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No more backpacking! What next?

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No more backpacking! What next?

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:07 pm

A mountain persons worst nightmare, what would you do?
What will you do when your not physically able to backpack because of age?
What would you do if an injury to your knee or back doesn't allow you carry
a backpack or hike long distances?
How will you suddenly cope with not being able to reply to your "call of the
wild"?
Will visiting your secret fishing hole just become a memory of the past?
Would you consider going horseback or if you can hike than llama's?
Or would you just call it quits, and move on with some great memories, or
become bitter, and feel cheated?
Not a pleasant subject but one all of us will have to deal with sooner or later.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby BrianF » Mon Feb 21, 2011 5:00 pm

What a blow that would be! For myself, I would certainly do the llama thing if I could still hike far enough in a go, If I could only hobble a ways I would consider the horsepacking. I would also spend time vehicle camping, though it a distant second best because of the crowds, there is alot of beautiful country accessible by car. However I got there, I could not stay away from the mountains.
I keep reminding my son about all the years when he was little that I carried almost everything and I warn him the pendulum will someday swing the other way and he can carry my stuff!
I have two friends who have had to deal with this decision, one it was her back and she has opted for horsepacking to a base camp and short day hikes from there, but it has reduced her to one trip a year, the other was feet and he can hardly hike at all, he does car camping and has taken up sailing and diving which, living on the Puget Sound, allows him access to a different kind of wilderness.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby Timberline » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:01 pm

maverick wrote:A mountain persons worst nightmare, what would you do?
What will you do when your not physically able to backpack because of age?
What would you do if an injury to your knee or back doesn't allow you carry
a backpack or hike long distances?
How will you suddenly cope with not being able to reply to your "call of the
wild"?


Geez, mav, you just nailed me! :( I have grudgingly come to admit that my favorite pastime, high country x-c excursions, has ended, and I dare not take off alone anymore , not even day hikes, due to my arthritic knee. Well, what to do? Spend time on HST, of course, and share the pleasure and adventure vicariously. So thanks, all of you HST'ers, for keeping me going! Love to read the posts and view the pix here. What a great bunch of folks! :nod: :thumbsup:

Oh, and it also helps to live in these mountains, and "get their glad tidings," as Muir said, every day!
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:30 pm

My hope is to drop dead on my last solo trip, get devoured by a bear, and end up as bear ****! :)

Seriously!

Mike
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:33 pm

What about horsepacking Timberline with some friends so to split costs, and
basecamping from where you can do day hikes with friends?
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:37 pm

OR writes "My hope is to drop dead on my last solo trip, get devoured by a bear, and
end up as bear ****!", I enjoy hiking with you OR, but I hope this doesn't happen when
I'm with you, I wouldn't want to carry out your remains.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:38 pm

Maverick

I said "solo." I wouldn't wish dealing with a dead friend in the bc on anyone! But if it happens pack your gear and move on, I won't mind if you leave me.

mike
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:45 pm

My bad OR, you did write solo.
I was really commenting on having to carry out some bear ****.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby SSSdave » Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:10 pm

An older person that can no longer go backpacking usually also has one foot about to step into eternity. So at that point there is a whole lot more than just backpacking that ain't goin to be happening any more. I'm moving into that age range now and realise most of my peers have already given up. There will come a day when I can no longer easily carry my usual heavy heavy pack. So first strategy is obviously reducing pack weight. Actually I've already done that versus what I was carrying a few years ago, dropping down from and average of 75 pounds to 65 pounds. Any more and the large format camera will go and I'll make do with something digital. But eventually will need to limit mileage. Fortunately I know lots of excellent offtrail places that are not far from roadsides but at least the legal mile. And there is a whole lot anyone can do with a good 4WD vehicle car camping. As someone close to retirement, I'm going to be having a lot of free time to enjoy many years as long as I can afford the gas.

And if I'm capable and know its coming, my last backpack will be the one I don't hike out from. I don't want to be buried in some urban cemetary and instead know many places not far from roads, out of aerial visual sight, where my bones will rest peacefully and never be disturbed. Could be in some big talus blocks. Or beneath branches of one of the awesome Sierra junipers on some cliff. Or...
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby Timberline » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:19 pm

maverick wrote:What about horsepacking Timberline with some friends so to split costs, and
basecamping from where you can do day hikes with friends?


