When I was 21 years old, I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, skipping much of the way down, despite the whole cabbage I carried in my backpack, enjoying the lightened load during the next day’s ascent. I’d spend the previous six months working as a National Park Ranger, hiking trails and fighting forest fires for minimum wage, and sopping up every blessed second of the experience. I was young, and fearless, and fit.
I’m older now, with a prosthetic hip and another that’s so ravaged by arthritis I can sleep in snatches of a few hours at the most. My back aches and I imagine x-rays of my neck resemble those of a camel’s.
When my physical therapist, who’s as young and lithe as I once was, encourages me to walk, “on a level surface,” outside, or on a treadmill, I can’t bring myself to tell her how hard it’s become to imagine walking to Machu Picchu, or even to recall the trails I once ran with my boisterous hounds tugging at their tethers, up slippery wet rocks.