The grey hiker community thoughts of getting older

Grey hiker introversion

Introversion isn’t a fatal flaw.

Grey hiker introversion
Formal occasions can be an introverted persons worst nightmare

Introversion is often misrepresented in popular culture, because it’s confused with shyness and social anxiety. We get the message that something is wrong with us and we need to fix it, it’s seen as a character fault, bordering on mental illness. This can shame introverts into pretending to be someone they’re not, that they have a problem which doesn’t really exist, a self fulfilling prophesy almost. Introverted characters in the media, are often portrayed as having abrasive personalities and a lack of social skills. These negative qualities could be true of an introvert, or an extrovert. Another important point is that introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum, a balance between either.

As introverts, we are waiting and waiting, for people to initiate a conversation, but often they don’t. The critical thing to learn is, to give ourselves permission to share, without being invited. In certain social situations men seem to be at a distinct disadvantage. We don’t do small talk very well, we tend to want to get in and under everything and resolve problems. While polite chit chat, staying awake, and listening would serve us better. But there’s also an age thing happening now, a distinct feeling that I’ve heard it all before. Above the polite chat, I can almost hear myself say. “Who fucking cares” but it’s not a party trick that will get me another invitation, which isn’t a bad thing, I just need to be a bit more selective.

Introversion can be powerful.

Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak, and observe more than you know. (Michaela Chung)  When I was a lot younger those words, “Your quiet” “Is everything alright” “Are you not feeling well” meant the end of the night for me. It put me under the “spotlight,” which was the last place I wanted to be. It was something I was never going to recover from, it would have me looking for an exit door. Also the “look” didn’t help, “you think your better than everyone else, anti-social and only interested in yourself.” None of this was anyone’s fault, it may or may not have been happening, but it was how I perceived it at the time.

I don’t feel like that anymore, I’m never going to be the life and soul of the party, and that’s fine, I can live with it. I now find that I’m smiling on the inside. I’m not sure why, but maybe I’m observing more than you know now, as the above quote says.

Never assume that the person you are dealing with is weaker or less important than you are. Some people are slow to take offense, which may make you misjudge the thickness of their skin, and fail to worry about insulting them. But should you offend their honor and their pride, they will overwhelm you with a violence that seems sudden and extreme given their slowness to anger. If you want to turn people down, it is best to do so politely and respectfully, even if you feel their request is impudent or their offer ridiculous.” (Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power)

Introversion in being self contained.

I have been self contained for as long as I can remember. My parents did the best they could, with the resources and knowledge available to them. Jobs were plentiful and education wasn’t a priority. They were passing on what they hadn’t learned themselves, it all seemed perfectly normal. As I was growing up, school reports meant absolutely nothing to them. If they weren’t worried, I certainly wasn’t. It was much later that resentfulness crept in as I realized, the opportunities an education could have given me. I certainly wasn’t unique of course, I was just a symptom of the times we were living in. My father forced me into a job that I had no interest in, his philosophy was, it’s not a proper job unless you sweat, which became part of my resentment.

I loved both of them, but I got it into my head that they didn’t care, how could they, if they showed no interest in me. This Started me on the pathway I think, of my becoming more introverted, I decided, that if they were not going to show any interest in me, then I wouldn’t in them. I kept all my personal achievements to myself, I was completely self contained. This has left me with a legacy, that I now find it hard to share anything I have achieved. I’m never quite good enough, there is always something more to achieve. But I also have a feeling of strength, for within my introversion, there is real power in going about my business, quietly and carefully. Listening more than I speak and taking action, after careful consideration. I may not be remembered for the spoken word, but the few words I have written down, may be useful.


grey hiker introversion
There’s something refreshing in solitude for an introvert.

Grey hiker hernias-time out.

Grey hiker hernias.

Grey hiker hernias-time out
Technical things

I mentioned a few blogs back, that I needed to have surgery on a couple of inguinal hernias. It’s forty eight hours after the event, and now I’m home feeling bruised and battered. Never one to do anything by half measures, there were three that needed repairing not the original two, as seen on the scan. I have learned a few things again, that I think may be worth passing on. Laparoscopic surgery, is marvelous for sure, but you get the impression that it’s so scientific, that it’s tantamount to having a tooth out. Bullshit, ask my nuts, which are twice the size, and looking very colorful, mainly black and blue, with a tinge of mauve. When you cough or sneeze hold on to everything. Yeh right, two hernias on one side, one on the other, a wound at the navel and one a bit lower.

They never mentioned peeing barb wire for a while either and the big daddy of all, taking a number two as they say in polite speak. Making it sound like, if a child can poo, then so can you, poetry in the motion. Don’t strain though, or everything could come undone, being constipated from the anesthetic doesn’t help of course. I’m not going into all the gory details, but I can report it went well. It felt like I had won the lottery, I hadn’t of course but I’m sure that’s how it would feel. Fingers crossed, if all goes well, in around six weeks I should be back on the trail. No gung-ho this time though, if I want to keep on hiking, I’m going to have to learn not to push things to the limit anymore.

