Monday, May 30, 2011

Hike to the Head of Whitewash Canyon

The South Foothills of the Sandia Mountains
I took another hike on Sunday, May 29, 2011, this time going by myself and starting at the far eastern end of Menaul Blvd. and taking what the guidebook calls the "Whitewash Trail" (which is sort of a misnomer inasmuch as it neither follows Whitewash [i.e., Piedra Lisa] Canyon nor is much of a trail).  I only intended to go as far as the first little promontory at the head of Whitewash Canyon, and I was able to ascend that high, although the weather was hot and the steepness of the route -- it gains 2,000' in elevation in two miles' horizontal distance -- had me huffing and puffing most of the way.  (The route passes through the site of a brush fire that happened a couple of months ago, which was reportedly caused by people lighting fireworks.)  The saving factor for me was the 25-30 mph wind that was blowing, which kept me pretty cool.  The map above shows both the route I took this week and the hike that Darren and I did last week to the "Eye of the Sandias."  (My next Sunday-afternoon hike will probably take me up Embudo Canyon, located in between my last two routes.)

Looking North
Looking South

[Update 6/6/11: I took a hike up Embudo Canyon yesterday afternoon. I started at the open space parking lot at the end of Indian School Rd. and hiked up past what I call "the narrows" into the wider eastern end of the canyon, turning around at the start of the rocky switchbacks that lead to the junction with the Three Gun Spring Trail. It was a pretty easy hike compared with the last two that I did, but "two miles up and two miles back" seems to be a pretty good length for a Sunday-afternoon hike.  I'll probably start moving north for additional hikes. Note that I have modified the attached illustration to add the Embudo Canyon route that I took yesterday.]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hike with Darren to the "Eye of the Sandias"

I've been telling my therapist (in the employee assistance program at work) for several weeks that I would start taking short hikes on Sunday afternoons, after church, just to be able to do something "healing" for myself every week.  (We'd discussed at length what I could do as a "restorative" measure, and hiking was about the only thing I could do regularly that wouldn't cost a lot of money.)  Unfortunately, I've found that it's much easier to stay on the couch than to get off it, particularly on Sundays -- and especially with the fatigue that my chronic dizziness causes -- so the psychologist, the internist, and the sleep tech had to gang up on me last week to shame me into going hiking, finally.  I'd picked out the first hike I wanted to do, which was to hike up to the "Eye of the Sandias," a "quirky landmark" mentioned in Mike Coltrin's Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide.  My brother-in-law Mike and I tried to find the "Eye" sometime back, but we got lost and finally turned around.  (We also weren't prepared for the difficulty of the hike -- the route is only two miles one-way, but it's very steep and loose in places.)  Anyway, Darren and I went and did the hike today (it's a good thing Darren went, as I would have become lost again otherwise); I had to stop a lot to catch my breath, but, really, I did surprisingly well, all things considered.  So well, in fact, that I think I can manage the next "killer" hike I'd like to do, which is to hike up the South Crest Trail to South Sandia Peak and then back down the "CCC" Route. The attached photos show me and Darren with the "Eye," which supposedly is a comment, first painted in the 1960s (and touched-up in 2002), on the encroachment of society on the Sandia Mountains.  (The Zia symbol in the "pupil" suggests a Native American origin or influence.)

[Update 10/24/11: I hiked up to the "Eye" again yesterday afternoon, this time by myself.  It was much easier to find the second time, although I'd already forgotten how long the hike was.]
Me and the "Eye"
View of I-40 from the "Eye"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life Must Have Meaning

The other day I was reading about how Stephen Hawking, the eminent British physicist, referred to the concept of Heaven as a "fairy story."  One could understand why a scientist who has lived for so long with profound physical disabilities questions the existence of God and the notion of life after death.  What I question, however, is Hawking's follow-up statement to the effect that human beings should fulfill their potential by making good use of their lives.  To what end?  If life has no purpose, and no meaning independent of the here and now, who's to determine what any of us "should" do?  Indeed, it is my experience that people who don't believe in life after death generally become increasingly self-absorbed, heedless of the consequences of their actions to others, and much less likely to exhibit true charity.  They tend not to take on the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood -- they profess concern about the state of the world that the current population will leave to succeeding generations, but it's apparent to me that they don't really care about the future beyond their own demise.  As long as they get theirs in their lifetimes -- they seem to think -- and leave no progeny, why should they care about the prospect of economic/societal collapse and the civilized world's being sacked by the barbarians at the gates (or, worse, by the ones in our midst)?  The fact that these people see wispy bogeymen like "climate change" as bigger existential threats than the bankrupting of the federal treasury, or the possibility of some terror group's obtaining and detonating a nuclear weapon, speaks volumes about how basically whacked they are.

