Adventures of Life

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The journey is the destination

There are times when life takes over. I had this awesome plan laid out and suddenly I was pushed off onto a detour. It’s been just over a year since I had my ACL replaced, I had found the trails again and had huge plans ahead of me. But first it seems I need to travel some bumpy ground before I get to my destination.

It's important to enjoy the wildflower that line your path

It’s important to enjoy the wildflower that line your path

Three months ago my leg started bothering me. At first I thought it was all in my head but I realized the pain was consistent, I was allowing the pain to become part of my day to day life. I made a couple calls, one specifically to my surgeon. “My tibia is achy. More specifically, where you put a screw in my leg I am getting a deep throbbing pain in the bone. Any chance the screw is coming out on its own?”

Three weeks later I’m sitting in his office while he pokes my leg and confirms my fears. I’ve got a screw loose. Another three weeks and I’m sitting in a hospital bed waiting to have it removed. Bonus to the surgery, I’m back in physical therapy to continue focused muscle building. Surgery was quick, I walked out of the hospital on crutches and found a nice place on the couch for the next couple days while the throbbing subsided.

Guess being short a loose screw isn't a bad thing

Guess being short a loose screw isn’t a bad thing

Star and I missed the woods. Short walks at the park were all I could handle despite my hopes for more. But true to my style I found myself back in the woods by the end of the week. What would have been an easy 45 min casual walk covering 2 miles became a 2 1/2 hour walk. If it had been flat terrain I’d have had little difficulty but this section of woods housed dips and rises which slowed me drastically. Once again I was humbled by how quickly life can change.

When you've been cooped up for a week with nothing but Chuck-it time at the park it's time to branch out when you hit the woods.

When you’ve been cooped up for a week with nothing but Chuck-it time at the park it’s time to branch out when you hit the woods.

When forced to slow down you start looking at all the things surrounding you. You pause and readjust your angle, the new perspectives are worth it.  Black Eyed Susan's catching rays

When forced to slow down you start looking at all the things surrounding you.
You pause and readjust your angle, the new perspectives are worth it.
Black Eyed Susan’s catching rays

It's the little things you need to stop and take a moment to look at.  Even if it means getting low to the ground. "Corpse Plant or Indian Pipe"

It’s the little things you need to stop and take a moment to look at.
Even if it means getting low to the ground.
“Corpse Plant or Indian Pipe”

My feet were back on the ground and I was moving forward, so why stop? If you’re going to get things done you’re better off doing them all at once. I’d been dreading making a dental appointment. But the wisdom teeth were past due and I wanted them out. A simple evaluation visit turned into multiple appointments getting my teeth cleaned and cavities taken care of (until two weeks ago I’d never had a filling). These trips were just the beginning, little did I know just how much I’d detest the idea of sitting in a dental chair.

X-rays of my mouth showed how very special I am. I not only had wisdom teeth which needed to be taken out but I had FIVE!!! Lucky for me I only needed two extracted. I made an appointment as soon as possible hoping to be done with it. Just as my leg was back on the mend and I was ready to hit the mountains again I found myself only dreaming of them. While the nitrous oxide kicked in I drifted off to the great outdoors. I saw myself hiking down the AT with my pup at my side. Life was awesome! Then I came too. I was in a fog. I couldn’t believe the surgery was already done and the awesomeness of the trail was not real. oh well, I felt GREAT!

All smiles and full of "laughing gas"

All smiles and full of “laughing gas”

Almost a week out from the extraction and life is still on hold. The dry socket I acquired on day four put a bit of a damper on the quick recovery, granted I can’t complain too much since my face didn’t puff up. A bonus and yet slightly disappointing, due to lack of swelling, I had no opportunity to play the role of a chipmunk. I do feel like a holiday special though, full of spice and everything nice. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to appreciate cloves again. Not after 48 hours of having my jaw “packed” with something heavily doused in clove oil (with the likely hood of a couple more days ahead of me).

So this is life at the moment. I am planning, plotting, and bleeding minds dry while I search for information about hiking the AT. The more knowledge I can gain the better off I’ll be. To sit and read someone else’s story about their experience on the trail just makes the prospect ahead of me that much more exciting.

