Learning To Use Trekking Poles

My first trekking poles were given to me by my husband for our anniversary a few years ago. Now, some of you may cringe at this gift for an anniversary but I was thrilled to death. I am not the most graceful person you will find on any trail and my balance is by far balanced. Trekking poles have made life for me on the trail so much more enjoyable and have given me the confidence to explore deeper, hike farther, and go higher than I ever would have attempted without them. I am a complete fan of trekking poles which is why my husband recently bought his first pair.

His reasoning for purchasing trekking poles is a bit different than why I love mine. His is for help with his knee pain since his wife(ME) likes to hike mountains and this is what causes him pain. So recently we took a day trip to my favorite rocky bluff state park and he had his first experience with his trekking poles. IMG_5227

Our goal on this day was to hike up and down the bluffs which is a mixture of a few different trail terrains. Our first hike was up a gravel/rocky path on the East Bluff Trail.

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Uphill the entire way to the top with larger rocks thrown in there for some fun.

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After reaching the top we headed back down the Pothole Trail. This consisted of rocky steps all the way back down the bluff. This equals=painful on the knees.

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Next, we took a bit of a break, had a snack and headed back up. Although this time it was back up steps, not a rocky trail. And after that is was back down a mixture of terrain.

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He took many stops to adjust the length of his poles along the way until he finally got the hang of what he liked on which type of terrain.

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After a full day of hiking a park we have hiked numerous times in the past and knew exactly what we would feel like when we were done….the verdict was that his knees were not nearly as sore as they typically are after this particular hike.

I can only hope they offer as much relief to his sore knees during our trip to Arizona…especially since my goal is the very top of a very well know rock! Which ultimately means, if we reach the top we will also have to return back to the bottom.

Here are a few more things we saw during our hike and after when we took a quick tube float in the lake as a reward for a big day of hiking.

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Have you ever tried trekking poles?

What is your favorite brand?

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Hello Again….It’s Been Awhile

Hello, hello….It’s been awhile since I have posted anything. Well, life got a bit busy and I needed to let something fall behind and it just so happened to be blogging. So let’s catch up a bit.

Training for our upcoming Arizona hiking trip has consumed most, if not all, of my free time. And I assure you, free time is not easy to find. If I am not working, I am exercising. Which has led to my new best friend being my foam roller. This really helped when we first started doing flights of steps which has since gotten much easier. It’s rewarding to see progress so soon.

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As to why my free time has been so limited….two weeks ago I added a newborn to the group of children I care for everyday. She is quite the little peanut but adds so much more work to my day. Feedings are much closer together and much of my time is spent sitting, feeding bottles to everyone during the daytime hours. All while keeping the toddler in our group happy and content. Add in household chores, meals and laundry and by evening I am tired. But each day she gets a bit older and now that everyone is starting to adjust to our new group dynamics its getting easier.

We did end up cancelling a recent camping trip we had planned due to a weekend of rain. This was quite depressing but we decided last minute to do the next best thing, we went shopping for outdoor equipment. We hopped in the SUV and headed to our nearest REI (2hrs from us) to purchase a few needed things for our trip and then made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s….my favorite grocery store.

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Before falling asleep every evening I have been researching places, restaurants, trails, outfitters and so on for us to explore while in Sedona. From what I read, there is a very good chance my husband and son may starve to death while we are here. I, on the other hand, will be in pure bliss since most of this area is vegan/vegetarian. And the one thing I am looking forward to trying is prickly pear ice cream….apparently this is very popular in this area. We shall see…

And remember that hiking group I am working on forming in our area. I have gotten some great responses from some people. Now I have been working on our first meet and greet trail hike and a date for this to happen. Hopefully it becomes a regular monthly thing. If any readers are local and interested in joining us, let me know.

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That about sums up life here lately. With the morning a bit cooler, school back in session,

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and fall right around the corner, I am racing to have as much fun as I can before the snow flies. You will all have to forgive me if blogging becomes scarce for awhile since I don’t find a whole lot of time to sit and type my name much less a complete blog posting.

Until next time….

 

 

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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Our Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Family Vacation- Day 1and 2

Oh my….I have so many things I could tell you about that I don’t even know where to start. First, let me just say, we had the most awesome vacation that we have ever had as a family!!!!!!

Upon landing in Las Vegas the temperature was an awesome 111 degrees. As you can imagine, I was one VERY happy woman. My son and husband, on the other hand, were not so very happy when the pilot made this temperature announcement. After deplaning, taking the shuttle to the rent a car building, and picking out our rental for the week we headed through the desert toward Springdale, Utah. I, of course, picked the only rental with Utah license plate, because I have always wanted a car with this plate. IMG_1936We arrived just as the sun was setting and got all settled into our hotel room. It had been a very long day. We had been traveling since 5 a.m. so we were very happy when we finally arrived. That night our son captured a few star pictures and the milky way but it did not take long for us all to turn in for the night.

Our plan for our first whole day was the biggest hike we had planned which was to the top of Observation Point. Since my husband and I had stayed at this hotel once before we knew that they served a fabulous big breakfast which is included in the price of the room. I think our son was a little speechless to be honest when morning arrived and we walked to the lobby area for breakfast. This was not your typical continental breakfast. IMG_1941

We enjoyed this breakfast every single morning on the outdoor patio facing gorgeous mountain peaks…..if only I could wake up every morning to this view.

After breakfast we boarded the first of many shuttles into the park.

