The Struggle With The Slow

D's Slide shows, Walking And Losing Weight

I enjoy hiking and backpacking. There is something about being in the woods that you don’t get out here in civilization. It is often very quiet. The alpha dogs and the corporations are not here. There is the wind and the sound of birds. And there is the struggle reaching the next ridge.

Last year I went on a hike to McAfee’s Knob here in Virginia. After about the first five miles I was hiking alone. Everyone else in our great group of Central Virginia Trailblazers had moved ahead to the camping area. But a couple of them came back and took my pack so I pretty much ran to the campsite. You really feel the difference when that load is lifted.

This year we are going to McAfee’s Knob again. And my goal is to do it unaided. I continue to walk nearly every day, 6 or 8 miles. I continue to try and understand my body and its nutritional requirements. I’ve lost a lot of weight but that’s really not the answer. You have to do a lot more than lose weight if you want to climb even these small mountains in Virginia at my age. Water, carbs, and the rest is very important. I’m hoping that this time things will go better.

Being sixty something means something different to me. I look around and see a lot of folks in my age bracket who are slowing down. Relaxing. I never had much of an opportunity to be so active when I was young. Kids and my government job slowed me down. But, as they say, “it’s never too late”.

We shall see. I think that a lot of it depends on what is burning inside you.

And do you ignore it? Do you fall asleep? Or do you take a chance and burn up some miles. Do you get outside and breathe the air. Feel your lungs try to do their thing.

Recently someone we know died after a short illness. He had pulmonary fibrosis. I think about him sometimes when I am hurting as I go up a steep slope. And I thank God for the pain. Because it means this body is still working. It functions as it did decades ago. It just needs more time to do the same thing.

And a little love.

McAfee’s Knob

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Douthat State Park Weekend Retreat / Hiking In Winter

D's Slide shows, More Photos, Walking And Losing Weight

This past weekend the Central Va Trailblazers went up to the mountains to do a little wine tasting and hiking. We also ate out a couple of times. And the weather was nice. There’s still some snow in the upper elevations and a nice, cool breeze to help with the climbing agenda.

We played this game on Saturday night that was pretty funny at times. You had to say some phrases that not everyone was comfortable saying. I was asked to say a few of those. But I didn’t care because after drinking a few beers I don’t comprehend the English language.

No, actually that’s not right. We just lose a few of our inhibitions, thankfully, after a few. They are such a pain in the ass to have hanging over your head most of the time. I suppose they are necessary. And you don’t want to lose all of them, I guess. So apparently there are a lot of these games floating around and I’m trying to remember the name of this one.

Maybe you have played it. Anyway, it kept us up until almost midnight and then it was lights out in about two minutes. A day of walking around the mountains and doing a lot of other stuff (like drinking and playing party games) will do that to you.

It may have been my favorite CVT event so far. Douthat State Park has won an award (Outdoor Recreation Award for: Romantic Spots, Biking Trails, Educational & Historical Facilities, Fishing, Hiking) and it’s easy to see why after walking the trails. There were also many stream crossings which were a lot of fun and good practice for those of us who would like to learn the best way to do such things. They mostly seem to dry up in the summer. But they are raging now with all the snow melting and the rain we have been having.

We have some really good cooks in this group, as well. The food was excellent.

So the name of the game we played was Cards Against Humanity. I tried to Google but it wasn’t on any of their card game lists. It should be.
It was hilarious . . . but don’t plan on bringing it to the church group picnic.

 

 

 

Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

D's Writing, Walking And Losing Weight

This past weekend I did a challenging overnite hike with a great group of Central Virginia Trailblazers up in W. Augusta, Va. in a place called Ramsey’s Draft. The weather was perfect and it was a great opportunity to work on some of those backpacking skills. The second day was a 9 mile hike back to civilization and after several miles my legs started to go. I really hate holding anybody back so I actually prayed to God for some help (I’ve been meditating lately instead of drinking beer and thought this might be a good opportunity to cash in some of those chips). Two minutes later there was Ginny sitting along the path munching on some trail mix she had made up herself and she offered some of it to the old granddad. And it was delicious!! Chocolate and those little yogurt eggs! Salty pretzels! We sat for awhile in the sun and relaxed. Drank some tasty water we had picked up at the spring on top of the mountain. And life seemed a lot better. So we walked awhile and came upon the rest of our group where a woman I had just met by the name of Mary said, “Trade packs with me”. She had managed to somehow get all her stuff into a 12 pound pack while mine was 22 pounds and I didn’t really want to do it, but she insisted. And she also introduced me to these delicious little Clif Shot Bloks that contain salt, potassium and some sugar. And off we went. I felt like the hike had just started! Total revival and the remainder of our time on the trail was full of happy comradery. Mary reminds me of one of the truly awesome online presences, Robin Easton, author of Naked in Eden: My Adventures and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest. She got everyone talking about their lives and feeling good about themselves. Which is really funny, because I asked Robin to be with me on this challenging hike. And here was Mary! And here was God, too, answering a prayer when I was about to give up my backpacking dreams forever.

