[at-l] longevity advice (Was: sleeping bag)

Jim and_or Ginny Owen spiriteagle99 at hotmail.com
Tue Nov 3 21:48:45 CST 2009

OK, I’m gonna bite on this one.  And then I’ll be go back to the woodwork where 
I’ve been for the last few years.  Maybe.  
1992 – the AT – I nearly quit just north of Erwin when my hiking partner went home.  
Emotional pain is far worse than physical pain.  And I won’t explain that.  
In Virginia, I fell and acquired 2 compressed discs and a bruise as big as a dinner plate 
on my right rear quarter panel.  I should have gone home or at least seen a doctor. 
But a doctor would have put me in a hospital (the chance of stroke was outta sight.)  
Instead, I walked it out.  
By Harpers Ferry, I’d lost 50#.  I had it to lose but I knew I couldn’t lose much more 
if I intended to finish.  The solution was to start a serious eating program.  Meaning I 
doubled my calorie intake.  Kinda the Biggest Loser program with burgers, beer, pizza 
and ice cream.  
In Maine, I fell and broke my left wrist.  Spent a day or so in Andover and kept walking 
north.  I don’t walk on my wrists.  
After Erwin I never again considered quitting. 
1999 – CDT – Ginny got caught in a rock slide and took off the end of her finger.  We 
walked 7 miles out, got a 100-mile ride to a hospital, spent a week with a church group in 
Salmon, ID and then kept walking.  I took her stitches out on a windy, dusty hillside with a 
herd of cattle watching.  While in Salmon we discovered that I’d thrown a clot – probably 
from the bruising left by frostbite in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  Her accident saved 
my life.  
In Colorado, I fell and broke a couple ribs.  I don’t walk on my ribs so we kept on 
walking.  Later, Ginny hurt her back.  The pack held it rigid so she could keep on 
walking.  So we did.  
I lost 55# by the time we got to Colorado.  I weighed less than I'd weighed when I 
graduated from high school. So I started force-feeding.  By the time we got to 
New Mexico I HATED going to town because I’d have to eat till I was sick in order to 
gain enough weight to make it to the next town.  Took a picture in Salida – I looked like a 
concentration camp inmate.  
2000 – PCT – 150 miles up the trail I broke a toe.  We figured that out after walking 
another 1500 miles.  In Oregon, I developed Mortons Neuroma because I’d been favoring 
the broken toe.  We kept on walking.  
The PCT was easier – I only lost 30#.  
2006 – CDT – and 2007 – GDT – I made  a determined effort to finish the destruction of 
my left knee.  Finally succeeded in 2008 so I got a replacement knee in November 2008.   
2009 – PCT – Took the new knee out for a test run.  The new knee did well.  The other 
knee didn’t – a torn meniscus sent me home for surgery.  So we went to Maritime Canada 
for the summer.  Yeah – we left the trail.  
Plan is to go back to the PCT in 2010 and CDT in 2012 if the metatarsalgia 
(encapsulaitis) gets straightened out.    
The bottom line is – there’s a solution to every problem.  Sometimes it’s to keep on 
walking, sometimes it’s to go home, sometimes it’s to take a chance, sometimes it’s 
something else.  But ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  
Toey said we’re nuts.  Maybe some of us are.  Or maybe some of us just found what we 
want to do with our lives.  We see more mountains, more wildlife, more life when we’re 
out there.  
And we’re healthier.  Five years ago my internist thought I was insane (he was right but I 
won’t tell him that).  Now he thinks I’m “interesting” because, at 70 years young, I break 
all the clichés about what “getting older” is supposed to be about.  
Now – for MacGyver:  
If you made it to Harpers Ferry, from “my” perspective you have nothing to be ashamed 
of.  I’m not telling you how to feel or that your feelings aren’t valid, just that I’ve seen a 
lot of people beat up on themselves when nobody else is doing so.  You did more than 
most other “thruhikers” ever accomplish.  You have reason to take pride in that.   
If you decided it was time to do something else, well – that was “your” decision to make 
and no one else has right or reason to second guess your decision.  
You should, and apparently do, take pride in your Ironman performance.  And I think 
that’s just too cool for words.  Especially cause I seriously doubt that I could do as well.  
When you decide it’s time to come back and finish the trail, I have no doubts about your 
future performance on the AT.  
Finally, we’ve lost a gaggle of friends from at-l over the years – Kahley, the Redhead, 
Wild Bill, and dozens of others.  It hurts when people we’ve come to know and care 
about disappear without a word.  
Welcome back.  


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