Sunday, January 31, 2021

Cabin Fever

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Today marks my seventh consecutive day of indoor living with no exercise. It has been no fun whatsoever.

Backstory: A couple of years ago I had Tooth Number 3 removed by a periodontist in Monterey whom I like and respect very much. It was painless and the hole healed quickly. I was content to have a gap back there, but Doctor K talked me into getting an implant, the better to keep my choppers from shifting around in my old age or something like that. The titanium implanted post was supposed to sit there for six months or so while the surrounding bone welcomed it to my ecosystem, then serve as an anchor for a fake crown to be installed by my regular dentist Doctor H. Well, the process of the bone/titanium getting solid enough to take the crown turned out to take two years or so, but I finally got my crown and I thought that was that. 

Okay, about seven months ago, during the first shelter in place, I noticed the implant was beginning to loosen, like the early stage of losing a baby tooth. It took a while to get an appointment with Doctor H, but he said to wait and see until December when I was scheduled for my next cleaning. As December rolled around, I noticed my hearing in my right ear, right next to Tooth Number 3/Now Wobbly Implant, was starting to fade. I am already deaf in my left ear, so this is more than a small inconvenience. I worried that my right ear might be getting infected if there was some communication through the loose implant into my sinuses. 

So last Monday I went to see Doctor K's associate, Doctor O (Doctor K has since retired) and he said, "that's got to come out." He shot me full of numbing agent and carved out the contraption, sewed me up and sent me on my way with antibiotics, mouth rinse, and pain medication. My instructions were to apply ice for swelling, take the meds as directed, and NO EXERCISE UNTIL I GO BACK TO SEE HIM MONDAY FEB 1. 

I understand the value of letting the wound heal, I really do. And for two days, I took the pain pills which made me sleep most of that time. But on the third day, I said no more of these pills, geez, I feel like a junkie, so I switched to Ibuprofen and regained most of my cognitive functions, thank heaven. All that is probably par for the course for anyone in my situation. However, I haven't taken a week off from working out since I don't know when. That part has been ridiculously foreign and difficult to process. I have complied but am not myself and I absolutely hate it. 

Tomorrow I will drive to Salinas in the morning to see what Doctor O has to say about how this is going. I will ask him what my options are moving forward. I really don't want to replace the old implant with a new and bigger one, nor do I really want him to install a bridge. Can I just let the wound heal and leave it be? Will I risk a future full of sinus infections? 

My right ear, by the way, is still a little wonky, but it's better than it was. Ever hear of something called Pulsatile Tinnitus? It's like regular tinnitus, but instead of a ringing sound in your ear, it's a loud, slow, rhythmic, whooshing, like a washing machine, timed with your heart beat - whoosh, whoosh, whoosh - over and over and over again. I was experiencing constant Pulsatile Tinnitus for the last forty-eight hours prior to going to see Doctor O. Very, very strange, ladies and gentlemen, very, very strange. 

So that's life in the bizarre time of COVID right here right now. I am on the waiting list for old-folks vaccinations whenever that rolls around. If the shots make me whoosh, though, I will get naked and run into the woods, never to be seen again. There is a limit to how much nonsense I will put up with. It might be time to forage for nuts and berries, find a warm, dry cave, and hide from this crazy, whooshing thing we call civilization. 

Peace, Love, and the Call of the Whooshing Wild,


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

High Peaks Trail Thriller

 New Moon

I must be doing something right. Today I was completely flabbergasted by what happened with a little less than two miles left on my hike up and over the High Peaks Trail (HPT) at Pinnacles National Park. 

I won't lie. I was already pretty tired from my one-hour climb up from the Bear Gulch Visitor Center. A peanut butter and apple slice sammie revived me at the bench overlook just before the start of the HPT. Then I was good to go, passing a familiar landmark I recalled from a trip long ago. A friend's son climbed this enormous pinnacle that day to the dismay and nervous concern of his Dad. My only thought was "how is he ever going to get down?" Of course, he did get down, mostly because he was fourteen, cocky, and made of elastic.

That feat was about twenty-five years ago or so. It seems more impossible now than ever.

The actual HPT is lots of legwork on steps hacked out of stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps back when men were much shorter and more easily persuaded to wield heavy hand tools. They also managed to install sturdy handrails, almost like second thoughts for making it so easy to fall and split open your skull. You can tell those dudes were little, though, because the handrails they constructed, sturdy as can be to this day, are about knee-high on modern adults. At least they make you cautious, and if you bend down to grab them, you feel reassured. This section is only a mile or so long, but it takes a while, unless you are fourteen and super bendy.

