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The MS patient as Backpacker

Updated on March 4, 2011

Crater Lake, Oregon

I have been in San Diego for a week now, visiting my daughter, staying at the sybaritic Four Seasons. Pure Sloth has kept me from writing. Using MS as an excuse, I have contacted no one and have not blogged.

At this point, I would like to start a long conversation about Backpacking in the face of MS. The blogs will be short and disconnected, more of a shotgun blast than a well-aimed shot. As I say, a conversation, not a lecture and not following any script. Other topics may intervene but I should eventually come back to talking about something I have loved doing since my teens and the thing I miss the most living with multiple sclerosis.

Backpacking is walking distances with everything you might need in a pack of some sort on your back. This leaves a lot of latitude in the details. The exact distance is left undefined; since camping is implied as a daily goal I guess you have to go far enough to need all the stuff you bring. Fortunately for me and other multiply sclerotic walkers, the distance of a day's walk may not be far.

Up until the middle of last year I was walking two to three miles a day. Now It is less and with Canadian crutches but It is still over a mile at a shot.

Backpacking becomes something enjoyed from the moment of conception, through the stages of planning and accumulation of gear and supplies to the actual physical part of walking. The hardest thing for an American to do is to redefine the scope of the project and find pleasure in each stage. Ten to twenty miles a day? Try one to two. On a trail at the treeline? Sure, if a road gets close enough and the path is navigable by the walker.( In my mind I can work my way along a trail around Mt. Hood in Oregon. Much of it would stop me in my tracks now. A single one of the many small stream, or freshet, crossings would prove beyond me. but a car would leave me where I could go half a mile and set up camp in a flat, protected spot with a view to the Coastal ranges and icy water at hand. And this a full day's walk.)

I am a little tired now and will close this. In future blogs I will consider gear to bring, food, toilet on the trail, the need for a group, safety issues and anything of interest which comes to mind. I would like to answer any questions any reader might pose in a comment on this blog.

Finally, I would like to refer anyone interested in this subject to Colin Fletcher, the late Grandfather of American Backpacking and his several editions of The Complete Walker. Entertaining as well as instructive.


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