Lessons learned ?

Lessons to learn, I’m 65 years old and I’m still trying to learn new things every day. The question was asked by the surgeon, how I managed to get three hernias. I fudged the answer a bit, not wanting to appear a reckless old person with no common sense. Building our house a few years ago on my own, trying to save money, lifting things that even two people would of struggled with. Using a large jack hammer to drill into the rock to secure the poles of the house, a lesson learned, not to be so bloody stupid again.

Going into the hospital system here as a public patient took some time, and after being misdiagnosed twice, it was about eight months before I finally had surgery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’m grateful to the interesting people I met on the way, most of them did the best they possibly could.


The sign in the waiting area at the hospital, didn’t instill me with a great deal of confidence. It’s your responsibility to ask questions. Is that the right medication your giving me, and by the way, is it also the correct dose? Are you sure you know what your doing with that knife so close to my nuts? My young surgeon arrived with his backpack on, he asked me why I looked so apprehensive. “I haven’t lost anyone on a Wednesday for ages, so cheer up” Different, but still very talented, what would “I” know anyway? The paperwork as well, pages of it, yes, I do know that I might not wake up in this world again. I’m very aware that many things can go wrong but I’m not sure I want to know them all, it’s covering their backs, but it’s making my sphincter muscle quiver.

Being grateful.

I have mentioned a few times now, about being grateful for what we have. It might be an age thing, I’m not sure, but I can say, it makes a tremendous difference to my state of well being. Sharing a room at the hospital and listening to people’s stories, is sobering, to say the least. A thought came to me, we are all different, but exactly the same in certain situations. When we have common feelings of fear and anxiousness, we seem to be able to just tell it how it is, open up, with no fluff involved. Gratitude is the sweetest thing in a seeker’s life-in all human life. If there is gratitude in your heart, then there will be tremendous sweetness in your eyes. (Sri Chinmoy)

The guy in the next bed, with a shoulder reconstruction and the lady over the way with the hip replacement, and me with my hernias. Being older, was no coincidence I guess, our bodies breaking down after years of hard work. Smiles of quiet understanding, as we were sharing the realization of our vulnerability together. I was grateful again, as I realized that my hiking had prevented me from having to take any medications, to sustain my health. A caveat here, young people work very hard as well. My youngest son often reminds me “the old man has never had it so good” I had better mention that just in case.

More lessons learned.

I did some reading as well of course. Choose yourself  (James Altucher) I get where he’s coming from and agree with a lot of the things he says. He makes the point. This is a new phase in history where art, science, business and spirit will join together both externally and internally. New ideas are more important than people, and everyone will have to choose happiness for themselves. It sounds a bit like a mental spring cleaning. At a thought level, think about the people you enjoy being with, read the books that make you happy. And go to events that make you laugh or fall in love. And try to deal with people who will love you back, and who want you to win, as much as they do.

Thinking about all these new ideas we are all going to need in the future. He suggests that every day, we write down at least ten ideas, and to also develop a taste for things outside of our comfort zone. Now this next idea, isn’t his, and I’m not sure if it’s mine either. New ideas are found when two old ideas strike together and the splinters spin off into a new idea. I’m curious to know where that leaves us, if we don’t have any idea to start with. Well that’s taken my mind off a couple of things for a while. I may have a sleep and see if I can dream up a few more ideas, note book at the ready. That’s another idea in his book, or was it my idea, I can’t remember now.


Grey hiker hernias- time out
Good ideas that’s all it takes ?

Finding the pathway less traveled.


Seeking a pathway less traveled
An unknown path

A pathway is something we can walk along or a route which we can take. This is the physical description of a pathway as we understand it, most of the time though, it’s thought of in a metaphysical sense. It’s a particular course of action on the way to achieving something. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ( Ralph Waldo Emerson) I never know if the path I’m walking on is the “right” one and I often find myself at a crossroads of indecision. At times, I want to retrace my steps to the “safe” well trodden path. Fearing the new path may ultimately lead me somewhere I don’t want to go.

But the path I least want to travel, is the well trodden one, because I’ve walked that path a hundred times before. I know each twist and turn, every pothole and obstacle that may trip me. There are no surprises on this path, it’s boring and predictable. The more I get to know myself, the more I realize, boring and predictable are two things I never want to be. And here’s the other thing, how can I know if the path I’m taking, is somewhere I want to go, when I can’t be sure of what’s at the end, until I get there.

Two pathways.

In life of course, there are only ever two options on the pathway, the known and the unknown. If we take the known path, we have to accept that we may never feel the thrill of the extraordinary, or the adrenaline rush we get when we take a risk and it pays off. Equally, we may never feel the crushing disappointment of a failed risk. If we take the unknown path, we must accept that risks are part of life. They may not always pay off, but at least we will never look back and wonder, what if ?                   

