Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spoke Too Soon

No, not about the spots in the liver -- the radiologist went back through everything and confirmed those two lesions are gone. But unfortunately, I am very ill right now, so the plans to do Barcroft this weekend are on hold. : (

Monday, July 27, 2009

If Only You Believe

My internist didn't like how my organs felt when I was there for an exam, so she sent me for imaging last week. And we got the results: it appears the 1.9- and 1.8-cm cancer lesions that were in my liver 2.5 mo ago are GONE! Yes, GONE!!!! Without the use of any toxic chemotherapies, just the monoclonal antibody (and healing prayer, nutrition, supplements, and all that hiking) since May 26!!!


They are still comparing films to ensure nothing was missed or misread, but so far, it's looking miraculously good! Hallelujah!

I remained true to my word (other than for what my hiking buddy ratted me out) and have just been taking it easy and enjoying hanging out with old friends. But next weekend is the Barcroft Research Station Open House...which reminds me, I need to finish the White Mtn series from LAST YEAR at this time! Anyone want to join us this year? Meet us at the gate the night before!

Well, I may have lost the battle to stay healthy the first half of this year, but the second half of the year belongs to me. And I never worry about losing a battle, because if I'm still here, I'm winning the war!!!!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Good Hiking Buddy Is Important to Have

July 11: Burkhart Trail Waterfalls

Buckhorn Campground to Littlerock Creek
~6500' to ~5600' elevation
~5 mi round trip [~900' elevation change each way]

It's been so darn hot that climbing steep summits in the hot sun does not sound like fun. Hiking in shady woods, swimming in cool mountain creeks, and standing under small waterfalls sounds much better! So we decided to head back to the same place as last week, only this time concentrating on getting off the trail to see more of the little (and not-so-little) waterfalls, including Buckhorn Falls (actually a set) and Cooper Canyon Falls.

So once again we set out on Hwy 2, winding our way from Wrightwood to Buckhorn campground. Once again the Giant Blazing Stars were out, and we also stopped to get shots of the fields of pungent purple flowers that surprised and delighted us as we wound around the highway curves.

Click on any photograph to see larger version.

Giant Blazing Star.

Probably Foothill Penstemmon.

Very pungent!

One field of the pungent purple penstemmon was above a thin, long waterfall of snow runoff coming down the mountain. By its stream were growing a multitude of flowers. It was a beautiful spot, but did not lend itself well to much exploration.

Shooting Star.

Crimson Columbine.

Scarlet Monkeyflower in abundance.

We were happy to see several parking places when we arrived at the day-use parking area on the far side of Buckhorn Campground. Although not as crowded as it had been on the 4th, this is still a very popular place for families and groups to go. A really cool person who was leaving gave us their Adventure Pass. Thank you!

We got our packs on, but I don't think I checked the time. The dog had apparently reconnected with the Call of the Wild and was rarin' to go. Getting the dog to obey or remember trail etiquette was almost useless. She knew she was going to chase lizards and play in the water; we were just along for the ride. The pack never even slowed her down. It was like being pulled by a jet ski.

The butterflies were really out this time, and one poser followed us, showing off its beauty. Its markings were almost an inverse of the Monarch butterfly. (Anyone know what kind it is? I assume it's a milkweed butterfly of some type.) The wild roses were dried and fading sadly, but there was something new this week---the lemon lilies were in bloom!


Lemon lily.

A little more than a quarter mile down the trail, we came to the first turnoff we wanted to explore. We scrambled down the loose mountainside to the Buckhorn creek, then headed up creek to where a little waterfall down a rock wall was filling a pool. Of course, the dog went straight in. This is her favorite part!

A panorama from all of our photographs of this spot.

Good thing all the dog's gear is waterproof (the canned food is in a baggie).

Rock wall waterfall.

From the top of it, looking down.

Yellow Monkeyflowers were blooming right out of the rock crevices of the falls, adding to the already beautiful scene. We climbed out on the rocks to snap them.


The dog was unable to climb the waterfall wall with us, so my hiking buddy continued upstream to the first Buckhorn Falls while I waited with the dog. The dog, of course, was content to stand in the wading hole she'd found. When my hiking buddy came back, it was my turn. I handed off the dog, climbed the waterfall wall again and headed upstream.

One happy dog!

I had barely begun scrambling over the rocks when I hit an invisibly slick (dry!) one, and my foot went right out from under me. I didn't try to fight the slide and allowed myself to gracefully land right in the creek. So much for teasing my hiking buddy last week, huh?! I stood up immediately; luckily it was mostly my feet and legs in the water. The cell phone and camera were both fine, and I was only wet (just my boots, really). I called down that I was okay and continued upstream. When I rounded the bend, I could see (the upper) Buckhorn Falls.

