The year before I turned 40, I decided to set a huge goal for myself and climb Mt. Whitney. At roughly 14, 500 feet tall, Mt Whitney is the tallest peak in the continental U.S.. The route I chose was a 22 mile hike. I had a year to get in to shape. And I did, and it was a wonderful experience.
When I was turning 50, I was on hepatitis C treatment using peginterferon and ribavirin. My goal was to survive it without killing anyone. I made it, still with hepatitis C in my blood, but no homicide on my record.
Now I am turning 65. Hepatitis C is gone, and I’ve been thinking about goals. Although I’ve done a few respectable hikes and cycled a hundred kilometers a couple of times, all of that is ancient history. What is it I want to do now? More importantly, what kind of older adult do I want to be? Do I want to climb more mountains?
I want to be like Grandma Gatewood when I grow up. If you don’t know of this remarkable woman, I suggest reading, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. When Gatewood was 65, she told her adult children that she was going for a walk. It was 1955, before fancy recreational equipment stores existed. She headed out her door with canvas sneakers, an army blanket, and a homemade drawstring bag, and started walking the Appalachian Trail. She had no idea of what she was doing, and the walk ended fairly quickly. But she tried again, and has done the trail 3 times.
Gatewood has also walked 2,000 miles of the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Portland, Oregon, averaging 22 miles (35 km) a day. She has traveled to every state in the continental United States. She did this all in Keds sneakers.
Then there is Olga Kotelko, a Canadian track star. Kotelko started track and field when she was 77 and kept at it well into her 90s.
Many other people are doing remarkable feats at all ages and overcoming all sorts of obstacles. What they all have in common is that they are doing something and they aren’t doing battle with an “I can’t” attitude.
And this is what I have found in myself. I don’t know yet what it is I will achieve, but I already have the main ingredient – I believe I can. I am already the person who can take on a challenge. Now the issue is tinkering with the details. Taking small steps and making slow progress is not a problem; it is a gift. And this is the gift I am giving to myself – the gift of health.
And if I tell you that I am going for a walk and you don’t hear back from me, it may be because I am on a trail.