My youngest son, Patrick, and I are taking an often talked-about but rarely acted upon hiking adventure over the next week as we attempt to travel between Odell Lake and Crater Lake in four days. I know this experience will be painful and can only hope the rewards outweigh the potential blisters, cramps, lack of sleep, and complete exhaustion that accompany an older city manager who spends too much time typing on a computer and too little time hiking through the woods.
I have traveled through the Odell to Crater Lake country many times in my life, although this will be my first hike of this section of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve found that I can’t really appreciate the beauty of a place until I get the chance to walk around in it. I also know that hiking with my sons and grandchildren is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I can picture in my mind a number of hikes with Patrick when he was a boy, and I will never forget his enthusiasm for these adventures. It’s been about 20 years since we hiked into Andrew Lake with a friend’s Welsh corgi we were looking after, who turned out to have a range proportional to the length of his legs. Corgis are great dogs, but their stubby little legs were apparently designed to dig out burrowing creatures rather than for taking long hikes. When Caleb (the corgi) gave out, I packed him for a fair distance before needing a rest. Patrick, who was about 10, picked up the dog and carried him for a few hundred yards, where I think both dog and boy realized that, in this case, Patrick’s reach exceeded his grasp. A few years later though, on a long-distance hike in Idaho, Patrick showed similar compassion and great maturity when he dropped his pack and came back from the top of a hill he had climbed, to take the pack of an older hiker (not me) who was having some trouble with the ascent.
My only regret is that my other sons and daughter have obligations and won’t be joining us on this trek as they often did when they were younger. In truth, I think my daughter shares my wife’s view of long-distance hiking, and I recall a few occasions where either an older brother or I were required to carry her for some distance. I’m not sure she’s ever completely forgiven me for a short hike into Lost Lake that turned into a long hike out when I missed the spur road where I’d parked the car. I still need to remind the participants that I was the one who found the car and that they all lived to complain about my navigating.
I think the cares of the City will diminish over the next few days as I confront the grim reality of being an aging hiker. I may have to remind myself as I stagger along that part of the price of enjoying beautiful country and creating great memories is some short-term pain and suffering.