And now for something a little different…
Goodbye, Golf Clubs. Hello, Hiking Boots and Kayak.
Source: New York Times
Mr. Roberts, a retired teacher and software engineer, is on a mission to navigate the United States powered only by his two legs and two arms. Hotels and lodges are out of the question; he camps out at night and lugs 25 pounds of equipment — including his tent, sleeping bag and food — on his back.
And oh yes: Did we mention he is 72 years old?
“I expect to keep doing it until I get tired of it,” said Mr. Roberts, who is currently on a 3,000-mile “ramble” across Texas, weaving through at least 40 national parks and averaging about 23 miles a day.
Some people retire to golf courses. Others travel. And then there are those who enjoy physical challenges, traversing hiking trails, rivers and mountains: Huck Finn meets Grizzly Adams.
Twenty-five percent of the guests who travel with Mountain Travel Sobek, for example, are between 55 and 64; 21 percent are over 65. The oldest is 88, according to Kevin Callaghan, the adventure firm’s president. Not all of them engage in strenuous activity but even the least demanding trips typically involve a fair amount of walking or modest hiking.
About 20 percent of REI Adventures’ business comes from customers over 60; most of Nomadic Expedition’s clients are between 60 and 65, and about 65 percent are female. Twenty-seven percent of Backroads’ walking and hiking guests come from this age group.
Christina Shrewsbury, 68, a musician in East Amherst, N.Y., and her husband, Ron, a retired analytical chemist, have taken six trips with POMG Bike Tours, a cycling outfit in Richmond, Vt. “We’ve biked up to 100 miles a day,” Ms. Shrewsbury said. “It’s very important to have goals and a plan. Now is the time to do it.”
Besides the joy of being outdoors and letting the wind blow them where it will, the appeal of these endeavors varies. For Dale Sanders, 80, who calls himself the Gray Beard Adventurer, it’s about breaking records. Last year, he became the oldest person to solo paddle the Mississippi River, while raising about $23,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
For Bernice Ende, 61, a former ballet teacher who goes by the moniker Lady Longrider and says she has logged almost 30,000 miles across the United States on horseback, it’s about a return to a childhood passion. For Janene Bray, 60, who spent 45 days trekking the Camino de Santiago, which follows an old pilgrimage route for 500 miles across northern Spain, it was about doing something for herself after her three children left home.
“I needed to prove to myself that I could do something alone,” said Ms. Bray, an artist in Prescott, Ariz. “My kids thought for sure I’d kill myself.” (She felt safe, she said, although a woman was murdered on the road in the spring, and there have been reports of sexual assaults over the last few years. “You just use common sense,” she said.)
Sunny Eberhart, 77, a retired eye doctor, who goes by Nimblewill Nomad, lives mostly out of his pickup truck because, well, why not?
“Put me in the great outdoors, preferably the mountains, and you’ve got a happy camper,” said Dr. Eberhart. (He uses his niece’s home in Missouri as a mailing address and occasionally swings by to pick up his mail.)
Most of these adventurers do it on the cheap, living off Social Security and incurring minimal expenses. Ms. Bray spent about $3,000, with airfare, on the trip to Spain; Mr. Roberts’s biggest costs have been replacing equipment that was lost, stolen or ruined along the way.
The lure of adventure also motivates people to stay strong. To prep for his excursions, George MacNaughton, 70, a former executive in Nahant, Mass., hits the gym a couple of times a week and does chores outside. He derives as much pleasure from planning a trip as actually taking it; he can easily spend a month poring over maps, checking out the latest equipment, calculating mileages and projecting times for any given trail.
“I’m racing to beat the aging cartilage in my knees,” said Mr. MacNaughton, who has been retired for about 15 years and has nine children. Last year he hiked and camped in Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior; and MacNaughton Mountain (no relation) in the Adirondacks; canoed on the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire; and backpacked the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier in Washington with Fitpacking, an adventure travel company.
Mr. Roberts has always been adventurous; he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia in the 1970s. But then life took over. He married, raised a daughter and divorced in the 1980s. In the early ’90s, he said, he dreamed that St. Peter confronted him at the Pearly Gates, “Why didn’t you take advantage of what they had to offer down there?” he remembers being asked.
The question percolated in his mind for years. In 2002, he quit his job and rejoined the Peace Corps. When he returned home, he bought a boat and sailed across the North Atlantic.
In 2014, he and his daughter, Ivy, hiked all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. He then cycled the 3,000 miles to Key West, Fla., before heading to the 1,300-mile Florida Trail. From there, he rode from Pensacola to Minnesota, some 1,500 miles.
He sold his bike, picked up a kayak and paddled the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He chronicles his expeditions at DavidOwenRoberts.com, and has self-published a few books.
Mr. Roberts now plans to hike the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails, which, along with the Appalachian Trail, are considered America’s hiking Triple Crown.
There have been some mishaps along the way. His kayak was stolen, and it cost $1,500 to replace. Another time, when he washed in a Florida pond, he found it was infested with mites, causing unbearable itching.
Greg Ferris, 67, a retired economist and friend from the Peace Corps days, joined Mr. Roberts last November on a cycling trip from Annapolis, Md., to Chapel Hill, N.C., riding about 40 miles a day.
“It was brutal,” recalled Mr. Ferris, who persuaded Mr. Roberts to sleep in hotels a few nights. “One evening I was probably lamenting our luck with the rain and midteen temps when Dave responded with, ‘If nothing goes wrong, it’s not an adventure.’ I thought that notion cut right to the chase.”
Richard Sojourner would agree. Last May, Mr. Sojourner (“With that kind of last name, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”) joined Mr. Sanders for his record-making trip on the Mississippi. But 15 days shy of the finish, Mr. Sojourner, 71, a former police officer who had an artery bypass operation in 2004, got heat exhaustion and aborted his mission.
“Oh, Lord, it burst my bubble for sure,” said Mr. Sojourner, who did a do-over in October and completed the leg of the trip he missed. “It was a big letdown.”
But he is philosophical. “We’re issuing a challenge to old people,” Mr. Sojourner said. “They may think we’re crazy. Both of us have full white beards. You see these two old bearded folks and you wonder, ‘What in the world are they doing on that river?’”
“Whether I set a record or not — it doesn’t matter,” he added. “It’s more for my grandkids: ‘Look at what Paw-Paw did.’”
An article on the Personal Finance pages on Saturday about retirees who pursue outdoor adventures referred incorrectly to a hiking trail in California. It is the Pacific Crest trail, not the Pacific Coast.