It seems like more and more often people have been emailing or calling and prefacing their inquiry about a trip with “you know I’m in my late 60s…” or “I’d love to join your trip but I’m 78 years old..” Obviously wilderness travel is not for everyone and I want to be clear with people about both the joys and the travails of camping in remote Alaska. But most of the time I find that if someone is excited about the idea of sleeping in a tent for 10 days, they are going to be just fine on one of our trips. When people call with such inquiries, I try to explain the challenges of our trips, I listen to their concerns, medical and otherwise and I generally let them decide for themselves and/or with their doctor if the trip, hardships and all, is going to be fun for them.
I am reminded of the Chinese proverb that, “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is today.” One of our clients, a 79-year old who has just signed up for his fourth trip with us is regretful that he didn’t start coming earlier. He writes in an article he published about his trip on the Noatak River, “For myself, I had mused about heading up to the Brooks Range for about 40 years…’if I don’t go now,’ I often said to myself, ‘I’ll never go.’ When I finally arrived in the Brooks Range, I realized I should have made that decision and pursued that course of action years ago. I had waited far too long.” Well, he is doing his best to make up for lost time, following the spirit of this poem from my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.
GREEN, GREEN IS MY SISTER’S HOUSE
Don’t you dare climb that tree
or even try, they said, or you will be
sent away to the hospital of the
very foolish, if not the other one.
And I suppose, considering my age,
it was fair advice.
But the tree is a sister to me, she
lives alone in a green cottage
high in the air and I knew what
would happen, she’d clap her green hands,
she’d shake her green hair, she’d
welcome me. Truly
I try to be good but sometimes
a person just has to break out and
act like the wild springy thing
one used to be. Its impossible not
to remember wild and want it back. So
if someday you can’t find me you might
look into that tree or- of course
it’s possible- under it”
Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings