A Cautionary Tale

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ― Eckhart Tolle

I am not the type of person who likes to tell people what to do. I am also a person who doesn’t like being told what to do. As I sit here after my early morning visit to the gym, I always spend some time reflecting on what got me to the position I am now in.

Please understand, I am grateful to be alive after my heart attack, and I have made changes to my entire lifestyle that will hopefully give me some more quality years than if I hadn’t. If I had listened to my doctors and family when I was in my early thirties, I truly believe that maybe I would not have gotten CHF and diabetes.

The truth of the matter is that death is not on our radar when we are younger. The grim reaper does not concern us. Our careers, families, and everything associated with them eats at our time and our souls. By the time we realize that the reaper is rapidly gaining on us, it is often too late.

In my case, the years of a strictly American diet combined with the stress of everyday living and a spotty exercise routine had taken their toll.

So mine is a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, I know that most people will react the same way I did every time my doctors told me to change sooner rather than later. Tomorrow was always my favorite word, and in my mind, the future was just that, the future.

But as we all know, life has a way of flying by without us even realizing it.

When we are young, it is easy to believe that getting older and the afflictions associated with it are a long way off, but all of us are only on this earth for a very brief period of time, and we should all make the most of that time.

So who should heed my tale of caution? If you still think that tomorrow either will never come or that you can escape the Grim Reaper, you are sadly mistaken.

Why not make the changes to your life now, so you are around for a good long time. You know if you need to change. You know that if your diet is crap, you need to change.

Please do it now before it is too late.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

Looking For Some Peace

The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.-Nhat Hanh

Walk so that your footprints bear only the marks of peaceful joy and complete freedom. To do this you have to learn to let go. Let go of your sorrows, let go of your worries. That is the secret of walking meditation.-Nhat Hanh

After riding a stationary bike for a little over a year and a half, I have decided that I want to start walking again. You know, mix things up a little. Instead of walking outside, I will be going back to the gym. This time, however, I decided to change gyms. Not because I didn’t like the old one, but COVID dealt it a death blow that it could not recover from, no matter how much they tried.

The next best choice for me was Planet Fitness, which I found out is much cheaper and offers more machines than the old gym. The one thing that I liked was when I told the woman behind the desk that this was my first time exercising there, she asked if I wanted a tour. I told her that I would concentrate on cardio, mainly walking, due to my heart issues. Not only will that help my overall fitness, but it will also prepare me for some fall hiking!

Unfortunately, I have found that my days of hiking when it is even remotely warm or humid are over. I thought at first maybe it had to do with staying hydrated, but I quickly ruled that out. I found out after doing some research that some of the medications that I take say that you should stay out of the sun, which, believe it or not, produces heat!

My goal is to use my time training to hike during what happens to be my favorite time of the year, the fall. The mornings are much more refreshing than summer days, and the rest of the days follow suit.

With that said, I will most certainly pay a visit to Anthony’s Nose, which is still my all-time favorite hike. If you want to get the most out of this fantastic hike, park your car on South Mountain Pass, where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. The views during the fall are second to none, and if you choose the right time and get lucky, you can have it all to yourself.

Another great area to visit during the fall is Fahnestock State Park. Miles and miles of trails crisscross and give the hiker many loops, point to point, and just about any configuration of hike you can think of making. All you need is a map, a beautiful day, and the desire to explore!

This year, I am excited because COVID pretty much killed the fall hiking season last year, keeping everyone confined to their houses. Unless something drastically changes, we should be in the clear, and the hiking will be excellent!

Happy Hiking!!!

Back to Ward Pound Ridge

“I go on hikes expecting to see the great outdoors but spend most of the time lost in my own head.” – We Dream of Travel

“I love that moment in a hike when you snap to and suddenly realize for the last 10 minutes you’ve not been observing nature but have instead become a part of it.” – We Dream of Travel

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as I like and expect to post my hikes the same day, sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. In this case, I went out on Tuesday and the weather was awesome. With the wind blowing through the trees (with no leaves) it still sounded like a winter morning. As of last Tuesday, although it was still warm, the trees are still bare and the woods have a gloomy look to them. I think that it will only take another week or two to show its true colors!