We've done it before and we will do it again!!! Summit of Mt. Chocorua

We’ve done it before and we will do it again!!!
Summit of Mt. Chocorua

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Planning Stages: Canine Companion Part 5; hazards cont’d

Environmental hazards cont’d
Water borne illness
While hiking most people filter or treat their water in one way or another before drinking or cooking with it. If you are planning to treat your water, do so in a way which is dog friendly. Dogs, just like people, can contract Giardia . Giardia can be contracted through infected water, soil, or direct contact with fecal matter. This parasite can wreck havoc on ones digestive system: diarrhea, bloating, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. It seems there are MANY different strains of this parasite and not all pass between species. Another water borne illness is Leptospirosis . This bacteria is most often found in warm, humid areas and stagnant water, such as ponds. Dogs with a higher likelihood of coming in contact with wild animals or urine have an increased chance of contracting this disease. BAD news is it can be passed from animal to human. Symptoms may not be immediately present or may surface and then lay dormant. Symptoms may include, fever, joint and muscle soreness, vomiting, decreased appetite, discharge from eyes and nose, and possible frequent urination. This disease attacks the kidneys, untreated it can do permanent damage. Treat your dogs water and reduce the chance of introducing the parasite to the body.

I don't see any dirt...

I don’t see any dirt… If she cleans her own legs she increases the risk of contracting a disease

Dog related illness
Diseases are ever present in our life, when we have the ability to reduce the risks there is no reason not to. I have never had my dog treated for Kennel Cough but before we leave for the trail it will be one of the shots she gets.   This will provide her with a defense in case we meet other dogs who are positive for it.  Many kennels and boarding facilities also require dogs to be immunized against it, if unexpected dog care is needed it’s one less thing to worry about. I’d rather deal with this respiratory disease preventively then have her come down with a hacking cough that is highly contagious to other dogs.

When dogs get close  -  Sharing is caring some things shouldn't be shared

When dogs get close – Sharing is caring
some things shouldn’t be shared

Weather Hazards
Weather effects dogs just as it effects people. If you get caught in a snow storm you’ll want to be sure you have the proper gear to keep both yourself and your dog safe and warm. Dogs may originate from wild animals but they have been bred to fit specific needs, transported across the world to new environments where their genetic design doesn’t mesh with the climate. With no warning of where they are going they don’t pack the proper coat and are often improperly dressed. If you are hiking through snow with a Jack Russell or some other wirehaired breed, I hope you have a coat for them. They don’t have the undercoat which provides them with insulation against the cold. If your dog is shivering than they are in the beginning stages of hypothermia, just like a person. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100-102°F, if it is below 95°F for an extended period of time you run the risk of long term organ damage.
Warming a dog on the trail may seem like a difficult task. Dogs and humans alike need to have their body temperature brought up gradually. The first necessity is shelter of some sort where they can seek warmth away from wind. If being wet is part of the equation than drying them the best you can is a must. Wrap them in a dry blanket, space blankets are perfect for redirecting heat back to the source. Heat water and place it in a water bottle WRAP IT in fabric and place it near the body, under the legs against the belly is a good place, be sure it won’t burn. Provide warm water for them, adding sugar or broth of some sort may entice them to drink. If they won’t drink don’t force them. Be aware, hypothermia and frostbite can go hand in hand. Look for signs of frostbite, the most common places on dogs are the: ears, tail, pads of feet and scrotum. The skin will appear pale white or blue. As circulation returns it may become red and swollen, skin may even peel off. Due to lack of blood flow through damaged tissue the area will turn black and may eventually fall off. Do NOT attempt to rub or massage frostbite area to bring warmth back to it, instead use warm compresses. If EITHER of these, hypothermia or frostbite, occurs you should seek medical attention for your dog (or you).

This pup was designed for snow!

This pup was designed for snow!

