Here Comes Half a Century

This the first day of March, which means in less than thirty days, I will turn forty-nine. One year from fifty. Three hundred sixty-six days from half a century. That’s half of 100!

Maybe it’s normal to do some self-reflection when faced with a milestone birthday.

But turning forty wasn’t a big deal to me. Forty actually sounded sexy… old enough to no longer be considered a “youth,” but still looking pretty good. If I turned inward, assessing the first forty years of my life and wondering how many quality years I had left to live, I don’t remember. I trained for and ran a marathon when I was thirty-nine, but that had nothing to do with stepping into a new decade—unless the motive was subconscious.

Fifty? Well, that sounds old, even to my soon-to-be-forty-nine mind. Fifty is grey hair. Fifty accounts for the wrinkles around my mouth and the loosening skin on my neck. If I had started my family a few years sooner, I could be a GRANDMA by now!

Is fifty old? I still have a year to go, but I don’t feel old. When I look in the mirror, I see a few more wrinkles than I did five years ago, but I don’t think I look old.

Or maybe I do and just don’t realize it.

The passage of time comes with certain changes that can’t be stopped. They can be covered up by plastic surgery and a visit to the hair salon, but time will always win the war when it comes to appearance. No skin-care regime will make my face look like it did when I was in my twenties… not even in my thirties and forties.

In three hundred sixty-six days, when fifty comes around that corner to embrace me, I want to be ready for it. I want to look fifty in the face and say, “All right, Big Five-Oh, here’s the deal: You can have your wrinkles and age spots, but you are NOT the boss of me. You might have some say in how I look, but you don’t get to dictate WHO I am.”

I’m going to greet fifty with courage and strength, with the confidence one can only get by taking on a monumental challenge and standing, victorious, in the aftermath. Fifty is going to have to get used to me, not the other way around.

All this is a prelude—yes, it is a long one—to explain the purpose of this blog and why the title’s tagline is “five hundred miles by fifty.” I have decided to challenge myself to hike a total of 500 miles by the time I turn fifty. I won’t be doing this all in one shot, though I wish that were the case.

If I had the time, resources, and freedom, I would take on the challenge of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. But like most people, taking six months out of my life to hike from the border of Mexico to Canada is not in the budget, nor would I want to leave my family for that long.

I bounced around the idea of taking a month during next summer and hiking a part of the PCT. On my way to work this morning, I was trying to figure out the logistics of hiking four weeks in the PCT by myself, and I was struck with how impractical that would be at this stage in my life. No, it’s not an excuse; it’s just reality.

The more tangible and immediate goal of hiking a certain number of miles seems like a good option. Besides, maybe I will take a few weeks next summer and hike a portion of the PCT. Getting 500 miles logged in before attempting such a feat will do nothing but help.

Why 500 miles? Well, besides “five” being the perfect alliterative word for “fifty,” 500 miles seems both difficult and achievable. Five hundred miles in about twelve months comes out to about ten miles per week. This is do-able, but there will likely be some weeks when I can’t get out and hike ten miles, which means a twenty-mile hike the following week.

I can do this. It will take commitment and work, but I can do it.

Ideally, some of these miles will include two- and three-day hikes, complete with tent, sleeping bag, food, and practicing the age-old art of pooping in the woods. I want to experience solo hiking for longer than two miles around a lake. I want to know how to pitch a tent, carry a pack, and be brave when I think I’m being followed by a mountain lion.

This blog will be my journal, and you may read it… if you want to. I will use it to describe my hikes, the changes I see in my body and in myself, share photos, and maybe even “meet” some other hikers.

If you’ve stuck around for this entire post, thank you! I welcome your comments and would love to follow your blog if it relates to hiking, nature, outside adventures, goals, and/or fitness.