As always, the hiking was nice. I kept it slow and soaked in the warm air and the silence, taking a different loop than I did the previous hike. It was all good with the exception of my left hand which I injured the week before. It made gripping my trekking pole more difficult than it should be. All in all, any hike is a good hike so I was happy and even happier that the next few days were kind of rainy and with the temperatures fluctuating the way they have been, I won’t journey out in the rain until it gets warmer.

But journey out I will. I have plans to go to Bear Mt., Fahnestock State Park, and the Black Rock Forest. I just have to plan my hikes more carefully than I have in the past. Since I am now retired, that is not an issue.

Here are some photos from my last hike.

The result of going to the bathroom at 3:30 am. All is good. This made gripping my trekking difficult.
A section of side trail.
Still more side trail. SILENCE!
Some debris left over from the winter. They did a nice job clearing the trail.
Part of the main trail.
Some more trail.

Feel free to check out the site, “We Dream of Travel”. A great deal of useful information for all hikers.

4/13-3.2/5.9

HAPPY HIKING!!!

First Hike Of The Year

“Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong” – Jennifer Pharr Davis

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.” – Paulo Coelho

Today was a beautiful 64 degrees, a perfect day for a hike! With that said, I did get out and I did learn some lessons on the first hike of the year.

  1. Contrary to what I thought, the gnats were out today in force. Of course, since I thought it was to early in the season, I didn’t bring any bug spray. Lesson learned! Bug spray goes with me for every hike now.
  2. The sling pack, even with the minimum amount of gear (read yesterdays post) will still take some getting used to. It is made to sit evenly on your back, but it is just different. I’m not going to lie, I miss my Kelty Day Pack.
  3. Although I have been riding my studio cycle for over a year, it doesn’t use the same muscles as hiking. Every Spring I go through the same breaking in period with my legs. Unfortunately, it takes a little longer these days now that I’m getting older.

All in all, even though my first hike of the year was only 2.7 miles, it felt great to be outside. Walking on the soft earth eased the pain of using all of the different muscles that I usually don’t use, and it felt great.

When I arrived, the parking lot was pretty full for a Friday afternoon. I didn’t see anyone in the lot, and I didn’t see anyone until the final 300 yards. I was able to stop several times, take some photos and soak up the silence. The breeze moving through the trees was pure bliss and the absence of literally any sounds made it just about as perfect a hike as you are going to get.

I think for the next few days I am going to do this loop to get my “trail legs” back. Even though this loop has a couple of very small inclines, it will definitely help me with getting used to hiking and then longer hikes.

It feels great to be on the trail again!

2.7/2.7 Miles

HAPPY HIKING!!!   

Adventure Awaits

“Without adventure civilization is in full decay.” – Alfred North Whitehead

“I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.”-Bilbo Baggins

“The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot”― Werner Herzog

After several weeks of absolutely beautiful weather and the mornings getting warmer, I think it is about that time to get back out into the woods. Before December 26, 2019, hiking was a carefree affair and I have always treated it that way.

Ever since that day, however, I have had to rethink how I go about engaging in even a short day hike. To complicate matters, when I had my defibrillator implanted on July 31, 2020, it made that puzzle even more complex.

As I have written in previous entries, the use of my trusty Kelty Day Pack is now one of the past. I spent a great deal of time looking for alternative packs, not knowing of course, that they make sling packs that wouldn’t put undue stress on the area where the defibrillator is under my skin. Due to its positioning, any type of weight, even in a two strap small daypack, could damage the defibrillator.

So, when I found the sling pack, the one issue with just about all of them is they are all about half the size of my Kelty Day Pack. This presents its own set of questions and issues. Now, after a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and being diabetic, I am more than thankful that I can still hike. With that said, I have to be even more cognizant of what I bring with me even on a short three mile hike. All of this, of course, due to limited space in my sling pack.

What changes, then, have I made to my routine for preparing for a day hike?

First and foremost, I leave a detailed description of where I am going, where I will be parking and how long I expect to be gone. This means that the days of switching up hikes or adding mileage on different trails is one of the past. That is of course after I text someone I know and let them know about the change.

I used to bring two bottles of water but that had to be cut down to one due to size restrictions. Of course, I bring TP, hand disinfectant, hand sanitizer, my Garmin GPS, water filter and my camera. I am going to get some photos with my new phone to see what the difference in quality is like and if the phone ones prove to be better than the camera, I will switch to that. Otherwise, I will make room for the camera.

