I Just Want To Hike

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Hiking and happiness go hand in hand or foot in boot.-Diane Spicer

It has been a long year. Starting with my heart attack (actually on 12/26/19), it quickly went from bad to worse with the onslaught of COVID, and it didn’t seem like anyone could catch a break. With that said, I can count my retirement as a blessing. Truly a dysfunctional workplace, those poor folks are in the midst of trying to figure out what it is going to be like when they return in just a few weeks. 

Due to my hearts poor functioning, I had to wear a portable defibrillator for seven months instead of the forty-five days that they originally thought. On 7/31/20, I finally had a defibrillator implanted and have been recovering from that. 

My biggest wish, however, is to get back into the woods. My daughter and I went for a walk the other day and it just wasn’t the same. I want to walk on the dirt and feel the breeze as it filters through the trees. I want to take pictures of stupid things like rocks, trees, and insects. I want to be able to choose my route instead of watching the tv while I ride. 

But I still have an issue that I am trying to figure out. The spot where they implanted the defibrillator is just above the left breast. So when I go back in a week, I need to ask my doctor if I will be able to even carry a pack. The strap of even a daypack goes right over where the defibrillator is and when my pack is filled with everything I need even on a short hike, will put pressure on the device. I don’t know how much weight, if any, I will be able to carry.

So my question goes out to all the hikers out there. Do you know of any alternatives in terms of packs that would alleviate that situation? I figure that I would need to carry two Nalgene bottles, my first aid kit, GPS, and other assorted necessities. 

Feel free to put any suggestions in the comments below.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Are You A Prophet Of Doom?

“Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.”

I was reading the blog of Austin Kleon who is a self-professed “writer who draws” and he posted these terms that came from Merriam Webster. His entry is a short one, simply saying, “Don’t do it! Take a walk instead.”

I know that it is difficult, but you need to take some time away from the news, no matter what station you watch or websites you traverse on the internet. It is all filled with negative, and if I  may say so, doomsday talk, not only about COVID, but the upcoming election and the racial strife spreading throughout the country.

What makes this entire situation more precarious is the simple fact that many of us have been cooped up in our houses for months and even though we can now go out, you really still can’t do anything. So what do we do? We grab our phones, open our laptops, and start inhaling the overwhelming negativity that the mainstream media calls “news.”

I, too am guilty of this.

So I agree with Mr. Kleon. Put the phone away, close the laptop, and get outside. Or listen to some music. As I am writing this I am listening to a Phish show from 1997. Here’s another stretch-read a book.

Although the physical effects of COVID are undoubtedly real and potentially deadly, so are the mental ones. Wallowing in all of this nonsense can’t be good for you.

Trust me. All of the negativity and hate will still be there when you get back.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Your Physical And Mental Health Count

“Never discredit your gut instinct. You are not paranoid. Your body can pick up on bad vibrations. If something deep inside of you says something is not right about a person or situation, trust it.”-Anonymous

I’ve had a great deal of time since 12/26/19 to think about my new situation and how it has changed my life. An overhaul of my diet, including the total elimination of sugar and fried foods, has changed my physical outlook on life.

Your mental well being, however, is something that they don’t really talk about. When I was in the hospital I got tons of information about the physical side of my recovery. In a small side note on one of the pages, it did mention something about seeking help if you needed it, but that was about it. I did have a colleague who asked me about my mental state commenting that her husband had been depressed after he had his heart attack.

I, however, never felt depressed. Instead, I almost felt reborn as if I had been given a second chance at life. If you think about it, since my odds of surviving open-heart surgery were slim, I really have been given a second chance. I honestly could not think of a reason to wallow in self-pity, instead, I chose to tackle my new life head-on.

Is it sometimes difficult to stay motivated? Of course it is. I would be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. But at the end of the day, I’m only 55 and I am hoping that I still have some good years left in me before I venture to the great beyond.

They say that up to 20% of heart attack survivors suffer from depression. What do I wish I had been told prior to leaving the hospital? Here is a shortlist that I got from the Cleveland Clinic.

