Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cold snap

Its been pretty cold this week. This morning we had that beautiful clear sunshine that I treasure. When its this cold, the snow is pretty dry and it drifts off the trees and gets thrown into the air by the wind. I'm suddenly reminded that I'm living in Robert Frost country. For a very short time, when the sun is at the exact right angle in the morning, it all turns to gold.

Unfortunately I haven't been feeling as well as I was last month. I've been stiff and cranky in the mornings (Okay, not just mornings) and my walks have begun to take more effort. I did go x-country skiing with my son's class on Monday, but I was more tired than usual. I also had trouble with my right knee, it was so stiff as to make skiing difficult. It really wouldn't bend--to the point where one of the instructors noticed and asked if I had a bad knee.


I worry about being able to do my hike when I'm feeling less than terrific, but I was able to do some hiking last summer even though I felt positively cruddy. I just went slowly and packed light. I just keep telling myself that I will do it in my own time and my own way. If necessary, I can do it as a series of day hikes one weekend at a time.

The whole Long Trail hike is a metaphore for my recovery from Lyme. I'm not going to put my whole life on hold while waiting for a miracle that may never come. I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other 'till I get where I'm going.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Movie Reveiw

I don't watch that many movies, but I just saw a great one. The Descent. Its about five women who go spelunking. Its got everything I like: scary stuff, women doing cool adventure travel, survival and trauma.

Its got a whole supernatural monster thing going, but even without that it's pretty scary. The mistakes the women make are not egregious. In fact, like any survival situation, it seems the mistakes are small. The real character flaw is hubris on the part of the leader. And the misplaced trust the rest of the party has in her.

Its great to see a horror film where the women act like grown-ups.

I reccomend getting the original cut, 'cause the cut for American audiences leaves the viewer hanging in a weird spot

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two steps forward, one step back

Looks like the reason I was feeling so darn good for the last few weeks is at least partly due to the clindamycin I was on. When I came off of it, over about a week I started to feel like someone had turned up the gravity. This is not unusual, but I'm not thrilled.

On the other hand DR would like to try me on yet another drug that he believes will be very helpful. It has a couple of draw backs:
1. It makes one very sun sensitive.
2. It makes your symptoms worse before they get better

Now, when they say sun sensitive, they don't mean just slap on some extra sunscreen. They mean two minutes of exposure could be enough to give you a pretty nasty sunburn. I was on a similar drug last summer and my hand got burned through the windshield of my car while driving. Given that I'm fair skinned, grey eyed and I have freckles, this is a problem already. The literature for this treatment talks about it being a good idea to only go outside after dark! So, now I'm studying sun protection clothing. Any links or research from anyone out there would be greatly appreciated.

I have been asked if this will make me postpone my hiking. I really don't want it to. I'm not going to be foolish about it, but I refuse to put it off if humanly possible. If necessary, I will only hike in the Early AM (even before the sun comes up) so that I can be safely ensconced in some wooded glade before the rays get fierce.

Backpacking is still cheaper than therapy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

I was 38 yesterday. My goal is to hike the entire trail by my 40th birthday, so the clocks started ticking.

Still haven't picked out my first weekend hike, but I think for the first and last section I'd like to do it solo. Kind of metaphorical I guess. I'm thinking aound the middle of June.

Continuing to train. I went snowshoing the other night. It was wicked dark. Overcast and foggy. I hadn't actually planned to walk home after dark, but I had snowshoed down to see my friend (she lives about a mile away). This was Mon. the day New England got hit by the ice storm. Not so bad for us, but the roads were pretty sloppy and slick. I had my kids meet me at my friends house and had my husband pick up the kids on his way home from work.

I hung out with my friend for a while longer 'cause she's just had surgery and in the tradition of strong women everywhere, she just was in too much danger of overdoing it. Eventually, I extracted a promise that she would stay on the couch and watch TV. I hadn't brought a headlamp and she couldn't find any of hers, but I figured there would be enough snow to give me some visibility. Plus, I had the dog with me and she knows the way home.

The fog was pretty bad, however I got home with no major mishaps. I do have an urge to invite many of the fantasy author's of the books my daughter reads to come out and visit us. They write about characters making their way through strange woods on dark, foggy moonless nights. Yeah, right. I want to set them loose on a dark, foggy, moonless night here and say "This is what dark looks like"

Friday, January 12, 2007

More progress

I walked four miles again today. Yay me!

I have to bring up another symptom. Something called exercise intolerance. This is when one can exercise, but feels completely wiped out for the rest of the day and most of the next. When I flare up, this is a real problem. It makes it way easy to get into a cycle of deconditioning. One feels pretty cruddy to start with, then any activity just destroys one. Your motivation for keeping in any kind of shape just isn't there.