Since it is spring and weather is what you would expect, the need for extra layers of clothes is not needed. This alone saves a great deal of room.

Medically the only issue that might arise (besides something catastrophic with my heart) is low blood sugar. I find, at times, that after exercising my sugar takes a dive and then needs to be corrected. For this I will bring Glucose tablets. Unfortunately, I have suffered the effects of low blood sugar a few times and it is unpleasant to say the least. I just need to really stay on top of it while I hike and when the hike is finished.

Since my plan right now is to go out tomorrow morning, I think that I am going to stay with my tried and true hiking area in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. I am more than familiar with the trails and at this time of year I shouldn’t have any problems finding water to filter if the need arises.

I have to admit that while I am looking forward to getting out, I am also a little apprehensive. I’ve only been out a few times since last year and I really want to make sure that I get out at the very least a few times a week. I guess to do that I need to take the first step.

Of course, here in the Northeast, even though spring is here now, summer will drop on us like a hammer sooner rather than later. And when that happens, the mornings won’t be the joys that they are now. When the humidity hits it will bring with it the gnats and mosquitoes, making each hike a journey into who will survive.

Let’s all be thankful for bug spray.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

You, Me, Stillman, And Dupree…

Although I love my Kindle, I am cursed with the ability to buy books at will. If I’m reading another book or an article that I found on hiking or the outdoors, I’ll click on the link and head on over to Amazon. And then I can’t resist. If I am even remotely interested in the book, I will add it to my library and it will sit there until I get to it. It could be a few days, a month, a year, or several years. It all depends.

So, as I was reading another book, the name Scott Stillman came up. What interested me even more was the title of the book that was being recommended. Released in January, I Don’t Want To Grow Up: Life, Liberty, and Happiness. Without a Career offers readers an insight as to what it is like to be able to seek out life’s adventures without the hassle of every day life. The ability to just pick up and go almost whenever you want to, just to climb that mountain, hike that trail or surf that wave.

Isn’t that what we all want to do? I am now in that unique position where if I want to hike a certain trail that may not be close to my home, I can do so. Since I am retired, I don’t have to worry about work and as long as my wife has my schedule, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The author says this about his most recent book:

My fellow readers…

At first glance, this book may appear as a departure from my nature writing. Upon reading it however, I’m confident you will find it is not. As you might know by now, I find it impossible to discuss any matter without also discussing nature. We are inseparable.

So here you go–another nature book. Part memoir, part philosophy, part how-to, part prayer for a better future–but a nature book, nonetheless. You will find it different, yet the same.

My sincere hope is that it finds its way into the hands of someone who’s suffering. Struggling to find their place in this crazy world. Struggling to grow up.

If it helps a single person, I’ll consider it a success.

Thanks for allowing me this opportunity. Thanks for your continued support. My gratitude is boundless.

Scott makes it clear to his readers. If you want to adopt this type of lifestyle before you retire, you can. If you haven’t seen the movie You, Me and Dupree, I strongly recommend it. Dupree, one of the lead characters in the movie, has adopted the lifestyle that Stillman celebrates in his book.

At 183 pages, I was able to knock it out in under a day. Looking at pursuing some adventures, I thoroughly enjoyed the book as well as the message it sent. So many people are caught up in the cycle of adulthood that they can’t even think about undertaking even weekend adventures because of life.

But as I am finding out, life might not always be here tomorrow.

Here is the description of the book that Amazon offers:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We’ve been asked this question over and over, practically since the day we could walk.

Many of us have absolutely no idea. We never have and we never will. This bothers us terribly, and on a profound level. We feel useless, disconnected, scattered, unfocused. If we could just make up our minds—about something, about anything!

What if you didn’t have to grow up?

Society would like us to believe that to be successful, we need careers. But let’s face it—we’re not all meant to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, and accountants.

Some are meant to be dreamers.

The people on the fringes of society who don’t necessarily subscribe to the modern version of the American Dream. Artists, adrenaline junkies, nomads, life seekers. Those who doubt conventional wisdom, question authority, and continually search for newer, better ways to live.

The world needs freaks—now more than ever before.

Is the career-less path really so bad?

Could it actually be a calling?

Find out for yourself.

Get it Now.