The Upper Buckhorn Falls.

Way taller than me!

Is that not one of the most crystal-clear inviting pools into which you could possibly plunge?
God, I love this place!

The pool there looked so inviting, I wanted to stay. But with many more waterfalls to see and a dog that couldn't climb there, I settled for taking my pictures and moving on.

I zig-zagged my way back
overland until I had to take the stream bed to return to my party. I climbed down the rock wall and was heading to the bank when suddenly, both feet shot out from underneath me and I came down VERY VERY HARD. Wow, that was like standing on ice, and there wasn't even any moss visible on the rock!

This was not good, not good at all. I was definitely in pain. My behind and my left hand appeared to have taken the brunt of the fall. The camera was completely dunked. My pants were soaked, including the pocket with the cellphone. Blessedly, my spine appeared to have survived. My body had taken the blow the way it was designed, on the cushioned behind!

"Are you okay?" all the bystanders asked. "No, but yeah," I said, trying to indicate I was hurt and definitely going to be bruised, but had no broken bones and was still functioning. We'll not be calling 9-1-1 today; it's against my rules!

"I just busted my butt, that's all," I said, and everyone laughed. I stood up and started trying to dry the cellphone and camera. The cellphone was still functioning; the camera was not. I pulled its battery pack and placed both in a dry pocket of my backpack. (Most of these pictures were taken by my hiking buddy; that's why they are way better quality this week!)

My pride having taken its licks, I finished making my way to the bank. What a wet, muddy mess I was! "Let's head back to the trail," I said. Soaking in a nice cool pool along Littlerock Creek sounded like a REALLY good idea now; I wanted to get there asap! I retrieved the dog from the pool and we started up the steep bank.

Well, *I* started. The dog wouldn't do the steep bank. I was dragging a 75-pound dead weight. I went back and nudged her behind, which only resulted in the dog whirling around and tangling herself up in her leash. By the time I got her untangled, my hiking buddy was wondering where we were. She grabbed the front, I pushed the back, and together we got the dog started up the slope. Piece of cake.

We scrambled up, but I had to pause near the top to catch my breath and let the ache in my legs ease up. "Almost to the trail," my hiking buddy called to me. A little more scrambling and I was back on the trail. We hadn't gone very far when the trail to the second (lower) Buckhorn Falls intersected at a sharp angle. "Want to?" "Heck, yeah."

We went carefully down the steep trail until it opened up to an apron of rock by the lower falls. Families were there, enjoying a rope swing from a tree that swung out over the pool below the falls. The water over the falls was a mere trickle this time of year, though; and the pool water was not being turned over quickly enough for our tastes. We were glad our plan was to go all the way to Littlerock Creek! We chatted a bit, my hiking buddy snapped pictures, and then we turned to go.

Tree swing pool below the lower (trickling) Buckhorn Falls.

And I immediately was stuck right there. Once again, the dog would NOT go up the bank. I tried different routes; no go. Finally my hiking buddy returned and picked the dog up by the pack and heaved her onto the slope. That did the trick!

We were about halfway up the steep trail when the dog spied a lizard and pounced. Yeah, as in pounced right off the trail. Realizing her error, she panicked and whirled, tangling herself in her leash AGAIN. That really scared her, so she panicked more. Then she tumbled through a bush and down the slope, landing about 10 feet below us. I hung onto her rope, keeping her from tumbling further, but bent over as I started choking badly just then---the damned asthma trying to thwart me! Damn, I knew I forgot something! I'm not in the habit yet of carrying an inhaler.

My hiking partner leaped over the bush (it was spectacular) and landed by the dog.
The dog was frozen in fear. She got the dog on its feet. Just then, I could take the weight of holding the dog, the heat, the ever-present nausea, the asthmatic choking, the scrambles up the steep slopes, and the recent fall no more. "I'm gonna be sick!" I warned just before I began spasmodically heaving involuntarily. As usual, nothing but white foam came up. That is so weird. But hey, conservative! Which is really helpful to my hiking partners. (I still think it's relative to the lungs and the asthma, and not the stomach.)

I staggered some six paces up the slope to a rock in a bit of shade and sat down. "Are you okay?" my hiking buddy asked, as she and the dog made it up to where I was. "No, but I will be. I'm just gonna sit here awhile." I started involuntarily heaving again. "Here, give me your bandanna," my hiking buddy said, taking it and heading back down to the creek. I finished the spasmodic heaving and was able to start taking some tugs of water. My head began POUNDING. Oh, great. Now I'm dehydrated from it all. I took some more tugs of water; I was starting to feel a little better. Sitting in the shade was helping; the involuntary clamping down inside that makes me involuntarily heave was going away.