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth. So a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. ( Henry David Thoreau)

Walking on a known pathway is existentially soothing. The best way to understand this, is to go off the path every once in awhile. Go on a hike for two or three days where you won’t walk on a pathway, but walk in a more chaotic landscape. Going off this path can be fearful, because we don’t have the self-assurance we’re used to, which metaphorically mirrors our own often, chaotic mental landscape. But we need to break away from the weeds of life, and look for the roses on another pathway.

Seeking a pathway less traveled
Stones to trip us

Pathway less traveled.

Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades bumps and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested And have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect nothing is and no one is and that’s OK. (Katie Couric) 

The pathway less traveled, is invariably a difficult choice, because it usually involves giving more of ourselves into the world. Also it can be a challenging pathway. But it’s full of rewards that can provide happiness and fulfillment. There are many decisions to be made in life, from all of them we can learn to develop a strong character. We are constantly being asked to choose between the pathways. If we can say in our heart, we have a tough decision to make, we can almost guarantee, we’re being asked to choose which path to take.

Pathway inspiration.

For me the most important aspect of personal development, is realizing the value in being on the pathway less traveled. Being open to the exciting experiences traveling this pathway might provide and finding out who I am in the process. Of course things won’t always work for me, I will invariably have failures, but if I’m happy and fulfilled how do I define success?  I’ve always sort of felt a little bit like I was on the road less traveled. So if I come across a story about a person who broke the rules, or did things differently and succeeded, that’s really inspiring to me (Laura Bell Bundy)…….It’s also inspiring to this grey hiker as well. 

Seeking the pathway less traveled
The comfortable choice.


Intellectual Food for thoughts.

Food for thoughts.

Food for thoughts
Atmosphere of food for thought

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease at death” Albert Einstein.

We have an intellectual need to stimulate our brain, therefore we need to consume intellectual food for thoughts. Feasting on proven sources of good food, reading, writing, music, art, conversing, asking questions and using selective social media. These activities stimulate the brain, because they are creative in nature. What we take in, will ultimately determine who and what we are. The challenge we all face, is deciding what we will allow, to enter our mind? Since we want to take advantage of our ability to learn and develop in a positive and constructive way. It is imperative, that we keep as much “garbage” out as we possibly can. While trying to customize our intellectual food and discover what best nourishes our mind.

Strategic thinking, becomes a benefit of the intellectual food we feed ourselves, as we lay the foundations that help our highest values become automatic. As individuals, we can attempt to be fully alive, current and vitally engaged with life, making us interesting to be with. While providing stimulating conversation and insightful observations, which help to grow our personal relationships. I can feel this truth when I put effort into creative projects, feeding my long term goals and making me stronger, healthier and happier. Most importantly, not letting my desires, fester in my mind with thoughts of, what if and if only. ” Whoever prefers the material comfort of life over intellectual wealth is like the owner of a palace moving into the servants quarters and leaves the sumptuous rooms empty.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach. 

Negative food for thoughts.

Separating the good from the bad can be problematical. There are many interesting movies, documentaries and books but there are also perverse and mentally destructive one’s as well. There are helpful and interesting internet sites and also one’s that feature pornography and other illicit content. Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease at death, although, it often doesn’t. My desire for low level content is less desirable now, not in a puritanical way, it just feels alien to my long term goals. As I absorb more and more interesting and enlightening things from different sources. Through our school and college years, whether we want to or not, we have to learn. Less so after that, the chart of life often has a steady decline, marked downwards until death.

More food for thoughts.

Continuing to learn, can help us stay young, by increasing cognitive activity and slowing the decline in brain function. It’s a matter of expanding our minds in anticipation of new and exciting opportunities ahead. We can be fully connected, current, engaged and interesting to be around. While having something vital to contribute to life and relationships. If we are constantly looking for what’s wrong with our life, we are guaranteed to see it more often. By regularly seeking out things we find funny, curious or interesting, we start to notice life becoming more amazing and amusing every day. Appreciation of humor, also correlates with other emotional strengths, increasing feelings of well being and optimism. With the right intellectual food, we can build a mental muscle that is more in tune to the humor of our day.

Other food for thoughts.

My father used to read the newspaper from front to back, everyday. Yet he wasn’t a prolific reader of books, but was always knowledgeable when conversing. The newspaper carried articles from politics, the arts, sport, human interest and many more genres. I remember my friend once commenting “your dad don’t half know a lot, why is he so smart”? An old school atlas of mine was a constant companion to him, it was full of notes and newspaper cuttings. All the exotic sounding place names were underlined, “Ulan Bator, Addis Ababa” and many others. I was constantly drilled in naming the capital cities of the world, I didn’t excel in many things at school, but geography was one of the subjects I did excel in.

In 1966, Leslie Thomas wrote a book entitled the “Virgin soldiers” which was made into a movie in 1969. This was his main claim to fame. He also wrote other fine books, one being “Some lovely islands.” In this book, he mentions, that as a child, he enjoyed looking at maps and wondering about the exotic sounding place names. Also how those names might reflect on the people who were living there. Not so strange then, someone else was also feeling the same way.”Times” atlas of the world is my choice now, a legacy I got from my father. I’m still looking at the exotic place names and wondering, intellectual food for thought, refers to the quality of the food we are consuming. If I keep feeding my brain with excellent material, will I become Intellectual?


