Wednesday, August 15, 2018

State of Mind

I was hoping to get more writing done than I did after getting back from the Olympic Coast. I wanted to start writing the trip up and get a good start on the next Hike with Me book.

At first, I was recovering. Absorbing the experience of having backpacked for 9 straight days. And then, I started to feel ill. My head felt fuzzy and muzzy and I just didn't feel like writing. Never quite sick enough to miss work, and I kept up with exercising because I often find that makes me feel better. But I neglected the writing.

It was easy to neglect. Get home from a long day of focusing on work stuff and just relax. Or go to bed early. Or do some more exercise. Just nothing that required too much thought, please. Or sitting at the writing desk, which isn't set up as ideally as I'd prefer but until I come into some money that's earmarked for a new computer, that won't change.

I got my blogs done and posted, because I've got a streak. It isn't as impressive as a daily blog streak, but I have been doing two blogs per week for something like four years now? I started this blog in 2013, but only averaged 1 post per week for the first year. And it was some time in the middle of that when I started the hiking blog. So, it's hard to tell exactly how long this streak is. It depends on the definition I choose.

But I've been writing, on this blog, on a regular basis for a good long time. I write these blogs even when I don't feel like it because of that darn streak. I don't want to lose it. Even on the rare occasions when I forget to post one by the 8:15 am Wednesday "deadline" I have never gone more than a day without posting something backdated to that correct time.

When I've gone on a streak of writing, I've felt that same urgency to keep it up. But it is incredibly difficult to write to a streak while backpacking. Because usually, it's about getting to a certain number of words, and that means handwriting, then counting, then transcribing when I get home. It's doable, I've done it, I just don't like it.

So I didn't write much after the coast trip. And I might not write much between the Chamberlain trip and the Spangle Lake trip. But after the season is over, I want to push myself to do those hiking write ups at 1000 words per day again and get them done. I want to be prepped for my books by the end of October and start getting them out in November. Three Hike with Me books by December 31st is the challenge, and I have to get in gear to get it done.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Travel to the ONP

Last time my husband and I went to the Olympic National Park for a hike along the coast, we drove to Forks, WA, where we would start the trip from, in one day. The next day, we drove to Port Angeles, WA to pick up our permit and then back. About an hour drive each way. This time, we chose to do things a little differently.

We took two days to travel, even though the drive can be done in one. We spent a night in Yakima, WA. I got a hotel room through Priceline (which actually books hotel rooms through It was a cheap one, and I'm pretty sure that's how my credit card number got stolen.

But it was nice to take our time on the way. We got to drive all in daylight and see the landscape that we were driving through. I'm pretty sure I saw a mountain lion on the side of the road. It looked like it had been hit and was just getting up, but only its front legs were working. We drove by so quickly I can't be completely sure I saw it, but I think I did.

It was nice to stop for the day in the early afternoon. Although, for some reason, the hotel didn't have our confirmation. So the clerk gave me a number to call. But it was the wrong number. The Travelocity guy kindly transferred me to the people, who, after much conversation, finally resent the confirmation to the hotel and we got a room.

It was a horrible room. I mean. It was pretty much what we paid for. It was cheap. So cheap that there were holes in the floor, stains on the walls and the beds were pretty gnarly. But we made do and there was a good restaurant less than a block away where we got a yummy dinner. I slept alright that night, and we left bright and early the next morning and drove to the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles.

At Port Angeles, we got our permit, adding another night to it, because Ambrose had thought we didn't need the permit for camping near Hole in the Wall, but the ranger corrected that assumption. Since we were doing so many nights, we had purchased a yearly pass instead of paying by the night. That allowed us to add another night without paying extra. Totally worth it.

From there, we drove over to Forks and got a campsite at the Riverview RV Park. We got set up there and waited for the third member of our party to arrive. On this trip, we were hiking with a man Ambrose had met through an online backpacking forum. Bill also lives in Idaho, but in the north. This would be his first trip on the coast.

After some packing and repacking of our required bear canisters, we did some driving around the area. We stopped in La Push and took a walk around First Beach. Then dinner and back to the campsite for the night. The next day was really just a matter of waiting for the tide to be right for starting the hike.

Ambrose, Bill and I on First Beach.

