When we reached Julian I headed over to Mom’s Pie House for a complimentary slice of pie available to anyone with a current PCT permit. The folks who work there are so welcoming. Truly hiker friendly.
I thought the slice of pie would be limited, or day old, or a smaller portion. When I got to the counter and presented my PCT permit I was asked a series of questions I was not prepared to answer. Low grade anxiety! I didn’t want to take too long in the busy line. Especially for free pie. Turns out I could choose from any of their pies. And two crust options! The questions kept coming. What kind of ice cream?
I selected apple/cherry, crumble crust, vanilla cinnamon ice cream.
I asked for an iced coffee and desperately tried to pay for it. My credit card was waved away. “It’s on me,” said the very nice person who made an iced americano for me because they don’t have iced coffee.
I noticed how exhausted I felt from the town interaction, even as I was being showered with Mom’s love and free pie. I find it interesting how quickly my social skills fall away after backpacking for only a couple of weeks.
The hiker table in the back was immediately recognizable with pack contents spread out, multiple phones and battery banks sprouting from every outlet. Hikers talking, laughing, eating pie. I joined the hiker table.
A tourist couple came over to ask about our experience so far on the hike. They spoke admiringly about us and our journey. They then turned their eyes to me and said, “Especially you.”
I knew right away what they meant. My age. I’m 56. I smiled and thanked them, laughed, told them I am comfortable in my role as matriarch. I aim to lead by example, defy expectations, represent and model the way for others.
The moment ended. We went back to enjoying pie and sorting through our packs. I caught myself crouched over my food, shoveling in too large spoonfuls, not chewing enough. I find myself doing this with increasing frequency. With hiker meals hurrying to get back on trail, spilling nuts on myself in the car in traffic, at home eating alone while enjoying screen time.
I straightened and looked at the remnants of Mom’s pie in the little red and white checkered paper pie boat. Mom. Nurturing. Pie. Mother. Especially You. Maiden Mother Crone. The Triple Goddess and phases of the moon. I remembered my excruciating turn toward crone. So many of the tools I used to navigate the world rendered useless. Then something shifted and becoming invisible felt easier. Maybe even an asset.
We were brought complimentary pie crust ends with a dusting of crystallized sugar. Delicious. We thanked the bringer for the embarrassment of riches. “Don’t worry, we would have just thrown them away.”
I savored the sugared crust and considered the implications of, “Especially you.”
I’ve had several discussions on trail about a body of evidence amassing in support of older women excelling at endurance. Mary E Davidson is an 81 year old who has completed the triple crown. Grandma Gatewood was 67 when she famously thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955.
I looked up articles on women and endurance to cite in preparation for publishing this post. I found scholarly articles and the subsequent layperson articles. The reasons appear to be related in part to slow twitch muscle fibers.
Here’s a scholarly article from Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism from 2017, and another scholarly article from American College of Sports Medicine’s Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise from 2015. Lay person articles from the BBC: this one and this one. A lay person article from Outside, and from Triathlete.
There seems to be somewhat of a consensus about older women having an abundance of slow twitch muscle fibers which are better for endurance as opposed to fast twitch which are better suited for bursts of energy. As a reminder for further reference, my favorite dark meat chicken thigh has more slow twitch fibers.
Related, I was recently called old lady cute. It was in a store. One young salesperson whispered to another, “She’s so cute,” about me as I tried on enormous sunglasses. I didn’t mind. It felt good to have the positive attention. It made me rethink in part my stance on language that potentially diminishes our wise elders. I cringe when people call my patients cute. It seems dehumanizing. Trivializing. Negating of a lifetime accumulating wisdom.
I thought of Leonard Cohen’s stages of allure:
You start off irresistible
And, then you become resistible
And then you become transparent
Not exactly invisible but as if you are seen
through old plastic.
Then you actually do become invisible
And then, and this is the most amazing transformation,
You become repulsive.
But that’s not, that’s not the end of the story.
After repulsive then you become cute
And that’s where I am.
Last year after my AT thru hike I was back in the NJ AT woods with some section hiking friends. We ran into some other thru and section hikers. I ended up hiking a few miles and talking medical shop with a 30 something year old young man, another medical professional. He wanted to compliment me. He stumbled over his words. He wanted to let me know I am fast and fit for my age, for my gender. I let him know I appreciated his words and the sentiments behind them.
I often appear to be doing so well that my underlying chronic struggles are discounted. I had a conversation on trail with another hiker recently about autoimmune and inflammatory symptoms. I recounted some of my symptoms and how I manage them. Starting in the early 2000’s my own symptoms lead me to visit many Western and Eastern medical professionals. I ventured down a long path of studying, practicing, and teaching yoga, meditation, reiki. When I was registered with the Yoga Alliance it was at the E-RYT 500 level, experienced registered yoga teacher with 500 plus training hours. More like 10-20,000 hours. I eventually became a Doctor of Physical Therapy to help myself and others. I learned over time that I wasn’t going to go to one medical professional who fixed me, but that I would visit a series of medical and complimentary alternative medicine professionals. Each would give me some bit of information, and I would have to try all the information and cobble together what works for me, which also changes over time. Similar with Physical Therapy, it is less what I do with you during our session, but more how you process, integrate, and repeat what I have shared with you.
I appreciate, “Especially you.” I also want to inspire, “You can too!”
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