On the evening of Monday, April 13, something didn't feel right. I never get sick, and my abdomen is feeling a bit unsettled. Did I pick up a bug in one of our properties at work? I touch numerous doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, light switches, and the like every day. Could some germ have gotten into a cut in my dry, cracked hands? Did I pick it up in our office? A couple others had some pretty bad colds in the last week. I struggled to down some dinner and called it a night.
night was a nightmare. My abdominal pains kept me up all night.
I felt like I had a heavy bed of shiny, sharpened steel nails laying
across the top of my stomach. My groggy red eyes gazed at my clock
radio every half hour or so as I anxiously waited for daybreak. I went
to work the next day, expecting things to improve. The sharp pains
continued, and I felt like keeling over onto the floor several times.
Towards the end of the work day, as the temperatures dropped into the
40s, I started shivering uncontrollably. I couldn't hold down any food,
and when I reached home, I went to bed without dinner at 6pm.
The days of "Skygod" are gone. Bruiser's the new name.
Pic taken at ADZPCTKO six days after surgery
April 15: I can't even remember the last time I've taken a sick day, but this is going to be it. My health insurance stops at the end of the month, and then I'll start my no frills catastrophic plan for the summer. I'll rest today, and head in for a physical first thing tomorrow.
April 16: The soreness and mild, annoying pain is still here, and not surprisingly, the Doc wants a CT scan to look at my abdomen. I headed straight to the Vail Valley Medical Center—there's a good chance I have appendicitis. After less than fifteen minutes in the machine, I patiently waited for the results... and it looks like I'm having emergency surgery to remove the appendix in the next few hours.
I spent most of the following day in the hospital, recovering well, getting up after 24 hours to walk the hallways, and do some laps around the parking structure. After being chased around by hospital security, I headed back to my room.
|Two Trails Down, and one to go!|
Somewhere in Montana - Ouch.
The foot problem turns out to be the Navicular Bone on my right foot (just below and in front of the ankle bone on the inside of the foot), which has shifted ever so slightly out, causing minor tendonosis of the Posterior Tibial Tendon (PTTDisfunction). In the morning on the trail, there were no symptoms. After fifteen or so miles each day, it reared its ugly head. Not wanting to know what would happen after five continuous months of a sore PT Tendon this summer, I've plunked down a few thousand dollars for an MRI, custom orthoses from the podiatrist, and weekly visits to Vail Integrative Medical Group for chiropractic rehabilitation. Despite the seemingly dismal diagnosis, I feel optimistic. My ski boots, albeit frozen right now, are rigid compared to the running shoes on the trail, keeping my foot on a solid plane, and don't give me any problems. Thanks to that, I can still ski almost anywhere I want! And finding great tours with minimal avalanche risk is never a problem around here.
It's now early March, and the late April start date is looming ever closer. I need to get off the snow and start hiking! But where? Everything around here is buried in snow, and I don't have the time to tromp around Moab, UT for several days. Our annual Rockies Ruck (a thru-hiker reunion of sorts) weekend is in a few days; maybe I can hike the groomed Mineral Belt Trail in running shoes at 10,000 feet, in March.
March 9th: The Ruck is over, and it was great to see the usual suspects again, including Princess-of-Darkness, Mags, D-Low, Disco, Cheers, and LoveBarge; along with a good dozen or so others. We watched several inspirational videos on long distance hikes, even a short Oscar winning movie on the 1974 World Trade Center tightrope walker (I'll pass on that hobby, I'm perfectly happy with hiking at ground level). As everyone moseyed out of the Leadville Hostel on Sunday, I threw my belongings into my car and headed out to hike the Mineral Belt Trail. I completed two laps on the hardpacked groomed path, completing a twenty five mile hike, using muscles I haven't used since... well, the CDT. There is a strong ache that has fired up in the front of my legs. I found out I have shin splints. Shin splints? I've never had that before. At the end of the five day work week, my shin splints have disappeared. It hurt so good, I think I'll try it again! My parents are in town, and they also wanted to toil along the Mineral Belt Trail, chock full of many informational signs explaining the rich history of the area. And, this time I feel great. I have a small sore spot above my big toe, but my PT tendon is only the slightest bit sore. Good, I was really worried about this.
