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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Reader Request: Our Favorite Kayaking Gear

I sure can tell kayaking season has arrived. Lately, I have gotten a few emails asking what some of our favorite kayaking gear items are or what I would recommend. So I thought I would write about what we use and what we have found works for us during our paddling trips.

Keep in mind, we paddle mostly rivers with some whitewater involved. We have paddled lakes, although very seldom and when we do we use our recreational kayaks.

Let me also remind you that not everything listed you will find to your liking as much as we have. We have paddled now for years and have changed up our gear from time to time to adjust to our comfort while on the river.

Kayaks: We all own Jackson Kayaks. Our son has a Karma and both my husband and I own Villains. As for our reasoning to why we choose the type we did, well, honestly, we all have different likes and dislikes. I will give you my opinion and my opinion only. Safety and comfort were the big sellers for me. I LOVE the happy seat and the size of my kayak. I feel that if needed I can wet exit without any doubt, which was huge for me. (I had a little accident when we first started paddling in another kayak and will NEVER forget the feeling of being trapped underwater in a boat)

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PFD’s: We have gone through a few until finally finding our happy PFD’s. When you spend 4-6 hours in this safety device you really want to be comfortable. For us we all agreed that the Astral brand is for us. My husband and son have the same style and I wear the female version. Yes, believe it or not they make a female version that allows room for the “girls” to be comfortable also. Many of the other PFD companies have this feature also, so again, to each there own comfort. My advice to you is try them on, sit on the floor, and move your arms as you would while paddling. If you have rub zones anywhere hang it back up and try another PFD.

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Dry Bag: We have a few dry bags but the one that we like the most is from Sea Line (5L). This is the bag we take and load it up with a snack for up to 6 people, bug spray, travel size sunscreen, and my camera for every trip. It has always kept our items dry and is clear which means when we do need to open it we don’t need to rummage through everything to find what we are searching for which is very nice. It has held up for years and is still in great shape.

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Helmets: We all wear the same brand but a little different style. They are made by ProTec and were purchased through NRS. As you can see, my husbands is pretty beat up and has served it’s purpose a few times already. They are as comfortable as a helmet can be in my opinion as I am not a big fan of any helmet.

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Shoes: This is the item that we have replaced most often in the years we have been paddling. However, not due to damage, mainly due to style, and once forgetting them at the rivers edge…arggggg!  All our shoes were also purchased from NRS and for personal comfort reasons.

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Water bottles: Without a doubt I would suggest Nalgene bottles. Hook a carabiner to them and clip them behind your seat and you will have nothing to worry about. Ours have been thrown across rocks, down waterfalls, and on pavement and have never cracked yet.

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Safety Knife: My husband is the one that carries our safety knife on his PFD. Again, there are so many to choose from but we felt this knife would serve all our needs in any event where we would need to use one. Thankfully, we have never had to cut PFD straps or ropes from anyone or anything. The only thing it has cut so far is food wrappers at lunch time on the side of the river. Let’s hope it stays this way.

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Paddles: This is way to personal an item to suggest. There are so many variables to paddles that it is too hard to suggest a certain paddle to you. We all own different paddles and each of us dislikes the others for one reason or another.

That pretty much sums up what we use while on our rivers. We do carry a throw rope which can be purchased anywhere kayak supplies are sold and spray skirts are basically which ever company carries the proper size for the kayak you own. We have been very happy with the company called NRS and their customer service is beyond wonderful. I would highly suggest checking them out.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to any of these companies and I receive no compensation to mention or recommend them and their products to all of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson Learned/A Guides Perspective

We hit the river for the first time this weekend without our son. To say it was a little strange to not pack up all his gear would be an understatement. The entire trip, from start to finish, I felt like someone was missing. Although, we ought to get used to this, he will not be paddling for quite some time. That being said, we still had a great time with a new couple and our newbie neighbor that has now officially graduated from a newbie to a full blown kayaker.

As I have said in the past, we rarely find friends to join us in our river adventures. However, this weekend with three kayaks empty instead of just two, we left it up to our neighbor to search out some friends she would like to have experience the adventure with us. Surprising, this was quite easy for her and the first couple she asked said yes. (We seriously need some friends like this) So, our neighbor, who has been down the river once with us in the past and once at a beach with some lessons on wet exits and rolling accompanied us along with her sister and brother in law. Our neighbor took our son’s kayak and the new couple used our recreational kayaks.