But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Today is a sit and relax at the computer kind of day and I have been goofing off, looking at a lot of old pics and realizing what a puffy, overweight thing I used to be. But it’s never too late (as long as you can still walk around the block) to reverse course.

Out in the wilderness, at night, when the wind is howling and the temperature is dipping into the low 30’s and 20’s you have to face certain things. When you are walking along a narrow path on the side of a mountain with a 20 pound pack and your legs are dead you have to deal with a reality that eludes us, often, at home. You have to think and you have to be careful. It’s a physical and mental challenge for men and women, alike. And we are alike in so many ways away from our daily routines.

When you get to be over 60 years old you enter a battlefield that younger folks only imagine. How do you want to proceed when you get there? Do you want to spend your time in the field hospital? Sometimes this cannot be avoided. There are casualties in every war. But, often, I see people trying to avoid the realization that any of this is even happening. Nature, and the mountains that often surround our communities, offer us the opportunity to scrape off all the sedentary ways that gradually weigh us down. It’s going to hurt, no doubt, and not be very pretty for awhile. But it feels so much better each time we complete a mission.

You never know what you might meet in the woods. It could be a snake or a bear. It might be a bobcat or a coyote. But it’s frequently in the back of the mind, especially when fixing food. And what happens if you fall and shatter a bone 9 miles from the road?

What happens if your doctor tells you that you have one of those aging diseases? We have to face these things one way or another. And I would rather take my chances where the action is real. People are true and God is on my lips. Ironically, in the end you may end up happier, in a lot better shape and living a lot longer going down this path.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. –Dylan Thomas

Blue Moon August 20 Not Two Full Moons In A Month

D's Writing, History, More Photos, Richmond, Walking And Losing Weight

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I was hiking downtown last evening and admiring the full moon. It’s called a Blue Moon and not because there are two full moons in August. There will be only one full moon this month. But there will be four full moons this summer, an unusual occurence. And the third is called a Blue Moon so that the last can still be called the Late Moon.

NPR and StarDate led us down the wrong celestial path in 1980 according to the article I just read by suggesting that the term meant there were two full moons in a month.

In any case, it was a beautiful moon with wispy clouds framing it and a cool breeze to make watching it more enjoyable.

Walking with the Central Virginia Trailblazers is always fun and I look forward to being with them and sometimes meeting new people. Last night I walked with a lady who has recently joined our group. Her name is Chris and she and I share several things in common. We both have degrees in English Literature and we both have worked in the field of social work.

Last night we also spend time viewing a painting on a rock adjoining Belle Isle of a skull about 8 or 10 feet in circumference that commemorates the Grateful Dead band. Apparently they used to party here after concerts back in the 1980’s. Here is a FB page about it.

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Thanks to Jim Dimmette for this photo of me and the gang.
So it was a fun evening and thanks to Jim Dimmette, our group leader, for organizing the 4 mile hike and sharing some local lore with us.

Shenandoah National Park / Car Camping At Big Meadows

D's Slide shows, Walking And Losing Weight

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Here are some photos from our trip last weekend to the Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia. We had a good time car camping at Big Meadow and visiting the lodge. There is a taproom downstairs in the lodge and a great view outside of the Shenandoah Valley.
Deer wander around the campground. A mother bear and her three cubs traveled through on Saturday.  Some of the more adventurous Trailblazers went hiking both days.  I explored the trails around the park, tried to take some photos and pretty much avoided any strenuous activity.  Here are the photos.

 

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Walking, Losing Weight And Going Up The Mountain

D's Writing, Favorites, Walking And Losing Weight

This post is aimed at those of you who would like to be a little healthier, feel better, lose weight and enjoy life more. Here is a simple idea about how to do these things. But, first of all please let me just say that I don’t feel comfortable in the role of a cheerleader. I like to blend into the background for the most part. And it’s true that for most of sixty years I avoided doing anything like what I’m suggesting here. I was this person not long ago . . .

 
 
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Not a comfortable place to be . . .

