Whoever first said that “life begins at 50” was definitely onto something. Having passed 50 quite some time ago, I already knew this. But it’s nice to see other people getting out and enjoying the best years of their lives.
My sweetheart Marilyn (who doesn’t look or act like she’s anywhere near 50) and I spent a couple of nights at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s beautiful Highland Center at the top of Crawford Notch in New Hampshire. We were there to sample part of the AMC’s “50+ Adventure Camp: Spring Hiking in the White Mountains.” Frankly, we had so much fun, I wish we’d been able to stay for the entire 5-night, 6-day program.
I was too busy enjoying myself to take an actual head count, but it seemed there were about two dozen participants in the 50+ Adventure, some couples, others solo travelers. Some were experienced hikers, others were taking their first tentative steps into the wilderness; some had a specific interest such as birding or botany, others were out exploring everything and anything that caught their attention.
The folks I talked to at meals and while hiking ranged from the tender age of 51 to a spry and very enthusiastic 76. They had arrived from at least six states, including at least one couple from Florida.
While none of the participants in this program looked like Olympic athletes, most were clearly not couch potatoes, either. In other words it was a group of active folks, all of whom happened to be over 50, out to have fun.
Most of the planned activities, all optional, of course, were set up around hiking.
Each morning at 7:30, they had a “learning walk,” a short stroll to seek out and identify trees, amphibians, animal tracks, moose sign and birds. Great stuff: really seeing what you might otherwise just have walked past is a good skill to cultivate.
Most days, there were choices for longer or shorter guided hikes. We were there on the warmup first day and opted for a 3.2-mile round trip up Mount Willard, which may have the best view for the least effort of any hiking trail in New England. The other choice that day was a steeper, shorter climb to Ripley Falls, the second highest waterfall in New Hampshire.
Other days, the 50+Adventureres could visit the AMC’s Zealand Falls hut and Arethusa Falls. Groups also summitted the Sugarloafs, and Mount Pierce, a relatively easy 4,000-footer.
None of the hikes were designed to be marathons. There didn’t seem to be any tendency among the group toward competition. The longer hikes were divided into a “fast” and a “slow” group, each with its own leader, and in the group we hiked with, everyone seemed to be content with the pace. The relatively easy pace made for good conversation with like-minded souls.
In all, it was simply a good excuse to get outdoors and have fun in a lightly-structures, safe, communal environment. What a wonderful way to begin exploring if you are over 50 and new to the outdoors!
Of course the AMC also has programs designed for families, teens and adventurous younger adults, too.
I suppose it’s true that none of us are getting any younger. But, if your attitude is right, being over 50 doesn’t have to slow you down much at all. For most of us, the simple act of placing one foot in front of the other and letting it take you to interesting and beautiful places is the key to getting more out of life.
Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
One of the afternoon classes offered at the 50+ Adventure program was called “Map and Compass 101.” Since most of the program’s participants were relatively new to hiking, this session was well attended.
The lesson began in the classroom, learning to interpret the various lines and symbols on a hiking map and how to begin to bring together (orient) the compass and map.
Then the lesson went outside where, for all the world, it looked like some weird county line dancing group turning as a synchronized unit as everyone learned how to orient the map, compass and themselves into a single functioning unit.
I’ve used a compass so long, it’s second nature to me. It’s not that hard, but it’s one of those skills I can’t even imagine trying to teach to someone else.
The 50+ Adventure folks got a terrific introduction, including a briefing on the mysteries of declination. (the difference between “magnetic north, which your compass needle points to, and “true north” which your map is geared to. If they use the skills they learned often enough to retain, they will travel wild county more confidently.
How about you? Could you use a lesson or refresher in map and compass skills. The AMC and its regional affiliates often offer classes. Or you can go to www.learn-orienteering.org for a good on-line tutorial.