Category Archives: Hiking

Mt. Baldy – Observation Point, Zion

October 14, 2018

It is that time of year again where Sonya Vasilieff comes down to Las Vegas and we try to accomplish some adventures.


Ready to load Ace the Adventure Wagon and hit the road to Utah!



A little Apple Cup action early in the season,

This year our goal — set months ago — was to do the most difficult trail in Zion National Park Observation Point. Many people think Angel’s Landing it the hardest — it is the most exposed and daring hike, but Mt. Baldy sores above it and features close to 2200 feet in elevation gain in four miles. It tops out at around 6500 feet total. Let that sink in. (Sonya comes from the Seattle area and lives at about 500 feet elevation, so that is a jump for her.) We added in Eric Besserud and met up at our vacation rental in Hurricane, Utah, so that we could get an early start and be in the park before there was no more parking. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at The Stage Coach Grill in La Verkin  before settling in to a nights rest.


When was the last time YOU slept in a bunkbead?

Upon arrival at the park, we quickly got on the bus to the trail head. Stop number seven on the Zion Shuttle. Just as we approached the stop the driver advised us all to look up at the top of observation point. We did. My head snapped around and I looked at Sonya, who had also just snapped her head around to look at me. She exclaimed: “Oh, we aren’t doing that!” Though I thought the very same thing, I had to push back or I wouldn’t make it a step up that trail, let alone have a chance at the top.

We got off the shuttle, donned our packs, and started. Sonya led the way and Eric hung back with me….the slow one. The trail wasted no time in showing the steepness we were to face the entire way. The trail shares a start with the Weeping Rock trailhead, just go to the right of the interpretive signs instead of left and you will be headed up Observation Point Trail. You begin at 4,394 ft of elevation and a 10% grade. (The maximum permissible grade on most highways in 6%.) I was thinking about Sonya, starting this hike 3,894 feet above the altitude she lives at! I topped out at 5,763 feet for an elevation gain of 1,369 feet in under two miles up. Parts of the trail were 33% grade.  At least that is what the profiles I have been able to find reveal.


The last time I saw Sonya until she crossed the finish line! What an accomplishment!


Spectacular scenery every step of the way.

I passed through so many different beautiful areas — canyons, slots, canopy cover — but I was working overtime and just under two miles I hit a big wall. I bonked. Sonya had left us long ago. I figured she overcame her original statement and just accessed something inside to hunker down and do the work. I told Eric I needed a break and he went on up to catch Sonya. He caught her just below the top. It was nice to have him pushing me to keep going, and I made great progress over my previous, post knee replacement hikes. But only 50 pounds down and not enough training left me with no more gas in the tank and the need to evaluate whether to continue up after a rest or to turn back.

The great Ed Viesturs talked about calculated risks in a presentation I heard him give once. I had to calculate the risk of expending energy to continue up and determine whether I would have enough left to get back down. At this level of steepness getting down was not going to be an easy trot down the trail. I also had to factor in time. In the end, It was clear, I had to go down. Even with that decision, I wasn’t sure that I would get down before the others got to the top, turned down and caught me on the decent.


Looking down on Angel’s Landing. Sonya’s view from the top!

So I worked my way back down, at times with minute steps and a fear of slipping on the sandy gravel that often times coated the smooth, chiseled rock path. Hiking poles were a saving grace. Other than stepping off trail to allow others passage, I did not take breaks going down. I just kept working. All the while curious about Sonya and Eric. I really wanted Sonya to hit the top. There was no way for me to know if she did.  She has been working so hard and expanding her fitness and I thought to top Mt. Baldy would prove to her how strong she really is.

Going down it was very clear just how steep it was. And no surprise why my FitBit reported that I had been in my peak cardiac zone for over two hours! It also stated that I had burned 5,066 calories, been in active minutes for 214 minutes and had taken 16,487 steps. All in all, information to establish a benchmark going forward.


Return of the Victor! What a great day with two of my besties!

Until next year, we have done it again!

Eye See You…Or, No Eye Don’t — Recovery from PRK

I hate hiking, golfing, biking, or kayaking wearing sunglasses that are not prescription. But I also hate having to use the same glasses for any activity if I get prescription sunglasses. For that, and many other reasons, I decided to get Lasik surgery to correct my vision. The Las Vegas sun plays prominently, with 292 sunny days a year, so sun glasses are like underwear… don’t leave home without them.

