A Wannabe Reflects on the Ruck
Erik Sabina, Denver, CO
I’m sorry to tell you that I first became aware of you all through watching the movie version of that book that shall not be named. At least that is how some folks seem to feel about it. Anyway, the main thing I want to say is that you all have kept me (semi-) sane these past few months, thanks to the magic of blogging. I was diagnosed with arthritic degeneration in my big toe joints in 1989, and have been fighting off the day of surgery ever since. This winter, the day came. After my January 23 surgery, I didn’t leave the house for five days. For several weeks after that, I walked with crutches and wore one of those surgical shoes that make one look like a one-legged duck. By this time I was already aware of the astonishing things you all do, seemingly acting as though anyone can do it (I’m thinking “No, really - people can do that?”). I was sitting in my family room with my foot in ice, living in that tiny indoor world, dreaming that I’d fully recover, dreaming that I could live in a big world instead.
A really big world.
I must have been randomly Googling for more through-hiking info on March 7 or so, and I ran across this organization called ALDHA-West. And by some odd piece of luck, you were holding a thing called a Ruck. The next weekend. In Golden. About 14 miles from my house. Hmm. It lasts all day. And I’ve never been on a backpacking trip longer than six days. And maybe I hiked 20 miles in a day. Once. And despite a lifetime of backpacking, one through-hike on a long trail likely adds up to more miles than I’ve done in all my trips put together. And I’m very busy, and I’m not sure how it can take all day to talk about hiking (ok, stop that laughing).
Well, then. My kind wife said, “go, have fun.” So I went.
I’ve been in more than one group in which newcomers are looked down on, held at arm’s length, treated with suspicion. Wow, you all not behave that way. People who’ve done things I can only barely conceive of, treated me like they’d known me for years. They shared stories and advice. They acted like they thought that I might be able to do what they’ve done. I loved the gear demos; I learned so much from the “what I carry” panel discussion. I enjoyed the nutrition talk. I learned techniques for crossing raging streams without drowning (probably). And of course watching Jean Ella’s presentation made me feel like anyone really could do it, with all the support tools available today (none of which she had.)
So thank you Allgood, and Snorkel, and Dirtmonger, and all the others (including lots of people who only have regular names, like me). I don’t know how much you intended to serve as inspiration for an oldish hiker trying to get over surgery and wondering how much hiking he has left in him. But anyway, you did. And of course, I still don’t know how much I’ll be able to do (surgery, and ever advancing age, and all that). I still have plenty of uncertainty to deal with, but from the sound of it, lots of you have had to deal with that too, often mid-hike. Not knowing if you can do this, not knowing if you want to when it comes to it, not knowing if you can go on in the face of adversity after adversity. But I hope this summer to make a few shakedown trips, and put one foot in front of the other and find out.