Maybe snow isn’t a problem for you, instead you’re plowing along with horse flies buzzing you and wishing the temperatures would dip below freezing. Your dog may be thinking the same thing in between their attempts to eat the flies dive bombing their head. Dogs run a higher risk than people for hyperthermia, overheating. Dogs do not sweat, their main method of cooling their body is to pant. The lining of their lungs act, just as our skin does, as a surface to evaporate and carry warm moist air away from their body. Dogs with short faces have a harder time breathing and therefore more difficulty bringing their temperature down. Some dogs will naturally try to cool their body by seeking shade or laying in water, encourage your dog to do these things. If your dog is carrying a pack or has some sort of layer on their body that may be trapping heat be sure to remove it. Dogs who are overheating may be: panting heavily, acting sluggish or confused, be looking for shade or a cool place, gums may appear red or blue, may vomit or have a seizure. If their core temperature goes too high the possibility of permanent damage or death is present. Normal temperature is ~ 100 – 102°F, if their body temperature rises to 105 – 106°F heat exhaustion is a possibility, above that you are looking at heat stroke with can lead to brain damage or death.
Bringing the body temperature down gradually is very important. Get your dog into a shaded area. Pour cool water over their body, DO NOT submerge them in cold water as this may shock their system and cause blood vessels to contract making it more difficult for them to cool themselves. Pay attention to their feet and underbody as a means to cool them. Offer them cool water to drink, you may add an electrolyte solution* into the water to help them recover. Talk with your vet about appropriate amount of electrolyte for your specific animal. If your dog has suffered heatstroke take them to a vet. Although they may not be showing any discomfort they may have internal damage.

Star is notorious for digging finding comfort in a newly dug hole.

Star is notorious for digging and than finding comfort in the newly dug hole.

*Homemade Electrolyte Solution for dogs
1 Quart clean water (chlorine free)
1 Tablespoon Sugar or Honey
1 Teaspoon Salt

Having a premade mixture of sugar and salt in your first aid kit is an easy way to have electrolytes on hand for your dog


Hiking in the Whites – Cliffs and Falls

I was tired and a little crispy from a long day in the sun and water, standing in lines, and managing a social outing. It was 3am and I was just getting settled into bed when I realized I had the day off. Much too late to start calling up folks and seeing who wanted to do some crazy adventure thing in 5 or 6 hours so I made the only rational decision. I had a car, a dog, and myself.  I logged onto and started checking out local hikes. I wanted something new. I plugged in criteria, between 3-8 miles, easy/moderate difficulty, in NH. By 3:30 I found one I thought looked good. It fell just short of 5 miles. I’d never heard of it, didn’t even know how long it would take to drive there, just that it was in the Whites. Set the alarm 5 hours out and called it a night.

Mornings are rarely a quick endeavor for me, even in the best circumstances. I’ve managed to take half an hour just to put on clothes, brush my teeth and walk out the door. With no one waiting on me this morning and no deadline other than the sun I slowly pulled together a couple travel bags. Yes, multiple. When I head out for a day hike or simple car camping I do indulge myself. I packed a bag with comfy clothes for after the hike, PJ bottoms, flip flops, a clean top, and sweatshirt. I also put together a day pack. My pack always has two emergency bags, one with a mini first aid kit and one for if I get stuck or lost in the woods (whistle, headlamp, water purifying caps, extra batteries, lighter). The weather report said 70’s with possible showers throughout the afternoon. Lightweight warm layer and a rain jacket, my camera with a couple dry bags just in case the rain came down and a small bag of snacks. Filled my camel pack and my dogs two platypus’s, tossed her treats into her pack and we were ready! Took me less than an hour to prep our gear.

"Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" ~Dr Seuss

“Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”
~Dr Seuss

We were on the road and headed north by 11:30am. My GPS said we’d be at trail head by 1:30pm and the hike was estimated at about 4 hours. I’d be home by 8pm! It’s never how you plan. The drive north felt like it took forever. I spent the first hour trying to tell Star about our big adventure, all she wanted to do was put her head out the window and listen to the wind. Next I blasted the radio and sang along with it at the top of my lungs. I got some odd looks, I think many of the people understood why Star had her head out the window. And then it happened! I whipped into a scenic overlook and realized the truth behind what I was doing. I was about to spend a beautiful day in the woods, hiking a trail I’d never seen, with no one but my dog, and I couldn’t have been happier! I launched myself out of my car, looking the part of total tourist, ran over to the guardrail, pulled out my iPhone (didn’t bother with my very nice camera) and snapped just one picture. This was the image that concreted what a great decision I’d made at 3am!

In that moment I knew!

In that moment I knew!

Not 5 minutes down the road I drove past a hitchhiker. I hauled over and did a frantic clean of the front seat so he’d have a place to sit. My day was going from “small adventure” to “holy shit it’s taking off”. I don’t often pick up hitchhikers. As I’m sure you can imagine: woman alone in car + unknown person = uncertainty
Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. This poor guy was trying to get back to his car, he’d just left his buddy at the hospital after a kayak trip gone wrong. The least I could do was get him up the road and drop him at the next intersection. We enjoyed a quick discussion about my upcoming hike. He spoke highly of the trail with beautiful views and winter ice climbing. My destination was only twenty minutes away!