As I was in the pre-surgery process, I found out I had a corneal dystrophy that would prevent my having Lasik, but would steer me to PRK, or Photorefractive Keratectomy  instead. I knew it would be a little different — slightly longer time being uncomfortable and slightly longer healing. I learned from this process “slightly” is a relative term.

DAY 1. — SURGERY: I gathered at the surgery center along with six other patients on a Saturday morning. We each went through a series of final tests and evaluations and then the surgeon met with us as a group. (everyone agreed he could talk openly about our individual cases, so no running around yelling HIPPA!) We were each offered a Valium to take the edge off and make us more relaxed at the appointed time.

All of the others were getting Lasik. I was the only one getting PRK. I was first. I went in and they were finalizing their set up. I lay on the firm, massage type table with the back of my head in a little ring to stabilize. They emphasized not to wiggle my feet and gave me this long snake stuffed animal to hold. I suppose to keep me from fidgeting. The doctor (who was quite friendly and had done somewhere in the neighborhood of 38,000 laser surgeries) took his spot at my head and  put some numbing in my eyes, did some washing of my eye and proceeded, all the while telling me what he was doing along the way. I had previously been instructed to focus on a green light and stay still. I complied.

When he said something like “now the laser” it was a few seconds and I could smell what reminded me of hair burning.  Then eye two and BAM! all done.

I was then escorted into a room where the tech measured my tear ducts with this tiny pick type tool so she could put plugs in my tear duct drains. The Lasik people got plugs that, over time, dissolve, but help while they heal to keep their eyes from drying out too much. Mine would be silicone. The doc himself had them and they have been in for 15 years. The tech popped those in and I was ready to head home. All in all, I had been at the center for 3 hours total, only 10 minutes or so of which was in the actual surgery room.

I had dark glasses on, which they provided, and was instructed to go home (via my accompanying driver) and lay down and keep my eyes shut as much as possible until my mandatory return the following morning. Again, being brought in, not to drive myself. I did go right home and lay down. At this time I took off the glasses and put on a flexible protective mask they provided so lolling about on the pillow, I did not hurt my eyes. Also helps prevent you rubbing your eyes as a reflex while sleeping. My eyes were burning. A lot. Like way too much shampoo got in them and I couldn’t get it out. Or like when you get a lot of lime in your eye when squeezing fresh juice into your gin and tonic. Another description would be when you poke yourself in the eye accidentally with your mascara wand. Only you keep on doing it. They provided “comfort drops” for numbing, which dealt with that discomfort swimmingly. Fortunately, I slept a lot. According to my Fitbit I slept 14 hours. I am not a big sleeper. I sleep 4 – 5 hours a night. So this was a big sleep.

I got up once to put drops in and have a bite and go back to sleep. I took Advil PM, as suggested by the doc, and that must have helped. (I have never taken a PM type pill before).  While laying down but awake with eyes shut, I listened to audiobooks.

Hallmarks of the day: I learned the steroid drops are REALLY important. They slow healing which prevents scaring and reduces the chance of hazy vision. Fast, procedure not really uncomfortable to undergo, weird smell of burning hair, slept a lot, lots of watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry  

Day 2. — DAY AFTER: The next morning I got up and put the tears in and then the other drops…waiting 5 minutes between each type so one didn’t just wash the other out. No showering and off to the follow-up appointment to get a check. Clad in sunglasses, of course. I was seeing little. Very little.  Though somehow I tested to 20/30 distance and reading the line below news print. That is, I could identify, but no sharp vision at all. I had what is called MONO done which means one eye is done for close vision and the other is done for far vision.  He was happy with my progress and reminded me it would be a couple more days before the discomfort really subsided and asked me back in 3 more days to remove the contacts they had placed over the cornea to protect it after the surgery. They called it a contact bandage. After that check, I went home and sat around with the audiobook playing. I had discomfort but the comfort drops helped. Though I was beginning to hate mascara wands.

Hallmarks of the day: Check up went well, lots of watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry.   

DAY 3. Now I was bored but also in a lot of discomfort. The comfort drops were to be discontinued so no help there. My eyes had been watering a lot and the boiled onion feeling of my eyes continued. I still could not really see anything well, and my eyes were very light-sensitive.

Hallmarks of the day: Very watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry. No more comfort drops meant more discomfort than before. Light sensitivity increased.    

DAY 4. Went in for my contact bandages to be removed. They took them out and the right eye was on watery, eye poke steroids. That kind of eye pain where when you try to open your eye, the lid refuses to budge.  It continued to spray tears and stay shut and the Doc waited them out and finally checked them. Vision was good. I am seriously not sure how that works since I cannot see the edge of anything and faces are simply eyebrows and mouths. She decided to put fresh contacts in to be ultra sure I didn’t damage the repairing area and had me come back three days later.  I was able to see a bit more clearly in my close eye. I did watch tv and may have overdone that.

Hallmarks of the day: Very watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry.

DAY 5. I felt much better. Even tried a short drive. I could not see the words on street signs, road signs, businesses. I got a drive through coffee and went home. Frustration began as I wanted to see distance better! All I read says this is normal for PRK.

Hallmarks of the day: Very watery eyes, eyes stung a lot. Vision very blurry. took a very short drive.

DAY 6. This day I didn’t feel any improvement in my eyes though I am not feeling the discomfort of the first days. I was to meet some friends for dinner and got out on the road, but felt very odd behind the wheel. Felt like things looked washed out and thin. I don’t know how else to explain it. So I went right back home and Ubered to dinner. (Yes, it is a verb now to Uber).  I felt fine other than I could not really see. I enjoyed being out and then called an Uber for the ride home. It was now dark and I live in Vegas so lights EVERYWHERE! it was like a fear and loathing in Vegas scene with lights replicating themselves and moving and flashing and I couldn’t tell which was the shadow and which was the real. Thank GOD I had not driven!

Hallmarks of the day:  Vision very blurry. Driving not a good choice. Night lights are in triplicate and haloed and sprayed and everything else hallucinogenic.

DAYS 7. Back in for my contact bandages out. I drove and things were ok. After, I felt a marked improvement as the night went on. Felt some better sharpness on close vision and less blur on long vision. Also felt less discomfort. Moving in to Sunday, the gains seemed gone and back to generally blurry, albeit painless eyes. I went and bought much better sunglasses. My light sensitivity definitely persists.

WEEK 2. Back to work. I drove and that was fine though not my optimum vision. for driving at all. Like driving without my glasses only a tad worse. I had 272 emails to read. YIKES! Had to work with all the lights in my office off, dim down the computer screen as much as possible and rest my eyes every so often. Every real often. To read, I had to be as close as I could get my face to the monitor. By the end of the day I was beat and my eyes felt like I had used them for feet on hot pavement all day. Second day back at work — today — is not much better. I am worried at this juncture about all the work for the next few days. I wish I had scheduled out 2 weeks, in all honesty. I never knew it was going to be like this.

WEEK 3. This week was better. There was a lot of fluctuation in my sight. Good days/bad days. With the mono, I felt there was a sort of tug of war between my eyes regarding which eye was the boss. Driving is the most difficult thing. I definitely do not drive at night yet. Too many starbursts and double vision elements. My close vision seems to be clearing up faster. I can now tolerate the computer screen without feeling like squinting. I have been on 3 drops of the steroid a day this week, dropping to two tomorrow. I continue to use the tears, though much less often. The only time my eyes actually feel dry is first thing in the morning. It seems like as my vision is less blurry, the distance is still very impacted by double vision. Cars at a distance are difficult to really make out which is the real one.

My eyes are still light sensitive and I use my quality sunglasses relentlessly. The Las Vegas sun is always present. Yet, at dusk, dawn times and during cloudy days, it is not always easy to see what is down the pike from me. I didn’t see a man and dog in the crosswalk until I was about three car lengths from the stop sign. It was jus as the sun was coming up.

With the advances of this week, I am finally feeling like I might have gotten over the initial hump and look for great things in week 4!

WEEK 4. This week seemed to be a series of a little better/a little worse. Like the dog days of PRK. I still have double vision, though the two objects are closer together than previously. I am really tiring of this vision as I cannot just reach for glasses and see clearly. In other words, it is getting old and my patience is wearing thin. I am going hiking this weekend and already pouting that the views at Zion will be less spectacular than they should be — double vision, no sharp colors or images.

I am about to start my last week of steroid drops. This week I was able to wear eye make-up, though only did it once for a special event and am being very conservative. I even make sure that the extra steroid drops that dry in the corner of my eye are carefully removed so they don’t get in my eye.

Night driving is still OH YOU TEE OUT! Lots of starbursts and accentuated double vision in the dark. And day driving? Honestly, I probably shouldn’t be doing that either. Things are so washed out that today, a woman was standing in the median to cross a busy street. I saw her but did not even see she was pushing a stroller until I was very close. I still cannot read most street signs. Also, I cannot read the on screen menu for my cable company on my 60″ TV as the overlap and all the lines of print combined with the blue colors makes it awful. Even just the clock on the DVD player is a big blob of blue. That color will not clear up for me yet.

So, while I am still confident this will all work out, I am weary from the long recovery. I am less sure I would have chosen to do this PRK had someone really told me what the time frames were rather than just say == a little longer yada yada.

I will update the blog weekly as I continue to recover. And hope this is helpful. I am not discouraged regarding the ultimate outcome I expect in the long run,  but I hate not seeing things vividly and sharply in the here and now.

America in My Youth – a True Adventure Story

When I was a wee lass, 6 years old, my family moved from Rancho Cordova, California back to Washington State. It was the Reagan years in California and he stopped the massive spending on public projects that had been started before him. Mom and Dad were both reared in Bellingham Washington. Both from logging families. Both hard working, independent people.

Our Little Family in 1961. San Jose, California

Though they had struck out on their own to California, when work dried up for Dad, a heavy construction/heavy machinery operator, we packed up and moved “home”. Dad got a truck driving job in Seattle, a career he would have the rest of his working life. So we moved into a little rental house on 142nd Street South. We had no real money and mom sewed my sister and I dresses for school. Two each. My favorite was black and white checked with some zigzag red trim.

First Grade picture. Sunny Terrace Elementary School, Seattle, Washington, 1967

Our house had a back door we never locked. It was a house built on a lot that had been sectioned off from what once was a family farm. The land had been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jovanovich. They were immigrants from what was then known as Yugoslavia. They had a whole bunch of sons and a daughter. John and his wife Joanne lived on the property in one of three brick houses that had been build for three of the kids. Daughter Maryanne and her husband Tony lived in the second one and we rented the third, owned by Son Tony. Mr. and Mrs. Jovanovich, referred to affectionately by us as “the old folks,” lived in a really cute house down a long drive. They had a magnificent garden in which they grew tons of vegetables. She had a rose garden and he also grew grapes and made wine.

George, Tom, Joanne and John Jovanovich with me at my Fathers Funeral. Bellingham Washington 2013

It was as rural a setting you could get, living on the north runway of Sea-Tac Airport. There was a woods behind the old folks house, a field along their long drive, and a sand pit to the west of John and Joanne’s house.

Those years were filled with playing outside. Even in the Seattle rain. John and Joanne had four boys – Steve, Tim, George and Tom. They were good kids to grow up with. They exposed me to the culture of their heritage and I found it fascinating. It wasn’t uncommon for my friends grandparents to be immigrants. My Nana had an Irish accent, their grandparents had an accent from “the old country” and several of my friends grands did too.

My grandparents, Charlie and Alida Tarr. Seattle, Washington, 1972.

Often we spent the summer building grass forts with chicken wire and the cut grass from the field behind John and Joanne’s. We fried baloney on fires we built, played cowboys and Indians or army. We had toy guns and we knew how to use them. We rode bikes endlessly, building jumps and clothspinning playing cards to the spokes to make motor noises.

We used up every bit of daylight on long seattle days that extended until well after 10 pm — finally giving up the ghost and going inside when we heard the familiar voice of my mother or Joanne calling from their porches. “Karrer-ennn!” Or Tommm-mmmy!” A minor third always separating the first syllable from the second.

Tom Jovanovich and I at my father’s funeral. Bellingham, Washington, 2013.

Sleeping outside in the yard was another staple of the Seattle summer. Sometimes in an old army tent, other times just on the grass or on a tarp. The Jovanovich kids had two dogs – Smokey and Toby. There was also Lucky and our dog Lobo. They would position themselves at various posts as sentries to protect us. Often, Lobo’s assigned spot was under the streetlight out in the field. You could see his silhouette in the light and feel safe.

Carnations. 4th if July, 2018. Las Vegas, Nevada.

One of my favorite summertime memories was planting snap dragons and carnations along the side of the porch that extended out that unlocked back door. So today I enjoy celebrating a country I love, and all the blessings I have had as an American, with some beautiful carnations and the memories of a good life.

