Monthly Archives: May 2014

How to Keep Preparing


IMG_7069Planning what I consider to be an epic adventure is not difficult, but keeping motivated along the way is. I am a procrastinator by nature…or habit. By some people’s measuring stick what I do is pretty simplistic. And, really it isn’t brain surgery. But it is pushing my limits and if I am pushing my limits it is just as adventurous as those who fly into space or dive to the bottom of the seas. That is part of what is good about life I can be thrilled by something inert to someone else who can be thrilled by something inert to me. While the Bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun and Mr. Burger taught me in 7th grade science that all mass that exists and ever will exist is here in the universe now, I can search for what parts of the mass which exists that is interesting to me.   My Dad, rest his soul, had all the adventure he ever wanted in the Korean War. It changed him and he was not seeking anything really new after that. That was sad. He never understood why in tar-nation I did the things I did. In 6th grade when I went to a gun camp with the Janet Miller on Orcas Island, he was baffled why I would do that. When I went on a summer mission trip to the Philippines in college, he thought I was crazy. When I went to Mt. Everest in 2012 he was just plain worried sick. But he always admired those things after I was home safe. I guess the war just made him think that there was no place like home and everyone ought to be there!

trailSo this upcoming trek is to Machu PIcchu. I watched a documentary called Keep the River to Your Right a few years back and thought it would be fun to go there. That guy is in his 70’s and he is doing just fine. I didn’t know until well after I booked the trek that he had simply taken a train in to the ruins. I will be walking for four days to get there. Will go over a pass at nearly 14,000 feet. Will sleep in tents and eat over a camp kitchen with porters and my friend Maggie.  The planning for this began in Earnest about a year ago. That gave me plenty of time to get fit and thin. Or at least lose a good amount of weight.

I was off to a great start, but waned in the middle when I had two surgeries and the doldrums and a special needs puppy.  So now I find myself with about 90 days to departure, in fair shape but heavy and mad at myself as I look to crack down for the next 90 days.

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The Doll House Garage Gym

To accomplish this I am going to take on workouts and healthy eating not unlike the contestants in shows like The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss. It will take accountability and dedication. I guess the kind a procrastinator musters when the going gets tough, read time is running out. Fast. Really fast. I have a home gym of my own. It is pretty well-appointed and kinda cool. Well, its hot now with temps outside in triple digits. No excuse. I can walk during work but it is hot. No excuse. I can give up sugar and grains and focus on paleo but I like a good desert now and again. No excuse.

I love my adventures. I am sure that the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek changed me in good ways I never would have experienced here in my little desert bubble. I am excited to find out how Peru will change me. What I will hear and see and what I can take back. Not in the way of souvenirs or photographs, but inside. But to even get there, to maximize my experience I will need to do this last leg of preparation like there is no tomorrow.

Adventure in Learning


While most of my blog entries are about hikes and paddles and treks, every now and then it is about something else. Today I write about the fact I love to read and write. That my father instilled in me a love for, and pride for my ability, to read.  He always did the children’s crossword puzzle in the Sacramento Bee with me as a small child and then monthly word power quizzes from The Reader’s Digest. Seems silly to say out loud. Doesn’t it. That a person would be proud of being able to read well and talk about that pride in their 50s. And I loved to read so much I wanted to write stories like I read.

We were a very verbal and expressive household. Dad told epic tales of growing up in Bellingham in the countryside. Imagination stimulants like how he helped an old guy with frozen up hips with his honey bees. Dad loved honey bees all his life and always swore bee venom helped alleviate arthritis pain.  Mom told of growing up in a logging camp and being shy and not liking to read out loud at school because she lisped and got teased. But man when she sat down at the piano and banged out the chords for a good old rendition of Cool Water there was no shyness and no lisp! Kathlene always wanted to do roll playing games when we were tiny tots. But she made up her dialog and mine. I was happy enough to just go along with it.

Brother Joe wrote on the school paper and was a great story teller, even if he did laugh so hard half the time that you had to wait impatiently with baited breath to really find out what he was saying.

