A Rite of Passage for the Young, a Midlife-Crisis or a Senior's Reward for a Life of Toil?
Screw buying a fancy car, and skip the trip with your friends to South-East Asia: becoming a Hobbit and walking across New Zealand is the new hot thing to do when the book of life deserves some more adventure. But when in life do most people start writing these exciting new chapters?
Today we will take a look on how old those who head out on Te Araroa are, a topic we briefly touched upon in the last article comparing women and men on the trail, which you can read here.
Is there an age-limit to head out into the backcountry? Let’s take a look!
The average walker
In a survey that was sent out to the Te Araroa Facebook group, 79 people stated how old they were at the time of their New Zealand walks. Take a look at their age distribution down below:
Naturally the results you’ll see here will not reflect reality 100% truthfully as the people who answer surveys sent out to Facebook groups are not a mirror reflection of people who walk across countries, so take the results with a very big grain of salt!
As you can see, heading out into the backcountry is something that people in nearly all ages do, but if you happen to stumble upon anyone in the woods that person is most likely between the ages of twenty and thirty-five.
The median walker along Te Araroa is 29 years old, while the average walker is a few years older at 34 years old. If your memory is good, you’ll remember from the last trail-statistics post that the median age for both women and men on the trail is 29 years old as well, while the average woman was a bit younger than the average man (32 vs 36 years old).
But now we are looking at everyone who answered, not just those who claimed to be thru-hikers. Can it be that those who hike both islands are a those blessed with the vitaly of youth, or are they older, blessed with the vast oceans of time that is offered by retirement? Let’s see!
Compare this one with the first chart above, and you’ll see there are no major differences. Clearly the older folk are not afraid to move their legs. The median age of Te Araroa walkers actually rose by one year when only taking thru-hikers into account, while the average age rose by a few months. Due to the small sample size these small changes are not something to draw any greater conclusions from, and considering the survey was answered by members of the Te Araroa Facebook group in the Te Araroa Facebook group the answers might differ from the general tramping population.
Young and old
So how old were the oldest hikers? In this survey, the oldest were two 71-year old men. One of them claimed to be a purist, the other skipped a few road-walks. None of them were beginners: one of the two had tramped two other long-distance hikes, while the other had tramped three or more.
“Te Araroa will be there next year, but maybe I won’t” one wrote on why he walked the trail.
On the other side of the spectrum, the youngest to answer the survey was seventeen during the time of her hike, and in total, 7 of the 79 who stated their ages were twenty years or younger during their walks.
If you are following the Te Araroa community, you will likely have heard of the Rapsey family and the siblings Jonathan and Elizabeth who became the youngest to finish the trail at age seven and nine, respectively. If the two are as keen to head out on adventures into old age they might one day become the oldest to walk the trail, and who knows, some claim that the first person to live to 150 is alive today so maybe Te Araroa will one day be tramped by its first centenarian.
P.S: You afraid of getting older? Don’t be! Here’s an article about the then 82-year old Dale Sanders or Greybeard, who in 2017 became the oldest person to hike the Appalachian Trail. And while I am much younger than Dale, you might also be interested in reading about my adventures along Te Araroa in book form. Check it out!