Featured on Slowpoke Divas

I was pleased to be a guest blogger at Slowpoke Divas. Its a great page and blog. Check out my story and all the other good content!

Breaking Through

It’s been seven months since I had my total left knee replacement. It is a hard grind. But I finally feel like I am going to be able to return to my prior life. This weekend was my first weekend that I had two days of big activities for the legs. On Saturday, I did my second 5k walk since surgery.

Maggie and I headed out for the 8th annual Run for Shelter 5k to benefit victims of domestic violence. I got there early and worried about how things would go. This walk was an out and back. Right in the middle was a steep incline followed by a steep decent. Which meant two ups and two downs. I have only don flat walking so far. 

A coworker, who’s wife was running with Maggie, walked with me. And I have to admit that having him there pushed me a little harder. The first uphill pushed me pretty good. But the knee felt great. The first downhill was good too. At that pointI was  into the second mile. I could feel I was slower and after the turn around I also could tell I was getting a blister on the ball of my right foot. 

Having this surgery has been a real adjustment. Shoes don’t fit the same, my fair is different and I am so out of shape now. So approaching the hill the second time was a bit daunting. 

It was already clear to me I had dropped to last place. The organizers were taking down the marker signs. But I kept on and to my delight and satisfaction, my quad was strong enough to support me on the down hill even the second time. 

Because the knee replacement I had required that my quadracept muscle be cut, that results in complete loss of use of it. Days after surgery I still could not even flex it. Try as I might, my brain would say move and it would not. It is the single hardest part of my recovery. When your quad is weak, your leg buckles when you go down stairs. Or hills. So this was a real marker that I am well on my way to full strength on my quad.

After the walk, my ankles hurt and I was really sore. Part was the good kind of sore. The kind that signals you have really done a good workout and it comes with deep breaths of satisfaction.

The other kind of hurt in my ankles, well that is the kind of hurt that tells you to keep working because you are simply carrying too much weight. By this morning my muscles were screaming and my ankles felt a bit better. But I knows I could not simply rest. 

Today I had two things on the agenda. The first was a push-up challenge. It is from 22kill. You video yourself doing 22 push-ups for 22 days in order to bring awareness to the fact that 22 veterans a day kill themselves. I can’t do push-ups as I cannot get on the floor and kneel. So I devised a dip station to do 22 dips. 

I really liked it and think 22 days of it will make a big difference in my upper body. 

After the dips, I was even more sore than the day before. But I still had a 45 minute ride on the recumbent bike. My rides have take. A hit in the last weeks and I needed to stick to the schedule no matter how much my quads and calfs were burning.

I que’ed up The Wrecking Crew on Netflix and started peddling. 

I was doing pretty well considering how rough I felt. But the minutes kept ticking off while Inwatched some of the best musicians to ever play in the LA studios. My feet were uncomfortable and my blister from yesterday was screaming. 

I fought my inner quitter and just kept going. As I entered the last five minutes, time came to a standstill. And I was also worried I would not hit the 10.2 miles I had hit the last time I had a 45 minute ride. 

Finally, the buzzer went off and I was done. As I sat looking at the screen I felt a huge sense of satisfaction. 10.1 miles. Only dropped a tenth of a mile. That was a win. Especially considering how sore I was AND that I had cut 45 seconds off my 5k the day before. It hit me that Inwill be able to do my December hike. I will be able to get back to leg miles so I can go to Spain for my next big adventure. 

Don’t let your dreams go. Keep working. It is worth it! 

Sedona Marks a Beginning

On March 1, 2016 I had a total knee replacement of the left knee. In the year since my “final straw” injury to it, I had meniscus removed, gel injections, rapidly diminishing ability to walk any distance and a lot of pain. I was not able to do my monthly 5k walks and gained weight. On top of the already too much weight I carry, that was deflating. So I underwent what turned out to be the most difficult surgery recovery I had ever faced.

Day 1 Post Total Knee Replacement

I awoke in my hospital room and felt good. Drugs will do that for you. I had been told by many other knee warriors to be sure to take all my pain meds. I had a pain pump and every ten minutes the green light would come on and I would hit that button!

