By BOB FOULKES
I got hooked on adventure during an eight-day Outward Bound trek in the wilds of British Columbia north of Whistler. Since then I have completed a 77-km struggle along the Westcoast Trail on Vancouver Island, the 53-kilometre Chilkoot Trail in B.C., made famous by the Klondike Gold rush, and the 154-kilometre West Highland Way in Scotland.

These adventures get tougher as I age. I am always filled with a deep sense of gratitude when I finish, gratitude for having the health to undertake them and for coming out of them in one piece, ready for another shot of sweat and adrenaline.

Here are 10 things to consider if you want to make the most of your adventure.

1. You are capable of more than you think. It doesn’t matter how many times I surprise myself, the only constant is this: I continue to surprise myself. We are resilient, adaptable and capable, even as we advance in age. At 62, I’m comforted by seeing many on the trail who are older than I, giving me hope that I may have a few more treks left in me. Do not underestimate your potential. Take on a challenge that tests you.

2. Honor the challenge and respect the task you’ve set out to accomplish. One member of our group I on my recent 120-km Tour de Mont Blanc signed on two weeks before the start. She was a desk jockey; she did little to prepare except buy some gear. But she was 30 not 60; she was slim and fit, not 20 pounds overweight. At our age, most of us don’t have that luxury; we need to train. Climbing the fitness ladder takes time — several months to be able to enjoy these trips. See your doctor before you go, and buy insurance, for the peace of mind if nothing else.

3. We need all the help we can get to level the playing field with our younger companions. I had never used hiking poles. I bought a pair before one trip and thanked the gods that I had overcome my hubris. The poles saved my ass and I will use them in the future. In addition, I became relentless in dumping useless stuff out of my pack at the beginning and as the trip wore on. I did not need two pairs of rain pants; one stayed behind at a refuge. I dropped about a third of what I had in my pack. Real or psychological, it helped.

4. Swallow your pride and make it to the finish. I am the slowest and the last; it has almost become a point of pride to be the team sweep. If I try to be faster or move at anything but my optimum pace, I may not finish. Finishing is what you’ll remember.

5. Leave the self doubt and trash talk behind. Taking self doubt on an adventure is like dragging a piano.  Turn off the negative. Optimism and a can-do, will-do, must-do attitude is the only one we can afford at our age.

It's a team sport.

6. Join the team and enjoy it. I seem to always have a great group; they are interesting, diverse, energetic individuals filled with life who have stories to tell, insights to give and advice worth taking. The leader knows what he is doing and deserves your full attention and trust. If you choose to join the team, all this happens. If you choose to not join the team, the adventure turns sour.

7. Know what you don’t know. You can be so anxious to predict how the the trip will proceed, to read the map, to picture the whole event in your mind’s eye that you’re unable to relax and just let it all happen. Nothing will be as expected. Weather changes everything, each day will be beyond your expectation, nothing happens as you imagined. Surrender to the zen of the unpredictable.

Stop and smell the cacti.

8. Stop, look and listen. I’ll never forget cresting a ridge and seeing a valley laid out before me, being on top of everything I could see. I’ll never forget the smell of the pine forests we walked through or the startling clarity of the air we were breathing. Bright, tiny flowers; monstrous peaks; enormous glaciers and the spiritual wonder of it all are there if you look for them. Even the sight of the refuge at the end of the day is a spiritual experience, that exquisite feeling of well-being that comes from achieving the goal and knowing a shower, a hot meal and a bed are waiting.

9. Write it down, buy a map, take pictures. If you don’t record what’s happening, you’ll forget. The most memorable adventures will become confused. A map, a picture, a journal entry will lock it in. Write about your emotions: what it felt like to make it to the refuge on the first night, to cross over into the valley and see home in the distance.

10. Celebrate. I have raged against the dying of the light. Now I get to roar. The kids don’t get it — most of my friends don’t get it — but each adventure at my age means I have completed something life-affirming. I have earned the right to celebrate. So I dance around the edge of the fire. I deserve it.