Saturday, March 17, 2018

Can I be content?

Sometimes I reflect. I think, “man, if I could have known then what I know now.” You know? I have this idea that, in my past, life seemed so stressful and uncertain. I was always wresting with “what should I do?!” 

If I could go back, from the “right here and now” back to those older days, I could have said, “dude... relax! It’s going to work out. You don’t have to stress over all those things.”

Yet, here I am today. Feeling lost. Feeing like I’m trying to figure it all out. “What do I want? Where do I want to go? What should I do? WHAT next?!”

But isn’t that sort of how I felt in the past. You know, the past where I wished I could go back in time and tell my past self to relax?

Why am I still doing it? Have I not learned? DUDE, RELAX!

But how can you shape your life if you aren’t wrestling with all of those questions? Won’t you just end up in a dead end? But maybe ending up where the currents in the river of life takes you is not a bad thing? Maybe it’s the river of contentment and happiness? Do you have to struggle and force change to be happy?

I guess some find themselves in bad situations and change is life saving. But that’s not me. My life has some solid great things in it. Nothing notably bad or toxic. Why should I be discontented and trying to make change? Why can I not simply “relax” and savor these blessings and be content?


Saturday, January 20, 2018


New Year, New Me.

I’m not into New Year’s resolutions, but I have made a few changes in how I do things. And I must say, the greatest benefit thus far… Simply feeling the freedom and empowerment of self-decided change. Who do I want to be? How would I like to change? 

A little before the new year, a colleague started eating more than 90% vegan. He pointed me to some of the medical literature that influenced him. And I must say, it was compelling. I just saw my dad go through a coronary bypass surgery and I watch my patient’s suffer the consequence of what seems like natural aging, but may be more to do with lifestyle choices across a lifetime. So, since I started getting into the literature for a vegan lifestyle, I have now completed 53 days in a row as a vegan. 
And it feels great. It’s actually been fun! And my work weeks in the hospital are not as gloom filled. I have spent much less time face-to-face with my own mortality and future suffering. I feel like I finally have some power to dramatically increase my odds of being that amazing 90 year old who you see in an outdoor magazing who is summitting 14'ers!

The next change. Simple exercises. I have never been able to sustain efforts to go to the gym. There are just too many priorities that somehow choke out my efforts to pursue health in a gym. I gave up a year ago. But, now I’m coming to exercise from a new angle. I’ve simply added a daily regimen of body weight exercises. They are simple, I won’t “bulk up” but I can already appreciate an increase of strength. Best part… very very sustainable. I plan to expand it as the habit is developed and is less onerous.

The third and more recent change. A break from social media and news media. Man…. it. feels. GOOD. I will probably go back to Instagram, but gonna unfollow many accounts. Many. And I don’t have a torrent of negative propaganda being shoveled down my throat by news outlets pandering for ad clicks! The world is a better place.

Last change thus far. Consume less entertainment. Consume more LEARNING. Signed up for Great Courses Plus. $19.99/mo and a bunch of college styled lectures on topics of your choice by legit profs from around the nation. Learning! Expanding my mind! Also, I’m reading more. Finding stimulating educational podcasts. While it does take more effort than watching another episode of “The Office,” it has boosted my emotional state.

So, cheers to a new year! We are not forced to follow the current of culture. How do you want to change? Grow? Evolve? You don’t have to keep doing things the same way. You can self determine. You can choose who you want to be and then become that person through a series of repeated daily choices. You can do it too.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Trip Report: Mystic Island Lake and Fool's Peak.

I’ve wanted to do an overnight backpacking trip for some time. I’ve loved my day hikes, but just wanted a bit more. It was always sad when the day was over. I wanted the sun set. I wanted the sunrise. Thankfully, I have a like minded friend. He wasn’t a complete novice to an overnight trek. I was. 

I’m the kind of person who feels nervous and fearful of the unknown, if I’m not prepared. So, I read up on it. Started with “Ultralight Backpacking Tips” by Mike Clelland and “Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backpack Book” by Allen O’Bannon. I trend towards minimalism, so I really liked the idea of taking a really light pack and being super efficient!

I managed to get my pack weight, including 2L of water and my Sony A7s camera (almost 4lb) down to a total of 22lbs. (I’ll include my packing list at the bottom.) Got everything loaded up into my Osprey Atmos 50L pack. (I was shocked when my hiking buddy Eric pointed out that our mutual friend Jay had actually designed the Anti-Gravy mesh back panel! It’s an amazing feature which leads me to think it’s the best pack out there.)

