Looking Back At 2015

About this time every year I find myself looking back at the year and like many of you, looking forward to the next year to come. 2015 for our family was not a typical year, from beginning to end, it seemed to challenge our strength as a family both mentally and physically. However, I will say, I do feel like we won this battle and came through it pretty well.

Take a look back with me,

January 2015

I experienced my first dislocated rib while working out and preparing for our rock scrambling vacation in February. Very painful!!!

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February 2015

Our rock scrambling vacation we had prepared for for months was suddenly cancelled due to a major snow storm and no flights were coming or going. We were completely disgusted for weeks….

March 2015

I celebrated a birthday this month with a venture out of the house and some first steps of the year on a muddy trail.

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April 2015

I finally decided to see a doctor for a sore foot I had been having for a few months. After testing and imaging I found out I had torn two tendons in my ankle. Which resulted in some new footwear for weeks.

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On the brighter side, my husband picked up his brand new Jackson kayak this month.

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May 2015

After 6 weeks in that orthopedic boot I thought I was going to go see my doctor and he would say everything looks good and I could remove it. Well, that was not quite what I heard from him. He said I still had two weeks to go, but now I could do anything I wanted to do as long as I wore the boot. I took that line,”anything I want” very seriously and left two days later for a hiking trip to our favorite WI state park. Thanks to my husband and son, I made it to the top of the bluff and back down again with that horrendous contraption on my leg. Let me tell you, IT WAS NOT EASY BUT I (we) DID IT!

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June 2015

I finally was able to remove my ortho boot and what happens next…..my husband suffers a sudden back injury that literally changes our entire summer outlook. After a day of lake kayaking and standup paddling where we were rained on all day, we returned home that night with him feeling pain in his leg.

IMG_1277Nothing had happened all day so this was strange that he was feeling pain. By the next day it was intolerable and medical attention was needed.  IMG_1410

After numerous tests, doctors, and images, we had a diagnosis that we were hoping not to hear. Next would be physical therapy for weeks, a lifting restriction for quite sometime, and learning how to do things differently for the rest of his life. This took some soul searching and a lot of praying that he could eventually recover enough to continue doing what we love to do again.

July 2015

This month was the start of a few months of physical therapy which we all tried helping with. He did seek professional help for awhile but after some time his neurologist thought he could accomplish more on his own. Most people need a therapist because they are so inactive that they don’t know where to start. We, however, are very active and just needed to know the basics of what would give him the biggest benefits toward his recovery. We found all sorts of ways to do physical therapy.

TENS Therapy: IMG_1701

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Inversion Therapy:  IMG_1749

Resistance Bands:

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Walking:

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August 2015

After all that therapy he was given the ok to go on our planned family vacation which just so happened to be hiking in the desert southwest in extreme heat and with extreme elevation. He was limited on backpack weight and was not allowed to even touch our luggage but could hike as far as his body allowed him to hike(as the doctor kindly stated). So we did. And it turned out spectacular!

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September 2015

We returned from vacation, rested up for two weeks and hit the trail again, only a little closer to home this time. We headed to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and hiked the Chapel Loop together….10.6 miles in a day.  IMG_2530

He was still feeling some discomfort but by now we had learned how to deal with any pain he was having. We would rest when the pain started or soaking his foot in cold water was also a nice way to help decrease his discomfort.  IMG_1798  IMG_2661

I also got away in September for a girls day to Cranberry Fest. We had a blast!

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October 2015

October is when we celebrated our 22nd. wedding anniversary. We did this with a overnight trip to Sister Bay, WI at the Birchwood Lodge.

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November 2015

The beginning of this month we found ourselves, yet again, among numerous medical professionals supporting my father-in-law with a major surgery.

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Also this month my husband and I went on a shopping trip to my all time favorite city….Schaumburg, Illinois. I begged him to join me last year and he agreed. This year he offered to join me since we had so much fun last time. I think I may have a shopping partner (package carrier) for life:) Whoo Hoooo!  IMG_2888

December 2015

As predicted by weather forecasters, it had been a pleasant December. One of the best ways for me to celebrate a no snow December is to continue hiking which is exactly what we did. Here is where we spent Christmas Day as a family with sun in our eyes and doing what we love…..hiking.

