The news hit me hard; my life had changed forever in a split second. I had just been informed at the age of 34 that my hip was so bad I would have to give up on one of my favorite activities—hiking. I had surgery on the same hip when I was 24 years old to remove a bone spur. Ten years later I was sitting back in the same doctor’s office hearing that my hip had formed a new spur and developed dysplasia. The pain was so bad that I could not bend over to tie my shoes after day hikes and short backpacking trips. I was told that my condition was inoperable and that I could no longer keep living my life as I had before.
As I sat listening to the doctor as he described the advanced arthritis in my hip, I kept thinking of a life without hiking. So, I made a goal to plan one more epic trip. I decided that I wanted the High Sierra Trail (HST) to be my last big adventure. The HST is a 7-day journey that starts in Sequoia National Park and ends at Mt. Whitney. It would be the perfect finale. I would be able to complete my first thru hike and redeem myself on the one mountain that had turned us away. The year before we tried to summit Whitney from the east side but were turned away by a late developing storm that snapped about half of the tents at Trail Camp. I knew if I was going to complete this trip, one thing had to change…my gear.
The first item to replace was my pack. I was lucky enough to find a “used” Osprey Exos 58 Liter pack for sale that looked like new. I ended up purchasing the Exos without doing much research, mainly because of the “used” price and the fact that it was so light. Little did I know the significance of that days amazing purchase. Moving forward, getting the Exos made me put extra emphasis on filling my pack with ultralight and lightweight gear. Replacing every item that went into the Exos cut my pack weight in half.
Later that year, my friend and I did our annual trip to the Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park. Throughout our trip, I could not believe what I was feeling, or not feeling for that matter. To my amazement, I felt little to no pain for the entire trip! At that moment, I began to look forward to the upcoming trip on the HST because the Exos granted me the confidence to complete the long hike without much aggravation to my hip. After completing the Lakes Trail the planning for the HST carried a different level of excitement. It felt possible.
A month later, I started my journey across the Sierras. It was a trip of epic proportions. I could write with so much detail about each day because I still remember it like it was yesterday. I finished the hike and never once experienced even a slight level of discomfort in my hip joint. I give much credit to the Exos because of the way it fits on me. It distributes the pack weight evenly, puts very little pressure on my hip joint, and allows full range of motion. All identified advantages were the secret to my success. We were not even halfway through the hike before my hiking partner and I were already planning possible future trips.
I feel extremely lucky. I once felt like I was done with hiking and would never get to see nature the way I have always loved seeing it: away from any road. There is something to be said about going to a place where technology and the impact of humans cannot truly reach. It makes you feel so small in such an amazing way. Hiking has always had a way of resetting me, giving me that peace that only the outdoors can provide.
I know there will come a time when hiking will be too much for my hip and symptoms will return. I pray that will be a long time from now, but I also accept the reality that that day will come. Through it all, I would not change a thing. For now, I take it one hike at a time. My new gear has allowed me to continue my passion of exploring corners of mountain ranges and places very few people get to see. If anything, my perspective on hiking and backpacking changed to be more pure. I do not take anything for granted anymore. When I am on a trip, I take in as much as humanly possible because I may not be back. I consider myself lucky to have this new perspective and am grateful for it.
I could not have completed this journey without the support of my family. But more specifically, I could not be where I am today without my amazing wife Jaime, my hiking partner Adam and my father, Jeff. I would not have been able to pick up and get back to hiking without the support of these people in my life. Not only was I able to complete the HST, but in doing so, I was given the opportunity to create a new beginning, a second chance. I cannot thank Osprey enough for extending the time I get to spend in the place I love, the great outdoors.
Authored by Scott Brown