On the other hand, it's a little ironic that I write about life's needing to have purpose, given how little meaning I feel my life has at this paraje.  The truth is that my family members -- wife, kids, grandkids, mother -- are my life's purpose, and I bear significant burdens for them that aren't always apparent.  (Heck, just living with my mal de debarquement dizziness is sometimes more burden than I think I can tolerate.)  The reward is that occasionally I get to spend time with my loved ones in beautiful places, such as last weekend at "our" cabin in Colorado -- see the photo above of my grandson Mason on the road outside the cabin, taken on Saturday, May 14.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Colonoscopy

I had my "screening" colonoscopy on Friday, April 29; the immediate result of the procedure was that the doctor found two polyps on the "splenic flexure" (see attached photo), which he removed and sent to the lab for biopsy.  As I write this, I have yet to receive the pathology report, but, assuming neither polyp was pre-cancerous, I won't have to undergo another colonoscopy for ten years, assuming I live that long.

The worst part of the procedure, by far, was the "prep," which entailed certain dietary restrictions and mega-doses of laxatives.  During the last 24 hours before the colonoscopy (which, because my procedure was in the late morning, actually worked out to ~34 hours), I was restricted to a "clear liquid" diet, which in my case meant beef bouillon, chicken bouillon, popsicles (no red or purple), and (blue) Gatorade.  I had to take four Dulcolax tablets at noon on Thursday, which started the "flood," and then, after dinner, I had to drink 64 oz. of Gatorade mixed with 8.3 oz. of Miralax -- fourteen standard doses.  (The instructions called for me to drink 8 oz. of the Gatorade/Miralax mixture every fifteen minutes, but I actually drank it 12 oz. at a time and thus had it all down in 75 minutes.)  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time that evening on the john, although at least I didn't feel much abdominal discomfort.  I couldn't force myself not to take my sleep meds that night, which made me concerned about how they might "cloud" things the next day; however, the report said the quality of my bowel preparation was "good."

I'm told that a colonoscopy only qualifies as a "preventative" medical procedure, in insurance terms, if it doesn't turn up any polyps; therefore, I'm now expecting to have to pay for a sizeable share of it.  And now we've eliminated one more thing -- colorectal cancer -- as a contributing cause of my post-cruise dizziness; I only hope the pathology report comes back "clean" so that I don't have to go through this again in five years (again, assuming I live that long). 

[Update 5/13/11: The pathology report came back -- the two polyps were "adenomatous," meaning they had the potential to turn cancerous, but that there was no actual cancer.  I guess that puts me on the "five year" track for having another colonoscopy.  Crud!]

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Turning 52

Today I turn 52 years old (going on 95).  I think I'm rapidly becoming the Ebenezer Scrooge of birthdays (Bah! Humbug!), inasmuch I don't regard my own birthdays as cause for anything but to be more depressed than I already am.  The attached fuzzy photo is one that I had Dorine take of me (with my cellphone, at the gym) to mark this occasion.  I can't help contrasting what I look like from behind now with how I looked just a couple of years ago.  The 20-25 lbs. I've put on in the interim -- most of which I gained shortly after our "fateful trip" to the Caribbean in January 2010 -- went right to my midsection and has left me looking every bit as old as I feel.  (I guess my legs still look like those of a younger man -- check out the definition in those calves! -- but then they benefit directly from all the "cardio" exercise I do.)

I also can't help noticing how my blog posts have tailed off -- 121 in 2008, 66 in 2009, 47 in 2010, and only 9 or 10 so far this year.  I think I've said most of what I had to say, and, feeling as chronically bad as I do, I don't have much energy or will to think of things to write, much less actually to write them.