A mainstay of my Big Decade was to be a year in which I tackle those daring, truly inspiring hikes, the ones most hikers quail from. You know them and I made a list of them, thinking to recklessly do one a month or one every two months or something like that. Here’s a version of the list (the list morphed, a hallucinatory dream): Grand Canyon, Tour du Mont Blanc, Corsica, Utah gorges, Western Arthur’s, etc., etc. Isn’t there some amazing scary one in Scandinavia? Shouldn’t I max out by interleaving other demanding journeys: the Overland, something in New Zealand, a remote stretch of the Australian Alps Walking Track?
A mainstay of planning for my sixties was to do the Tough Hikes Big Year (for that was what I dubbed it) sooner rather than later, “while the ankles and knees hold up.”
Well, five and a half weeks of less demanding, but rigorous enough, walking in the British summer and spring, left me with plenty of time for reflection, and the upshot of that reflection is surgery. I’m ditching Tough Hikes. Won’t do it, not me.
Why? A virtue of extended hiking is the quality thinking that emerges, and I realized that wrestling with pain up mountains appeals to me mainly for challenge value. The pain, you understand. Vistas and remote beauty can be rewards, but mostly it’s about testing oneself, and suddenly this held less relevance. Also, I don’t have a group of buddies into the adventurous walks. The most important factor occurred to me up on the North Yorkshire Moors: my beloved has no interest in TMB and the like, and I suddenly realized my chief joy in hiking is with her.
Excising a key year in my Big Decade is like taking a knife to my imagined hopes, so I’m grieving a little. But I’m sure this is the correct decision.