Dick's Blog

“The Tent”, Chapter 23 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

IMG 0731IMG 0090AUTHOR’S SKETCH OF A SMALLER VERSION OF THE TENT

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, “The Tent”, Chapter 23 of “Inside and Outside” (I’m not sure of the length of my gestation)

Next Week, “Thermals”, Chapter 24 of “Inside and Outside” (lately there has been a lot of activity overhead)

Update:

If a tent had feelings and could talk, then you might hear something like this tale. "I’ve been in hibernation for the last ten years in my brother’s garage since my last outing and the writing of this story. My grown up brother and sister took my four nieces and nephews (their children) on a car camping trip to the Adirondacks. All six of them fit inside me. They all had a good time except for the last day when the kids got into a nest of yellow jackets. Tents are good for comfort and protection when you are inside my walls, but outside you are on your own.

My nieces and nephews now range in age from 15 to 23. Maybe when they have kids, they will take me camping again. That could be another ten years. If Rip VanWinkle could sleep for twenty years, I won’t give up hope. My parents gave up car camping a long time ago, although they still have fond memories of me. My father, the author of this story, has had two back surgeries so he has also had to give up backpacking. He still day hikes. Can’t keep a good man down. I think it’s time that I will have him dream of me and remind him to have my brother (my father’s son) take me out of his garage, set me up, give me a good airing out, and invite some of the neighbor’s kids to run around inside me. Then, I’ll be good for another long sleep and dreams about the next camping trip."

The Tent

I was born over forty years ago, when all my 60 pounds of green canvass skin, shiny aluminum bones and assembly instructions slid silently out of my long chrysalis bag onto the cellar floor. I’m not sure of the length of my gestation, from the time that my seminal cloth, thread and tubes were first given life at the Eureka tent factory. I remained dormant for months packed side by side with my other clones. Then one day, I had the orphan’s luck of the draw and went home to live with a loving family.

There was no room there on the cellar floor to spread to my full 12-by-12-foot potential. I would have to wait until the first sunny day to be erected in the back yard. There, laid out on my yellow plastic protective ground cloth, I unfurled myself, towering over my two squealing human siblings. A light blue canvass fly, like a jockey cap, was pulled over my tubular aluminum suspension. I unrolled my 8-foot awning, providing enough room for a regulation wooden picnic table, aluminum cooking table and camp kitchen. All together, I created a 20-by-12 dry living space for my human family. This was going to be a great adventure!

I’m a lot different from modern tents. Call me low tech, and proud of it! My walls and fly are made from tightly woven cotton duck, not light weight treated nylon. I may be heavier, but I’m bombproof. The highest winds and driving rain can’t penetrate my skin, just don’t touch the inside wall or I will wick water through. With all the room I have inside, it’s easy to locate four cots without contacting the walls. A basketball player could jump up without hitting his head on the ceiling. Along with my plasticized canvass floor and ground cloth, nothing seeps in from below. I have enormous breezy screened windows to open when it’s dry and a roof vent, protected by the fly, for warm wet days and nights. My screened front door is also protected by the awning. I’m a home away from home, and not a bad place to hole up on a rainy day. Cards anyone?

I have visited many places and provided cozy quarters to sleep and play for my little human brother and sister. They grew up and now have children of their own. They haven’t slept in me for a long time. I miss them. Over the last twenty years I have watched over my adopted parents and their two best friends from Maine on their semi-annual camping trips to Baxter State Park in Maine. A few black bears have sniffed around, but my shear size has deterred them from bothering my occupants. I’ve watched my parents and friends grow older and retire from the rat race, although none of them has really slowed down. A few months ago, I learned that the friends from Maine are moving to Florida. I’ll miss them, too. Just come inside me and close your eyes. I am a virtual time machine. I hold memories of many good times and places.

Did I tell you, that although I’ve served for forty years, I’m still in great shape? Each tear was repaired with strong rayon thread. If I was taken down wet, I was set up again in the back yard on a sunny day to be thoroughly dried and swept out again before being rolled up and slid back into my chrysalis, ready to be born again for my next outing. Standing out there in the backyard while drying, my human nieces and nephews looked at me in wonder and ran around squealing inside of me. I hope they sleep inside of me someday.