(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes)

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So there you have it. Our year from start to finish. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride this year. Among so may other exciting things that have happened throughout the year, I am happy to see this year is now behind us.

My hopes for next year, of course, are to continue to stay healthy. We miss our kayaks severely, have not touched a golf disc in months, and are very excited to be traveling more in the upcoming months.

 

 

 

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Celebrating The Half Way Point To Recovery

This week marks the half way point of when all the medical professionals feel my husband will be recovered from his back injury. It’s been three months this week since this all started and after meeting with his neurologist recently, he has gotten the go ahead to start doing some things that he has not done in months.

We have returned to the gym…..yehhhhh! I have gone here and there throughout this ordeal but mostly I have been doing my exercise at home in one way or another. He has been told he can start back on light cardio and VERY LIGHT weights.

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He still has not been released to grab that kayak paddle and will not be told to do so until at least spring at the earliest. As depressing as this may be, we are looking at the bright side…..at least he will eventually be able to paddle again. When this first all happened we were not even sure if he would be able to continue driving much less paddle anything.

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Regardless of all his progress, he is still to continue his physical therapy and slowly continue to ween himself off his nerve medication that he is taking. He has tried this in the past without much luck, but as of today he is four days and counting on half the full dose and hoping for the best.

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It’s odd to think what we have all done these past three months with such a debilitating injury. At one of his first appointments his physician told him that if walking and hiking is something that he loves to do, go ahead and do it since it’s also one of the best exercises for him to continue doing. Which was great to hear since we had our vacation planned before this all came about and it included hiking. He worked really hard to continue this activity since his foot and leg were what was impacted the most by his back injury. At first we would only walk a mile and he would start to feel pain.

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We would then stop, rest, and do some stretches until the pain subsided. Slowly, he worked his way up to more distance but it was not easy. We found all sorts of ways to relieve the pain when it would start, like rolling his foot on a cold water bottle we would carry along with us.

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Some of our trails would cross county highways and you could find us, at times, stretching on these highway crossings. We would also carry ice packs and leave them in our vehicle so when we returned from a hike/walk, he could apply the ice to his back and this would help the swelling go down faster which was pressing on the nerve causing the pain in his leg/foot.

Two of the biggest changes we made were, he started using trekking poles and we purchased a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sleeping mat.

The trekking poles he used mainly when we went to Utah for help and balance with elevation hiking. He loved them going up into the mountains, stating that they gave him the extra boost he needed with every step. Going back down was a challenge, as normally they absorb some of the impact from your joints and pass that onto the poles. He, however, did not feel they helped him as much going down as they did going up.

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As for purchasing the Therm-a-Rest- Z Lite mat, this was one of the best buys we have made. We found this while we were vacationing in Utah at an outdoor store and I knew immediately we had to have it. There have been many times since this all happened that he gets to a point that he just needs to stop and rest. Not because he is tired….because the pain in his foot/leg is getting to be too much to handle, so we end up sitting right on the trail we happen to be on at the time…..which for us in WI can be almost anywhere. When we were in Utah at least we had rock to rest on and a great view, here we are typically in the woods, knee deep in bugs and critters and such. So having this mat is awesome! We simply strap it to my pack and when we reach the point of needing to rest his foot/leg, I lay it out and we sit and rest. We have also used it to have a snack on and also some stretching…it sure beats the highway concrete. It also beats sitting in the dirt, bugs, and dampness of morning dew to rest. When we are finished, we pick it up, give it a shake and its clean and ready to strap back on my pack for a few more miles. The best part is it’s so light weight that I don’t even feel like I am carrying a mat at all.

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So as we celebrate the half way point of my husband being recovered, I hope by sharing this experience with all of you has only proved my point that moving is always better than sitting. We realize that he could have somewhat of a disability for life, which so far we have learned to live with quite well by making a few changes to our activities. Have we stopped being active……absolutely not!!!! Do we fully expect to be back in our kayaks next Spring…you bet we do…..but things will be different then also. There will be no more single person carrying kayaks, no more single person draining water from overturned kayaks and so on. We plan to do everything in pairs and treat our bodies kindly to some extent. Until that time when we feel the water drip from our paddles and hear the rumble of a rapid around the next corner, I will just be thankful he is still able to enjoy life like we choose to enjoy life and live in the moment….. together.

