Tag Archives: aging

Racing the clock on Forever Hikes

It wasn’t just another hike. It was a hike that showed I could still go long.

For the past few years, since turning 60, whenever I’ve finished a favorite challenging hike, I’ve wondered: Will I hike this trail again?

In part, that’s because there’s a limited amount of time in life and a growing number of trails. We like hiking our favorites, we like hiking new trails. And since the pandemic, more trails coming on line. Decisions, decisions. read more

GetGoing After 50: tales of ‘extreme’ aging

This morning I set out with a couple of buddies on one of their regular adventures and was reminded of a column I wrote a couple years back about free soloist Alex Honnold. Honnold is known as the climber who eschews ropes and other protection — “free soloing,” it’s called in climbing circles.  read more

Hiking: Better late than never

Rod, hiking Umsteak’s Company Mill Trail in late January

The following originally appeared in October of 2013. We re-run it today, updated, with a tweak or two

“Uh!” Kathy groaned about three quarters of the way up the grinding march up to Moore’s Knob at Hanging Rock State Park. “I wish I’d started doing this when I was younger.”
“Better late than never,” her sister Judy offered.
“Yeah,” I added, “and hiking is something you can do for another 40 years.”
Kathy looked at me like I was nuts. “I’ll be 60 this fall!”
OK, maybe another 20 years. The point, as sis so eloquently put it, it’s never too late to start an activity, especially when that activity is health-friendly hiking.
According to a 2005 report (the most recent year for which I could find demographic information for free), the average age of a hiker was 38 and nearly a third of the nation’s 76.7 million hikers were 45 or older. That’s about 25 million hikers — 25 million smart hikers, considering a 2009 study found that the decline in our level of fitness begins to accelerate after age 45. Because of the constant impact of hiking, it’s especially helpful for women trying to stave off osteoporosis. The additional health benefits of hiking are numerous: hiking regularly can lower your blood pressure by four to 10 points, reduce your chances for cardio vascular disease, reduce your odds of getting diabetes, help you keep weight off, lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and, perhaps most importantly, clear your head and help you maintain your sanity.
And it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age.
Take Emma “Grandma” Gatewood. In 1955, at the age of 67, she hiked the entire 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. That was the first time she hiked the AT; she did it again in 1960 at age 72, and again, when she was 75, in 1963. Lee Barry became the oldest person to thru-hike the AT when he completed the trail in 2004 at age 81. The oldest AT section hiker was 86 when he finished wrapped up the trail.
Closer to home, Triangle hikers have been trying to keep pace with Rod Broadbelt since  he started his monthly hikes, mostly at Umstead State Park, in the 1990s. Rod goes anywhere from 8 miles (in the dead of summer) to 22 miles (in the briskness of February) on his hikes, which often leave much younger hikers gasping for breath. On a hike in 2012 he said his goal was to continue leading the hikes after he turns 80. He was 78 at the time.
And lest you be an older hiker and think you don’t have the knees for hiking, we have two words of advice: hiking poles. For just as full-suspension bikes have extended the riding lives of many an older mountain biker, and the over-sized tennis racket meant more control and less darting about the court for aging tennis players, so have hiking poles made it possible for the weak-kneed to keep on hiking. Plus, with poles, not only do you still get a good cardio workout, but your upper body gets to share the toning benefits of a hike.
We can’t blame Kathy for wishing she’d started hiking sooner; think of all the great places she’s missed seeing. But then, think of all the great places she’ll visit in the next 20 years.
Or 40. read more

Ashton Applewhite discusses her ‘aging manifesto’ Friday in Durham


Early on, I made my living as a writer telling readers about places to go and explore. I still do that, but three years ago I thought it might be fun to actually take people to the places I wrote about. That experience has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. In part, that’s because many of the people I take out are my age — 60 — or older read more

A reporting first

In more than two decades of writing about health, fitness and outdoor adventure, last night I did something I’ve never done before.
I covered an activity without participating in it.
The activity? Parkour.
Parkour, as one of the dads at Enso Movement in North Raleigh told me, is a “young man’s game.”
I’ll be writing about parkour in the next week or two for The News & Observer. For our purposes today, suffice it to say parkour is a way of gracefully going from Point A to Point B in a straight line, obstacles be danged. Participants gingerly vault, leap, climb and hurdle their way through an urban landscape, refusing to acquiesce to stairs and sidewalks. It sounds dangerous; it is the antithesis thereof. The class I watched — five boys and one girl ranging in age from 12 to 16 — spent the first 20 minutes warming up and getting loose. Instructor Alan Tran spent the remainder of the 75-minute session working on technique for safe launches and landings. This ain’t about Russian teens drinking a fifth of vodka, then blithely skipping from one skyscraper rooftop to the next.
It’s also not about a 58-year-old guy using one hand to hurdle a three-foot wall. And I knew it.
Usually, when I call to ask about covering an activity, I get an invitation to join in. In reporting on everything from rock climbing to parasailing to cave diving, I’ve put down pen and paper to partake. When I approached Enso Movement, there was no mention of coming prepared to join the fun. A young man’s game, it was presumed.
When I asked Tran who their oldest student was, he deferred to fellow instructor Nick Faircloth.
“Late thirties, maybe,” Faircloth said with an air of awe. “Maybe even early 40s!” (Tran noted that in Europe, where parkour has been big since the early 1990s, there are senior parkour classes, “for 65 and up.”)
After the warm-up, as the teens began navigating plywood obstacles in Enso Movement’s warehouse gym, their antics took me back to suburban Denver in the 1960s. Full of energy and flexibility, my pals and I would roam our neighborhood, hopping fences, leap-frogging ashpits, using street signs as stripper poles. I was also reminded of how incredibly incompetent I was at this type of movement. Ever beyond my grasp was how to leap a fence with only my hands touching, or how to gain sufficient liftoff to clear that three-foot brick ashpit. As Tran showed his aspiring “traceurs,” it was as much about technique as strength. Maybe if he’d been my neighbor back on South Boston Court, I would have been a more effective — and less bruised — navigator of the night. Alas, I realized, my time had passed.
Sidelined for the first time in my participatory reporting career wasn’t a milestone to relish. It wasn’t one to despair over, either. Maybe I can’t hurdle a fence.,
But I can still ride a skateboard. read more