Hiking, backpacking and bicycle touring have become my go-to sports in this later part of my life. When I was younger it was basketball, beach volleyball, and running.
At 64 and soon to be 65, I can no longer do those things well enough to enjoy them. But as long as I maintain a base level of fitness with walking, riding, and stretching plus a little strength training, I can ramp up to perform well in long distance "project-level" endeavors. By that I mean major multi-month hikes and rides.
From 2001 to 2009, I section hiked 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. The longest section I did all at once was just under 900 miles. All told, over the years, I have hiked a little over 3,000 miles on the PCT. I am sure I will keep returning to it as long as I am able.
I have bicycled more than 12,500 miles around the U.S., including twice along the Pacific Coast Route. In my opinion, long distance bicycle touring is an order of magnitude easier than long distance hiking.
Cycling is also more fun for the most part, but the "wow" factor of wilderness hiking on those special days in special places trumps everything else.
Currently, I am ~2,500 miles into a coast to coast walking tour of the U.S. from Lewes DE to Pt. Reyes CA. Much of this hike has been on pavement and it has taken me through lots and lots of rural towns as well as a few big cities.
Unquestionably, the best part of this experience has been meeting the people of America along the way. Every day I run into the nicest, kindest, most supportive and generous folks imaginable. They have enriched my soul and made me appreciate being human.
Close behind that is the historical preservation effort that has been made both locally and nationally. I went to college for seven years and spent most of my career teaching. I think of myself as fairly accomplished academically. But wow, there is so much you can learn from travel! I have a long list of books to read when I get home!
No discussion of long distance walking is complete without addressing trail magic and trail angels. Who can explain the haphazard chance meetings you stumble into with perfect strangers who just happen to be willing and able to provide the exact thing you need at that precise moment - a drink of water, an apple, a ride into town, a patch for an inner tube, a meal, a hug, a place to pitch your tent. A friend in need.
I have come to believe that somehow I am being lead from place to place just to meet these incredible people! You may never see them again in your life, but there is something perfect about the bonds you make in those special random coincidental meetings. I love it. For me, life doesn't get any better than that.
Some day I want to do a "Pomniv." I think it will be extra special - all California, not too rigorous, lots of Catholic and Native history, great weather, friends like you along the way. Can't wait.