The Sub-24 Hike
A quick getaway for those who used to be able to get away more
I was a thru-hiker twelve years ago. I would quit my job, sell most of my possessions, put the rest in storage, and hike for five months. After the adventure and freedom of the thru-hike, I’d pack up my car and start a new job somewhere different. I’d repeat the process in two years. Those days were important to me. I was alive. They shaped who I am today. I remember those days fondly.
But that was then. Now I have a family with two little boys who wake up at 6:00 a.m. every day. I want the boys to go to college if they want to. I want to save some money so that when the kids leave home, my wife and I can go on some amazing adventures. And, I rather like the home improvement projects that keep me busy in-between trips to the playground.
Despite my newfound responsibilities, I’m still a hiker. The two-mile hikes we do, feeding the five-year-old chocolate, with the one-year-old on my back, are nice, but these short hikes don’t scratch the itch. So, what’s a responsible family man supposed to do?
Enter the sub-24 hike. On Saturday afternoon around 3:00 p.m., after putting the youngest down for his nap, I head up to a trailhead 30 miles from home that leads to the Continental Divide. By 4:00 p.m., an hour later, I’m hiking up the trail. Everyone is heading out; I’m the only one heading in. I hike until dark and set up camp alone at tree line. The people are back at the prime lakeside spots they secured early in the afternoon. The next morning I’m on the trail by 7:30 a.m. I’ve got miles to go, and I’m needed home in the afternoon. I walk along the Divide under bluebird skies with the occasional trail to connect the route. Now back on trail, it’s time to head down. Descending, I notice all the people heading up. The sub-24 hike isn’t how most people get out for the weekend. Entering the trees, a cool, shadowy walk leads me back to the car. I grab a cold beverage from the cooler. Relaxing in the parking lot before heading home, I notice how much busier it is at noon on Sunday than at 4:00 p.m. when I got on the trail yesterday. The sub-24 hike is a good way to beat the crowds.
Just under 24 hours since I left, I’m back home in time to greet the one-year-old as he wakes from his nap. I have dinner on the table at 5:00 p.m. The kids are in bed by 7:30 p.m.; I unpack and straighten up the house a bit and then it’s time to go to sleep. The next day is a work day. I’m grateful for this quick adventure, a little taste of freedom, a little taste of wilderness. It may be short, but the sub-24 hike is a great way for those who can’t get away as much anymore, to get away for just long enough.
Mike "d-low" Dilorenzo