First Beach

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IBS Theory

The events that led me to getting diagnosed with IBS started after my first backpacking trip to the coast of the Olympic National Park. I was so worried about the pain in my abdomen that I cancelled my solo trip that year, because I didn't want to have the pain escalate when I was hiking alone in the wilderness. I got all sorts of tests and finally got a diagnosis the following January.

I've been back from the coast for a about two weeks, and I have noticed an increase in abdominal pain. About a week after we got back, the IBS felt like it started to flare up. And about four days ago, the pain got intense enough to interfere with my getting a good night's sleep. I imagine the next thing will be increasing pain, changing from burning to sharp.

I have to wonder if there's something about the radical change in environment that affects me. Hiking on the coast exposes me to very high humidity. Close to 100%, I'd guess, when the fog is rolling over the beach. And Boise is in a high desert environment. Mostly low humidity - it's kind of amazing how quickly things dry here, especially in the summer heat.

Or maybe there's something in the water that works its way through my system. It probably isn't food related, because I eat what I eat on any backpacking trip there. There is an exception - we've only ever had smoked salmon while backpacking on those trips, but each time we did, the sources were different - and it isn't like I don't eat salmon regularly at home in Boise.

I don't have problems when I'm on the coast. I can get to a point when I'm having less problems while I'm in Boise. But moving from the coast to the high desert causes problems.

Of course, the problem with this theory is that I've also spent some time in South Carolina, not known for a dry climate, and returned without having these same kind of issues. Although I wasn't backpacking in South Carolina. I spent most of my time in air conditioned, climate controlled buildings. I mean, yes, we went out on the lake, but I spent every night inside a house. So there is a difference in exposure level.

I guess if I want to prove this, I'll have to travel to some other humid place and go backpacking. Maybe without any smoked salmon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New Glasses

High-index lenses for nearsightedness are thinner. Thinner lenses are lighter. This should be a good thing, right? 

Lighter glasses means less pressure on the nose and ears to hold them up. When one reaches the point that if one's glasses were made of glass, they'd be inches thick, thinness and lightness are desirable qualities. I do get that. 

I don't get why high-index lenses are so awful. 

For me, at least. 

I've had a hell of a time adjusting to wearing high-index lenses. For the first few weeks, I thought I wouldn't make it. The prescription was supposed to be a small change from my old one, just a tick or two on each eye. But as soon as I put on the new glasses, I felt like I was wearing the wrong ones. I couldn't focus right. Everything seemed too rounded, too bright. I couldn't read words at a distance - like street signs while driving - though everything within about a ten foot radius looked okay. 

After multiple adjustments, I managed to adjust to my new glasses. But this year, my husband and I decided I should get two pairs. 

And the second pair still isn't quite there. For backpacking, they work. Because I don't have to read signs at a distance while backpacking. So I don't notice any blurriness. At least that's how it worked for the coast trip. The glasses were fine while I was on the trail and started to hurt my head as soon as we hit the road again in a car. 

I might go back for more adjustments. Or I might just wear those glasses for backpacking only. I like that they are transitions lenses, because that means I don't have to carry sunglasses - and I know when UV is shining through the clouds (i.e. when to use sunscreen on a cloudy day). 

But considering I got new glasses to try and see if my old glasses were giving me headaches, the entire exercise rates a fail for me. 

Now I'm trying to improve my posture to see if that gets rid of the headaches that I'm still getting (the ones that aren't from trying to adjust to high-index lenses!). 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

IBS Update

To try and get a handle on my irritable bowel syndrome, I've been tracking my symptoms, taking notes where my symptom grid doesn't quite cover every contingency and tracking what (though not how much) I eat for about 6 months now. There are a few gaps where I stopped or was backpacking, but I've got a lot of data at this point.

Overall, I feel like I'm doing better with tracking than I felt like I was doing without tracking. Possibly because I can see patterns. I know I'm not imagining that things have been happening more often or less often, because I can see what I recorded. I know how often I'm getting certain kinds of tummy pain. For example, I have burning pain almost every day, sharp pain most days, but rarely severe pain.

