Alps vista

Last week I was in beautiful mountains—the Austrian Alps—with trails that in winter are covered with snow and skiers. But in the summer, when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, there are thousands of

mountain hikers

people walking on the trails with one or two extendable hiking sticks for balance. Amazingly, more than half of the people seemed to be gray hairs over 60. My friend said that his sister is 82 and has been “walking” all over the world. Some of the old folks who had just finished hiking would sit down in the gondola or on a bench and be unsteady, shaking and seem like they were barely able to balance without their hiking sticks.

hiking sticks in town

Who would believe that such elderly people could walk so far and up and down the hills on narrow footpaths or wider paved surfaces strewn with pebbles and rocks that were treacherous and could easily lead to a misstep, slip and fall. Of course there were young people too, with babies on their backs or five-year-olds somehow taking shorter walks. But it is all very impressive.

busloads of elders

Many hikers took the chair lifts and gondolas to start their hikes at higher altitudes. Although I was only 4700-6600 feet above sea level, I found myself breathing heavily sometimes to take in enough oxygen. I thought I was in decent shape from all my tennis playing, but it was definitely an effort on occasion.

joy in the world

Personally I didn’t find it as challenging or exciting as some of my other sports, but, like tennis, it has the great advantage of being do-able when your ancient. And clearly it is an activity that many find satisfying, healthful and glorious.

meadow view

Maybe you want to try it yourself.

Here is the Wikipedia description:

“Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. Many beautiful places can only be reached overland by hiking, and enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature. Hikers see it as better than a tour in a vehicle of any kind or on an animal, because the hiker’s senses are not intruded upon by distractions such as windows, engine noise, airborne dust and fellow passengers. Hiking over long distances or over difficult terrain requires both the physical ability to do the hike and the knowledge of the route and its pitfalls.

distant Alps

“In the United States and United Kingdom, hiking refers to cross-country walking of a longer duration than a simple walk and usually over terrain where hiking boots are required.[2] A day hike refers to a hike that can be completed in a single day, often applied to mountain hikes to a lake or summit, but not requiring an overnight camp. Bushwhacking specifically refers to difficult walking through dense forest, undergrowth, or bushes, where forward progress requires pushing vegetation aside. In extreme cases of bushwhacking where the vegetation is so dense that human passage is impeded, a machete is used to clear a pathway. Multi-day hiking in the mountainous regions of India, Nepal, North America, South America, and in the highlands of East Africa is also called trekking; the Dutch refer to trekking also. Hiking a long-distance trail from end-to-end is also referred to as trekking and as thru-hiking in some places, for example on the Appalachian Trail (AT) or Long Trail (LT) in Vermont. The AT is almost 2200 miles. The Long Trail is 272 miles and the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States.”