Food for thoughts
Love of a good book is food for thought.

Time spent in the Hourglass

Time spent in the hourglass

Unlike most other methods of measuring time, the hourglass represents the present time between the past and the future. This has made it an enduring symbol of time itself.
The hourglass, sometimes with the addition of metaphorical wings, is often depicted as a symbol that human existence is fleeting, and that the “sands of time” will run out for every life. It was used on pirate flags, to strike fear in the hearts of the pirates victims. In England, hourglasses were sometimes placed in coffins, and they have graced gravestones for centuries.

“Sands of time” also represent my personal journey through the hourglass. The bulb shape at the top, is my childhood and the earlier years of my life. The narrow middle, is my working life, raising kids, buying a house, all the striving parts. The bulb at the bottom, is where I am at the moment, after completing most of the journey. The two bulbs have many things in common, there expanded for a reason. They represent the parts of life where freedom without fear mostly exist. The younger “childlike self” and at the bottom of the hourglass an older more “eccentric” self .  Around the narrow middle, is the most problematic part, where most of the problems reside.

Top of the hourglass.

Bumps, bruises and broken bones were an integral part of childhood. Out of the house first thing in the morning, with the only rule “be home before the street lights come on.” Experimentation, exploration and innovation, the freedom to discover and freedom to make mistakes, without fear of failure. A self sufficient world, where the only boundaries were the street lights. Physical boundaries are generally more restricted now, but technology allows freedom, if it’s used in the right way. The fear of failure is often taken away as modern parents in general, are far more conscientious than previous generations. Fathers are far more hands on, than fathers once were. Mothers, even though they spend more time working, tend to nurture children more.

Parents are more concerned about their children, because the sense of community is not as strong as it once was. They make conscious decisions, to protect their children because of concerns that the public realm has become more hostile. “When I look back at the freedom of childhood, which in a way is infinite, and all the joy and happiness, now lost. I sometimes think that childhood is where the real meaning of life is located, and that we as adults are it’s servants-that that’s our purpose” (Karl Ove Knausgaard). Parents have always wanted their children to succeed in life, with different value judgements, but trying to arrive at the same objective. “Values” are learned in a different way now, one example is, that children earn money for doing chores that once had to be done for free.

Middle of the hourglass.

Go to work, send your kids to school, follow fashion, walk on the pavement, watch TV, save for old age, obey the law. Repeat after me. Modern electronic gadgets, the internet, and other 21st-century trends, have conditioned people not to think for themselves. Everything is at the push of a button, meaning that less brainpower is needed to accomplish tasks. Electronic media is all pervasive and does most of the thinking.  The childhood mistakes that used to be made are sins now, because everyone is terrified of failing.

Watching directors cuts of friends on face book and imagining it’s real, but in reality, life is unedited. Money status and power is an important tool of social media. Attempting to make people discontented and unhappy, with the only cure being, consumption.

As children we learned to overcome the fear of mistakes, as it was essential to learning. We tried to walk, fell over a hundred times, hurt ourselves, but at no point did we ever say, walking is not for me and give up. In the middle part of life, we seem to reach a point where we’re afraid to fail. “I’m such a loser” we tell ourselves, as mistakes make us feel unworthy, so avoiding failure at all costs. If younger people are doing OK and older people say there isn’t anything to be afraid of, what’s going on in the middle?

Peoples fears of aging reach a fever pitch in midlife, which is evident by the most popular punchline “midlife crises.” The problem is compounded by a comparison driven society, where we postpone happiness till the future. While not being aware, that what we are waiting for, may be something we ultimately, don’t want.

Bottom of the hourglass.

Nobody cares too much down at the bottom of the hourglass, we’re just an afterthought. “First they ignore you then they laugh at you then you win” Gandhi. Those physical boundaries are back again, only this time, in our bodies, but we can stay out after the “street lights come on though. ” Feelings of Superiority and Inferiority where I was always comparing myself to others, is gone now. I’m getting used to a feeling of interiority where I don’t need to compare myself with anyone else, with no fear of failure and a renewed sense of self sufficiency. I’m 65 now, the problem with that chronological number is, it doesn’t fit my internal age, I still feel young on the inside, with thoughts that hopefully don’t let me down.

I should mention death, after all that’s the reality of being down the bottom of the hourglass. I thought I may be terrified but it turns out I’m not. There’s probably a good reason for that, obviously, not something unique to me. Childlike now eccentric, freedom to explore, now freedom to contemplate. I have been adventurous and willing to take risks and had a measure of freedom in my working life. I think it helps me be adaptable, and an independent thinker. Which in turn, makes me aware of all the possibilities available to me. When I get really bored, I like to drive to the local supermarket, find a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m going to leave soon. Freedom.

Time spent in the hourglass


Backpackers everywhere.


Please leave your backpacks at the front door, that’s a sign at the entrance to the only supermarket in town. The backpackers have arrived to pick the apples. 

