On Aging, Injuries, and Gratitude

By Mary Anderson


Among the backpacking resources I am really blessed to have are those of time and a healthy, albeit aging, body.


Due to numerous injuries, I have spent time in a wheelchair and have had to learn to walk all over again three times in my life. But unlike many people who use wheelchairs, I WAS able to walk again. I am really grateful to the people who supported me through those times.


When I was in a fire that left over 40 percent of my body with third-degree burns, people told me I was lucky it was not my face. I was most grateful it was not my feet that were burned. My face would have increased the stares I get, but I have learned not to mind those. When kids stare at my scarred legs I use it as an opportunity to teach them about fire safety. If it had been my feet I might not be able to hike without severe pain. Every day I am grateful that my body allows me to do the things I love.


As I age it is clear I may not always be able to do all the physical things I want to do, so I am trying to make the best use of the resource of time. I am so grateful that I have the luxury of four months to do something as important to me as this hike. I am painfully aware that there are people around the world who are burdened by jobs they hate, surrounded by war, needing to spend every minute of every day focused on basic survival needs. I try to make each moment count, though there are plenty of days when I fear I am wasting time. And when I do feel I am wasting time I try not to waste yet more time beating myself up over it.

Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half in 2021. Read more of Mary's story.


Two Great Reads About Famous Walks

The Man Who Walked Backward, by Ben Montgomery (Texas Monthly article, 2018)

A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, by John Muir (Free ebook from Project Gutenberg)

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