Can I do this trek? Is this the last long trail? Strange questions for me and there have been strange dreams.
My special Earth has been the mountain country of the North, primarily the wilds of Idaho and Alaska. I’ve wandered those wildernesses in all seasons hunting, fishing, boating, backpacking, hiking, climbing and skiing for sixty years. Most of that time, traveling off the man-made trail. Many times beyond ten days. Sometime months, or as Sarah’s and my ‘Across Wild Alaska’ trek, two years. Never injured myself, been injured or sick until recently - the backside of my sixties.
Staying trail fit has always been about getting out there – doing the thing. At home that means day trippin’ in local country instead of the gym. On extended trips, the wilderness trail and travel mode have always toughened me, my mind never freighted with the prospect of injury or sickness. Then a knee gives way while scrambling with a heavy pack in a boulder field in the high peaks. Rafting through a rock garden on a whitewater river, my oar strikes a rock on a hard dig, jumps back, cracks ribs. Bee and wasp stings that have never bothered me, cause serious now allergic reaction.
Now, at mid seventy, I’m in a bit of a shock. Have admitted that the body is wearing out. I use ski poles to help secure my balance on the trail now. Feel a lack of strength and finesse to make better moves rafting white water, defer to stronger oarswomen and men. Carry Ibuprofin and my epi-pen. The dreams? I dream that I cannot run with the wild herd, am culled by the wolf pack for a quick meal. There’s the mountain loin who cuts my track while I’m out soloing. She knows, by my track and scent, that I am no longer nimble, continues to follow me.
It is a sorrow to suddenly realize that I’m the one endangering others, that I cannot put trail mates at risk if I go down. That these are the twilight years. That indeed, perhaps this llama trek is the last long trail.