  • Your negative feelings, such as low mood or lack of experiencing pleasure, persist daily for 2 weeks or more.
  • You find it increasingly difficult to participate in your recovery from heart disease. It is not uncommon for patients participating in cardiac rehabilitation to experience emotional difficulties during their physical recovery. A lack of mental drive or motivation, as well as a lack of confidence may indicate that depression has settled in.
  • You have significant difficulty with your daily routine, social activities and/or work.
  • You don’t have anyone in whom you can confide. If you don’t have anyone to share your thoughts with, it’s hard to know if what you’re thinking makes sense. Depression also has a tendency to make people more withdrawn and isolated, making it harder to receive social support during difficult times.
  • You have suicidal thoughts or feelings. Suicide is an irreversible solution to problems and causes permanent harm not only to yourself, but also to family members and friends. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call your physician or local 24-hour suicide hotline right away, or go to the nearest emergency room for help.

The most important thing is to remember that if you have survived a heart attack you have been given a second chance. Fight every day to improve both your physical and mental health so you can enjoy every day.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

 

When I Return…

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

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”-Beverly Sills

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”-Mary Davis

 

So in my time being quarantined because of Covid and my recovery, I have been able to plan my eventual return to the woods. Being a little leery about going out for the first time, my hiking partner of well over twenty years has agreed to accompany me when that glorious time comes. I have decided that my return hike is going to be an old favorite.

Even though I have hiked Anthony’s Nose over 300 times over the years, I still love it and haven’t had the chance to hike it in a couple of years. As I have noted in other posts, one of the attractions to the Nose is that it is pretty much uphill the entire way there and downhill on the way back.  The views are excellent and if we go on a weekday morning, the crowds won’t be so bad. It is unfortunate, but on Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s, trying to hike in peace is impossible.

With that said, the views from the Nose are outstanding. Once you get to the top, it overlooks the Bear Mt. Bridge and Bear Mt. itself. On the way back (or the way there), you can also stop at another viewpoint that gives you excellent views north on the Hudson River.

Depending on how far you want to hike will determine where you start your trip to the Nose. For my return, we will begin and end on the AT at South Mt. Pass. This will be just about a 4-mile hike.

You may be asking yourself why I am telling you this and here is the reason why. I am going stir crazy being cooped up in my house! If I can’t actually get out into the woods, I’ll write about it.

For all of you that can get out, I salute you and take a hike for me!

HAPPY HIKING!!!

It’s Time To Get Back In The Saddle

“Life is short. Go to the mountains and never look back.” -Anonymous

“Having a heart attack felt nothing like how I thought it would feel.”-Anonymous  

This whole Covid virus is really screwing up the start of my retirement. My goal, as small as it may be, was to be at a point now where I could be out hiking. But thanks to the virus, it has not gone exactly as planned.

Ever since I left the hospital on January 3rd, I have had to wear a portable defibrillator just in case I go into cardiac arrest. Originally I was only supposed to wear it for 45 days and then the decision would be made as to whether or not I would need a permanent one implanted, stay with what I have or nothing at all.

What are the factors to get me to one decision or another? It’s something called Ejection Fraction. What is that you may ask?

Ejection fraction (EF) is a measurement, expressed as a percentage, of how much blood the left ventricle pumps out with each contraction. 

When I had my heart attack, my EF was 8%. A normal EF for adults over the age of 20 is between 53% and 73%. Can your EF be improved? According to my cardiologist as well as what I have researched the answer is yes.

So for 6 months now I have done many things to help improve my EF. I still exercise at least six out of seven days per week, I don’t eat sugar and I also adopted a low sodium diet. The result is a decent amount of weight loss. I also take many medications to address my heart failure.

Now here is the interesting part. Although I complain about not being able to hike because of the virus, being locked down has actually helped in adjusting to my new life. The nine days that I spent in the hospital helped me detox from all of the crap I had been eating and having everything closed prevented me from slipping back into my old eating habits.

So on July 15th I finally go back to my doctor for an echocardiogram. I am hoping that at this appointment I will be given a more concrete plan on how to proceed. It is my hope that I either don’t need any type of defibrillator or they will implant one. The wearable one that I have now is a huge pain in the ass.

Until then, I’ll just keep on keeping on!