I downloaded an app to try and track symptoms before I came up with my homegrown google spreadsheet, but the app was too difficult to use. I had a hard time opening it up and recording every time I had a bowel movement, especially because it would then ask me to classify it as to kind and I had difficulty deciding how to describe it according to the options the app provided. With my spreadsheet, I'm not being as precise, but I'm making the records. I just mark a box if I have the type and note the total number at the bottom.

In the past, I've panicked when it seemed like I had a new kind of pain, but now I can just look back and see that I've had that pain before. And I can remember better what the result of the pain was. For example, I got a pain that felt like stitches in my side even though I hadn't been exercising. That turned out to be a sign that I was going to have diarrhea soon - nothing to panic about.

Since stress is often cited as a cause of IBS flare-ups, I've also been tracking some stress related symptoms. Just having headaches on the tracker helps me feel less stressed about when I do get those intractable headaches that stay for days. I can see that however bad they feel at the moment, they don't stay forever and they aren't clinically frequent. It's stress and I need to continue trying not to let the stress freak my body out and make things worse.

I might try to get more granular with my tracking, see if I can stand it. If I want to lose weight, tracking food portions along with what I'm eating would be a good step. And I could try to be more specific in my tracking of other symptoms as well, including more about frequency and time of day. But for now, I feel like I'm in a good place. I can recognize when I'm going to have bowel trouble, in a general way. And as long as I keep drinking a good 6 quarts of water/herbal tea per day I feel pretty good.

Of course, it was 4 quarts at the beginning of the year. And I tried cutting back at the end of June and it wasn't pleasant. Somehow my body is demanding more and more water to continue to function in the same way. Something to bring up with my doctor at my next annual appointment, I suppose. Unless I start 'needing' more water than I can drink in a day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Do You Take Me For?

"What are you?"
The question never bothered me as a child. I was proud to know my heritage. Proud to answer, "English. Irish. German. French. And Peruvian!"
It was always that last one that they wanted to hear. And then I'd ask them what they were, these little white kids, and they - mostly - wouldn't even know.

It wasn't until a long time later that I realized that sometimes those questions weren't so innocent. And, of course, as an adult I don't hear it so much because it isn't polite.

I had a teacher in high school two years in a row and it took him a year and a half to realize that I wasn't Italian. And it isn't like he "realized" not really. It came up in the course of conversation in class somehow.

My husband thought I was white when we met.

And I am white.

And I'm not white.

It all depends on what you take me for.

I have a precarious white privilege. Straddling the line between the pale generations my mother's family can trace back in time to grand old Europe and the fact that my father was born in South America.

I've been presumed Mexican
cursed as a lesbian
but the privilege my pale skin produces is
utterly dependent on
what I am taken for
day to day
hour to hour
face to face to face
I lucky
am I lucky?
To be able to "pass" on cursory inspection?
With only a hint of the exotic if you're looking for it
A trace of the hot blood, as I've heard it called
not worse. not the worst.
to be able to pass.
but scary in the way that I don't know
which kind of face the face I'm facing will see in me

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Dry 6 Months

The last time I drank an alcoholic beverage was on my husband's last birthday, December 28th of 2017. I was going to have a drink the following Saturday with a friend, but she had to reschedule and I ended up not having another one since. The goal is to a whole year without to determine whether consuming alcohol has had a detrimental effect on my irritable bowel syndrome.

My husband and I figured that a test of long duration would be best for this, because I'd already tried doing it short term. A month off here, several weeks there. And after drinking, sometimes I'd get really sick to my stomach the next day and sometimes I wouldn't - and I'm not talking college level binge drinking here. I'm talking one or two drinks in a social setting.

So the idea for a long term test came about. I haven't so much enjoyed it, but I've stuck to it. I like being able to have a beer after a backpacking trip. I really earned a beer after finishing the Spartan Race, but I had a Gatorade instead.

I'm not sure if not drinking has had an effect on the irritable bowel syndrome or not. I think I've felt better once I started tracking my food and symptoms, though I haven't found any correlations yet. Sometimes I do want to have an adult beverage, but by now, half way through, I'm committed to this goal.

It may or may not be actually helpful, but I won't quit before a year is up. I will argue that since I originally wanted to go the whole of 2018 without a drink, but ended up taking my last drink on 12/28, that I should be allowed, within the goal, to imbibe on my husband's next birthday - but I'll leave the call on that one up to him.