A Good Day to be Old

America the Beautiful Pass smaller
“You are only as old as you think you are,” is a well known saying. I like it. Over the years I have pretty much continued with the hobbies and recreational activities I started as a kid. Yesterday something happened that caused me to think about the things I have done over the years.

In my teens I learned to fish for trout in high mountain streams, started backpacking, became a runner, graduated high school, entered the military and manhood.

In my twenties I became a civilian, did a couple 6-month epic  backpacking trips, learned a trade, got married, moved to the desert, bought and sold a business, began exploring Joshua Tree, and Anza Borrego, and rode a motorcycle coast to coast and back while towing a miniature tent trailer.

In my thirties I continued backpacking, had two kids, and introduced them to camping, went back to college. And I met a wonderful lady named Donna. Donna was one of my customers. I serviced her 1970’s long Cadillac Eldorado. She was in her late eighties, tanned but wrinkled skin. Her white hair always pulled back into a bun. Donna swam and played tennis every day. She participated in the Senior Olympics program every year. She was fit, energetic, and always happy. She was the kind of person you always took time to talk to. She arrived in California as a young child in a covered wagon. She had seen so much change during her lifetime and I always enjoyed our conversations. One day I asked her how she kept going with such a high level of energy. She said the secret was not to hang out with people her own age. She said, those people are just sitting around waiting to die. She told me she hung  out with much younger people; people who were busy living life. That was her secret formula. I don’t hang out with anyone except my wife. But when I go backpacking with others (not a frequent occurrence to hike with others) they are always much younger than me. But I try to “live life” every day.

In my forties I graduated from college, bought a small pop-up trailer, camped a lot with my family, found a job I love, and continued backpacking.

In my fifties I got divorced, lived and traveled in the small pop-up trailer, shared great times with my kids as they graduated from high school, and then college. I remarried, bought a bigger tent trailer, started camping with my new wife around 100 days per year, and re-vamped my backpacking gear, going lighter with everything so I could continue to backpack at the same level of miles and speed, if not more.

When I hit sixty I started to think about my mortality. Not worrying or dwelling on the end of life, but realizing the clock is ticking. I started thinking about retirement and planning for that day. I watched as friends and family passed away, knowing that my time would come sooner or later. Might be tomorrow or might be 30 years. We don’t know when we will pass, but we do know it will happen. Every human being on the planet has two key milestones – birth and death. So following Donna’s lead I am living my life everyday. I camp with my wife as often a possible or go backpacking. These are my recreational passions and I try to do engage in them on every weekend, holiday or vacation day. Doesn’t happen on every day I have off, but more often than not I am hiking or camping.

So where is this going?

Yesterday I was getting ready to go camping with my wife. I checked the national forest where we were going and the regulation regarding the required Adventure Pass was kind of murky. I got out my Interagency Recreation Pass (nowadays known as the America the Beautiful Pass) and noticed it had expired last month. I have been buying these passes for years. They allow entrance to National Parks, fulfill the requirement for an Adventure Pass, and provide other perks. The past few years the cost has been $80 per year. Normally I just purchase one when I get to our destination. I have bought them in Joshua Tree, Lake Mead, Idyllwild, Big Bear Lake, Kernville and other places. But driving to a ranger station was going to be out of the way for this trip. So as any modern person does, I checked the Internet and found that I could buy one at the BLM office in Palm Springs… how convenient, that office is less than two miles from our house.

Waiting at the counter to be waited on, I browsed through the brochure explaining the Interagency Recreation Pass and found this…

Any citizen who has attained the age of 62 years can purchase a lifetime Interagency Recreation Pass for only $10. That’s right, a onetime payment of $10 for the rest your life. And, I turned 62 last year, which meant I was eligible. The lady behind the counter confirmed this, and took my $10. Wohoo! I guess I am officially a senior citizen now, but at heart I am still a kid not knowing what I want to do when I grow up  🙂

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