So here’s the deal. A suggestion. Try walking five or six days a week. I know you are busy but let’s just say you start walking for 30 minutes and you walk a mile. The distance is not really important. But it is very important to do it on a regular basis and establish a habit. I cannot express how important it is to make this a regular occurrence. When your mind says “I can’t do this today” you must shut it down. Buy a techie rain jacket and go out when the weather is not good. Use fleece layers in the winter underneath it. The trick is to make this an automatic behavior, like brushing your teeth or going to the refrigerator when you are hungry. Because the good news is that you will be able to go to the refrigerator and feel good about it. You will still lose weight and be healthier.

Because . . . a strange thing happens when you are out there walking that little mile, using up just 30 minutes and listening to your favorite music. You will inevitably want to walk more. You will challenge yourself to rev it up once you start to see results. You will feel like testing your abilities. Sooner or later, you will be running in local races or hiking nearby hills or mountains.

That’s just the way it is . . .

Here I am testing a bit of food from a bush or something. Our guide on this Trailblazer event was sharing with us the medicinal uses of some common plants at a local state park. It’s pretty good, actually. See the techie jacket? It was raining on this day. Did I care? Not much. Wearing a jacket like this one is a lot like wearing nothing at all. They breathe. They shelter from the cold wind. A good jacket is your friend.

 

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Here we are on a local hike downtown. I would suggest looking for a local Meetup group once you have established a routine. Not all your walks have to be solitary (not that this matters). I must admit that I was enjoying this moment.  There’s my favorite beer truck.  And I can drink some beer at this watering hole without gaining weight or overdoing it.  I’m such an idiot.  Betsy has been very supportive and I love her dearly because she trusts me to have a good time but not get myself into trouble. Trouble, you say? What trouble? Here’s a photo I took at The Museum of Fine Arts In Richmond.

 

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musuem photo
This kind of trouble.

 

Listen, guys and girls. We are all evolving physically, mentally and spiritually as we go along the road. That’s why we are here. When I walk along those mountain paths I enjoy looking out over the crevasses at the huge expanses of trees and clouds. Nature is beautiful. But you have to respect its power as well and not play around the cliffs. Whenever I start to think “Oh, you are doing great!” I inevitably end up on my knees. Usually it’s when I try to climb a 2500 foot mountain trail with a thirty pound pack in the snow. But, it could be something else. So, as I was saying earlier, focus on the basic goal. Walk every day. Take a day off when you are sure you won’t use it to slide back. I had one cold this past winter. It lasted for three days. I walked when I had a cold. I walk when I’m feeling depressed. Inevitably things seem not so bad after the walk. When I absolutely don’t want to walk I go back to a baseline effort. And that is not the couch. It’s four or five miles, no running, just wandering about feeling sorry for myself. But it could be that simple mile in thirty minutes for you.

 

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Like I said I feel a little uncomfortable writing this post. I always wonder about people who do this for a living. But maybe it will help someone. And now it’s time to go walk and stop worrying about how I may “come off” to readers. I’m a work in progress, or, a piece of work, according to my wife. Bless her. Marriage is like a base camp in the shadow of the mountain. You always want to have one where you can relax and be yourself.

Thanks to my Trailblazer friends for some of these photos!

Hiking To McAfee’s Knob In Virginia / Senior Backpacking

Blogs or Posts, D's Slide shows, D's Writing, Walking And Losing Weight

Oh man, I’m trying to get it together to write a post today about our backpacking trip this past weekend. And I’m wondering, “Why do I do these things?” and “Should I ever do them again?”. I’m learning about the body as it ages and discovering there are many things I do not know about it.

We hiked up a mountain and along a ridge to our campsite. We camped for a night and then went up some more to McAfee’s Knob where we could view our trail from the prior day. You learn things about yourself when you do things like this with 25+ pounds on your back. For instance, when I arrived at the campsite and set up my tent the only thing on my mind was getting inside and curling up in the sleeping back. Temperatures were falling into the low 40’s, high 30’s. But I was cold and started shivering (one of my least favorite things to do). So I cooked up some Ramen Noodles and later returned to bed happily discovering that it was 20 degrees warmer in my cozy tent although the temperature had dropped some more.

Some of our group went up to McAfee’s Knob to view the sunset and get some great photos of the golden light hovering on and around the rocks, the trees and their happy faces. But I could not do it and had to wait until the following day when the entire group passed through there on our way back to civilization.

Hopefully, I will figure out how to get beyond this impasse but at present it seems as if this 60+ year old blogger has missed the cut and needs to dial back some of his adventures. I see older folks on the trail and they seem to be doing quite well. So I’m not sure what to do. Falling behind is not really a problem. The woods are made for solitary walks. But I did not reach the end of the hike until the others had been there for an hour and my legs felt, perhaps, like those of someone who cannot walk at all and is confined to a wheelchair.