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Chapel Loop Trail- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If you are searching for a wonderful day hike I would highly recommend the Chapel Loop Hike- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. This is a 10 mile loop with breathtaking views along the gorgeous lakeshore bluffs of Lake Michigan.

This was our first time hiking this trail and I am extremely thrilled to say #1 we made the entire 10 miles and #2 it will be repeated again! Here is what we did, where we stayed, and advice for anyone thinking about attempted this hike.

We drove from our home in WI and stayed the night in Munising, MI which is about 20 minutes from the trail head. Before leaving home, I contacted the park ranger and we discussed the black fly problem and bear precautions. He informed me that the black flies are normally gone by September but could linger depending on the weather. We purchased headnets to wear in the instance that these were still lingering although we never needed them. The only place we encounter them was when we were on the beach and they were not too horrible. As for bear precautions, as much as I hated spending $50 on a can of bear spray, I did it anyhow. My husband wore this the entire hike on the outside of his pack for easy access if needed. Thankfully, the only bear we saw was in the backyard of our hotel and I was safely inside our room looking out at this fine creature. I will say, however, that along the trail we did run into a few other hikers and backcountry campers whom all had their bear spray visible and ready also, so I felt a little safer knowing that we had ours too. Now, as for the trail….we arrived just before 8am Saturday morning and the parking lot only had a few cars in it. We used the bathroom facility, took a look at the maps, warnings, and such on the board and decided to head the direction of Chapel Falls.

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The first part of this trail was wide and went through big, beautiful forest.

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Not far in we heard Chapel Falls.

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Then we headed further towards Chapel Rock. This was really amazing.

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IMG_2533After Chapel Rock you will continue down the trail to Chapel Beach. This is also the location of the first campsite area for back country campers.  IMG_2547

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And an area that had restrooms. I was very thankful for this and I must say, this was one of the nicest signs I saw along the trail.

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When I came out I found my husband had stripped of his pack, shoes, and socks and was enjoying the cool waters of the lake.

IMG_2562 IMG_2559 After a nice break here we headed up further to Grand Portal Point. These few miles went by so quickly because the views we saw as we hiked the bluffs edge were just spectacular.  IMG_2568  IMG_2594

IMG_2589As you round the back side of Grand Portal Point you come to a very nice area for a break. At this point you are about half way finished.  IMG_2631

If you decide to sit and have a snack, watch your packs, critters are very friendly on this trail. We met this little fella begging for one of our almonds.

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As you make your way further you will see beautiful blue water, rock ledges, and what is known as Lover’s Leap Arch.  IMG_2522

IMG_2520This is all while hiking along the lakeshore on, at times, a very narrow path near the edge, caution is needed.Your next big stop will be at Mosquito Beach/Camp which is also camp area #2 for campers.We found this much more busy with tourists and moved pretty quickly through this area toward Mosquito Falls.  IMG_2650

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By this time we were getting pretty tired. The trail had turned from packed dirt, to sand, and these last few miles were loose rocks and tree roots causing huge tripping hazards it seemed. We slowed our pace to not injure ourselves and upon arriving at the falls my husband actually took his shoe off again to soak his foot for a bit. (Remember, he is recovering from a herniated disc that has left him with nerve damage in that leg/foot and ice cold water helps)  IMG_2661

While he did this I explored the area.

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IMG_2628All that was left after this was the parking lot. Which seemed to be miles from where we were but was actually only about another mile. When we arrived back at the parking lot I was completely speechless……….there were so many cars that they had started parking up both sides of the dirt road for almost an entire mile. My advice is if you plan to do any part of this hike arrive early. Very early.

We accomplished this 10 mile hike is just over 6 hrs, with two breaks for a snack and two rest periods in the water. After finishing for the day we returned to our hotel, ate dinner, and were both in bed by 7pm exhausted but extremely grateful for accomplishing this hike. It was wonderful!

My personal thoughts: I loved this hike, however, I am one that loves rock, bluffs, and waterfalls. If you are the same, then you should also enjoy this hike. There is a lot of different terrain here, nothing severe, but different throughout. Roots and rocks can be detrimental to toes so sandals would not be your best choice of footwear here. I thought the trails were very well marked until the last few miles. From Mosquito Campground until the parking lot they can be somewhat confusing so remember your trail map. And one last thing, because I know every female will appreciate this, yes you will find restrooms at the start, at Chapel Beach Campground, and at Mosquito Beach Campground HOWEVER bring your own TP!