HAPPY HIKING!!!

 

A Small Simple Desk

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Measure twice, cut once, then force it to fit.”-Anonymous

If I had more time, I’d watch more woodworking or home-improvement shows, but, not enough hours in the day.— Nick Offerman

One of my goals in retirement is to build more stuff since I now have the time. For several weeks now my daughter has been talking about getting a new desk for her room. The funny thing is, when you look online for desks, they are either incredibly expensive or very cheaply made. So she asked if we could make a desk.

Of course, I didn’t have any objections and I let her design it, giving me the measurements so I could start planning. Since we were looking at doing something relatively simple, I figured it would take about two hours to cut, sand and put it together. My daughter would then paint it white.

Here are some photos of the process and where it ended up.

The only wood necessary for the small desk. Totally made out of 2 x 4’s and 1 x 4’s. L-28 inches x W-21.5 inches x H-30 inches.

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Pre-painting

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First coat of paint.

The completed desk in my daughter’s room. She custom ordered a tempered glass cover for the desk.  I will update the blog once it comes in.

What Do I Stand For?

“Too many people expect wonders from democracy, when the most wonderful thing of all is just having it.”
— Walter Winchell

“In free countries, every man is entitled to express his opinions and every other man is entitled not to listen.”
— G. Norman Collie

“In a democracy, the individual enjoys not only the ultimate power but carries the ultimate responsibility.”
— Norman Cousins

Since this whole ordeal began with the murder of George Floyd, I have been asked, mainly by those on the left, “What do you stand for?” Here is a list:

First, let me say that I stand with those who oppose the unjust murder of George Floyd. The police who are involved will hopefully receive the proper and appropriate sentence for their crimes.

I stand for and believe in the fact that the USA is not only the strongest nation on the earth, and even with its flaws, it is without a doubt the best country in the world.

I stand for our First Amendment, which by the way is our most important amendment. The fact that I should be able to express my views without using violence is my right, and I should not and will not apologize for it.

I also believe that I should not and will not apologize, ever, for being white.

In my belief of the First Amendment, I also believe that you have the right to express your views without anyone interrupting you or threatening to shut you down.

I stand for the fact that our flag is the symbol that represents us and unites us as a country. If you decide to destroy or burn this great symbol, you have lost any hope of convincing me that your position is correct. You are just another person who is void of any ideas that may advance your cause.

I stand with those who choose to express themselves in a non violent manner. Those who make the conscious choice to destroy what is theirs and others are, in fact, criminals. Not social justice warriors.

I stand for the fact when I do express my views, I fully expect that anyone who disagrees with me will do so in a mature and intellectually appropriate manner.

I stand for and believe that everyone in this country has the ability to do what they want and to make as much money as they possibly can. Spending your life worrying about what others make is a waste of time.

I stand for being able to live my life as I see fit. This includes how I raise my children.

I stand for the fact that teachers are in schools to teach children the basics. I do not want or need you to impart your political beliefs to my children. They will learn what is important at home, not at school. They can then make personal choices as they digest information.

I stand for our 2nd Amendment. I don’t believe that I have to explain this. Break into my house and you most certainly learn what it means.

I also believe that no one on either side has the moral high ground in any situation. If you believe that you do, you are delusional. Just because you say it and think it, doesn’t make it true. The same goes for me.

I stand for the police who have sworn an oath to protect its citizens. AS with every other single profession on the face of the earth, they also have people who are not fit to hold the title. Since I was a teacher for many years I can use that as an example. For those of you who were colleagues of mine, did we have a perfect group of teachers?

I stand for our military who are out there every day protecting the rights that you have. (Especially the Marines!!!)

Overall, I stand for the constitution that gives us everything.

If for some reason you take exception to what I have written, please leave a comment below.