Its very frustrating

Last summer I handled it by going for easy walks for 20 minutes or so when I could. As I said in an earlier post, I had a pretty rough spring and summer.

I'm really please with the fact that four miles is becoming a regular thing (so are the animals) and that it really is getting easier. Right now I feel tired and my knees, hips and hands are quite sore, but I don't have that run-over-by-a-truck tiredness that comes with the exercise intolerance.

Again, Yay me!

Signs of progress

I went to pick up hay for the goats yesterday. I get it from a farmer down in the valley. Its this great honor system thing. You go to his hay barn, grab your bales and then drop the money (2.50 a bale) into the jar on his porch marked "hay money". He's a real farmer. Cows, chickens, sheep, endless fields. Unlike me who just runs a personal petting zoo.

But I digress

So I was putting my two hay bales into the back of my SUV, and I thought "Huh, funny, these are a lot lighter than they should be." They fit into the back the way they usually do though (I can fit four into the back without putting down the seats). Went on with my day.

Got home after dark, so I left them in the car overnight.

This morning I took them out, loading them up into the the sled I use to move them to the goat pen. I thought again "These are really light, they must be smaller bales than usual" I took a good long look. They were baled by machine in the usual way with the usual amount of twine. They looked the same size. Suddenly, the penny dropped. I've been training. The bales are the same size, I'm just stronger. Whee!

I'm starting to believe in two things.

1. Maybe this Lyme treament is working
2.My goal of hiking the Long Trail is more than an ego thing. If I continue to train for hiking, my physical condition will continue to improve. Resulting in a happier, healthier, more capable wife for my husband, mom for my kids, EMT for my community and whatever else I need to be.

I thinks its called enlightened self interest.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A quick note on risk

As I pointed out in an earlier post, hiking the Long Trail solo is much less risky than, say, driving my car. Here's a fun little article about risk assessment in Time Magazine.

Imagine that

Cold in January in Vermont!

We finally have some almost normal weather! I got up this morning and had to light both woodstoves. I don't have time for an extended walk today, so I'm off to bring in wood and then to town to pretend like I actually live in the 21st century (I figure that except for the internet, I spend more time in the 19th).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Overdoing it

Walked 5.6 miles with the dog today. I am very tired.

This morning it was one of the few really cold days we've had this winter, so I decided to pack up a little daypack and spend a couple of hours out in it. The weather was mostly overcast with some in and out sunshine. We walked along the road that runs by a creek. It was very pretty with just an inch or two of snow. The tree were all out lined with white. It was very crisp and quiet and I really didn't want to turn around. We went two miles before I thought it would be a good idea to turn back as my hip was beginning to bother me. By the time I got home, it was pretty sore.

A little while later, it was time to head down to walk my kids home from the bus stop. Their bus stop is exactly .8 mile from out doorstep. I often get some grief from them about what a loooong walk it is, but it gives them and myself time to talk when I go meet them. I almost always try to meet them because its a way of building a mile and a half walk into my day. Perhaps it would have been prudent to skip it today--I think the extra mile did me in.

The dog is also pretty tired. She has spent the entire evening curled up either on the sofa or the bed. I think that it was not so much the distance that wiped us out as the temperature. There's a couple of hills that generally never fail to have me pulling off at least one layer of clothing and today those hills were vital to keeping me warm. I didn't feel cold while I was out, but I was really pleased I had loaded up on snacks for us both.

So to bed. I will say that there is a deep satisfaction to be had in going to bed really physically tired.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Brain Fog

One of the real bitches of Lyme disease is not the physical problems, but the mental ones. There's a phenomenon known as "brain fog" that is common to several chronic diseases, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and I've heard recently, chemotherapy.

To explain: imagine the worst flu you ever had. You know the feeling you get when you've medicated away the body aches and the fever and the respiratory yuck? That surreal "I really should be in bed, but I can't afford to miss this meeting/class/date/exam, so I'll just have to suck it up and go anyway" feeling? Or worse yet that "I'm not going anywhere with this 105 degree fever" feeling? People who have these illnesses feel like that alot. More disturbing, we don't always realize that we're not firing on all cylinders. Its like the drunk being the least aware of how drunk they are.

So we develop coping skill and we muddle through as best we can. I've always figured I had the "I just feel too lousy to think straight" variety of brain fog. As my physical symptoms wane, my mental clarity has always gotten better. However, with the diagnosis of Lyme, the spector of actual neurological involvement rears its ugly head. Brrr.

Some experts say that chronic Lyme is not a real thing and that the rounds of antibiotics I've had should take care of the Lyme. Any lingering symptoms I might continue to have are something else. Other experts say that Lyme can hide in the tissues much like syphilis and cause a syndrome very like tertiary syphilis

Interestingly there is also a group of doctors examining the possibilty of a link between autism and Lyme disease.