We selected our hike, our camp site, our summit. Eric, Caleb and I met up in the Denver Airport and headed straight into the mountains. Our goal was fly out of OK on Thursday morning and hike a bit more than 5 miles into the Holy Cross Wilderness and set up camp next to Mystic Island Lake all before sunset. Then, wake in the morning, summit Fool’s Peak and hike out before our evening meal, and fly home in the morning. A serious “Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Mama-Nature” sort of a trip. 

Who wouldn't want to hike here?!

I know, Isn’t that a little hasty and extreme? No time to acclimate? I planned it this way because I didn’t want to extend our time away from our wive’s and jobs any more than necessary. Plus, last year, I flew in from home, 700 feet above sea level and spent my first night at 11,200 feet without feeling too bad. Mystic Island Lake was only 200 feet higher at 11,400. Surely, I’ll be just fine. 

The hike in was great. Very low traffic, especially starting at 1pm. Started out with some Aspens and transitioned to just various pines. There was moss growing in the trees, which I don’t recall seeing in Colorado before. It wasn’t as heavy as the PNW or BC Canada, but great to see. Fairly steady incline, not oppressive. The 22lb pack was barely noticeable. The altitude was noticeable but, "I breathe heavy when I'm jogging, this feels about the same."

About two hours in, it started to rain. Expected. Must come prepared. I had a rain jacket and the emergency Pancho. (Save weight and keep your pack covered too.). Caleb had hiking shoes that claimed some sort of water resistance, but his feet got soaked. There are many brands of membranes out there… but I know Gore-Tex, it works, completely. So, I have stuck to it, and it hasn’t let me down. The rain isn’t really a deterrent. It only rained while hiking, and this actually added to the experience and atmosphere of the whole experience. Shrouding the mountains in a veil of mystery. Mood is so easily affected by the weather. Bright sunny crisp days, you just feel happy. But the peaceful introspection spurred on by the rain felt really good too.

Unsure of just how long it will take us to get to the lake to set up camp, I think we pushed it a little more than we would have had we known. We did stop for a few short breaks. Especially when we hit some good scenery. There is a lower lake a mile from the destination. This make a great stop.

Carrying on, we made it to Mystic Lake. Setting up a few hammocks was easy. It was about this time that I realized, "I don't feel so good." Nausea had set in. No headache though. Is this altitude? I've read up on altitude sickness, some general type of unpleasant symptoms for the mild cases. But, at only 11,400... just 200 feet higher than my single day change that I tolerated just fine before. Can it really get me this time? I have talked with a friend who runs all the time and works with an expert at the Houston Ironman institute. He has pushed his body at low altitude, and when he spends too great amount at time over high goal heart rate, he described feeling similar. 

When I'm hiking at altitude, I have no idea what my heart rate is, other than FAST. Going uphill and hiking at a good rate. 5.5 miles in about 4 hours is faster than my usual hiking (which averages 1 mile per hour). Maybe my heart rate was 180 the whole time? I plan to get a watch with a heart rate monitor. See what my rate is, see if I can correlate that with feeling lousy. Maybe I simply need to get into better condition for the pace we set.

I was set up in about 5 minutes. Easy. We got all three hammocks tethered to the same tree at the foot. Three separate trees at the head. I really liked the idea of hammock camping. No rocks digging into my back. No water trickling into my tent if it rained. But I didn't calculate all the parameters correctly. I chose a sleeping bag that was rated at 45 degrees F. I didn't realize how much colder it would be at 11,400 compared to where I normally stay at just under 10,000 feet. In the morning, the ground was frost. So, guess we his 32ish. But, had I known we would get down to 32, I still would have chose the same sleeping bag. "I'll sleep in my clothes and have a down jacket on. I'll feel good!" Almost. The top half of me felt great. I had hand warmers to put into my socks. Feet were fine. But all my warm is retained by little air pockets accomplished by fluffy down. That's what is supposed to separate me from the cold 32 degree air cycling below my hammock. But when you lay on down, it compresses to less than 1mm thickness. And is rendered near useless. So, my back was freezing all night! 

Eric was trying to get a fire going. I was really interested in this, I wanted to be able to start a fire without matches. They make awesome little flint tools that create a massive amount of sparks. It had just rained, so this was going to be a difficult challenge, but I was intrigued! But my nausea sort of killed my enthusiasm. I watched Eric for a bit, and though it was only 7:30pm, I was cold and felt pretty rough, so I just climbed in my hammock for the night.