I went to Sunny Terrace Elementary School in Seattle. What stands out is fourth grade. First was a fun time, but second and third were sort of hard. I didn’t quite feel connected with the teachers. Mrs. Hergert had been my first grade teacher and I suppose I got used to her and wanted it to remain the same. I am not good at change. But second grade dished up Mrs. Wilcox. She was tall and stern and seemed removed. Mrs. Mansburger from third grade was mean and didn’t like my hand writing so she put it up on the bulletin board as an example…of bad work. The only good thing about that was it caused a legendary appearance by my mother, who walked into the room unannounced during a lesson. She walked right over to the bulletin board. The class was by then completely quiet aside from Mrs. Mansburger having  offered “Can I help you?” Mom reached up and removed my scarlet letter….and Mark Lawrence’s too just for good measure. She turned, looked across the tiny heads of riveted third graders and proclaimed “And I never want to see Karen’s work on the board again unless it is because it is the best.” With that, she turned on the heel of her shiny pump with her back combed hair and perfectly coordinated outfit and was gone.  After that it was instant celebrity! When she came on to the school property, all the kids were in awe.

After the long summer between 3rd and 4th grade, we all piled into our new status as a member of the “upper grades”. My class was to be in the far end building right next to Mrs. Cole’s class. My sister was in Mrs. Cole’s class so I had the comfort of help being in proximity in case I needed it.  I had a new teacher. Her name was Mrs. Reeder. Linda Reeder. She was young and tall and pretty and had this yellow dress that I will never forget. But she also had all this really “cool stuff” for us to do with reading. We had a reading comprehension module called  SRA and were challenged to read as many books as we could and do projects after each one; dioramas, reports….more that I cannot remember. I can still smell the class room on a rainy day holed up with my book, dreaming of my post book project and wondering what book to read next. I was president of the Matt Christopher fan club as well as the Beverly Cleary fan club. I read all the “Trick” books (The Limerick Trick, The Home Run Trick etc.) I even got a letter back from the author Scott Corbett  when I wrote after reading one of those books. Yes, that was a choice too, write to the author.

Mrs. Reeder remains famous around the Whelan house. Back in 1970 teachers hand wrote their report cards. There was a place on each one for comments, which I was always most interested in reading. Upon receiving my card I burst into the house filled with excitement, smile from ear to ear for inside was THIS little gem: “Karen has the gift of gab.” A higher compliment I could not receive. More proud I could not be. In a family as expressive as mine I had come into my own. With a father now known as The Watch Maker because when you asked him what time it was he told you how to build the watch, I had the GIFT of gab. GIFT! My parents were kind enough not to burst my bubble and let me in on the truth, which was that I talked to much and as a result was a bit of an interruption for the teacher. And here I am over 40 years later working in a profession that requires me to gab and write and express.  Thank you Mrs. Reeder, for letting me be me and find all the expression I needed!

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Lone Mountain


There is a little bump of rock that sits in the Las Vegas Valley east of the Red Rock Conservation Area and literally an arm’s length from the 215 AKA Beltway freeway. It can bee seen from all over the valley, sort of by itself. Thus the name, I would conclude. I never had a reason to want to hike around there. But a friend mine who lives on that e4nd of the valley has always wanted to do it just to ay he did.

Lone Mountain

Lone Mountain

So Saturday we set out. It was early and windless and quite a nice morning to be out. The thermometer was predicted to be in the triple digits but I was not worried. My research had told me that this was a half mile hike that would end up with a 600 foot elevation gain. I figured a short burst of work, a peek around the valley and back down.

We headed up and it was a bit steep as I thought it would be.

First Leg

As often happens, at least for me, the ultimate top of a hike is not visible from the bottom of it. From this perspective I thought there would be this first stretch and another short one. Because it was 1/2 mile……right? WRONG!!!! As it turned out we had not taken the short route as described (a bit incorrectly) by the source I looked up. Instead we were on track for steep and long.  About three miles.

saddle

We took a nice view of the valley northeast of the rock while we were at the saddle. From here there were additional steep sections to attack. My friend is not a real avid hiker. He was happy I gave him my trekking pole since he wore court shoes. The steepness was work going up, but coming down proved to be more work. Lots more. My quads went from hot fire burning globs to jelly like puddles that were useless for anything from being fired the entire return trip. But I get ahead of myself.

benchmark

We hit the benchmark and at the top got a hazy morning view of the entire Vegas Valley. We had run into another hiker who uses this as a training hill. That seemed to be the norm there…lots of people powering up and down to get fit. We spoke with the one guy who said in the summer there are lots of gnats at the top of the hill. But it was not gnats, it was FLYING ANTS! They were everywhere and as a result the stay at the top was not really very fun.

