Say it once, say it 1,000 times — age is just a number. And never was this axiom more apparent than when I went on a hike with group of 50-to-70-something-year-old individuals.
In previous posts, I discussed how I became interested in hiking (more here) and how I am participating in the activity more and more (more here). While I normally try to stick to hiking with the same group (I have a better chance of making friends this way), I sometimes participate in a few outings with other groups for the sake of hiking. On my most recent adventure, I ended up in a group with many retirees.
Like with most other things nowadays, I found this hiking group on the internet and, more specifically, on MeetUp.com. This MeetUp group is centered on hiking in the greater Boston region. It has no ties to a certain age group (like some others), so it was not necessarily expected that all members would be older individuals. However, from pictures on this group’s page, it was evident that the group is popular with older crowds. Volunteer-led MeetUp events can fill up quickly (especially with group restrictions due to COVID-19 policies). So, while this was not my first choice of group event, the likelihood that I would find another was slim and I decided to request permission to join this particular hike.
The hike was labeled as “difficult” and members had to confirm their physical fitness level to be able to join. With my other hiking groups, admittedly, the most challenging hikes we have ever done were only labeled as “moderate,” however, because the distance was something that I knew I could manage, I decided to sign up.
On the day of the hike, I met up with the group in a Blue Hills Reservation parking lot right off of Route 138. Even with masks on, it was clear that I was the youngest person in the circle of nine. The group leader, let’s call her Julie, met us, took attendance (one no show) and explained the rules of the hike. We stay together, wear masks at all times (except when eating/ drinking), yadda yadda yadda. Then, Julie explained the hiking route which starts out uphill, then downhill, then flat, then uphill some more, and then finally back downhill. She said we would move at a moderate pace (2.0 – 2.5 mph [which is more difficult than it sounds, considering the route is very hilly]) and wouldn’t be stopping much.
I naturally gravitated to the front of the group as we began our ascent. Sonja, the, perhaps, second youngest in the group (in her mid-40’s) took the lead, pushing ahead up the first steep hill. I followed closely behind her, feeling like a total mouth breather as I huffed and puffed through my face mask. Behind me was a lovely self-described “semi-retired nurse” called Caroline, who made conversation as if what we weren’t totally exerting ourselves.
At the top of the hill, a man, Raju, remarked “it’s harder when it’s cold.”
To which Caroline responded “at least this way, you don’t sweat the whole way up.”
“I always sweat,” I said simultaneously in my head and out loud as I rummaged in my bag for a tissue.
Hiking with this group is no joke. Julie ran a tight ship and we didn’t even stop for so much as a “bio break” on our 6-mile trek.
Overall, the hike was a pleasant but sweat-inducing workout. Everyone was friendly and kept up pace. At the end of the hike, Julie offered to wait with me as I called for an Uber — she alluded that this parking lot was a popular hookup spot…. We chatted a little bit and discussed some of the other hiking groups operating in Boston. It turns out that we were both members of another group, however, she noted that that particular group was geared towards younger folks. Despite this, I mentioned that my hike with her was the most challenging so far. Then she let me in on a little secret — many of the members in this group hike almost every single day. She named a few individuals in our group that she hiked with literally the day before. I commented that as a student (and, this part unspoken — as someone with a multitude of interests) I could not manage any more than one hike a week. Julie said that almost everyone in this group is retired, so they have the time to hike. This makes sense and also explains why these “elders” are in tip-top shape!
In the age of COVID-19, we can very easily think that older individuals are a “weak” and “vulnerable” population. However, Julie, Raju, Caroline and others show us just how resilient our bodies can be. With care for our bodies through diet and exercise (and tremendous luck in the form of escaping accidents and being dealt a good hand disease wise!), we can increase our “health span” (more here) and ward off the effects of aging on our bodies and our minds.
How nice it would be, to be like any of these fine individuals when I “grow up.”
May you always have your health, dear Reader.