Nice thought, for sure.
Actually, mav, its "been there, done that" already. Please, allow me. . .

Barney and Midge at Qualls' Camp
©2008 by Bruce Peet

My first experience at horse packing in the Sierra came courtesy of the Forest Service. Paul and I, both on summer jobs during college, made up a two-man crew assigned to locating and measuring field plots to help evaluate forest growth conditions. Since the field plots were randomly pre-selected on aerial photographs, locating these measurement sites was the much more interesting part of the job, as it required lots of cross country travel and orienteering using large format photos. Our principal working area that summer was then known as the High Sierra Ranger District on Sierra National Forest (since absorbed into the Pineridge District I think), an assignment that included a lot of territory in the basins of the Middle and South Forks of the San Joaquin River, up to the Sierra Crest and the Kings Canyon National Park boundary. As if spending a summer there wasn’t enough good fortune, we were about to embark on a ten day horseback ride into the wilderness country between Kaiser Ridge and Dinkey Lakes. We were euphoric!
The short work season and the amount of equipment we had to carry convinced our boss, Jere, that horsepacking was the most efficient option to complete these distant site inventories. Neither Paul nor I had any real experience as horsemen, but we were as eager as proverbial greenhorns. So it was that on the morning of our departure from Cunningham's Pack Station, we were introduced to our wrangler, Woody, who would trail along with us and handle the horses and the camp chores.
Woody was short, balding, a little bow-legged, noticeably older than us, but with a mischievous look about him; in short, he became my image of the real Sierra pack wrangler. He was sure dressed much more appropriately than us; sweat-brimmed Resistol hat, a colorful western snap-button shirt, dirty denim jeans, an oversized belt buckle, and even dirtier cowboy boots, well broken in if not about to perish altogether. We presented ourselves in our official Forest Service field uniforms: khaki work shirt (no USDA insignia, we were summer temps after all), forest green denim pants, hiking boots, and our Filson vests, pockets bulging with pens, pencils, stylus, notepads, compass, clinometers, and assorted paraphernalia of the job. Oh, and aluminum hardhats. We never did understand why those were required, but at least when the boss was around, we wore them compliantly (for other occasions, I had a beat-up felt cowboy hat stuffed in my backpack). We soon mounted our steeds, I on a mellow brown mare and Paul on a smaller gelding. I've forgotten our horses' names, but I remember well the two mules Woody was leading: Barney and Midge. To us novice riders, the horses, at least, seemed spirited and alert, but gentle and well behaved, and I recall thinking how Cunningham's had done well by us in choosing our livestock.
Perhaps from constantly being around horses and mules, Woody possessed great patience, which that week I'm sure we tested frequently without any awareness on our part. From having worked together over several weeks already, Paul and I had learned the importance of getting over being a stranger to someone with whom you would be spending a lot of time. With Woody, we sensed that even a minimum bond of friendship and respect would best serve us all in the days ahead, so in the first few hours on the trail climbing the ridge southwest of Florence Lake, Paul and I tried to find ways to build rapport with our new trail partner through conversation and questions. I suppose for some wranglers, proud of their taciturn individuality and somewhat protective of their personal space, that strategy might not have worked, but at one point Woody mentioned another wrangler who was somewhat legendary around that country, Dave Qualls. Just a few colorful remarks by Woody about this gentleman sparked our interest, and we pressed for more. That opened things up and got them going good; what Woody might be reluctant to divulge about himself didn't limit his willingness to feed our fascination about a historical figure. It turned out that, according to Woody, our travels would lead us to the vicinity of a site known as Qualls' Camp.
Topographic maps of the Sierra have long fascinated me with historic names tied to events and people from earlier times. Even seeing a name as common as Deer Meadow on a map, you just know there's a unique story lurking there. The Kaiser Ridge country has its share of these, from early livestock grazing days to the Big Creek hydro project era. Later, I learned that the author of a history of this area, an engineer on the Big Creek project, even mentions a chance meeting with Dave Qualls along a Kaiser Ridge trail. Apparently, he was known and familiar to folks around the Huntington Lake area during those times. Intrigued, both Paul and I voiced our desire to spend a night or more at Dave Qualls' campsite during this trip.