The Arethusa Falls trail and parking area are so clearly marked that if you manage to miss the sign don’t even bother with the hike, blazes are small. The parking lot was packed. I’d been told to expect this and wasn’t bothered by it. This would be my first solo hike, EVER. I wanted this hike specifically for the fact it was well traveled and if anything went wrong there was a good possibility I would meet other hikers.
Geared up and ready to go, I spoke with another hiker who suggested enjoying the falls at the end of the hike as a way to cool off, if so desired. Off to the cliffs I was headed. I don’t like to admit to my lack of map skills but it is a fact that I don’t do well reading maps. And because the guy suggested it, I stood in front of the map at the trail head and tried to get an understanding of where I was, where I was going, and what to expect. Eventually I moved on. About all I knew was I wanted to walk up the trail in front of me. I figured the map images I’d uploaded on my phone would serve me well when I needed them.

My compass rose assists me in finding my way when lost.  At least that's the plan. Haven't gotten lost since I got it.

My compass rose assists me in finding my way when lost. At least that’s the plan.
Haven’t gotten lost since I got it.

I don’t have much nice to say… the first half mile of trail was boring. Just as I started my way towards the slope of the mountain I met my first hikers coming down the trail. They didn’t have much to say either, said there was some steep section, but the view was beautiful. Yes I’m about to rant.
I don’t know who decided to rate the trail as “Moderate!” When you’re scrambling up the side of a mountain, leaning far enough forward that you are wondering when you’ll kiss the hillside, then maybe, just maybe this should have been under “moderate/difficult”. The footing was scree, loose rock, sand, and leaves, crushed and mixed together to create a great base for sliding down a mountainside. I know I speak unkindly of this footing but this is my third hike since having my ACL replaced and for some reason the idea of tearing it out again just doesn’t appeal to me. And maybe I exaggerate a little so as to not seem weak. See, Star had no trouble on this section, and as you know she’s recently recovered from Lyme. She plowed through all 0.7 miles of scree scrambling, climbing over rocks and roots, and along a cliff edge. I wasted more air than I should have cursing myself over this foolish notion of going on a hike, not just a hike but a solo hike. As I pushed myself up the last section of rock, my fingers finding holds on a boulder I paused, I looked ahead, I took a deep breath, and I listened, there was no sound of my dog, her bell had fallen silent. I let my breath out in a shaky whistle. I power up over the last little ridge and scramble up some wet rock and Star bounces over to me, all wiggles. She doesn’t understand what I am so worried about she just settles down to watch me. We hiked the last 50 feet, Star bounding ahead, impatient to see through the trees where the sky was visible.

Star is content to lay still  for just a moment.

Star is content to lay still for just a moment.

Every step up the mountain. Every curse out of my mouth. Every drop of sweat shed. Was worth standing on the top of those cliffs. The view was beautiful and serene. I plopped down and enjoyed some much deserved jerky, and a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. I was relaxing physically but mentally I was on high alert, Star couldn’t understand the idea of a break. I’ve always believed she was part mountain goat and as I watched her creep closer and closer to the cliff edge I prayed she was. I kept calling her back but all she wanted was to know what was just over the edge. During my 30 minute break there wasn’t a single point in time where she stopped moving.

When I got back to the parking lot I looked up and realized just what the cliff edge was like where Star wanted to be a mountain goat...

When I got back to the parking lot I looked up and realized just what the cliff edge was like where Star wanted to be a mountain goat…

I met some truly wonderful people on those cliffs. An older woman who has been section hiking the AT. We sat and talked about the fun and the challenges of the trail. We discussed having a dog as a companion and what it meant, that I would be sleeping in a tent. I talked photography with a couple who lives 20 minutes from me, on the seacoast. And last, the high spirits and antics of a group of friends, who had traveled from all over to meet up and enjoy the outdoors. Then it was time and we all parted ways. I’m a better person for the thirty minutes spent talking to these folks.