Think about where you are in life and decide how you want to move forward. You may be in your 40’s with the standard accoutrements of a suburban husband or wife. Can you make a decision to downsize and simplify your life so you can complete some of the adventures that you have no doubt been thinking about for years. Don’t kid yourself, we all have things that we have dreamed about doing, some for a pretty long time.

Needless to say, this book is worth the read. If anything, it will get you thinking.

If you could just take off, even if it is only for a few days or weeks, would you?

And to answer that other great question, What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be FREE!

HAPPY HIKING!!!

“My Favorite Weather Is Bird Chirping Weather.”

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”-Anne Bradstreet

“The promise of spring’s arrival is enough to get anyone through the bitter winter.”-Jen Selinsky

“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?”-Neltje Blanchan

Spring is my second most favorite time of year. Not to sound cliché, but it really does represent hope, and a chance at mental, if not some form of physical rebirth. Although it isn’t the same exact thing as hiking, riding my studio cycle all winter definitely puts me in a better place physically and mentally as the season changes. I may hurt after the first few hikes, but it won’t be as bad as if I had been dormant all winter. At this point in my life that isn’t an option.

One of my favorite activities when I am walking through the woods is to take pictures. I have found that even though sometimes I might do the same hike, it is incredible how the pictures I take are so drastically different. Most of the time I will try and focus on something new each time I hike to photograph. I like to think that I come up with some pretty good photos. It’s also nice to see the season change from spring to summer.

These are some photos I took as the day was ending yesterday in my backyard.

The end of a nice 75 degree day!
Another angle.
This was taken the day after a blizzard.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Another Spring Is Upon Us

“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.”-Gustav Mahler

“Spring adds new life and new joy to all that is.”-Jessica Harrelson

“Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.”-Anita Krizzan

“The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”-Harriet Ann Jacobs

Even though the temperature may say something a little different, today happens to be the first day of spring. And as with every other spring over the course of the last 45 years, it brings a sense of hope and rebirth. The snow, which stayed on the grass for a couple of months, is now gone and the birds that I have come to recognize as the first signs of spring, have already started their alluring call to get us outside. Looking at our weather forecast for next week, the lows gradually move from the 20’s into the low 40’s with the highs being in the 50’s and 60’s. Perfect hiking weather!!

Although fall may be my favorite season, spring is a very close second. You see, in about a week, I’ll do the same circular route for three or four (maybe more) days in a row. Why? Because the one thing that I love to see are the changes in the woods as the trees fight off the last vestiges of winter. Seeing the green again cover the forest floor gives me hope. Hope that the air will be sweet and the trails will be as ready for us as we are them. For just a little bit of inspiration, listen to Phish’s Lawn Boy. It doesn’t matter what version (preferably live of course), it will get you thinking of treading down the path.

Until that time comes, start getting ready for that first spring hike. I see no shame in having everything ready so if you make an impulsive decision to get outside, you will be ready. My pack is already in a state of anticipation. It sits with my boots and hiking poles waiting. Waiting to be called into action to carry me through the woods. Of course, today I will take everything out of my pack again and repack it, making sure that I have everything I need. The only thing left will be those last minute items like water and snacks.

So join me. Join me in either waiting or if you are more inclined to get out while it’s still a little chilly in the morning, join me in celebrating another spring of what will undoubtedly be a fine season of hiking heading into the summer.

Don’t Forget The Diet

“I saw many people who had advanced heart disease and I was so frustrated because I knew if they just knew how to do the right thing, simple lifestyle and diet steps, that the entire trajectory of their life and health would have been different.”-Dr. Oz

“Think about it: Heart disease and diabetes, which account for more deaths in the U.S. and worldwide than everything else combined, are completely preventable by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. Without drugs or surgery.”-Dean Ornish

One of the things that I have thought a great deal about since my heart attack is my diet. I have always exercised, but as an adult, my diet has been shit. I mean seriously, if you live in America, the choices you have to live a really, really bad lifestyle are endless. Taco Bell (used to be my favorite), McDonalds, BK, KFC and all of the rest contribute to a great deal of misery and unfortunately, death in this great nation of ours.

During the nine days I was in the hospital, I was able to do something that I don’t think I could have done if I was home. I actually detoxed myself off of sugar and any foods that are really bad for you. Since my daughter was home from school, I sat down with her and with the help of the internet, we figured out a diet that would suit my diabetes and heart condition. She spent (according to her) several days going through the house getting rid of anything that didn’t fall into the new plan of healthy eating.