I had gotten more water into me and was feeling much better by the time my hiking buddy returned with the wet bandanna; we draped it over my head and I let the water run down my face and neck. "Here, have some hydrating gum," she said. Perfect! Hey, a good hiking buddy is important to have, especially when you are a fourth-stage cancer patient with multiple health problems who just had open-heart surgery 10 weeks ago!

We sat until my head stopped pounding, then stood up. "We're almost back to the trail," my hiking buddy told me. "We can go back if you want." "Let's go," I said, feeling recovered. When we reached the trail, my hiking buddy paused again. "We can go back if you want."

We're not even a half-mile into a five-mile hike. I've already fallen twice and my camera isn't working. My hand is throbbing, my behind is smarting and will definitely be bruised on the bone, I've exhausted myself heaving
so my legs are weak and shaky, I'm in need of serious hydration, and the dog isn't cooperating. My boots and socks are thoroughly soaked to where I am sloshing as I walk, and my shorts and shirt are a muddy mess. Mud and scrapes are visible on my bare legs. So of course you know what I said. "No, I want to do this." And off we went.

And I'm glad I persisted, because it was a nice hike. We saw Cooper Creek Falls, made it all the way to the Rattlesnake Trail intersection, and picnicked along Littlerock Creek. Ladybugs and butterflies were everywhere, and we saw tons of little waterfalls in addition to the bigger falls. So enjoy the pictures this week, 'cause I'm not only saving you the walk, I'm saving you the bruised behind!

Cooper Creek Falls.

Our picnic spot was alongside Littlerock Creek.

Scarlet Monkeyflower by log.

Scarlet Monkeyflower and Lemon Lily.

We hung out at Littlerock Creek until 4:30, then packed up and hit the trail at 4:45 p.m. We were back to the car by 6 pm---I had made it the whole five miles.

So if my worst day on the backpack includes falling, being bruised and scraped, being soaking wet, and enduring asthmatic choking and puking; I know I can at least still function safely and get myself where I need to go.

But I'm really really blessed that I did not end up in a wheelchair from that fall; the blow I took on the lower point of my pelvis was quite impressive. Considering imaging still shows lesions in two sections of my spine, I need to treat myself as being a little more fragile than I have. I think I have to avoid getting off trail or climbing along streams and waterfalls as much as possible. Don't tell Dr. S on me; I think I learned my lesson!

And I'm definitely taking the next two weeks off to doing something like lie around sunbathing!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back to Back

Friday, July 3: Another Moonlight Hike

Devil's Punchbowl
4,740' elevation
1 mi loop trail [300' (down and back up) elevation change]

Only eight more weeks before our planned Yosemite backpack. I need to start working on distance and back-to-back days of hiking. This past weekend provided the perfect opportunity to get in some back-to-back, as DD invited me to go on another moonlight hike with her. My hiking buddy met up with us, and the dog came along, too. The sun was setting as we arrived, and already a good number of people were gathering. Final count was 89 people and one dog. Guess who the dog was?

Panorama at sunset from the vista point at Devil's Punchbowl.
Click on any photograph for larger view.

A not-quite full moon above the ranger station at Devil's Punchbowl.

We hung at the very back of the line so my hiking buddy could take pictures and the dog would not be in people's way. The dog was immensely popular, especially with all the kids. And she got to try out her backpack again before our longer planned hike on Saturday!

We enjoyed the hike as usual, but this time we did not detour to the creek bottom. Probably a good thing, as dog would've dived right in. Afterward, we enjoyed hot chocolate, cookies, and marshmallows toasted over the campfire. We headed home and were in our beds by 2 a.m., with plans to meet in the late morning.

Saturday, July 4: Burkhart Trail

Buckhorn Campgrounds to Cooper Canyon Creek
~6500' to ~5770' elevation
~1.5 mi [~800' elevation change] each way
Out and back again [~3 mi total]

We woke to discover we had been blessed with the bluest of skies and clearest of days. A very good day for hiking in the local forest! We, of course, got a late start; but we were interested in a leisurely day.

Half the fun of hiking in the Angeles Nat'l Forest is the drive there --- Highway 2 remains one of my most favorite drives. DH, my hiking buddy, the dog, and I took our sweet time meandering along the 2 toward Buckhorn Campground. As usual, yet another wildflower was revealing itself along the route; this time, it was a star-shaped yellow flower we had never seen before.

That view!

We hadn't seen these wildflowers before!
I believe this is Giant Blazing Star.

