Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine


“How old do you think I am?” he said
I said, well, I don’t know
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago.”
I was sittin’ in Miami pourin’ blended whiskey down
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge
There wasn’t anyone around ‘cept this old man and me
The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ “Ironsides” on TV
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine.

Tom T Hall

I turned 65 about 10 months ago, and uninvited, I share my mind on old hikers, the John Muir Trail, and visiting Lone Pine.

Old Hikers

This “old man” is starting his hike on the 200 miles/320 kilometers John Muir Trail portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)  in just under a week, Sept 8, 2019 to be exact. This is a backpacking hike I have been aiming to tackle for a couple of years now as I continue to knock off sections of the PCT in order to complete the entire length of the trail , some 2650 miles/4265 kilometers, by the time I reach 75 years of age.

I imagine my knees will the first to give out, but my eyes aren’t in great shape either … Ecclesiastes says it well:

In old age, your body no longer serves you so well. Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen. The shades are pulled down on the world. You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt. The hum of the household fades away. You are wakened now by bird-song. Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past. Even a stroll down the road has its terrors. Your hair turns apple-blossom white, Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.”

Nevertheless, while time marches relentlessly on, I am determined to make the best of each day that is given to me.  Hopefully, a good chunk of them will be hiking days.

I will be accompanied by my favorite hiking partner, my wife (also old) of some 44 years, and for one week one of my favorite sons will join us. This section will take us 18 days to complete, if all goes according to plan.

John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail is a long-distance hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California.  For almost all of it’s entire length it is at elevations over 8000 feet/ 2400 meters.  The physical effects of elevation start to become an issue at 8000 feet so we will have some acclimatizing to do for the first number of days.  Over the course of our journey we will hike up, over and down at least 10 mountain passes, 6 of them over 11,000 feet; the highest being Forester Pass at 13,200 feet.  In total over the 200 miles of our trek we will experience 47,000 feet of elevation change.


Lone Pine

Lone Pine

Lone Pine is where our hiking journey begins.
We visit the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center to pick up our wilderness passes and from there drive up a winding road past Alabama Hills on our way to Horseshoe Meadows campground, elevation 10,000 feet.  It is there where we access the Cottonwoods Pass trail head which will take us to the PCT and John Muir Trail.

Lone Pine (we haven’t  been there yet) is just a small frontier town with a population of just over 2000 people, but with a lot of interesting history and other stuff.  It was at the epicentre of the March 26, 1872 earthquake (8.3 on the Richter scale), one of the largest recorded earthquakes to hit California. On the way to Lone Pine we will drive past Ridgecrest, which was at the centre of the 7.1 earthquake which happened on July 5 2019.   

Lone Pine is the gateway to Death Valley from the Eastern Sierras.

If you are a movie buff, scenes from the Alabama Hills, just a short distance from Lone Pine,  are featured in many Westerns and other movies.  It’s the location for the scene when the Lone Ranger gets his name; Gladiator and Man of Steel had some scenes filmed here; and you may also be interested that the opening scene of Iron Man (Jericho Missile Test) is filmed in the Alabama Hills.

The Manzanar concentration camps, which housed over 120,000 Japanese Americans during the Second World War, were located in Owens Valley, just a short 10 minute drive from Lone Pine. Owens Valley is also the source of much of the water supplied via aqueduct, to Los Angeles.

If for some reason our hike gets cut short it looks like we’ll have plenty of neat areas to explore.

Invitation to Follow

I invite you to follow us old hikers on this journey over the next 4 weeks or so.  I am going to attempt to post at a couple of resupply points along the way.  It will all depend on the battery consumption of my iPhone and whether resupply points have WiFi access.

On our completion we’ll do a toast with watermelon wine … if I can find any.



Published by

Victor Doerksen

This blog is written to be a kind of virtual trail guide to those who are already into hiking and trekking .... and an inspiration to those who are just beginning to contemplate extended hikes/backpack trips. Hiking is AWESOME!

2 thoughts on “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine”

  1. Well stay safe! And I will wave from the deck of the Amsterdam as we sail by. Will look for a mirror flash from one of those Mtn peaks!!! Hiking us awesome indeed. Moira and I are spending a few days on the Juan de Fuca, albeit returning to a hotel bed at night…


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