Not the normal sign you would expect to see. Backpackers please leave your backpacks at the front door. We reserve the right to search customers bags, that’s the language of the city supermarkets. Donnybrook has many town icons bearing the apple. The Apple Fun Park , the largest free-entry playground in Australia, opened in Easter 2008 in time for the Donnybrook Apple Festival. The Donnybrook Apple Festival is held annually during Easter. The citizens of Donnybrook gather at Egan Park to celebrate the apple. The festival includes agricultural displays, sideshow alley, the crowning of the Apple Queen and a parade. During the street parade the Catholic Church of Donnybrook blesses the holy apple, assuring a good harvest in the year to come.

I have moved to the city now, I have been here a couple of weeks. Shopping at the local supermarket prompted me to think of the backpackers in Donnybrook. How many backpackers hostels there were in a small town, five that I can remember. Also how much these young people’s spending, helped swell the local businesses bank accounts. I never thought of it at the time but I hiked every morning with my small backpack, starting off in the forest and often ending up going to the local supermarket. The sign on the front door didn’t apply to me, it never even crossed my mind that it did. I wasn’t young of course, desperate to steal food!

Young backpackers.

The majority of backpackers spend most of their time interacting with other backpackers, and any interactions with locals are seen as “secondary importance.” That’s a criticism often voiced, but most of these backpackers come from Asia with poor English language skills. Living in dormitory style blocks isolated from the locals, of course they will interact with each other more. I know they were often confused with this strange country town ritual of leaving backpacks outside on the pavement. They can’t go into the supermarket without someone looking after their backpack, because someone might steal it.

An extensive inquiry by the employment regulator found widespread  exploitation of backpackers working in regional areas. The two year investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, surveyed more than 4000 foreigners with 417 visas working in regional areas, has revealed alarming results, particularly for the agriculture industry, which rely on the backpacker workforce to fill critical labor shortages. The word “backpacker” has come to symbolize an itinerant person, who alternates between working and wandering. Also, anyone who doesn’t settle in one place for any length of time and is usually foreign. There taking our jobs is another backpacker criticism. Maybe these are jobs, we no longer want to do.

Irish backpackers.

No luck, Australia: Irish backpackers heading elsewhere. The number of Irish backpackers in Australia has dropped by more than half in three years. Startling tourism operators and farmers who rely on working holidaymakers in busy periods. Danny Keenan and Jonny Jamieson are in no rush to return to Ireland. But while cooking up lunch in a St Kilda hostel, the two friends have found themselves among a dwindling number of Irish backpackers who were willing to make the long trip to Australia

When I was a teen, every second week there was an Australia-leaving party. It has slowed down now you get maybe one every two months.” Danny Keenan said, many of his friends back home are now considering other options, such as a working holiday in Canada, with its proximity to the US, a shorter flight from Ireland and football-friendly time zone. This is part of a story in the Sydney morning herald January 2016.


I have worked in the construction industry with a number of “Irish backpackers” they never seem to have a backpack though. Their here for a perceived better life, with more opportunity, many of them settle here. I’m a hiker and I carry a backpack. I don’t do any of the perceived things that would define me as a “backpacker”. When I set off on the track with the intention to hike to a certain place with my backpack, the only label attached is Gregory Baltoro. Its packed carefully with everything well researched for weight and functionality. I live in a house surrounded with furniture and commitments, to me my “backpack” represents a different life that’s there when I want it. I only have to commit to staying fit and healthy.

Backpackers freedom to travel

Make your bed for discipline

Make your bed, how small disciplines make a difference.

My mother never instilled the habit of make your bed, in me. I believe it could have helped me more in my early years to develop discipline and commitment. While this small action could have created a flow on effect, I can’t know that for sure. My mother never nagged me about making my bed, I think she just gave up. The bed only got messed up, so there was no point, I didn’t feel like making it anyway. I could have come up with a thousand excuses not to make it, if pressed hard enough.

Make your bed
I told you if you make your bed it would make a difference

The reasoning behind make your bed correctly first thing in the morning, is the act of creating a good ritual. You find other intrinsically good habits naturally follow. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a sense of pride if you make it correctly and encourage you to do other tasks correctly. Making your bed correctly will reinforce, that the little things in life done well, do matter. If you can’t do the little things right, doing the big things right will be harder.

Bed making in the Military.

The military drills its recruits over and over again in the skills of bed making, the men have to do it right, with no excuses and it has to be done quickly. This action develops the soldiers discipline and attention to the smallest detail. The discipline of bed making can seem ridiculous in the context of what these soldiers are being asked to do, but bed making has been proven to help with discipline. If done right, the bed has “hospital” corners, the covers pulled tight and the pillow centered just under the headboard.

This symbol of a well made bed, is a scene familiar to fans of war movies. The Drill Sargent paces up and down the barracks, inspecting the soldiers beds. Tension fills the air, as the men break out in a sweat. He takes a quarter from his pocket and bounces it on the bed. If it’s not tight enough and doesn’t bounce correctly, it’s give me fifty push ups and remake the bed. We recognize this as setting the standards for the individuals future actions, these actions will require attention to detail in possible life and death situations.