The day was hot, partly sunny and beautiful. A great day to see if the lessons on wet exiting at the beach were worth teaching. In our opinion, after you teach the basics like how to hold a paddle and paddle strokes the next lesson should be wet exiting your kayak. Even though they may not like the fact that this should be taught, they will be happy they know the skill eventually. Our neighbor was very happy to have learned this lesson after trying to surf one of the nicest rapids on the river this weekend. I will apologize because I have no pics of this part of our day but I had a little more important things to do. (Like retrieve gear after she flipped) If someone is going to flip surfing, we know from experience, this is the rapid it is going to happen on. She wanted to try and my husband was never very far from her in his kayak the entire time. I, however, exited my kayak, beached it on a rock and stood nearby in the water to assist because I knew how this would end. The newbies sat nearby in their kayaks watching. She was doing great until the wave caught her, turned her sideways and over she went….and exited just like she was taught. Success, she was up, my husband was out and ready to assist and I gathered the gear. Afterwards she admitted that she was so thankful to have been taught the lesson and even happier to have had the chance to get a true wet exit experience. We officially have graduated her from newbie to just an every day kayaker….Congrats!

As for our newbie couple, they did terrific. One flip in the last rapid of the river but everyone stayed calm. She also surprised us all by trying it again and the second time it went much more smoothly. Success was achieved by all this weekend and it was a great ending to our day on the river.

After that it was picnic time. I don’t think anyone was really ready to leave the river on this day because it was so beautiful but a nice spread of good food always helps.

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We really enjoy taking new people and showing them that even though what we do can be dangerous, it can also be fun and relaxing. With the proper safety precautions it is no more dangerous than riding a bike on a city street. It’s really what you make of the experience that makes it what it is. You can float along and portage everything if you wish or you can try new things and even get a little crazy like my husband and slide down a rock with a dramatic splash.

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It’s all up to you. All we ask is that you have fun and enjoy the moment.

This weekend I think we would all agree, we all enjoyed the moment:)

 

 

 

DIY First Aid Kit For Kayaking

With the coming of a new paddling season I thought we could touch on a subject that I feel pretty strongly about. That would be carrying first aid on the river.

I cannot tell you how many other paddlers have stopped us asking for first aid supplies or how many times we have used it ourselves. Numerous times for various issues.

After researching many prepackaged first aid kits, I finally decided it would be more economical to make my own. I was well aware of the things that are most likely to happen and after looking into what prepackaged kits had in them, I was not confident they would serve the purpose in a water situation.

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Here is what we have in our kit and why we carry it:

Dry Bag: this holds our first aid supplies

Duck Tape: nothing seals better than duck tape in water. It can be used for boat repair, blisters on your hands, to cover a bandage, to even tape a paddle back together to finish a river (yes, I know this for a fact).

Clean Towel: numerous obvious reasons

1 Roll Of Gauze: to wrap an open wound

1 Stretch Self Sealing Bandage: to cover an open wound and apply pressure. Even though the self sealing part of the bandage will not work well in the water, that’s another use for the duck tape.

Rubber Gloves: you never know if it’s your group or another group you will be assisting with first aid. Protect yourself first!

Folding Scissors: to cut bandages/tape.

Clippers: to cut broken toe nails that occur during portages, to remove a sliver, to cut bandages/tape etc.

Bandaids: Heavy duty bandages are the best for water activity. Again, covered with duct tape.

Antibiotic Spray: nothing will turn your guts more than getting a cut, scrape or broken toenail a mile back on the river and a little further down river finding a dead deer rotting laying half in the river. I know, gross, but again, I’ve been there.

Hydrocortisone Spray: Just in case you rub up against something during a portage or potty break and you start to itch.

Cleansing Wipes: to prepare a wound for bandaging

Ibuprofen: pain, swelling, headache etc.

Clean Empty Ziplocks: for garbage, to protect bloodied bandages until you can dispose of them.

Even though this would not be enough to apply first aid to every member in our group at one time, this is the basics that I believe we could make do with.

I think it is irresponsible to do something like whitewater kayaking without the proper gear. It does not take much to make a first aid kit. And regardless of what you think, it will not take up much room in your kayak. My son has the smallest boat of all three of us and he could fit this in his, so there really is no excuse not to carry first aid.

Thankfully in all our years of kayaking we have never had a serious kayaking accident that required first aid. We have truthfully had more accidents happen during portages or falls on slippery rocks rather than actual paddling. Either way, we are prepared and that is what is important.

Paddle safe and have a great season.