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I have walked and run in the past 18 months enough to cross the US and returned a good ways. But there were too many fires in my legs the past two days. The pain(lactic acid?) was going up my thighs and into my hips over and over again. It was more difficult than running the half-marathon. Perhaps running and hiking require too different training regimens and do not reenforce each other. Maybe I need to eat more protein when I’m out there. I don’t know. But I did have a great time being with the other hikers and viewing the vast expanses beyond the rocks. There were lots of photo ops on Sunday morning. And we had a great meal at a restaurant in Staunton after the event. Central Va Trailblazers, you rock!

Here are some photos.

 

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Maymont Park Richmond Va / Spring 2013

Blogs or Posts, D's Slide shows, Walking And Losing Weight

This past weekend we enjoyed some spring weather here in Virginia for the first time this year. And the family took this opportunity to visit Maymont Park. There were lots of folks out there, of course, and our animal friends seemed to be enjoying the sunshine and warm breezes as well.

 

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Staunton River State Park / Hiking In Beautiful Weather

Blogs or Posts, D's Slide shows, Walking And Losing Weight, Well-known Quotations

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People say that losing weight is no walk in the park. When I hear that I think, yeah, that’s the problem. ~Chris Adams

 

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see. ~John Burroughs

 

This past weekend some great weather actually arrived in Virginia. And we took advantage of it by leaving Richmond to walk in one of our fine state parks about two hours outside the city. This was not a difficult hike. We trekked about six or seven miles near a large lake and had a relaxed lunch at the half-way point where I spread out my tent footprint near the water, ate a couple of bananas, and pointed my camera overhead to capture some trees.

The sun, partially hidden by a tree, was warm and all seemed right with the world. Many of my hiking companions were perched on a long log, happily chatting with one another and enjoying our flight from the city.

This was not a location where great photo opportunities jumped out at you. Blossoms and buds have not quite got here and many of the trees are young. I did not see any waterfalls and there were areas where everything had been cut down. But if you pay attention nature will respond and there will be moments. Our sharp-eyed group leader, Kim, spotted a lizard sunning on a log and I was able to “shoot” him before he jumped and quickly scurried away.

Here are some photos.

 

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White Oak Canyon / Cedar Run Trail / Shenandoah National Park

Blogs or Posts, D's Slide shows, Walking And Losing Weight

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Yesterday we went up to the White Oak Canyon/ Cedar Run Trail in the Shenandoah National Park for a strenuous hike of approximately ten miles. There are some beautiful vistas in this area of waterfalls, streams, mountains and valleys. And I did get some photos during the first half of our journey although the back nine involved a slow but determined effort to simply finish.

I was walking at a snail’s pace over many, many small rocks that sometimes appeared to be more like arrow heads pointed in my direction. At one point I looked over at the rushing water that accompanied us down the mountain and heard it say, “Take your time. We are here always. Look at our pools of water. We seem to rush along but then we take time to be still. You should do this as well”.

I took their advice and the pain in my feet lessened. The muscles in my legs recovered a bit. And I avoided a damaging fall.

There is still snow on the tops of mountains here in Virginia! It is 6 inches deep in some places on the trail in the high elevations. So we went through this for awhile. It rained for twenty minutes or so up there but the sun also played with us and we could feel the air warm as we came down the trail. It must have been over sixty degrees in some places and in the low forties in others.

It was a challenging hike easily as difficult as running a half-marathon but this morning other than feeling sore there are no problems. We can all feel a sense of accomplishment.

 
 
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Pocahontas State Park Hike

Blogs or Posts, D's Slide shows, Walking And Losing Weight

 

This past weekend we went down to the Pocahontas State Park for an eight mile hike. There was lots of sun although the temps stayed in the thirties. We had a small group, three guys and three girls, possibly due to the fact that there were a couple other hikes this weekend. One of those hikes was at the Belle Isle State Park on the lower Rappahannock river. I may go out there sometime soon on my own since from the photos it’s clear that there are lots of birds and more photo opportunities.

I had to work to find something to capture at Pocahontas. It’s mainly just dirt roads with a few streams. There was a lake with a couple water fowl that was interesting. But it didn’t raise my spirits much from their late winter slumber. And now there is the possibility of a midweek snow storm on the way!

I must remind myself that in a month we will be into April and beautiful weather.

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ documentary on our national parks. It’s a fascinating look at the history of our country and the long battle to preserve the best parts of it. It’s some good medicine for my ailing brain which sometimes feels as if it is caught in a clamp. A cold clamp made of frigid air, cloudy skies and rain. Death in the family. Isolation.

Here are the photos.

 
 

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