So, after leaving the hospital, I went home not really sure if I was going to have the willpower to stick to a diet that didn’t include at least some of my favorite crappy foods. Fortunately, I think that since I was able to detox in the hospital, when I got home it was much easier to stay off of the garbage. Fourteen months later, I can say that I am still not eating the useless foods and have adopted what I think is a pretty good diet. I can also tell you that with the change in diet and the continued exercise, I feel better than I have in years.

After several months I found that although many of the recipes I was eating were really good for my diabetes, they were high in sodium, which isn’t great for the heart in regards to water retention.

So once again I went to the internet (Amazon this time), and I found an excellent cook book with recipes from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association entitled, Diabetes and Heart Healthy Meals for Two.

The best thing about this book is that it runs the gamut of everything that you would want to eat, from soups and salads to meats, poultry, and vegetarian dishes. It also includes side dishes, breakfasts and dessert. Seeing as how it addresses both Diabetes and people with Heart Conditions, it makes a perfect cook book to use if you are trying to eat healthy.

Of course, I am not an expert in all things healthy, but I can tell you that I haven’t found any recipes that have not been edible. They’ve actually been really good.

Now the question that I have been wrestling with for these many months as I recover and also stay isolated from anyone who might kill me with COVID is this: If I had been eating better over the course of the last 30-40 years, would I have developed heart disease and diabetes? Although my mother had a bad ticker, it was her life long addiction to cigarettes that did her in.

One thing that you will never see me do is blame anyone but myself for my medical conditions. So many people these days spend their lives blaming everyone but themselves for the condition that they are in.
Only one person has that responsibility and blame and that person is you.

It’s Just Around The Corner…

“Hike more, worry less.”-Unknown

“After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value.” – G.M. Trevelyan

“Without adventure civilization is in full decay.” – Alfred North Whitehead

It has been a long winter. In between snowstorms and the cold, I haven’t been out hiking in quite a while. But the time is coming. Just the other day it was 51 degrees.          Of course, it wasn’t the same 51 degrees that will feel much warmer in the next few weeks, but 51 is much, much better than 21.

So, what do I have to look forward to? Now that I am retired, my days are my own. For now, I ride my studio cycle as often as I can, but as soon as it is possible, I will be out in the woods. For now, it looks like I’ll be spending a great deal of time in the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. I want to spend some time there to get myself into shape for the more strenuous hikes in Bear Mt. and across the river. Each of the hikes will of course be documented here on the Zen Hiker.

Although I mentioned it in an earlier post, I have had to make adjustments as to the type of daypack that I can carry, even for short hikes. Because of an implanted defibrillator, I can not use any type of pack that has two straps. Apparently, if I have any type of weight in my day pack, it will put unnecessary stress on the point of implantation. As a result, I had to look for pack with only one sling in the center so I could avoid the defibrillator. This is much more difficult than you would think. After a great deal of research, I decided on the RUSH MOAB™ 10 SLING PACK 18L.

In a Best of 2021 Sling Bag list, the reviewer says, “Get your gear in order with this fully customizable tactical bag made from water-resistant and incredibly lightweight 1050D nylon. The fully cushioned adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to find your customized fit. This sling pack offers plenty of organized storage areas. An interior stash pocket paired with a hydration pocket and a pass-through port make it easy to stay hydrated too.”

Although the size of the bag will take some getting used to, it’s just one more thing that I have to make adjustments for if I want to keep hiking. I can’t tell you how many times I have scoffed at the idea of being a minimalist, even if it is for day hikes, but at this point I don’t have much of a choice.

So, then the question becomes, “What should be a priority for me to carry on my day hikes?”

Here is a list of must haves:

  1. Water-How much depends on how long.
  2. Water Filtration-Instead of carrying to much water, if I know that I am going to be hiking near water, I can use my Sawyer Squeeze.
  3. First Aid Kit
  4. Cell phone for emergencies
  5. Toilet Paper
  6. Camera-I have a Canon, but if my new phone takes pictures that are comparable, I’ll use that.

All of these items will go into the main compartment of the bag. In the smaller, less exposed pockets I will keep my wallet, FOB for my vehicle and the map of the area that I am in.

As much as I would like to carry what I used to, it just won’t be possible. But that’s ok. I will be out hiking!!!