As I moved forward up the trail I again questioned this idea of a solo hike. But this time it was with excitement and a sense of understanding. I was out here to be with myself. To take time to let my mind quiet down, to put fears, concerns, and doubts on the back burner and to trust in my ability. I had just hiked one of the steepest sections of trail I’d seen in a long time, I’d done it with my own two legs and at my own pace. I had met people, learned from them and provided knowledge in return. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I was moving through the woods, just me and Star, and I was completely at peace.

I'm content with just the two of us

I’m content with just the two of us

We continued our climb up. My legs were screaming for the ascent to end, my calves were burning, my knee was giving little creaks and groans, and we still hadn’t found the summit. We came to an intersection where I stood staring at the signs trying to make sense of what I knew in my head and what the signs said. I finally pulled out my phone and looked at the map. Remember earlier when I mentioned maps don’t always help me, this was a prime example. The trail “merged” with another. Everything in my mind said stay left but the arrow to the right spoke of the falls and the road I’d come in on. Next I pulled up written word, the directions for each trail intersection etc. Thankfully it clearly stated the two trails met and to stay left. I must argue my point just a little here. When looking at the map the trail to the left and right were clearly labeled “Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail”, the sign pointed to the right to follow “Arethusa-Ripley FT” and to the left to follow “Arethusa Falls Trail”. I knew I wanted “Arethusa Falls Trail” it just wasn’t where it said it was and it didn’t make sense… not when I was standing there all alone getting slightly panicky as I had to make a decision on my own. I made the right decision and onward and upward we went. I don’t even know when we summited, there was no bald peak, or stellar views, I just know we did. Then suddenly the trail sloped downward just enough ease the burning in my legs.

I had made a decision. It wasn’t about if I wanted raisins or craisins in my GORP. It wasn’t about whether or not I should pack my rain pants. It was all about where I was going. I had used the resources I had, trusted my instincts, and moved ahead. This was what the day was about. It was this combination of things which really got me thinking. In about 9 months, I would be on a trail making these decisions constantly. In the beginning I’d been excited about planning for the AT and then the excitement petered out, my research declined, my experimental dehydrating of foods decreased, even discussing it was overrated. But here walking through the woods it all started coming back. The desire to be on my own, to not be limited by others or distracted by technology, where time means nothing (although this isn’t always true). Where every chipmunk rustling through the leaves held the possibility of being a bear. Yes my wild and crazy imagination was running on full tilt.  This was where I was and this is where I wanted to be.

Arethusa Falls, second highest falls in NH at 140'

Arethusa Falls, second highest falls in NH at 140′

As the trail became smoother and I had to focus less on my footing the hike became more and more enjoyable. I spent time working on new, hiking specific, commands with Star. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the woods, minus all the chipmunks taunting Star. I saw very few hikers along this trail, apparently the well traveled part of the trail is the Arethusa Falls section, not the cliffs. Star and I enjoyed the hike down to the falls. We had the view all to ourselves, 140′ of falling water! I sat back and immediately became a buffet for all the starving black flies. With little blood to give I wrapped up my sight seeing of the falls and headed back to the main trail.

Star and I had a mission for the final leg of the hike. It was to find the next steepest part of the mountain. We were successful. The map I was following showed this great little loop option which would have us hiking an additional 0.2 miles and place us next to Bemis Brook. I couldn’t see any reason not to do it, in fact a family I met on their hike up also suggested it with much enthusiasm but did warn it was a “little steep.”

Bemis Brook Trail It's just a little steep

Bemis Brook Trail
It’s just a little steep

It was like walking down, really steep, natural stairs and if your foot caught than you would be plastered to the bottom of the brook when you landed. My fear of heights actually made the hike down more difficult than it needed to be. But we made it and the family was right. Bemis Brook was beautiful. Waterfalls littered the length of it. Star and I hiked along stopping briefly at each one, feeding the fly hordes.

Bemis Brook Falls

Bemis Brook Falls

The final 50 feet of trail was covered in the company of a couple from Finland. Star was at the top of her game, having been allowed to roam with little direction from me, and was on a serious chipmunk hunt. The gentleman joked about how happy Star would be if she had “a belly full of little chipmunks.” A very astute and accurate observation. While Star continued her frenzied hunting I spoke with the couple and we shared stories of hikes and life. It was the perfect way to end my hike. To meet people from so far away and yet create a bond over the shared experience of this trail.
Thank you to all the wonderful people I met this day!!!

Star was not so sure about this footing. "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." ~Ernest Hemingway

Star was not so sure about this footing.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~Ernest Hemingway