20: It's Friday after work again, and I'm headed down to Denver for a
friend's graduation party, and some snow climbing tomorrow. On Sunday,
if nothing else happens, I plan on hiking twenty miles and trying on
more running shoes. Unlike the last two weekends, where I was hiking on
snow, my feet will twist on the uneven terrain, roll over the rocks,
and slide around in my shoe. Will my PTT be sore at the end of the day?
Am I going to get blisters from my first transition to dirt in six
months? I look forward to seeing what happens.
Descending below Dragontail
It's Saturday morning, we're in Rocky Mountain National Park, and we're
skinning up to Dragontail Couloir. Unfortunately, it's never easy for
me to say goodbye to winter; I don't have to worry about heat, crowds,
or permits, and skiing down thousands of feet of vertical is so much
more fun than banging up my knees hiking down it. I'm excited. The
conditions out here are more like late May than March, with well
consolidated snow and temperatures in the 50s. The next day, after
talking to several friends about places to hike, I settle on the city
of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Recreation trail system. I arrive
to the outskirts of town to find parking lots full and the trails chock
full of hundreds of people enjoying the sunny skies and temperatures in
the 60s and 70s. I grab a map of the area and settle on climbing Green
Mountain and the Mesa Trail, forming a nineteen mile loop. I don shorts
for the first time this year, and climb up the dusty winding trail up
Gregory Canyon. I'm wearing some old New Balance 476 shoes that have
been tucked away in a closet since high school. They're light,
breathable, and should be great heading through the Mojave Desert.
After less than three miles, my heel spurs—which developed from
spending 130 days in ski boots as a ski instructor in 1997—have
developed some nice quarter size blisters. Yes, I felt hotspots develop
fifteen minutes into the hike, but chose to ignore it, and now I'm
paying the price. On the PCT, a blister like this could easily take me
off the trail for a few days.
Remodel job with my roommate John. We routed our own molding, varnished, and getting ready to install!
use this opportunity to see how to best pad around the spur, and see
what modifications I need to make to the shoe. I grab my bag of precut
moleskin pieces and start getting to work.
"Dr. John" using whatever we had available to find the pressure points on my shoe.
The blisters were noticeable for the next several days, but as I write this exactly one month before my start date, the skin on the affected area has turned a bit harder and stronger; my feet have begun to trail harden. Now if I could only do this every other day for the next month. My roommate John, a Masters ski coach who jumps over the Equator from winter to winter every six months is helping me cut out a couple areas of my shoe for the problematic bone spur issue.
the weather's become very unproductive to hiking again, with the 8 inch
dump here, and the 20 inch dump there. Again, it's been difficult to
focus on the Trail ;). Another powder day here, and two day ski tour
there... But no hiking in the dirt.
Omnibus Public Land Management Act
"it's important for Americans to know that our national parks are still beautiful, our national battlefields are still sacred and our national rivers are still wild and scenic,"
—Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va.
We met Suge at the airport and picked up the rental car for the ride to Lake Morena Campground. I called Girl Scout to tell him I found a ride and didn't need a place to stay tonight, and we headed on our way. The campground was near empty as we slowly looked for our campsite under a darkening night sky. There will be an onslaught of hundreds of thru-hikers, past thru-hikers, and trail angels heading in over the next two days; hiking in from the Border (the PCT skirts around the edge of the campground), and getting rides from the airport.
ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off)
The Class of 2009! Pic courtesy of The Incredible Bulk
Thursday, April 23 and my plan to get a ride to the Border for the
twenty mile hike to the campground is obviously not going to happen
today. The emergency surgery to remove my appendix a week ago today has
made it difficult to walk, let alone hike twenty miles. After helping
set up tents and unload grills from vehicles (since I can't do any
lifting, I provided the mental and psychological support), I attended
the first event of the Kickoff Party that evening—Trail Jeopardy.
The campground pavilion filled quickly, and a few minutes after finding
a seat, I felt a firm tap on the top of my head. It looks like I'm
playing! I found my way to the front of the room and grabbed a
chair next to the two other contestants. We introduced ourselves to the
crowd, and watched the screen as the PowerPoint presentation lit up the
categories. Our categories included topics like PCT Geology, Hiker
Trash, the Ray Way, and a few others. I started to do well, and
quickly fell behind to second place from my lack of trail planning. I
didn't know about Eagle Falls (other than wherever it is in Northern
Oregon; I'm taking that route), or Lake Chelan (I know it's a hang
gliding hotspot). Every year the current class of hikers collaborate
online in the Fall and produce a DVD of their stunning life experiences
over the summer. Tonight we're watching the class of '07s.