NOTE: We did run into one trail hazard along the route and it was well marked and a detour has been made by the park dept. It only brings you off trail a few yards at most. Be careful.  IMG_2626

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Weekend Snapshots: Exploring A New Route

How fitting it was that my husband grabbed this Clif Bar from our food pack and it was exactly what we were doing at the time. Exploring a new route (trail)…..

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I will share many more in depth details of our hike later this week. For now here is a sneak peek at where we enjoyed ourselves this past weekend.

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Anyone care to take a guess at what trail we hiked and in what state?

Summing Up Our Zion and Bryce Canyon Family Vacation With Some Pointers For Others Planning A Family Hiking Trip

As you can tell from the last few posts we had an amazing time vacationing in Zion and Bryce National Parks. I credit our amazing time to a lot of research, planning, and mostly to what we learned from our guides the first time my husband and I took a guided trip to this area two years ago.

On this trip we were on our own and I want to share some pointers to help anyone else have a successful trip, as we did, to this same area..

#1 Trail Map: This is something you do not want to forget….and if you do go back for it! You are hiking in the desert where it is easy to miss a turn off, get injured, and with mountains surrounding you on all sides cell service is quite limited. We found a family on our trail through Echo Canyon miles from the trail they had been searching for. When asked if they had a trail map, their response was, NO we forgot it.

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#2 Cell Phone: Bring it just in case you would need help and are lucky enough to get a signal.

#3 First Aid: You don’t need much but you also should never be without some first aid items. We actually offered some of our first aid supplies to a family we met on the trail because they left theirs back in camp. You may not get so lucky and meet someone on some of the more remote trails and an injury could really make the hike back miserable.

#4 Headlamp: We all think and plan to be done hiking and out by sunset, although you really never know what will happen until it happens. Hiking out of the mountains in darkness can be even more dangerous than in daylight. So carrying a small light weight headlamp is a smart idea and worth the extra pack weight.

#5 WATER: I cannot stress this enough. You will need water, and a lot of water. If you are doing more than one trail in the park you will be able to refill water containers at each trail head in Zion NP.

#6 Do not feed the wildlife: There is a fine in the national park if you are caught feeding the wildlife.

IMG_2038#7 Watch your pack when you take it off: Squirrels, lizards, and chipmunks are VERY BRAVE here and they will chew a hole in packs very quickly.  IMG_2093

#8 Snacks: Bring trail snacks and don’t worry about counting calories while hiking. You will need the energy and will burn the calories quickly here with all the elevation so eat often. IMG_1818 #9 Flash flood warnings and weather: Check the park website for the flash flood and weather forecast warnings everyday. If it’s too high, choose an alternate trail for the day.

#10 Have an alternate plan: Keep in mind that accidents happen and this is a remote area so it takes search and rescue personnel sometimes hours or days to reach people in need. Have an alternate plan if you would come across your chosen trail head and find it closed due to search and rescue trying to find someone. We thankfully did our first hike into Echo Canyon on our first day because the second day the trail was closed down all day and night due to search and rescue trying to help someone.

#11 Permit/Back country Passes: Research before you hike and make sure your chosen trail is not one that requires you to have a permit or pass. Some do and some don’t.

#12 Sunscreen/Hat: Desert sun is hot, lather up and wear a hat if you can.

#13 Adequate Shoes/Boots: You will come across cactus, snakes, wildlife, dirt, rock, water, and so on. Wear adequate shoes/boots.  IMG_1992

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#14 Electrolyte Replacement: I will attest to this personally…..you will sweat like crazy here in the summer time. Prepare to have some sort of electrolyte replacement with you on the trail.

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#15 Groceries: Bring what you can from home or stop in the nearest town before arriving at the park. Groceries are outrageous here….a jar of salsa in the local store we saw was $8 compared to maybe $2 here at our home store.  Clif bars were $3.50 each. We brought all our trail food from home and thankfully did not have to purchase anything at the little grocery store near the park.

