Sunday, April 27, 2008

FINALLY Bagged a Summit!

Having obtained such a fine walking stick yesterday, I was eager to try it out on a hike. But I learned my lesson last week that while the gates are always closed during ski season, USFS isn't quite so quick to reopen them after ski season officially ends. And with gas prices what they are, we thought we'd look for a nice local hike instead of driving all the way into the mtns.

We picked a fairly strenuous local hike, climbing 1000 feet in elevation, mostly over the last half-mile of a two-mile trail. The summit? Saddleback Butte peak, a granite butte reaching 3651' in elevation and offering a magnificent 360-deg view of the Antelope Valley in the Mojave desert. We didn't even leave home until after 4 in the afternoon, but we were home before sunset at ~7:30. It was an excellent workout and great training.

We were about two weeks too late to enjoy the fabulous wildflowers, but all around us were drying/dried flowers. We saw TONS of Silver Puff and Fiddleneck, plus huge fields of goldfields. I saw several dune primrose, and a desert dandelion-type flower that was pale purple. The joshua trees that dot the park were full of blooms and buds.

The grade was steady from the moment we hit the trail, but fairly gentle and sandy until the base of the saddle. Then it became a scrabbly trail climbing at a nice grade, definitely strenuous enough that it is truly proof of the miraculous that I can do it at all.

Once we reached the saddle, we took a steep trail climbing the boulders and crumbling decomposing granite to reach the summit at the saddle back.


Summit view to the NE

Summit view to the WNW

Summit view to the SW

Summit view to the ESE

My lungs and respiratory system greatly enjoyed the workout, and rewarded me by releasing all kinds of toxins and bad stuff (yesterday's fires didn't help) in the form of lots of congestion and one very runny nose. Note to self: don't forget your tissues or handkerchiefs next time, and definitely when you climb Mt. Whitney!

We left the parking lot sometime around 4:30, made the summit around 5:45, poked around looking for a geocache we cdn't find, and were back to the parking lot by sometime between 6:45 and 7 pm. My pedometer shows the hike took me more than 13k steps, which gives you an idea of how steep that trail is (no length of stride there).

I've decided I like my hiking boots and socks; today's hike really helped work the heels of them. They are comfortable overall, and I like my footing in them. I will go buy more pairs of those hiking socks, as they seem to be thick enough without being too much in the heat.

I was sore when I started and sore when I finished, but overall, nothing that isn't age appropriate!

WOW!!! That was AMAZING!!!


Yesterday I was delighted to find something I could've used last week on Mt. Baden-Powell (so I have no doubts it will come in handy hereon)--a really good walking stick! It's perfect for my height, perfect for my grip, perfectly simple, perfectly shaped and perfectly elegant,'s purple!

Gracing Saddleback Butte Summit

Of course, I was dressed neck to ankle in purple at the time it jumped out at me from the long line of walking sticks, so it was apparent to one and all this particular stick was meant to be mine. The shopkeeper, a very gracious gent, even offered that I could 'just mail him a check in a couple of days'---and it was not inexpensive---but no need for that when I had all three cheque books. I'm just always grateful to find a shopkeeper who understands honest people DO exist and is willing to take cheques from us!

So today I am happy for having encountered such a nice shopkeeper and having in my possession this most exquisite of walking sticks for my treks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's Up With That?

My daughter and I have a Jack Sprat-type dichotomy. She is a snow bunny and I am a beach baby. She HATES summer and yearns all year for ski season, as she is quite the snowboarder. I hate how painful the cold is for my body and avoid actually being in the snow (although I love to go to our Tahoe condo and hang out indoors while the family snowboards)...but love the ocean and come out of the water from snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving long enough only to sun on the beach. Our Kona condo is one of my most favorite places to be in this whole wide world, whereas my daughter HATES lying in the sun, and sunburns easily.

So this week I was THRILLED, much to my daughter's genuine sorrow, that ski season is officially "OVAH!" Mountain High ski resort is closed. So now we can hit the summit of Wright Mountain from the Blue Ridge road trail!

So we packed up the car and kids and headed off to climb Wright Mountain, only to find the darn Blue Ridge forest road gate is STILL CLOSED! Aargh! Are we ever going to be able to get down that road? What's up with that???