One of many presentations given. This one was on finding reliable water in the desert.
Burgers, brats, and burritos, oh my!
Scout and Frodo's
On Saturday afternoon, I came across Scout and Frodo, Trail Angels who thru hiked the PCT in '07, and they offered me a place to stay while I healed up. After saying the last of my goodbyes Sunday morning, we drove down to their home in San Diego. Pickles and Just Jack were also in the car, and Pickles blurted something out after seeing my wounds—Bruiser. She let out a little laugh, along with everyone else in the car, and I haven't been called anything else since.
We arrived at their home a little while later, getting the tour of the kitchen, where the food is stored, who gets what room, etc. With the last of the children out of college a year ago, and a thru-hike under their belt, they've been hosting hikers ever since—picking them up at the airport and driving them to the trail's southern Terminus 63 miles away. They have hosted hikers from every continent but Africa and Antarctica, and this year alone, seen over one hundred hikers pass through their home (I think I'm 95). After dropping off my gear in an available room, I headed back downstairs to see who else was around. I met Eric Ryback, very well known in the long distance hiking community—he was the first person to hike the Triple Crown in the Late Sixties and Early Seventies starting after his junior year in high school. The PCT and CDT weren't even close to being National Scenic Trails, let alone completed trails (and I worried my parents when I did the AT right out of college!). I heard his amazing talk at the ALDHA West Gathering last fall, maybe he was lucky enough to be hiking with a friend or brother, or occasionally a day hiker a few times a month. Blazer, from the D.C. area, was on her way to the trail's terminus to see a friend off on their thru-hike. She hiked the PCT in '07 and ran into Scout and Frodo along the trail several times that summer.
The six of us tromped over to a neighbor's home for dinner, where Jim and Jan (yes, they've hiked much or all of the Trail too) served up wine, salad, and salmon while we shared the epic trail stories that make these experiences so special.
The next several days were spent resting, struggling to make changes to my website with nothing more than this XV6700 PocketPC phone I'm typing from right now, and a couple five mile hikes through Rose Canyon for some exercise. As evening would approach, we would listen to Scout skillfully play the guitar, and Frodo and the rest of us swayed to his large mental library of songs.
On my birthday Monday, my body's gift to me are sore calf muscles, slowly atrophying away from two weeks of inactivity—the most inactivity I've had since college. When I did manage to get out for a couple five mile hikes in Rose Canyon to San Clemente Canyon, my abdomen felt like it received a nice fat blow from a baseball bat.
It's now May 1st, my birthday has come and gone (thanks for the cake on Monday Scout and Frodo!!). There's been a good dozen hikers in and out since I arrived last Sunday, and I've helped a few who have never been on a long distance hike before by removing unnecessary items from their large packs. The days continue to come and go, and it's great to see hiker's eyes light up with the excitement as they leave for their adventure. Unfortunately my enthusiasm is lacking right now as my intestines cramp up from another excellent meal served up by our hosts Scout and Frodo.
It's May fourth, and I've decided to get a last minute blood test just to make sure there's no internal infection, no iron deficiency, and no other major problems. I need some peace of mind right now. Frodo and Galit dropped me off at the small testing lab as they headed off to see a movie. It was a three or four mile drive to get here, and I'm going to try walking home. It was a good mile or two along the busy streets of San Diego as I worked my way down to the nature trail in San Clemente Canyon, paralleling a busy highway. I feel relatively strong, and spiritually better with each step. I get home a few hours later and make a decision—I'm outta here tomorrow! Barney and Sandy (Scout and Frodo) are taking some hikers out tomorrow, and then it won't be until at least Sunday. After the wonderful hospitality and meals they've provided me over the last week, I refuse to have them make a special trip to the Border just for me. I don't know how to thank you two enough. Without your help, this very well could have been a frightening and arduous start to the Trail. Thanks Scout and Frodo!
PCT Mexican Border