One of the main reasons I do what I do is the people I get to meet. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I always meet active people with diverse stories. And I always come away enriched.
Here’s a snapshot, from a “Backpacking North Carolina” presentation I did a couple Saturdays back at the Mayo Park Environmental Education and Community Center in Person County.
Steve. Steve is a scout leader. His Boy Scout Troop from Mebane was in the park for the weekend, camping, fishing, paddling and doing other Scout-type stuff when he a saw a notice for my backpacking presentation. “We’re just getting into backpacking and the kids are really into it,” Steve told me beforehand. And they were, listening intently despite the fact it was 70 degrees and cloudless outside. A perfect day beckoned, yet they were willing to give me an hour of it. From Steve I got a great destination tip not far from the Triangle: Rock Castle Gorge just over the Virginia line.
Kevin. Kevin was also with Scout Troop 43. Kevin, 63, was Special Forces, retired — sorta. “I still jump out of planes and teach hand-to-hand combat,” Kevin told me. And while he still loves to get out in the woods, years of doing it with a 100-pound pack on his back have changed his outdoors approach. “I like my RV,” he told me. From Kevin came the realization that as we age, it’s OK to indulge in a creature comfort or two.
Ben. Ben is exactly who I hope to address through this column and through appearances like the one at Mayo Park. In his youth he’d been an avid backpacker. Alas, as happens to so many of us, he entered the workforce, got consumed by life, sacrificed his fitness. Now, 20 years later he had come hoping to get inspired and pick up where he’d left off so many years earlier. “I guess I’m grieving the loss of my fitness,” he said, not in a dramatic or maudlin way. More like he’d had a realization and was now ready to deal with it. We talked about places nearby to hike, we talked about good, regional backpacking options. We talked about fitness. We talked for about 45 minutes after the presentation had ended and I took it as a good sign when he bought a book.
Ben came looking for inspiration. I hope he got some. I sure did.