70 is the new 50 where my skiing and hiking and biking friends are concerned. 2 weeks ago, I was on my annual Hen Hike, with 9 other women close to my age. 4 were 70 or older, and most of the rest of us were in our 60s. Still, you would never know it, except for the grey hair. Each day, we laced up our hiking boots and strapped on our back packs and set out for the moderate hiking trails in the White Mountains. 5 of us are visually impaired, so we paired up with each of the 5 sighted guides, switching partners after lunch on the trail. That way, we got to catch up on the personal news in each others lives since last year. The distance we hiked each day depended on how rugged the trails were. On Monday, the first day, we began the ascent on Mt.Willard in NH, stepping over rocks and roots and stepping up onto huge rocks that were at least knee high. After about 50 of these step-ups, we stopped to rest and regroup. We had already crossed 2 streams by carefully and slowly stepping from 1 wobbly rock to another, with each step by a blind hiker carefully choreographed by her sighted guide to avoid a misstep resulting in a very wet boot. After about an hour of climbing, we encountered a man coming back down the trail, who congratulated us for our courage, but informed us we were not quite half way up. Since we thought descending would be even trickier than climbing, we decided to go back down and have lunch. In the afternoon, we chose a less challenging route around a gorgeous lake. The reflections of the trees were more vividly beautiful than the trees themselves, a fascinating phenomenon. The second day, it rained a little, but we all had rain gear, so off we went to a park in the middle of the town of Bethlehem. There, we took several trails, each featuring educational markers about the wildlife and the varieties of trees. It was like a school field trip, only more fun. In the afternoon that day, we walked through a Christmas tree farm and climbed a hill with a view of several mountains in the distance. There was a concrete structure with a raised line drawing of the outlines of the mountains, with their names, so we who could see knew what we were looking at, and we who couldnt see, could trace the drawing with a finger to get a better idea of the view. The 3rd day was an easy hike, because there was no climbing, but plenty of rocks and roots to negotiate. On this day, we put in the most miles, about 6, because about 2 miles were completely flat and free of obstacles. We enjoyed really striding out. On the 4th day, the lure of a nearby outlet village in N. Conway was too much of a temptation for 5 of us, so we spent the day hiking from 1 store to another. We stayed in a B&B and enjoyed gourmet meals each night. These gals dont camp. What is unique about this group of women is the constant cand-do attitude, the absence of gossip or complaints, and the eagerness to stay fit, enjoy the outdoors, conquer new challenges, and share a glass of wine at the end of a vigorous and invigorating day.
When I was 50, I never would have imagined that almost 20 years later, Id be even more fit and more active than I was then. I have my 70-something friends to thank for being my role models.