For the next few days, the task of bagging at least one, if not two, sample plots each day drove our energies and efforts. We needed to keep that pace if we were to return with the job completed in this part of the forest; unsampled plots left behind after leaving an area were a blot on your worth as a field technician. Also, Jere had impressed on us just how much this horseback tour was costing; we knew there would be no coming back. But the daily round was full of adventure. Up at dawn, the routine was familiar: Woody's fine hot breakfast cooked over an open fire, then round up the livestock, pack a lunch, button down the campsite, saddle up, and begin to search for the nearest sample site. Every day, Woody brought along the mules, Barney and Midge, albeit unburdened with packs. Not being familiar with mules, they seemed to me to be as fully integrated and cooperative with the bunch of us as were the horses. Each search for our sample plot was a new challenge, and the location never seemed to fall close to a known trail. That simply made it all the more fun to find a route up and down the ridges which the horses could travel as well as us. At times, we'd have to dismount and lead our animals to circumvent some obstacle of the landscape, like a series of high granite ledges or a boggy meadow. We learned by observation just how much more sure footed Barney and Midge were compared to our horses; they were game to try paths that the horses immediately shied from. I came to appreciate those mules as much or more than my steady, compliant mare. Usually, when we found our site and set to work taking measurements, a two to three hour task, the animals stood and dozed in the shade nearby. Doing a second plot on the same day was sometimes necessary, but typically put us back at our base camp late into dusk or even after nightfall.
One last plot remained, located some distance from our camp at Ershim Meadow. Our plan was to break camp that morning, load the animals, find and complete the site, and head back to Florence Lake by nightfall. Paul and I had completely forgotten about finding the location of Qualls' Camp by then; we'd just been too busy. Some of our earlier excitement about finding it had been replaced by the past nine days of glorious adventure, and our anticipation of knocking off a big work assignment without a hitch; we were almost there.
We had enjoyed perfect Sierra weather up to this point, each day dawning clear as crystal, long, warm afternoons, quiet pleasant evenings, with a few puffy clouds briefly adding drama and contrast until they vanished at dusk. This day turned out to be different. Somehow, we misread the topography and lost an hour or two backtracking from a cliff that blocked our way to the plot site on the ridge's opposite slope. Warily keeping watch on the thunderheads rapidly building above, we finally reached the site around noon, drove the center stake from which all measurements on the plot originated, and felt the first raindrops. Paul and I gamely began our inventory routine at double speed, hoping to record as much data as we could as quickly as possible. It was a fool's errand, since our data became smeared pencil marks on wet paper. In moments, the rain turned to hail, and then larger hail. The pelting was painful, and we hastily retreated to shelter under the crown of a large fir; we didn't pause to consider how inadvisable that was, what with lightning flashing all around, only to avoid further blows from the icy rocks falling from above. Woody joined us briefly, but was obviously concerned about the animals picketed at the edge of an opening. They appeared safe, but increasingly miserable under the icy onslaught. True to their natures, all of them turned their backs to the force of the storm, lowered their heads, and stoically endured. The hail continued without letup and began to accumulate. Paul and I debated whether to abandon our narrow haven of dryness under the tree crown, but saw by now that the only ground within sight not covered by ice pellets was under other large trees like the one we'd chosen. We could run out into the torrent in search or a thicket of smaller vegetation, getting drenched in the deepening freeze, or risk staying put, remain relatively dry, and pray no lightning would come searching for our tree. I think our mutual glances signaled a simultaneous realization: fire, or ice: what a choice! Time passed.
Suddenly, lightning struck somewhere close and behind us. The flash and instant, deafening thunder jolted our three horses and two mules into a frenzy of flying hooves and brays of alarm. Luckily, none of them broke their hitch and the picket held, but they got pretty tangled, ending up standing every which way. Barney and Midge were flanked by a horse on each side, now facing the force of the storm; however, the horses seemed to take pity on the mules' fate and bunched closer together, allowing their bodies to partially shield the slightly smaller mules. So we all remained until the hailstorm finally ceased, like God turning off a bathtub faucet. The sun returned, tentative at first, then confident and strong, drawing a rising mist from the ice field surrounding us.