After four days in the hospital I was transferred to a rehab hospital where I worked three hours every day to get my leg moving again. My surgeon used the quad splitting technique so my left quad would not fire at all. That was my first job. Trying to pump my quad. Then trying to bend and gain range of motion. Scar tissue builds fast in the joint and you have a painful job ahead with breaking that up and getting your normal movement back.

Working to Gain Range of Motion

After 14 days at Health South, I headed home. I was set for out patient rehab three days a week.

I experienced a lot of challenges early on. How to climb steps, how to go down steps. Getting in and out of a car. Standing from a sitting position. I went to a walker a day after surgery. Four weeks in I advanced to a cane. In the interim I had to wear a straight leg brace because falling from the weak quad giving way could be devastating. Especially given my size.

My New Knee

Push up to 100 or so days out. I am waking well and decided to take a little vacation. I lost one of my pups, so my remaining dog and I took off to Sedona AZ for a retreat.

The plan was to take some walks along Oak Creek and see some sights. I would be able to monitor my knee swelling and any pain and get Jack a little more socialized now that he is a solo dog for the first time in his nearly 9 years.

We walked:

Your Little Slice of Heaven Cottage
Oak Creek
Rain Never Stops Jack

We wine tasted and at at dog friendly places

Oak Creek Winery, Cornville, AZ

Ken’s Creekside Cafe, Sedona , AZ

And we saw great scenery and ancient sites:

Building A, Montezuma’s Castle
Montezuma’s Castle National Monument

But most of all, Cappy Jack and I got to heal a bit from losing our Tashi. He got pampered. And I built some confidence that I will be hiking again. I can begin moving from rehab, to dipping my toe in the water, to my hiking fitness plan as I now move into Camino de Santiago prep mode. No, my recovery is not complete. It will be up to a year to really be done. But I am far enough along to change my mindset and my main focus from acute recovery to getting weight off and becoming fit again!

Back to the Future: Hike No. 1 Redoux


Long flat, steep sluffy area, then the top.

Back in November 2010 I decided to get off the couch and start moving. I had gotten the bright idea to trek to Mount Everest and wanted to do it for my 50th birthday. After consultation with my brother and sister decided I needed prep time so targeted 2012, or around my 51st birthday. So I began hiking around Las Vegas. Hike No. 1 2010 was a mountain, well hill really, behind my house. So five years, two knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery,  trips to Everest and Machu Picchu, 2 years of Plantar Faceitis, death of my father, and both God parents as well as other important people, later I took that trip again. This time knowing that the health of my left knee had parted ways with the rest of my body. But I needed to try that hill again and kick off my regeneration.


Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi

So I got me some new boots that I think may help with the residual plantar faceitis  I sometimes feel flare up, as well as the great amount of knee pain I get upon exertion, and set out on REI’s #OptOutside day, the day after Thanksgiving. It was around 40 degrees out and nice and sunny. I took off and the first thing that struck me was that in the ensuing five years, it is clear a lot more people walk through here and ride their mountain bikes as a well worn trail existed where there was one before. Additionally, the monsoon rains over the years had changed the terrain in several spots and made the turn up the sluffy area much more difficult than five years ago.


This hiking/bike trail has developed over the last few years.


Either that or I am in severe denial and simply lost the best line of a route. The newly established trail ended up going to the right up a lower ridge across teh wash. I intended to go to the higher bluff on the left. So off trail me and my boots n poles headed. I was incredibly slow, but felt that was more my knee than my overall fitness. That was good feedback. But as I started up steep slippery spots my confidence in my stability waned. The boots were very grippy and performed well. I, on the other hand, did not. I found maneuvering on the steep slope more difficult than it should have been with my left leg feeling like it did not want any lateral twisting or leveraging. At all. None. I tarried on thinking I should simply push for the top as I had fie years earlier. But I also thought that it would be a shame to get hurt because I overshot the limitation of the left leg. And there was still the mile or so, much of which was getting down the steep part, left before this would be over. If you don’t know hiking, coming down can be harder than going up. S


Karen A. Whelan Bathing in Sun and Wonderful Weather

o, I turned back. But not before looking at the views, breathing in the cool clean air and letting the sun wash my face in its warm blanket. Yes, even in 40 degree weather, the sun’s warmth cuts through and warms you.


As I finished up and got back to the car, I could not help feeling both disappointment and satisfaction all at the same time. I had got out on a hike! My new boots seemed to be what I was hoping. The air and sun felt wonderful. But I did not go as far as I wanted. I had issues that weight loss will help with and I need to build my general fitness. But just like that day in November of 2010, shod in new boots then and with new trekking poles in my grips, I had got started.


