The Hip Injury

During the summer of 1998, James conducted an Eagle Scout service project on the Sleeper Trail, in the Sandwich Range of the White Mountains. We hauled picks, overnight gear and several days of food to a campsite beyond Mount Whiteface, a 4,000-footer. At the end of the project I carried a sixty-pound pack back down. Long downhill slopes exaggerated the impact of each step. One of the crew reached the bottom first and returned to lighten my load by twenty pounds. Feeling liberated I ran downhill for a quarter-mile, only to jam my right hip.

The injury gave me a scare and threatened to take me out of the next day’s plans, a 13-mile survey hike up Mount Tripyramid, across the Sleeper Trail, and down Mount Whiteface in one day. Afraid to aggravate the hip injury, I carried minimal clothing, the smallest pack, and a water bottle. Wearing running shoes, I walked gingerly. Ignoring friendly taunts, I lagged behind the others in the crew.

But by the end of the day they tired and I kept right up with them. I felt comparatively fresh, like I could have run the last mile or gone farther.



2. The Long Way There

The idea of traveling light appears simple, but achieving it requires dedication. Easy to say, hard to do.

A person has about two weeks of physical strength in reserve before the weight of a heavy pack makes itself felt. Then the body cries for replenishment and the extra burden can wear you down. Expecting these demands, you can train with test equipment under simulated conditions and weigh every article of gear.

For ultralight hiking, the tradeoff swings on the hinge of comfort and safety. How do the comforts you carry during the day contribute to your safety at night? Can better mobility improve your response to typical emergencies?

For me, the ultralight hiking style began as a safety and survival strategy. The unforseen benefit turned out to be the extra hours it gave me on the trail every day. Those extra hours intensified my awareness of nature and stimulated my physical metabolism.

Initially, this light “idea” was only a glimmer. Stella’s daily walks were teaching me much more than I knew.