SKULL TOP

Appears that one guy didn’t get out of there before the gnats got the best of him!  You can see the hazy day over Vegas in the distance. It did clear some as time went on. But it also got hotter fast!

This little suburban hike was a great test of hiking in less than aesthetic surroundings and sticking with it in the heat, gnat attacks and even during what was a bit of heat over exposure to complete the task. I realized that two years ago my Everest experience had built my endurance mentally. This was certainly more for getting to the top than enjoying the trip. Though it was fun to make sure my boots were performing, which they did in stellar fashion! This was not near as steep as day two in Machu Picchu will be, but it was a nice test run for fitness gains. My kettle bell challenge is actually showing good fast results in the strength department, that was clear!

View west

After we returned to the care in triple digit temps, my friend had felt a sense of accomplishment for doing what he had wanted to do for many years. But he doesn’t hike…….at least he didn’t used to!

Alzheimer’s and Alan and All We Can Do…K2 Style


I love the mountains. In some ways I think it is because I know so little about them. My mind yearns to understand the hugeness, the velocity of their formation and the impact they have on weather here, there and everywhere. Growing up in the Pacific North West afforded me the all to often taken for granted luxury of seeing big mountain wherever I looked. My favorite mountain growing up was Mount Baker. This is the view I remember from years of staying a my grandparents’ fishing resort on Baker Lake. Tarr’s Resort it was called.

Baker Lake

Mt. Baker from Baker Lake, WA

I hiked all over these forests in the shadow of the mountain throughout my youth. It started my life long interest in mountains and the people who climb them.

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Ida and Alan

After my 2012 trek to the base of Mt Everest, a co-worker who works with senior programs told me that a man who had climbed Mt. Everest was speaking to seniors here in Vegas.  I took note and then looked him up to see if she had the info right. Boy did she. It was Alan Arnette, a tireless worker for the eradication of Alzheimer’s as well as accomplished mountaineer who has climbed the Seven Summits (The tallest peak on each continent) and an impressive list of summits and attempts beyond that including such wonders as Ama Dablam, Cho Oyo, Lobuche East, Ben Nevis, Mt. Blanc and on and on. Add to that countless fourteeners in his back yard in Colorado. Clearly a man who loves the mountains and the challenges they pose, he has something he works harder, longer and more passionately on than any one of those climbs. The eradication of Alzheimer’s.  His beloved mother, Ida, suffered with this disease and he has worked tirelessly to see that funds are raised to rid us of this thing. Recently, Alan announced that he was going to climb K2. One of the, if not the most dangerous, difficult climbs on the planet. He is doing it to continue the fight against Alzheimer. I am excited to say that I have joined his team as a fundraiser. He is looking to raise 1 million dollars for the cause. Now listen to me here…HE DOES NOT EARN ANYTHING OF THE FUNDS HE HELPS RAISE! He has linked up with very reputable organizations in order to bring in money that will be used for research and eradication, not climbing. So when the chance to join in and be a team leader was presented to me I jumped on the chance!

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K2: 21,251 feet high

I am a team captain. My team is “In Memory of Alida: K2 Climb Against Alzheimer’s”. Join with me and help raise that money. Every breath Alan takes in preparation for his climb and while he is on K2 is about ending Alzheiner’s and not about him. That is the kind of guy he is. Click the link here and you can join my team and we can all help. From the least amount to the greatest, every single individual penny counts. Just like every single individual memory does. Our minds are as huge and powerful as the great mountains of the world. They do so many things that are just amazing. But when they start to malfunction because of a disease that just has to have a cure, we are all vulnerable and we can all try to do something.

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Karen and her Grandmother Alida Ida Tarr. Diagnosed in the early 90’s, passed in 2005. But it started much earlier.

 

The picture above is my grandmother. One of the sweetest women who graced the planet. She was smart and funny and she, along with my grandfather, ran that little fishing resort where I first found my love of the mountains. Where Mt Baker called out to me every one of those wonderful Pacific Northwest Days. I don’t know what I would do without those memories.

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