Hospital beds.

Hospital bed making is a discipline that nurses perform as a fundamental part of their training. Only this time the comfort of patients is paramount. In the past the fiery matron did her rounds on the wards. Nurses had to remake the beds if they weren’t made to a certain standard. The patients were the focus, in the various bed making styles that the nurses performed. As in the military, the detail in bed making was seen as a discipline, to excellence in all areas. While the discipline of bed making is no longer the responsibility of the matron. This responsibility for bed making still exists.

The discipline of bed making is used in a counter intuitive way, even though the bed is made to an excellent standard, it’s not seen that way by the instructor. Which makes it hard to understand as everything required has been done. The lesson being taught is, even if you do everything right in life, there are no guarantees that it will be judged that way. Life can be unfair at times. Therefore, having to push through these situations when they arise, is a lesson well learned.

You’ve made your bed.

“You’ve made your bed, now lie in it” implies, that you’ve made your bed poorly, or made bad life choices, so making it uncomfortable to lie in and now you have no choice. This mindset is normalized and is often never questioned. Decisions that met your needs and desires are often out-grown. You may have tapped into a creative or different way of thinking that wasn’t available in the past, also love and respect can be a part of that. Leaving the “bed” and trying out different beds as we need to, is a healthy and productive way to live life.

Making your bed to an excellent standard, is a great start to the day and can lead to developing discipline in life. Small things done well, can lead to bigger things done better. Because comfort in bed is vital for a good nights sleep, to have the covers pulled so tight that we feel like a cheese slice between two pieces of bread is uncomfortable. Our desire is to feel snug, comfortable and protected, in the bed we choose to lie in.

Make your bed
Make your bed not me I’m just a dog


Occuring in the presence of more oxygen

Oxygen improves thinking.

Walking does more than work the area below your neck, it has many cognitive benefits as well. Blood pressure and blood flow increase in the body and the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes the brain perform better. Especially relevant to grey hikers are recent studies that indicate exercising can actually reverse shrinkage in parts of the brain. Consequently this leads to a memory boost in older adults. Our “hunter gatherer” ancestors were probably fleeing a predator or chasing their next meal. Extra blood flow to the brain helped them react quickly to any impending threat, or to kill prey that was critical to their survival. Opposite to us who spend the majority of our time sitting down, or doing very little sustained exercise.

How can I get more oxygen to my brain? We all know our bodies need attention in order to grow and be healthy. This means we need a good diet and exercise, but what about our brain? What does it need to be able to grow, to heal and to learn in the best way it can? Walk for an immediate dose of oxygen for your brain, a low intensity activity like walking effectively oxygenates your brain. Without expending oxygen on other parts of the body. The key is to breathe from your abdomen in a relaxed way. Breathe through your nose and not your mouth under normal conditions. Forced walking or running may be good for you too. But it causes your muscles to absorb much more of the oxygen in your system and that can hinder your thinking process.

Normalize breathing.

The prime goal is to normalize breathing and body oxygenation. Normal breathing is invisible and inaudible also light and relaxed. We take a tiny or small inhalation and immediately relax for a longer exhalation then take a small inhalation again. Normal breathing provides the body with superior oxygenation, so the brain is getting it’s fair share. Creative thinking tests on subjects while seated and while walking found the walkers thought more creatively. Walking of course offers infinite chances for engagement with the outside world. If you see a beautiful flower and decide to stop and smell it, you can. Or if you see a side track hidden behind the trees. It’s time to explore with curiosity, it’s all about engagement, relaxation and bringing more presence to the moment.

Normal breathing coupled with backward walking interestingly makes your heart rate rise higher than it does walking forwards at the same pace. Which suggests that you get greater cardiovascular benefits in a shorter period of time. There appears to be benefits for our brain too. Walking backwards obviously sharpens your thinking skills and enhances cognitive control. Backward walking is a physical activity also quite passive. It’s also a movement that requires brain activity that may help you stay mentally sharp. Your senses are put into overdrive as you move in an unfamiliar way, oxygen levels are stimulated in the brain as a result. I can’t see it catching on, but it could open up some interesting possibilities. Try these more formal ideas for creative thinking.

Oxygen for creative thinking.

1 Walk away from your desk, in doing this you walk away from your phone, fax and e-mail. Don’t take them with you.

2 Use a digital handheld recorder. The recorder not only captures your ideas, but also the level of energy and passion behind them.

3 Prepare before you go. Decide beforehand the topic or project your going to work on. This helps you stay focused.

4 Don’t combine your creative thinking walk with other errands, that will distract you.

5 Vary your trails, the stimulation of different scenery can only enhance your creative thinking process.

6 Pick a pace that works best for your creative process. For some of us it’s walking slowly and methodically thinking things through. For others it’s a fast pace that helps more.

7 Try to stay away from high traffic areas, street noise and distractions take away from the thinking process.

8 If you have a dog or dogs then you get to walk twice a day. You can’t get caught up in their digging or interaction with other dogs.