We stopped at Inspiration Point to marvel at the unusually clear view to the southwest. We could see all the way to Catalina Island! We stopped again between Inspiration Point and Vincent Gap to admire the flowers, then stopped again somewhere around Dawson Saddle. We just can't get enough of that view!

East Fork of the San Gabriel River from Inspiration Point.
The camera didn't pick it up well, but we could see all the way
to Santa Catalina Island! (It's amid the clouds.)

Panorama from Inspiration Point.

Prickly poppy.

Mt. Baden-Powell is sure one big mountain!

Wooly Paintbrush is still out.

This was DH's first trip over the newly opened stretch of road between Vincent Gap and Islip Saddle --- hurrah! After more than an hour, we arrived at Buckhorn Campgrounds. We drove through to the day-use parking area. Of course it was full, including the Honda that had to take up 2 spaces! And there weren't any handicapped parking areas at all! So the dog and I were deposited with the gear back at the campgrounds while DH and my hiking buddy headed back to park BB at a turnout along the highway.

After 30 min, they arrived back where I was waiting. We all hoisted on our packs, and we strapped the dog into hers. Finally, we were on the Burkhart Trail! I didn't even think to look at the time; we were interested in a leisurely 4th of July hike and picnic (despite the crowds).

And boy, were there crowds of people on this holiday! This hike is rated one of the most beautiful in the ANF, and it was easy to see why. The incense cedars were impressive with their massive girth, and ferns were growing along much of the hike. The trail was shady and made for comfortable hiking.

The crowds started thinning out after we passed the turn to Buckhorn Falls. We continued on the trail following the canyon, which eventually intersects perpendicularly into Cooper Canyon. Wildflowers, of course, lined the route and kept us entertained, as did the interesting rock formations and some other-worldly-looking twisted trees.

Burkhart Trail view, near Buckhorn Campgrounds.

The trail follows along a canyon and its creek.

Elderberry or deer brush -- gotta check which.

Scarlet monkey flowers were in abundance.

The dog, of course, was hugely popular on the trail, especially since she is so friendly and loves all people. Many people gave us a hard time about making the dog carry a backpack, but in truth she was just carrying her own food, water, and gear!

The trail finally started dropping as we reached the intersection with Cooper Canyon and turned to head east. As we dropped, the sound of water reached our ears. Soon we were within view of the creek. Not much further, the Burkhart Trail turned to cross the creek --- we had arrived at Cooper Canyon Creek.

Cooper Canyon Creek, where the trail crosses the crick and you see these cedars.

The dog didn't even wait for us to take off the pack before wading right in. We dropped our gear, and I thankfully pulled off my boots and socks and switched to my water shoes. Then I soaked my hot and swelling feet in the deliciously cool "footbath" of the creek. Aaahhhh!

Pools and little falls (the falls are really a series of drops in elevation in the creekbed) in the cool shade of the canyon beckoned, so we explored as we also picnicked. Well, most of us did!

My "footbath."

Happy dog; napping DH.

Crimson Columbine growing by the creek.

I dunked my head in the flow of a small waterfall to cool down; while my hiking buddy opted to dunk in the deepest pool, scaring the three trout in there. Well, she didn't really opt to -- she sorta fell in it! But it was funny. So far, she's 2 for 2 when we've been around cricks -- if there's been one, she's fallen in. I oughta take her to the Keough Ditch!


This pool had three trout living in it!

So we are happy to report our new trail clothing does indeed repel water and dry quickly! After more exploring the opposite direction (and more picnicking on my part), we checked the time for the first time that day. It was 3:30 p.m. I have a date tonight, so I can't be late! It was time to take off the water shoes, tie on the hiking boots, pack up the packs, and hoist them on.

DH took pity on the dog, since the return trip would be uphill, and took her pack for her. Thankfully, the late afternoon hour meant our return trip would be primarily in shade! We hit the trail at 3:45 p.m.

The trail up.

We ambled at a casual pace, letting all traffic overtake us. The shade made the hike positively pleasant, and I didn't have to stop as often as I do in the hot sun to catch my breath and let the ache in my legs subside some. We were still snapping photographs, too; which also makes for our slow pace. Someone on the trail ahead of us was leaving happy faces behind; we followed them all the way back to the parking lot.

Happy trails to you!

It was right about 5:00 when we reached the campgrounds again. Again, we dropped gear and this time the dog, my hiking buddy, and I waited while DH hoofed it up the highway to where BB was parked. By 5:30, we had the gear loaded up and were pointed for home. The dog stretched out on the back seat and, of course, immediately went to sleep. Me? I felt satisfied and happy, and I can tell I'm getting stronger!