#16 Bring Ziplocs: These are priceless….great ice packs for sore muscles, water proofing personal items in the Narrows, rain protection, keeping your packs organized, carryout, sealable garbage bag, etc.

#17 Have Fun: A vacation like this takes a lot of planning but if all goes smoothly you should have tons of fun, leave exhausted, and have memories that will last a life time. I know we did, we were, and we have all of these:)

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Feel free to email me or comment if you have any questions in regards to anything you see or that we did. I will be glad to answer anything I can for you.

 

 

National Trails Day

Good Morning…..

Did you know tomorrow is National Trails Day?

Let’s all gather up a snack, pack up the kids, and enjoy the beauty of what nature has to offer.

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To find an event near your area you can visit this link, enter your location, and plan a hike.

http://www.nationaltrailsday.org/

Happy Hiking Everyone!

Trekking Poles…Yea or Nay?

A few years ago I received my first pair of trekking poles for an anniversary gift from my husband. Now, before all you place judgement, let me just say, I LOVED THEM. Instead of an easy buy, like roses, he actually put thought into this gift which meant more to me than anything.

Now back to the trekking poles…I had never used trekking poles before on any of our hikes so I really had no idea if I would like them or find them useless. I will be the first to admit, I am not very balanced on my feet. Especially in high elevations, which is typically what we hike. I also have the weakest ankles of anyone I know, so I figured they were worth a try. Even though he did not pay a great deal for my first pair, I have absolutely gotten every penny out of them. However, it was time to retire them after our trip to Zion National Park. They survived the entire trip, especially hiking through the Virgin River and assisted me well on the way back down from Angel’s Landing.

This time around I was along for the purchase of my new poles and knew exactly what I was looking for. I knew the pros and cons of having poles vs. not having them and what to look for in the different brands that are out there.

What I have learned from hiking with trekking poles:

PROS:

they improve your balance

they engage your upper body therefore causing less stress on your knees(this is a big plus)

they are helpful on slippery surfaces

they can be useful in pitching an emergency shelter

they assist in burning more calories using your upper body

they are very helpful crossing rivers and streams

they make a great weapon for any weirdos you may come across (you never know???)

CONS:

if you need your hands and feet to climb they may be in the way

they are difficult to use or carry in high vegetation areas

 

Obviously the cons are much less in my opinion. Although, I do not see many people here in WI using them while hiking, I did see them everywhere in Utah. I was somewhat nervous about taking them on our trip but upon arrival even our guides had their own pair.

While debating which new trekking poles to purchase, I was aware of a few things I wanted different this time around.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING TREKKING POLES:

Grip: Most grips are plastic, cork or foam. Plastic is durable, does not suck up water but are very cold in the winter months. Foam is comfortable but can tear off. Cork is hard and usually pretty tough. I would suggest you hold the handle in your hand in the store before purchasing. Some are larger, smaller, comfortable and not so comfortable. I went with soft plastic because we cross a lot of streams/rivers. I also don’t plan to need them if snow is on the ground.Try before you buy is my motto.

Pole construction:  Aluminum and carbon fiber are most popular. Both having there benefits and disadvantages. Do your research for the region you live to see what one will be best.

Shock Absorbers: I don’t know how I feel when it comes to this. My old ones had shock absorbers. My new ones do not. Would I have bought my new ones if they had shock absorbers? Yes. I really don’t know if I ever benefited from the shock absorbers but I also can’t say I was ever in a situation that I did not like them either.

Adjustment Mechanism: This is what finally failed on my poles. Again, let me say, they were well used though. This time around my husband said we were getting the lever locking mechanism instead of the twist and adjust type of mechanism. I did not have really any say in this area, he is the mechanical brain and the person that has to fix them when they no longer adjust. However, he did discuss this topic with one of our guides on our hiking trip and she did give him very good information regarding the lever locking poles vs. the twist mechanisms. If anyone should know, I feel she had enough miles on her hiking boots to trust her opinion.

Price: Trekking poles vary quite a bit in this area. My first poles were about $50 and lasted at least 5 years. No issues. I paid almost three times that for my new poles (below) and hope to never have to buy another pair again. You really have to do what’s best for you in this category.

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Trekking poles have made all the difference in my hiking experiences. I would highly recommend them if someone asked me my thoughts.

What do you think? Do you hike with them or without them?