First order of business: horses, mules, wrangler, college students, all shook. We shook to fling off the wet. We shook to drive the cold stiffness from our bodies. We shook, I guess, just to feel the pleasure and relief that the ordeal was over. Woody calmed and untangled the animals, then built a pitch fire so we could dry out our duds. Paul and I finished all the plot measurements in record time, and then warmed ourselves at fireside.
Finally, measurements finished, tools packed, saddles re-cinched, fire doused, we mounted up in wet saddles, aimed for our base camp. It was already near dusk; we expected to ride steady for several hours at least.
When we arrived at this site just before noon, we had crossed a small stream flowing by our little glen, a rivulet so small and shallow that the horses and mules virtually stepped across it from one grassy bank to the other without wetting a hoof. Our return ride brought us to the same stream, now a raging torrent of icy runoff released by the sun's afternoon warmth. The horses plunged in without hesitation, Paul and I side by side in the lead, the water swift and up to the horses' knees but the bottom still firm. Woody's horse followed without hesitation as well, but not Barney and Midge. The two mules reached the water's edge and planted themselves on all fours, practically yanking Woody out of his saddle for an instant before he reigned in. Paul and I turned our horses, not sure if we could offer any assistance, and heard Woody’s first verbal tirade in 10 days come unleashed all at once. He swore a blue streak at the mules, but they wouldn't budge. Finally, he instructed us to re-cross the stream on our mounts and come at the mules from their rear flank, to force them into and across the water. After the scene we just witnessed, both Paul and I were expecting to get ourselves kicked by an ornery mule, but somehow our own yells and arm swirling momentarily trumped the mules' hesitations, and they both jumped and thrashed through the water as fast as . . . well, it worked, but the two of us were wet all over again. At last, we headed home. That's when Woody piped up with the news. “By the way, fellas,” he said. “Back there where you set that center stake in the ground is the place I've always known as Qualls' Camp.”
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:23 pm

Luckily I have lots of good role models who have shown me how to age gracefully as a backpacker. My Mom backpacked until her 70's then day hiked helping mothers of young children learn to hike. She now is 91, lives in a retirement home and does laps around the courtyard. She loves to play "wi" sports. Hey, maybe there will be "wi" backpacking by the time we get 90. I cannot count how many old geezers I meet out in the boonies who now use horses. They always have tons of food and everytime I stop to talk to them, I get fresh apples, candy and booze. My best friends father took his last big game hunt (on horses) in Canada when he was 85. I met an older lady on the trail with a dutiful son behind her carrying EVERYTHING! Hey, she changed his diapers how many years? My son-in-law is an orthopedic surgeon - lots can be fixed now - and more maybe in the future. And there is plenty of light gear out there. I now do a 10-day trip with no more than 35 pounds on my back. Years ago, I was going up over Lamark Col. I met two old guys with a gallon jug of whiskey lashed to a pack. They were literally creeping up the trail. They invited me over for cocktails but I ended up hiking further. The purpose of their trip - showing each other where they wanted their ashes burried and drinking as much whiskey as possible.

And, how old are all you old guys anyway?

Give up, Never!! Just adjust expectations. Adjust how you backpack. Live for each moment. Be creative. I think if you really love the mountains (versus simply liking the athletics of backpacking) you will find a way. If my backpack trip when I am 90 is two miles, so be it.
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Re: No more backpacking! What next?

Postby Timberline » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:40 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Give up, Never!! Just adjust expectations. Adjust how you backpack. Live for each moment. Be creative. I think if you really love the mountains (versus simply liking the athletics of backpacking) you will find a way. If my backpack trip when I am 90 is two miles, so be it.


Gosh, I love that spirit, Wandering Daisy! See you on the trail! :D
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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