The views of the park are outstanding when you gain enough elevation and secure footing to look around. I love it up there.

After you cross the exciting part, all that is left is to abuse your feet and knees going steeply downhill for a while. There are plenty of great places to stop and look at the rocks. You can see your trail leading back to the truck way way down there.

With a couple of miles to go, the HPT splits into two trails, the Blue Oak Trail, I think it is, and the Condor Gulch Trail. Condor Gulch was the long, bouldery gully that would lead me back to my beginning at the Visitor Center. By this time I needed a snack and more agua, so I stretched out and leaned back to look at the clouds, one of my favorite daily pastimes. This is when I started getting flabbergasted.

I was taking a bite of an energy bar, pre-occupied with reading the ingredients on the wrapper when a rather large shadow passed directly over me, moving fast. I jerked my head up to see what it was and holy Moses, I couldn't believe it. Way up in the sky over my picnic spot were twelve soaring condors, making great big circles in the air, soaring soaring soaring, then one big double wing flap, then soaring soaring soaring, over and over again. Twelve of them, very loosely organized, just coordinated enough to stay safely apart, but sort of engaged in a dance in a casual, wing-dip way. I pulled out my Smartyphone and took a few dozen pictures, hoping to get at least one good one. 

Of course it soon became obvious that I wasn't going to succeed, so I just laid back on the rocks and feasted my eyes. The air show went on for ten minutes before most of the group (flock? murder?) whooshed away, leaving three behind to fly in a big, slow circle directly over my head. 

I couldn't believe it. I was enchanted. I kept saying out loud, "what did I do to deserve this much joy?" I was laughing out loud, smiling and thanking them. It was so cool! Okay, okay, I know there were other people in the park. I saw at least seven other hikers in the course of a few hours. So probably, if they were paying attention, each of them saw something, too. But what it felt like, staring up at these prehistoric airborne giants, was absolute, personalized, Mother Nature magic. There are only a hundred (or fewer) California Condors remaining on the west coast and twelve of them came to see me. Flabbergasting.

And then, the time to be flabbergasted was over and it was time to walk on. Every so often, as I rounded a curve on the trail, I would catch a glimpse of a few of them, looming far away over a ridge. I stopped to see them each time, looking much smaller then, but still and evermore Pinnacles' gliding, powerful lords of the sky.

I smiled all the way home.

Peace and Love on a Special Day,

Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 Hike and Bike

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Today, January 1, 2021, the Sun came up in the east. At the same time, over to the west, the Moon was getting ready to set. Based upon my observations, this is normal Sun and Moon behavior.

I had no reference point, standing outside in my pj's with my Smartyphone in my hand, that would indicate this is a new year though. It really just seemed like another regular, winter morning.

When I went back inside, the first thing I noticed was my wall calendar, which was completely filled with ink showing my daily walking tallies for 2020, among other little reminders and notes. It was time to put up a new wall calendar, this one labeled 2021. 

But what was I going to keep track of this go 'round? 

Here is what I decided on.  

2021 Every Day Workout

Every morning, the first thing I will do is a series of stretches, movements, and breathing routines that takes about 15-20 minutes, mostly done as floor exercises. Deep breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is part of every movement, as is engagement of the core muscles.  I've been doing this routine every day for years and I love it.

This year, I am going to shoot for these two following workouts. They add up to 2,021 miles of bicycling and 1,202 miles of walking. 

2,021 miles of bicycling over 365 days averages out to around 5.5 miles per day. At a moderate (easy) (old man) pace of 12 miles per hour, that will  take about 30 minutes. 

A one-hour walk at an old man pace for 365 days equals 1,202 miles. 1,202 miles in 2021. You can see what I did there, haha. Don't worry, that does not mean I will walk backwards. That would be weird. And unsafe.

Combining Cal with these two daily workouts will be an investment of less than two hours per day into my health and well-being. I will still have plenty of energy left to work on my fascinating memoirs, watch hoops, and/or putter around on Facebook. 

Peace, Love, and Re-creation,

P.S. This moderate daily regimen thing all goes out the window if the vaccine works and travel is safe July 1. Then the sky's the limit. I'm gonna blast on outta here.