. To be honest, none of that makes a different though. However you get out here, you made it work. There are countless details and moments of motivation that must line up to get a hiker on the trail. At the end of the day we all made the commitment, whatever that looks like.
I was curious though, what a retired hiker would say about all the young people out here. I asked Razz.
I think all hikers would agree, however you can get out here, however you can get after that dream that’s been on your min and in your heart. Do it.