It would be fascinating if it weren't so damned personal

Monday, January 8, 2007

Training update

I'm walking about four miles a day at least five times a week and I've lost five lbs. My Lyme symptoms are pretty good. Apart from the knee and hip pain, I'm feeling pretty good. Haven't started PT yet, mostly 'cause the whirl of holiday stuff has prevented me from making the appt. Plus the whole dental saga just continues. I only have a week left on the antibiotics tho'

My dog is very appreciative of the long walks, even when we take the goat. The goat and the dog have become friendly toward one another. However, I absolutely CANNOT let the dog see me taking the goat for a walk without her. I made this mistake over the weekend--my husband and children tell me that the dog spent the whole hour I was gone wailing and whimpering, "She left me! My mama left me! To walk the goat!" In dog, of course. Imagine, a solid hour of "arrrrooooo. Whiiiiiiiine. Rrrrrrfff". The dog forgave me much more quickly than my family did.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


I'm starting to do some actual planning now. I spend hours poring over the Long Trail Guide and trying to figure out my first section. Part of the problem is that although it takes the average person 3 weeks to hike the LT., I suspect that it might take me a bit longer. I think I will keep my first trip down to just an overnight, perhaps 10 miles. Just to get my legs as it were.

So, I'll hopefully do my first section in June. Black flies are bad then. Need mosquito nets.

Took my kids to the camping store today. My daughter, 11, asks "What is it with you and camping anyway?". I try to explain the attraction of silence and nature and beauty and she just looks at me. Like this:

When I was her age I was Forbidden from playing in the woods by myself. No kidding. My mom was afraid I'd get kidnapped or break an ankle or something. I used to go anyway. Never broke an ankle. I look back on it with a mother's eyes and I shudder actually--I could have broken an ankle and gone a good long time before I was found because of that. It would have been wiser if she's asked me precisly where I was going and known exactly when to expect me. Funny, she used those rules when I started dating.

Isn't it strange the things people consider dangerous? Last spring when I went dogsledding, my father was very worried. He acted as though I was proposing a six month stint in Antarctica rather than a week in Maine. I've gotten a similiar reaction to my current plan from other people. I've heard about the two women who were killed on the Appalachian Trail a number of times. And yet, statistically, women are still more in danger in their own homes than anywhere else in the world. And what about the suicide -machines most of us drive to work every day? I'm much more likely to roll my car off the road than I am to be axed by some crazed hiker.

I am a fairly careful person in reality. I'm told I look adventurous, but I don't feel it. I feel more of a plodder and a planner. I like to do these things but with minimum of risk and a maximum of comfort. I want to see pretty scenery and feel the wind in the trees and listen to the night sounds of the woods, not become part of a survival story.

Toward that end:
I will leave a very detailed trip plan with my husband or a good friend if my husband is with me. I will also post it here.
I will take an extensive first aid kit, including items that may be specific to myself and my companion.
I will talk to as many people who have hiked the LT to get the benefit of their experience.
I will check the weather before I go out.
I will not be afraid to put off a planned section hike if the weather or my physical condition look too dicey.
I will plan for reasonable distances.
I will do my solo section at the peak of the season so that there will be lots of traffic on the trail.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Back now

Took a little vacation from blogging while my children and my spouse were home over winter break. I hope everyone had a fine New Year.

My wonderful spouse, Bryan, gave me a wonderful Solstice present: a book called Pack Goat. We already own two goats and we really enjoy them. We plan on breeding them next spring and having them as milk animals. This book opens the possibility of using the goats as pack animals.

This has gotten me very excited. One of the things that worries me about my planned trips is the weight of my back pack. According to this book and the other sources I've been looking at, yearling goats can pack 15-20% of their own weight and more as they grow older. If I can train my goats to carry much of my load, that would be wonderful. Apparently this is an idea that is catching on out west although I haven't seen it here in New England yet.

Goats have some real advantages over other pack animals for hiking. One of the most obvious is their ability to walk wherever a person can go. Given that they're mountain critters as opposed to being grassland critters like horses, they tear up the trail much less and are less likely to hurt themselves. Goats are even in keeping with "Leave no Trace" principles; their scat and hoof prints are deerlike, they're relatively quiet, and although they will eat trail side plants, their preference is for woody stems and weeds like dandelion.

I have two goats, both female. One is too old to learn to pack, but the younger one is still young enough that I'm going to try. We plan to breed them in Feb so that the kids will be due in July. Then I intend to hand raise the kids so that I can start training them right away. I might not have a pack goat for this summers sections of the LT, but hopefully for the sections I intend to cover in the summer of '08, I will have a four footed hiking partner or two.