IMG_9352I completed my first month of concerted effort in weight loss and healthy eating with a 16 pound loss, a new gym membership, and a perfect paleo/primal eating habit. It felt very good and though I was happy with the 16 pounds, it came in the first 20 days with ten days of nothing more. So for November, month 2 prior to knee replacement surgery in the spring, I will not step on the scale. I will continue to log everything I eat on MyFitnessPal so that I cannot lie to myself about things. But no scale until December 1, 2015.

I am feeling pretty dang good. No sugar is always  a better way for my brain to function and my energy to increase. I have the last two 5k’s of the year scheduled and am hoping to get on the bike as well.

pizzacrustThe other night, I was ecstatic to eat…..wait for it…..PIZZA!!!!! I got a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust. It was FANTASTIC! I felt like I was CHEATING it was so good! It only took a few minutes to rice the cauliflower, heat it for ten minutes in the microwave, and add the eggs, cheese and spices. The bake on it was great and it held up structurally. I even heated it the next day for lunch and it still held up and tasted great. So, if you are going grain free like me, this is the bomb! I am also going to make the breadstick version the link above tells about so that I can snack during the football game this weekend. So now my two favorites that I miss on paleo/primal diets are covered: Pasta, where I use zucchini instead, and now pizza crust with the cauliflower. I have made cauli mash and cauli fried rice for a while, but this new crust will pizzaenable me to make “tortillas” for tacos and to use as bread for sandwiches as well.

So month two is producing all sorts of results even if I do not know about the number on the scale. I am getting comfortable with the food lexicon I have and not missing the things I thought I would. I get plenty of fiber and lots of good fat as well.

Here Come da Judge

Getting involved in the Camino de Santiago and various communities associated with it has reinforced the fact that we all judge. Even telling others not to judge is….well…..judging. I have read several posts in the last couple of days in which the poster posits an idea, whether snobbishly looking down on others for using taxis or bag service, or whether simply asserting our way as better than the way the poster has done something….it is all judging. After all, if we read something and draw a conclusion in our mind that we know a better way, or that what they poster has said they did is not up to snuff, we have judged them. Of course no good case of judging would be complete if we didn’t make our position regarding things very clear in our own post. I am guilty too. We rest on the idea that God says “Judge not lest ye be judged”. But does that mean we are never supposed to judge? I say resoundingly NO! We make judgments that God would be very happy with every day: whether to be nice or not, whether to help someone, who to vote for, when to speak or not to speak, what to pray for, and on and on. In a Christian world view that holds to a pretty dogmatic stance that there is right and wrong, it is hard to also apply a layer of in between in appropriate areas. If I am walking the Camino and I see people with lavish luggage who appear healthy laughing it up and taking the last bed in the Albergue whilst I am arriving dog tired, blisters on my feet, back pack nearly worn out…I am likely going to make a very uncharitable judgment. It is human nature to want things to be fair. And it seems people who look well healed and refreshed taking the last bed is not fair. We don’t live in a fair world, we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we just have to understand that and make the best of what we can do rather than grumble about the things we cannot change. After all, our grumbling only effects us, not the “offender”. Not to mention the guys with all the luggage and a ride may have gotten gifts or worked extra jobs to buy nice things for a once in a lifetime trip.

I was in Nepal and was in and amongst the hard working Sherpas. Most were farmers who guided and ported and shepra-ed for extra money. They lived a simple life and people back home thought they were poor. They judged them by an American living standard. But they were not poor and it was sort of ethnocentric and condescending to judge them that way.  Here in America it is not uncommon for people to work multiple jobs to better their families. We are not unlike them.

I was in Peru and found myself ill-prepared and unable to do the hike I went there for. One of the people on the tour took me aside and said “I knew when I first saw you that you could not do this hike so just bow out so our hike isn’t ruined.” I was appalled. I had taken most of this body all the way to Mount Everest but he judged me by my looks. Furthermore, I would have done nothing to ruin the hike of anyone else. But these are the things we deal with when we choose to interact with others. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. I did bow out and made other plans during the core of the hike. When we all reunited at the top of Machu Picchu, I had been happy and transformed my misfortune into a wonderful trip anyway. He was miserable, grumpy, and glad to be done. He could say he did it. I could not. But it didn’t seem like he experienced it. I wanted to experience it and will one day. None the less he did achieve his objective.