Sleeping the first night at high altitude is also difficult for me in and of itself. But now, I'm shivering on and off all night and nauseated. I estimate I fell asleep for 15 minutes at a time, maybe four or five times. I remember thinking, "This sucks! This is not worth it."

But morning did come. I was alive. I heard a lot of animals outside my hammock, but the rainfly obscured most of the view. Finally, I did see a deer towards my feet. I don't know if he ever saw me, but he was close. I feel pretty safe in Colorado. Mountain lions attack small people. Almost exclusively the attacks on people in Colorado have been children 14 years and younger. We are three normal sized dudes sticking close together. I don't think they would attack. A friend of mine was sort of stalked by a mountain lion in New Mexico. He saw it watching him, but the cat never did any more than that. Jesse is about 6'3" much bigger than the cat. I will say, the thought of camping in Grizzly territory still doesn't sound like a good idea. I know thousands of people do it every year and attacks are rare, but I take some comfort knowing no grizzly bears have been officially seen in Colorado in a decade or more.

Morning came. 

And morning was still COLD. Come on sunlight! Make your way down the side of the mountain and warm us up!

I made some coffee. Ultralight mentality doesn't really allow for a grinder and aeropress. So, I bought some "Sudden Coffee" which is the best tasting instant coffee available and made some of that. Just heat the water, dump in, swirl, drink. Not bad. I also popped an Imodium so I wouldn't have need to have a BM while up on the side of a mountain. If we were out there more than 40 hours, I wouldn't have done that. 

During the night, I had to urinate about 3 times, each time the color was almost clear. "Man, I must have hydrated a lot better than I thought!" NOPE. Read up on it later. The low oxygen drives a faster respiratory rate. Higher respiratory rate drives down your CO2. Low CO2 drives your body pH up. Too high. So, you're kidneys get rid of bicarb (HCO3) to bring your pH back to normal. Well, kidneys need to pair the bicarb with water, so you diurese. You can lose around 10% of your plasma volume. This doesn't bode well for a day of exerting myself. But at the moment, I didn't feel that bad. Nausea had passed for the most part.

Breakfast, consisted of a ProBar Meal. Didn't pack anything that needed cooking/hotwater etc. keep it simple, most of my energies focused into seeing what is around me and hiking thru it.

Well, at 12,400 (500 short of the summit) I got tired of feeling like I was going to vomit or pass out from my exertion efforts. Dehydrated, over exerted, sleep deprived, altitude sick... whatever the predominant problem was, I was feeling pretty lousy. I made it to the shoulder of the ridge... so I could see the range on the other side of Fool's peak, and I felt content stopping there. We made it down, packed up, made it out... No big deal.

Exhausted, but satisfied. At the time I went thru it, pain predominated over the pleasure. After I had a real meal and some rest, the memory of the pain subsided and the memory of the pleasure persisted. I'll do it again. BUT... I will learn from my mistakes, and not repeat them.

1. Insulin the underside of the hammock, or sleep on some sort of pad that won't compress. (I'll experiment in may back yard this winter.)
2. Monitor my heart rate. Train better if we need to keep some sort of faster pace!
3. I would carry lighter food. ProBar Meal is heavy. I'll take a few, but will take some dehydrated foods that require hot water. It's easy to boil water.
4. Try to budget in a day prior to an a high exertion hike to let my body do the altitude bicarbonate diuresis and then Rehydrate prior to the hike.

Packing List:
Hammock suspension
Hammock insulation/pad
Rain fly
Tent stakes (put in checked baggage)
Sleeping bag
Mosquito net
Ball cap
Hiking shoes & socks
Head lamp and batteries
Phone battery, cord, charger
Camera, memory card, batteries
Water filter (Sawyer Mini)
Platypus non-rigid water bottle, 1L. (for use w/ Sawyer Mini).
Stove (put in checked luggage)
Fuel (buy in Colorado)
Water pot
Titanium mug/pot.
Sudden coffee
Power bars, nuts, beef stick
Dehydrated meal
Extra socks, undies, shirt
Rain Jacket (pants?)
Emergency Poncho
Zip locks
Phone case
Camera clip
Trash bag
Chap stick
Tylenol w caffeine

Smart water, two 1L bottles.
Fuel canister

Flint striker
Tent stakes