So instead, we drove on to Vincent Gap and headed out on the Mount Baden-Powell trail to get some exercise and work my lungs. There was even a little MG like Wiggie's waiting in the lot, which I took as a good sign.
It was a beautiful day, really, with the sun out and shining although some haze to our normal blue sky. It was cold enough still at that elevation that I had to pull on my thermainsulate jacket and hiking pants over my shorts.
We thought we'd just go an hour in, but didn't even accomplish that thanks to all the snow. At first there were only patches, then fields, then finally nothing but snow. We lost the trail in the snow at just under 7000' elevation.
I did get to see what Ken meant about it being a pretty relentless grade. The trail was a really good workout for both my lungs and my legs. My knees wanted to be a problem, as they've been giving me issues all week; but I refused to let them. I just took it slow and even asked for a helping hand on some of the real slide-y snowfields.

I note the hardest part for my legs is when I first start out. The lactic-acid burn is intense -- and I ate 2 bananas every morning during chemo to make sure my potassium level stayed good! Even though the potassium in my bloodwork is perfect, I can still tell the price by the fact I am the most out-of-shape for hiking I've ever been...except for the first time I did chemo. That time, I cdn't even walk for the first month afterward because my legs were so bad.

I do seem to get my "walking legs" after a bit, though; so I don't think chemo has succeeded in beating the hiker forever out of me yet. And my lungs LOVE the workout at the higher elevation. I note it just almost automatically throws me into an ayurvedic type of breathing.

But swatting mosquitoes while climbing over snow just doesn't seem RIGHT. When we return to really do an assault on this trail, it will have to be when most of the snow is gone and with plenty of bug juice to keep the 'squitoes off me. I got bit several times in one 'squito patch of about 100'.

So after our little hike, we headed back to the forest station to find out when the Blue Ridge road will be open. "We need to get there before 4, I'm sure," I cautioned, knowing ranger stations/forest stations. Sure enough, the sign when we got there said their hours are till 4:00. We were there at 3:15, and it was already closed. So WHAT'S UP WITH THAT????

You know, this is a lot of bureaucratic obstacles for someone like me to put up Alaska, I could go anywhere and it was just up to me to not die and leave no trace (which I did very successfully). Here, I can't even get to an area to go hiking without running into USFS BS.

Today, I am unhappy with the USFS' impediment of my training plans. I really wanted to go do Wright Mtn summit today. : (

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


So you're probably wondering how I can train to build up my strength, when I am not supposed to lift anything over 5# and my spine and bones are so radically compromised, as well as my lungs.

Look no further than the space program for my answer...I am using whole body sonic vibration (WBSV) to work out my entire body in a way it has never been exposed to before!

Using a machine called the TurboSonic, I simply stand on a platform for 10 minutes each weekday (the machine is at my voodoo doctor's office, and is the perfect example of why I refer to him as the voodoo doctor. It's unconventional, but it works!). The machine uses amplified sound waves to vibrate my entire body, much like standing in the front row during BOC's magnificent bass solo in Nashville 1984, but even better! Just 10 minutes is equivalent to working out for an hour in a gym.

WBSV also is helping to increase my bone mass (rebuilding my spine has been particularly hard, and the spine is definitely a limiting issue at this point. It hurts long before my legs give out), and I can also see a reduction in the lymphedema in my arm. It may be one of the reasons why my bloodwork increased to such perfection, too.

I LOVE this machine and how I feel after I've been on it. I've also lost almost 8 pounds of the drug weight, so I am very happy about how things are going.

But don't worry, this is only ONE way that I'm training for Whitney. This is my daily workout for the workweek, when I am on the run. It sure has been a perfect answer for me!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Checking it out so far

Today we skipped driving back into the hills on the dirt roads to picnic amongst the poppies. Instead, we unloaded our bikes and rode about a mile over hill and down dale to a good picnic spot.

The sun and the hills were just enough to tax me, esp. the lungs and also just in general. When we stopped, I ended up vomiting twice (just fluid, of course. DH says I'm frugal like that). I have done so much public vomiting these past 5+ years, thanks to all the chemo and drugs. I really want off this last drug, the one for the "my arm is in a campfire and I can't pull it out" pain. The healthier I get, the sicker that drug makes me!