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Shuttle stops are located throughout the city of Springdale and make stops at many area businesses. We never once waited for more than 10 minutes for a shuttle. Upon exiting the city shuttle we then entered the park and boarded the Zion shuttle to our chosen trail head. These park shuttles are packed wall to wall with hikers and tourists but are the only way to travel through Zion National Park. Personal vehicles are not allowed on the trail head road ways in Zion National Park.  IMG_1944

After a few minutes we arrived at our trail head and immediately headed up the mountain by way of switchbacks. I knew by the look on our son’s face that he was amazed with the scenery, the steepness of the switchbacks, and the fact that this was going to be harder that what he could have ever imagined.

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Our goal was the top of Observation Point although, we all knew this was going to be nothing short of a miracle if we reached our goal. I had come down with some sort of nasty virus two days before leaving and don’t forget my husband was doing this trip with a fairly new herniated disc and nerve damage in one leg. Regardless, we headed up the mountain at fairly good speed taking breaks every few switchbacks. On this particular day it was 106 degrees but amazingly tolerable.

About half way up we started our hike through Echo Canyon which is by far my husbands favorite area. It is absolutely gorgeous!!!! Our son was stunned into silence at the beauty that surrounded him. It did not take him long to start snapping pictures so this offered us a little rest time in the cooler canyon.

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We departed the canyon and headed higher up the mountain for awhile longer. Upon coming out of the canyon we were now in complete sunshine and it was HOT! Our pace had considerably slowed, my cold medication was wearing off, and my husband let us know that he was starting to feel numbness in his foot at this point. We stopped under a small shade tree and had a snack and some more water. We debated trying to continue or to turn around and be happy with what we had accomplished. After a bit, we all agreed that this was a good time to turn around and thankfully we did. Once we had turned around we again reached the canyon opening and my husband asked to sit for a bit and take a break. His numbness had gotten a bit worse and that was our cue to rest for awhile.   IMG_1995

We eventually continued back down the mountain and took the shuttle back out to the park entrance, switched to the city shuttle and arrived back at our hotel for some well needed showers. After this it was dinner at a fabulous restaurant where we ate on an outdoor patio surrounded by more mountains.

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This was a great ending for us as a family. We estimated we were about 1-1 1/2 miles short of accomplishing the entire hike to the top of Observation Point. I would highly suggest this hike to anyone that is planning to visit Zion National Park. The elevation is intense but well worth the effort to at least reach Echo Canyon. It’s an amazing experience to walk through canyon walls that just continue on forever…..or so it seems.

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Have you ever visited Zion National Park?

What was your favorite hike?

Do you have specific questions regarding the park or the area? Feel free to email me and I will be happy to answer them if I can.

A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

This week has brought many things to an end. Instead of three doctor appointments a week my husband had one and next week none:) As for physical therapy, we have decided that we can purchase and do everything at home to save a ton of time and do more often to get even more benefit for his condition. All his physicians agreed, so our big order of therapy supplies should arrive Monday. And the last test results we were waiting for finally came back mid week and they were wonderful. Which in our eyes meant we could all take a breath and relax a little. It has been a trying, emotional three weeks but I can honestly say, we do see a little light at the end of this tunnel.

Now onto much happier events…..do you remember that vacation we were suppose to be training for? It is happening in a few short weeks and our goal is to hike for four days straight with our longest hike being 8 miles. I am extremely happy to say we are still planning to go on this vacation. As for the 8 mile hike, time will tell. We have talked with all his physicians and they all say he can and should try and make it happen. Although, we have been walking at home throughout this ordeal and he is only able to make it about 2 1/2 -3 miles until he starts to feel pain and numbness. Which is when all the professionals say he needs to stop and rest. I have him convinced that he should also use hiking poles this time and to my surprise he agreed. So my old poles have been taken apart, cleaned up, and are ready for use. They still had particles of the virgin river in them from our last big hiking trip.

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As for training, this was very short lived. I have been still getting daily exercise but not nearly what I was hoping to get in preparation for this trip. You all know my husbands activity level has been lessened greatly and our son also was set back with a back issue in the past few weeks.Thankfully, I still feel I can accomplish this hike without a problem. I am hoping that we can somehow accomplish it as a family, but if not, we plan do do the best we can with what we have. Our vacation is planned for a gorgeous, amazing place and I have no doubt regardless of how far we hike, it will still be a wonderful, enjoyable time.

Speaking of hiking, recently we ventured out for a short hike after work one night. As usual, we were walking along and came across a snake crossing the trail. Now normally, when we hike we walk side by side as many people probably do. While he is looking into the sky at birds, bugs, and keeping an eye out for wildlife, I am scanning the trail for these slithery reptiles. I always seem to find them first and he can normally tell by the immediate stop and few steps backwards(and a scream) what lies ahead. Although, now, I have learned where they normally are hiding and slither out of while on the trail so we have taken a new approach to these slithery reptiles. Snakes never seem to come from the side of the trail. They are almost always laying in the middle where greenery has grown through or right out in the open sunning themselves which makes them easy to spot from a distance. It’s the greenery that has me a nervous wreck, so now I make my husband (whom is not deathly afraid of snakes, unlike me) walk a bit ahead of me right through the middle of this greenery.

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I then follow behind at a safe distance giving the snakes time to slither across to the trail edge and into the woods/grass. It does not make seeing them any more pleasant but at least the fear of them slithering over my boot into the woods/grass is not constantly in the back of mind. God forbid, a snake ever slither over my boot, I would not have the power to walk off the trail by myself. I have a strong heart and great blood pressure, but this may send me into cardiac arrest.

That’s all I have for you all this week. I miss blogging about our kayaking trips, disc golf courses we visit and all that fun stuff. Although, right now our lives are pretty limited to walking, biking, swimming and physical therapy. I try and keep him company through all of this to hopefully make it less daunting for him.

TENS Therapy while spending time together

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So even though it’s quite life consuming, we are still having fun and enjoying just being together. We are finding ways to make the most of what we have to work with at the moment.

Have a Great Weekend!

 

 

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?