9 Dress appropriately and comfortably.

10 My personal favorite, walking in the rain, this is where my creative juices really start to flow.

There are many other methods that can be used to stimulate the creative thinking process, hopefully some of these ideas may possibly work for you.

Occuring in the presence of more oxygen
More oxygen we need to think about this

Old age isn’t for wimps.

Old age my personal unwish list.


1. No matter how much I shake my penis after I  pee it’s never enough.

2. Not too many compliments. A guy needs a compliment from time to time.

3. My wife expects me to kill all the bugs, I’m scared of spiders too.

4. I’m polite with everyone, but I really don’t give a fuck anymore and that’s not written on my tee-shirt either.

5  My mind signs contracts my body can’t keep.

6 Testicles require readjusting at times, this can be anywhere any time.

7 Getting up twice a night for a pee and tripping over the cat because I forgot to put my glasses on.

8 Asking someone to repeat what they said for the third time, then taking a guess and looking like an idiot because I got it wrong.

9 Going to the shed three times because I  keep forgetting what I went for.                                                                                         

10 Hiding down the supermarket aisle, because I  keep forgetting that persons name, who remembers mine.  

11 My kids are looking  middle aged.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

12 Meeting friends I once played strip poker with, now we’re comparing the medications we take.

13 Are my ears getting bigger?                                                                                                                                              

14 The next car I buy will probably be the last.

15 I can remember what I was doing when President Kennedy was assassinated.

16 I had better slow down, the traffic light is green. 

17  I drove the car down to the fish and chip shop, brought a paper as well, walked home reading the paper and left the fish and chips and the car behind.

18 I found the car keys in the oven.

19 I found the car keys in the fridge.                                                                                               

20 It’s my wife’s fault, she keeps hiding things.                                                                      

Old age is a privilege.                                                                                                                                                                                                   

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? How can we ever regret growing older when it’s a privilege denied to so many. We all hope to live through to old age, but then complain when it arrives. If you have been mean or petty, old age will exaggerate these vices, but if you have been generous and gracious, old age will expand these virtues. You reap what you sow either way. If you live your life with generosity and graciousness then you will enjoy satisfying memories of your decency.

Age also brings gratitude and the knowledge that with every passing year we’re privileged, then being grateful becomes a daily ritual. Enhancing our lives in so many ways, it can feed our spirits with delicious things like learning, creating and serving others. There’s another phenomena that many people around my age experience, I get nods and smiles from others with similar thoughts to mine. We are in fact invisible, honored, respected, even loved, but not worth listening to anymore, we’ve had our turn, now its time for us to move aside.”That’s the third time you’ve said this” who said my memories bad?

Old age isn't for wimps
Who’s a wimp



Elderly Curmudgeon ahead.

As I’m getting older I understand the phrase “elderly curmudgeon” It’s a late symptom of the terminal disease called life.

Humanity is of little or no interest to a curmudgeon, what he most desires from others is that they leave him alone. He’s not trying to offend people, he just sees no point in pleasing them either. It doesn’t matter if people don’t understand you, they ought to, but if they don’t it’s their fault. There young and foolish, so there’s no point in talking about their ideas, until they grow up. We’re crusty, ill tempered and USUALLY old men, so ladies, I have to include you in this as well.

Elderly curmudgeon ahead
Ninety the new seventy

We need to combat the symptom just as aggressively as we do a knee degeneration. If we want to live a long and happy life, into our “grey hiking” years. As older hikers we do face special challenges, our youth can’t naturally protect us anymore. We can’t just show up with a pearly white smile and expect that to be enough.

Sixty isn’t the new forty

This is another narcissistic mindset so often associated with us curmudgeons. We think we’re ageless with a free pass to the fountain of youth. If we work out at all, most of us aren’t focused on climbing over boulders, powering up hills, or recovering from falls. In particular controlling the down hill on uneven ground where knee problems, and tendonitis love to live. Like most baby boomers I have an accumulation of injuries as well as many of the standard age related problems.

These are offset with experience, motivation and a healthy case of attitude. I’ve turned 65 on the trail and still have a competitive mindset. I want to do everything I can to be fit and ready, and be able to hike on. If I throw in the towel, I need to know that I left it out on the trail and there was nothing more that I could have done.

Many times in our life we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue to dream. The”good fightis the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. When we are young and our dreams first explode we are very courageous, but we haven’t learned how to fight for them properly. With age, we’ve learned how to fight, but sometimes we lose the courage to do combat for our dreams. We turn within and start doing battle with ourselves and in doing so become our own worst enemy. Killing our dreams because we become afraid to fight the “good fight” on the external battlefields.

Grey hiker reality check

I’m proud of being part curmudgeon there is still strength in my legs and a spring in my step. As I make my way beside a meandering stream, I still have an endless enthusiasm in my heart for all things outdoors and wild. Most of all I’m a realist, hiking can=pain, unless we ground our dreams in our external reality.

