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April 2017 Issue
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Going strong

Talie Morrison has tramped all over New Zealand, including some of the hardest routes. Photo: Supplied
Do you think you’ll be completing remote 10 day trips in your 60s and 70s? Septuagenarian Talie Morrison is.

Talie Morrison is living the tramping dream. Much as a ski bum might follow the winter chasing powder, Morrison follows the sun, spending the northern hemisphere summer tramping in her native Colorado and the southern summer exploring the backblocks of New Zealand.

But though Morrison is a self-described “70-year-old hippy”, living in a van for four months of the year, she’s no bum. She’s led a full life of travel, raising children and working as a wilderness guide where she helped at risk teens and earned the nickname ‘Talie Tadpole’, which has now become her trail name.

Lately, Morrison has become an author, having written a book about her tramping escapades, many of which involve tracks and routes in New Zealand.

Still going strong, backpacking adventures through my 60s chronicles Morrison’s solo tramping adventures on some of New Zealand’s longest and toughest routes: the Dragons Teeth, Pike Big Bay Loop, the Dusky Track, remote Lake Poteriteri and Three Tarn Pass to name a few.

“For some unknown reason to myself and others, I love going solo,” she says. “I just like throwing on a pack and going out for 10 days.”

The fact that most of her tramping has been done in her 50s and 60s is remarkable enough, but now she’s in her 70s, Morrison hasn’t slowed a whit. If you walked the Old Ghost Road this summer, there’s a chance you encountered her volunteer hut wardening in Ghost Lake Hut. Or perhaps you bumped into her on the Wangapeka Track in January, or the Queen Charlotte Track in February. If you have met her and expressed shock at an old(er) woman solo tramping in the wilds of New Zealand, you may even have been given her ‘Tadpole blessing’.

“When I meet people, I say I have to give them the Tadpole blessing,” she says, reciting it for Wilderness: “I wish you blue skies, comfortable huts and I wish you to be doing this when you’re 70, too.”

Backpacking is 90 per cent mental. It’s only 10 per cent that is physical.

If you know you can do it, you can probably do it.  

That, in part, is why Morrison wrote her book. She wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to keep tramping, and do it alone if necessary, well into the so-called golden years.

“I’d like to inspire younger women especially,” she says. “You can still do this when you’re older. It’s possible.”

Since self-publishing the book on Amazon, she’s received requests from people who are in their 40s asking her to write a companion book that explains the steps they should be taking now so they can still be tramping in their 60s.

She laughs at the thought because the answer, to her, is simple: go tramping. Morrison credits all the tramping she did in her 50s with establishing the foundation for the tramping she plans to do in her 70s. “My brother and I used to say what we did in our 40s would pay off in our 60s and I think that’s been the case,” she says. “So what I did in my 50s will pay off in my 70s.”

The last 20 years tramping has certainly done nothing to slow her down, though that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the pressure of time. “I feel the clock is ticking but right now I’m still strong,” she says. “I’ve not had a hip replacement, I’ve not had my knees replaced, I’ve not had shoulder surgery – all the things that friends my age are having done.”

Anyway, she adds, whether or not you can go tramping is all in your mind. “Backpacking is 90 per cent mental. It’s only 10 per cent that is physical. If you know you can do it, you can probably do it.”