Not all of us approaches things the same way, and that is ok. We can have an opinion about that, but it does not invalidate the other’s approach. Most especially when it is a matter of ones experience in an activity. Some church people are very demonstrative in their appreciation of God. Others more placid. Does either of them experience God less? Different strokes for different folks. To each their own. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Live and let live. And lastly….embrace the differences…..

Night Time 5k at Lake Las Vegas

On the Road to Lake Las Vegas

No time like the present to go ahead and see if the leg can keep up and do a 5k. So out to Lake Las Vegas we went to do a cool evening headlamp walk Calico Racing put on. It is the first 5k since I messed up the cartilage in my knee on June 3, 2015. Since then I had surgery and learned that at some point soon I will need to have the entire knee replaced. I was thinking in a year, but since have modified that to April 2016. There are a few methods to my madness. For one, my insurance year ends June 30, so with the surgery I just had and the knee replacement in one year, it cuts in half my out of pocket expenses for the replacement. That is because I hit my maximum out of pocket in a plan year. Another is it gives me less time to lose the weight I want and so more motivation to get on it now.  I think the goal setting for the weight loss is enhanced by the shorter goal period.

Awaiting the Start

So we got to the park for the walk. It was nearing sundown and a pleasent atmoshphere ran through the crowd. I noticed a woman with a race bib sitting in a camp chair and it occured to me that she was very large. Moreso than me. I felt bad that I thought about her that way. I put the information in the far corner of my mind and got in the back of the crowd to walk. And off we went.

The Walk Begins

The course was a tiny down hill and then up the entire first half. I had my walking stick and the knee felt just big and numb as it has since surgery. I reached up to test my light for when the sun finally dropped below the horizon behind the Vegas strip. Nothing. I had fresh batteries but had blown the bulb. I continued on anyway, not sure if I would turn around or not. Worried that I was looking for any excuse to quit.

Tunnel under the road. Only Uphill From Here.

As I topped a rather steep little section it was clear my fitness level was immeasurable. I looked back to see if anyone was behind me and saw nothing. I wondered about the woman in the chair.

My fitness app was working away and my walking stick from Hearst Castle was helping me along as I put one foot in front of the other. The sun was sinking and twighlight was upon us. The lights of the strip were beginning to come on off in the distance.

20 miles from the Vegas Strip

Soon it was completely dark and I had barely hoofed off a mile before the front runners had doubled back and were on their way in, headlamps bouncing like bright white balls in the darkness. I started to worry about the darkness. Right then, a group of three or four people approached lights and all. Just as we met they were shouting out words of encouragement and the woman closest to me grabbed my arm and put a light in it. I said I would find her and return it at the finish. She looked concerned and just said “keep it” as she disappeared into the darkness.

Moon in a Vegas Sky.

As I thought about her being my trail angel I wondered again about the woman in the chair.

About that time I could see a stationary becon of light ahead and knew it was the turn around station. As I arrived and took a glass of water, guzzling it down, I felt the going would be easier downhill. As I hugged the tight edge of the pavement so the runners from the longer 10k route could pass, it became clear the light I had recieved was a godsend. The edge was uneven and with the knee acting up I am sure I would have fallen at some point. There are good people in this world. She was good to give me that light. Whoever she is, wherever she is, thank you!

First 10k step day since knee injury in June.

I moved much slower down hill, finding that my knee didn’t like it much. I passed the two mile mark and got just back to the top of that steep spot and saw the lady from the chair. Her walking partner had just sat the chair down and she sat down in it huffing and puffing from the work of getting up the steep section. I uttered some encouraging words and told her I hoped to see her at the next 5k. And I meant it!

Back to the tunnel and up the final stretch. My right calf and left hammie began to cramp. I fought off the cramps and plodded on, crossing the finish line with the worst time I had ever had. 25 minute miles.

Finisher’s Medal.

But it was the start of getting back in shape. I didn’t bail, I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up. Just before I left, I ran into one of the people I had seen at the beginning with the lady in the chair. This was her third 5k in as many months. The first was well over 3 hours with the second being just over three hours. And she has another next month. It was humbling to hear about her dedication. We can all do this. We just have to want it more than we want our current situations.

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