Elderly curmudgeon ahead
Still got plenty of heart

I don’t mind huffing and puffing for hours, I just want to be out there for the fun of it” Lee “easy one” Barry. “That hike was pure joy, with the focus no longer on whether or not we could finish. Just enjoy how much fun it was to spend months in the wilderness” Ray Jardine “I’m not on vacation, I’m not here for the weekend, this is where I live” said George “Billy goat” Woodward. Who spends six months of every year hiking  the “pacific crest trail” in his late seventies. As Emma “Grandma” Gatewood said to Ray Jardine after becoming the first woman to complete a through hike of the Appalachian trail at 67 years of age. “Most people are pantywaists” a very appropriate feminine comment.

The younger generation have good ideas.

The younger generation nowadays are setting examples that us curmudgeons find hard to follow. Some negative incidents hamper lots of good intention. We can learn a lot about being creative and thinking out of the box and being innovative with our thinking. They are an arrogant lot and yes arrogance is required nowadays. They give no consideration to what others might think and in this post truth era, they do what “they” think is right. Belief in ourselves, is the best thing we can learn from the younger generation. As society is failing to value and harness older peoples skills, knowledge and experience.

Older people are seen as a “drain” in a society infatuated by the cult of youth. While this division remains, there will always be words for symptoms that don’t need to exist. On the trail, there is a “bringing together”of young and old in a mutual shared experience. My knee degeneration has improved, with less pack weight and the use of hiking poles for difficult down hill sections. I now wish I had listened to some of the younger hikers earlier in the game. As they do have good ideas, but as a curmudgeon I could never admit to that.

From sack to pack

From sack to pack.

The John Muir trail is 211 miles long in the Sierra Nevada Mountains running from Yosemite to Mount Witney. The John Muir way is 134 miles across Scotland’s heartland, running between Helensburgh in the west through to Dunbar on the east coast. I mention these two trails because I want to start my story with John Muir. I’m sure you may know them, but if not, they are yours to discover. He was born in Scotland in 1838 and died in 1914.  In America at the time he would have been influenced like all of us by what was going on around him. As he saw things starting to change, he was quoted as saying “Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea into a sack and jump over the back fence.”

Its that simple of course, or is it.?  John Muir didn’t have ultra light on his mind.  Maybe he was already expressing sentiments of the hiking scene. Suggesting that there was a basic way or a more complicated way already starting to happen. The next quote “I rolled up some bread and tea in a pair of blankets with some sugar and a tin cup and set off.”  This suggests that he needed a bit more comfort, with sugar and a pair of blankets.  Or was it a through hike this time.?  It’s easier to carry a backpack than a sack over your shoulder.  What about those telescopic walking poles John, how would they have worked.?                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sack

Hiking choices.

Has the commercialization of the outdoor and in particular the hiking genre become too much now.?  Has it taken away a sense of adventure in trying to make it accessible to more and more people.” In doing that, made it more elitist as it is now connected to exotic locations all over the world, that are easily accessible now.  Hiking has become side tracked by all the high tech gadgets and equipment that money can buy. While how much of this vast choice do we need, when we only have fundamental needs on the trail. Of course I am not immune from these temptations either.

My generation were influenced by parents who grew up through a time of rationing during and after the second world war.  This had a profound influence on the way I view things. Also it wasn’t  a throw away world, the things you did have were treasured and looked after.  Hence the thought was to buy quality if affordable, juxtaposing that with a cheaper throw away culture now. I think buying cheap can and has to work for many people because of financial constraints. When your on the trail and camping out it’s the same deal. This time though, cheap hiking boots, tent, sleeping bag or backpack can lead to discomfort and pain. While ultimately effecting the experience of joy that you could have.

Acceptable luxuries.

Try to research the basic equipment that you need and buy the best you can. You can get away with cheap gadgets and gismos until you find what suits you.  Or if you need them at all.  But don’t compromise on your hiking boots and socks. If everything else falls down around your ears, at least you can hike home in comfort. The clothing you wear is no different, research it, try it on and test it. Remember your hiking and possibly camping, so you don’t need a wardrobe on board.  It’s ok to be grungy, you don’t need to change your clothes everyday,  although fresh underwear always feels good.

John Muir only took the basics with him, a sack with a few essential items inside it to have an enjoyable experience on the trail. There are luxuries that each of us enjoy and within reason, I think we should accommodate those particular luxuries. If you like to listen to pod casts on your phone as I do, make sure you have enough downloaded to keep you going. If you enjoy a cup of tea or a brew of coffee then allow for that. Have your stove to heat the water, onboard and ready to go.                                                                                                                 Sack


Those quiet moments on the trail when you stop for a while to take in the atmosphere or enjoy the vista around you.  Will feel more poignant if you can indulge in your favorite drink or snack and perhaps with some quiet background music coming through on your ear buds. How you take the view or the atmosphere into your consciousness, seems to be more vivid, when you recall those memories later. Ultimately, the trail lasts for a given amount of time and feeling very alive and in a flow state sometimes passes very quickly.  While the memories, as we know, linger on.