Anyway, we enjoyed a nice picnic (Caesar salad and strawberries for me) and I got to shake down some equipment: I like my hiking boots and socks; they give good ankle support and protection. I need to adjust the straps on the H2O for hiking, but it was fine for riding. I better not trust the braking system on my bike for anything really significant (say, Mammoth Mtn ski lift significant).

DH got to try out his new toy (to go with my new toy of the mtn bike): a GPS system. That's how I know how far we went!
It was a nice day. 90 deg and only the slightest of breeze to wave the poppies, not enough to make them close up.

Boy, is it gonna be a long way to rebuild from Ground zero like this. One mile of hills and puking...sheesh. Oh, well. Don't look back. Just keep going forward. I can do this. I can rebuild me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Earnest

The rebuilding has begun in all earnestness now. Today I purchased a mountain bike and a really nice seat with the best shock absorbers I could find. Unfortunately, I was driving a CAR and had a heck of a time hauling the thing the 40 miles home. I had to buy some twine, stuff the thing in the trunk as best as I could, and stop 4 times to reposition it; but I never lost it, and both it and the car made it home unscratched.

We pumped up the tires and swapped off the seats, and away we went on the inaugural spin. We just took a mile-and-a-half, mile-and-two-thirds trip around the hills here, but it was enough to get me breathing and the lactic acid in my legs complaining. I held up just fine and am feeling great. I sure notice how much stronger my spine and my core muscles are getting.

So that's today's report.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


While the mountains are still accumulating snow, I am accumulating my equipment. Today I got some REALLY GOOD hiking socks and decent hiking boots for training.

I also have been looking around at mountain bikes. I saw one today I really liked, but somebody else walked out of the store with the one and only of that style. : (

That's okay...I'll probably find one by the weekend.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Biding Time

DH came home the other night with a 2L High Sierra hydration pack for me. Decent, esp. at only ~$20 at Costco.

I'm wanting to pick up a mtn bike so I can do some trail riding when I don't feel like taxing my lungs with hiking.

Life is good.
: )

Friday, April 4, 2008

Any day I wake up is a good day

I saw my oncologist yesterday, and all the news was good. My bloodwork remains PERFECT. The dr. said once I get the extra weight from the drugs off, my physical health will be PERFECT. Who cares what that spot on the ribs is? I'm still here!

I didn't get the chance to discuss my plans to climb Mt. Whitney with him yet, but will next time. I did get to discuss it with my oncology nurse, who warned me that oxygen will be an issue for me with my compromised lungs. So I will check into getting a little oxygen tank to take with us so that my lungs don't stop me from summiting if my legs are still willing.

I did tell her that my hiking partners include my brother (knows my health issues intimately; is an EMT; is a Sheriff's deputy; is a Rescue Squad member; specializes in high vertical and cave rescue; knows helicopters and GA aircraft); my best friend from caving days that I trust more than anyone else to be in a dangerous cave with; and my husband (knows my health issues intimately; emergency responder; Rescue team; knows triage/first aid).

So this still seems do-able!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mt. Baden-Powell

We took a drive up to Vincent's Gap on Sunday to scope out summiting Wright Mtn. and Mt. Baden-Powell as training for Mt. Whitney. Although the valley floor was enjoying blue skies and sunshine, the wind was blowing and the mountains were covered in clouds.

The gate at Blue Ridge is still closed and locked for the ski season, and enough snow still remains that it'll be awhile longer before they open the road. A govt truck/worker bee was ensuring noone bypassed the locked gate (although I did see some mtn bikes nearby). So we will have to skip Wright Mtn summit until after we've done some of the harder ones.

As we approached Vincent Gap, we found ourselves in a true icefog, which I have never seen outside of Alaska. The ice in the wind stung our faces and left rime on all the exposed flora. It was beautiful, but doesn't bode well for training in time, esp. given the two-month decrease we now face.
Icefog reduces road visibility significantly.

Rime on the pines' leading edges.

Even the chaparral got it.