A Long Break

Near Crater Lake, Oregon
Near Crater Lake, Oregon

Backpacking with MS - Ground Rules

Backpacking is a state of mind. In a previous blog I described it as a sport involving free travel on foot with or without a specific travel plan. Unfortunately, with MS a plan is vital unless the only plan is a long sleep under a forest tree and eventual incorporation into the Circle of Life.

In past years, in the world before MS, I walked preferentially in Oregon, usually on the Pacific Crest Trail. My brother was my usual partner and he and I developed a few basic rules of the road to maximize the experience of walking alone through God's country while staying safe and alive and not getting lost or separated.

We early realized we had no wish to look at one another's rump; upon starting a day's walk first one of us would go and the other follow after five or ten minutes. We walked at our own pace and speed was not a goal. We would stop each hour or so at our own discretion and frequently met up then. If the trail bifurcated, split, the leading walker would halt and wait for the other. It was a good scheme and allowed for pictures, note-taking, bathroom breaks and other personal agendae without getting on each other's nerves. At first we shared a tent. Later on we each brought our own and continued our privacy into the evening.

Our food was simple. Spam, corn, beans and coffee. Trail snacks included M&M's, chocolate bars and Tootsie Rolls. And salted nuts. We ate pretty well and eventually trimmed it down to simpler foods, more easily prepared. I don't hate SPAM but eventually half a Gallo Dry Salami, Nuts, M&Ms, two cups of instant coffee and a Camel was plenty for me. We carried lots of water and drank copiously up to dinner. After dinner, I found that a good way to spend much time watching the stars was to guzzle water before bed and get up every two hours to micturate.

Rob and I went whatever distance needed to reach a good camp. In Western Oregon, water was usually in abundance so the questions of comfort, dryness and a good view became important. In terms of miles, as little as ten, as much as twenty five. But we walked eight hours or more each day; simple arithmatic shows we walked no faster than three miles an hour and on the short stretches, we might be in the day's camp by noon.

That, for me, was a previous life. If I can walk a mile in the morning, I will need to camp or at least nap so another stretch might be tried in the afternoon. My pack in days of yore was usually 50 pounds. I will not carry that much again, unless it is the battery of my scooter...

In my next blog, I will start to present specific ideas on this subject, backpacking with MS. I will have a general path l follow, but this is no textbook on walking and the tone will be informal.

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