 

I Miss Hiking

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”-Mary Davis

“Walking is a man’s best medicine.”-Hippocrates

I miss hiking. Something that I have been doing pretty consistently my entire adult life has taken a back seat to Covid-19 and recovering from my heart attack. What do I miss most? Here is my top ten list:

  1. Being outside.
  2. Being outside with my fellow hikers.
  3. The feel of the earth under my feet as I am walking through the woods.
  4. The breeze rustling the trees and cooling me off.
  5. Taking pictures of the myriad of things that I see on my hikes.
  6. Being able to think without being bothered by anyone.
  7. The isolation. Being able not to think about anything,
  8. Exploring new hikes.
  9. Hiking familiar trails and seeing new things.
  10. Posting my hikes on my blog.
  11. (Bonus) Disconnecting from everything electronic (except my camera).

So, for now, I ride my studio cycle to help with the recovery as well as get in shape for the eventual time that I can get back out into the woods.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Rule #1-Stay In Your Comfort Zone

“WTF? I blew myself up!”-Me

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned as I have navigated through this life is that you don’t mess with what you don’t know. Why? Because you stand a good chance of looking like an idiot, or you just might get hurt really bad.

When it comes to home repairs, I have made it my business to stay away from two things-electricity and any form of gas. Both have the potential to well, kill you quickly and efficiently.

Several weeks ago I noticed that I keep hearing a strange “booming” noise coming from our basement. Our water heater, which was now over twenty years old, appeared to be the culprit of this strange noise. This was confirmed one morning when we didn’t have any hot water. So down I went with my daughter, who was holding the flashlight, into the darkness to light the pilot light.

Of course, this went against every survival instinct I have but after watching several youtube videos, I felt confident that I could do this and survive. So as my daughter held the light so I could see, I laid down on the floor next to the heater and with my extra long lighter, and also with my face about three inches away from the opening, I started to try and light the pilot light. After several failed attempts, I decided to let it sit for a few minutes since I was only getting a very weak flame and I could smell gas. 

To make a long story a great deal shorter, I apparently didn’t wait long enough. As I made another attempt to light it, I heard the familiar boom and felt the heat of a giant fireball as it scorched my beard and my face.

As I stood up, the look of shock, surprise, and horror on my daughter’s face was obvious. It told me one thing-I had screwed up. I could smell and taste the burnt hair of my beard, eyelashes, and eyebrows and after examining it in the bathroom mirror, I confirmed the obvious. My beard was screwed. Luckily my daughter was able to do some repairs because I absolutely refused to fully shave it off. It was bad enough that I had to trim it.

Needless to say, that lovely smell persisted for weeks, especially when I washed it. I can now laugh at what happened, especially since my daughter did almost immediately after it happened. It has also reinforced my belief that you shouldn’t mess with what you don’t know. I am now a believer, without a doubt.

The pictures above are just after I failed in my attempt to light my hot water heater.

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I think my daughter did a fabulous job of repairing the damage.

Any comments? Suggestions?

The Strangest Dream…

“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy. ”
― Ray Charles

“Promise me you’ll never stop dreaming.”
― Melina Marchetta

One thing that being cooped up in the house is that it has given me ample time to live in my head. To not only think about the last five months but what I can expect in the future. Since I have not written pretty much anything since being hospitalized in late December/early January, I’m going to spend some time just writing about the crazy shit that has been residing in my head. Feel free to comment!

When I could sleep, the dreams came like clockwork. However, sleep did not come easy during the nine days that I was in the hospital. Blood being drawn every two hours, the coughing and crying of the patient next to me who appeared to be waiting for death and the visits from a multitude of doctors made a heavy and necessary restful sleep almost impossible. But I always knew that at some point during the day or night I had slept because I could remember the dreams.

They were always the same. I would start a hike at South Mountain Pass that would take me to Anthony’s Nose. Although the hike is about four miles round trip and easier than most, I could feel a sense of dread as I made my way up the trail. Each step, laboriously taken to avoid wet rocks and branches, became more and more difficult as I made my way up the trail. The sun disappeared behind the clouds and the vegetation on the ground and the trees themselves had changed. At the parking area, I was surrounded by lush green leaves and beautiful flowers. Now, all of the vegetation was dead and the sense of dread was much worse. Each time that I had the dream, I would walk a little further and after being enveloped in darkness, I would wake up.

After leaving the hospital, the dream never returned.

I have thought about it over the course of the last few months and I can’t figure out any answers as to the meaning of the dream. Any thoughts?