I’m very lucky in many respects. I’ve seen a lot of good years and happiness. I’ve also been loved and well cared for. I’m good for at least another thirty-five years. I’ll outlive my adopted parents. This is as it should be for any child. My only concern is who will be my next guardian, and will their little children play and sleep inside my protective walls. When I die, I would like to be cremated and not be subjected to mildew and dry rot. I don’t want to lie under the ground or in some landfill. Spread my ashes in the woods where I spent my years sharing my life and love with the people who gave me life and love.

Next Week, “Thermals”, Chapter 24 of “Inside and Outside” (lately there has been a lot of activity overhead)

 

“The Tin Man”, Chapter 22 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

 

Photo on 8-10-17 at 9.47 AM

THE SILLY TIN MAN WITH HIS OILCAN TO KEEP HIM FROM RUSTING UP ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

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MY EQUALLY SILLY SON WHO KEEPS ME LAUGHING (Crane Mountain and Pond, Southern Adirondacks of New York)

 Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, “The Tin Man”, Chapter 22 of “Inside and Outside” (Does he have an oil can?)

Next Week, “The Tent”, Chapter 23 of “Inside and Outside” (I’m not sure of the length of my gestation)

Update:

It’s about 10 years since my left knee joint replacement. It works better than my right knee joint, which is also wearing out. Some people would slow down, afraid that they might wear out their new expensive knee joint. I said, “The heck with it!” I’m using it to do what I was born to do, hike with my wife, my son and my grandkids. At a post surgical evaluation of my new knee joint a couple years ago, it was in great shape, no wear, no tear, good for another 15 years.

I just returned from a hiking trip with my son. We did a moderate, but very steep mountain in the Southern Adirondack Mountains of New York State. It’s the up, but even worse the down that punishes knee joints. Post trip, my joints are fine, but my quad muscles are killing me. My son, the physical therapist and regional manager, humorously tells me in his expert words, “You have subjected yourself to an activity that caused numerous incidences of muscular micro-damage. In totality, what transpired was massive micro-damage. But, don’t worry, sounds worse than it really is, you’ll heal, and want to go hiking fairly soon.” I am so relieved, particularly when you hear it from an expert.

My son, ever the clown, keeps me laughing. He’s an expert in making people feel good and important. Aren’t I, and all his patients and employees, and all those around him, so lucky? I’m sure you would like to meet him, probably if you have a physical therapy issue or less likely, on some remote trail in the mountains.

This is one of my favorite stories, because just when you think your body has worn out, you find a new lease on physical activity. I appreciate the support of all those, who believe that stopping your forward motion is not an option. Consider the alternatives.

The Tin Man

“Grandpa!” said my son with feigned enthusiasm, “Grandpa has a new knee, and it’s made of metal!”

“Is he like the Tin Man?” asked my four, almost five-year-old grandson, his eyes radiating an image of me rusted up on the side of the Yellow Brick Road.

“Yaaahh!” said my son, heightening my grandson’s excitement.

“Does he have an oil can?” my grandson asked.

I only wish I did!
 This conversation between my son and grandson occurred after I had my knee implant. My only lingering complaint, which my wife has long since grown tired of hearing, is that my new titanium and plastic knee joint continues to be very stiff. Although I have great range of motion and good strength (I resumed hiking after three months) it feels like it’s constricted with elastic bands, in this case scar tissue, which creates the sensation of ripping and tearing when I bend it.

I can’t knock it. The knee works like a charm. I just have to get that constrained feeling out of my head. It’s all about being patient. The Tin Man wanted a heart to feel complete. My heart and compassion are just fine. What I needed is an attitude adjustment. That comes with miles hiked, like the other things that I have put behind me. Eventually, I will forget that it was ever an issue. This story is about a sort of rebirth, in my case the feeling that I’m getting back on track and in the swing again. That happened last weekend, snowshoeing in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The knee is still tight, but I’ve turned a corner in the trail. My view forward has changed.
Hiking, particularly negotiating my way down a steep hill, had become problematic. I hate that hackneyed word because it infers that the listener should be knowledgeable enough about a subject to understand what the problem or difficulty is. I think a lot people throw out the word because it sounds good, all encompassing, intimidating, indicating they are an expert not to be questioned, even though they may not have a clue what they are talking about. When they make a pronouncement like, “The possible consequences associated with this issue are problematic,” they are probably hoping that no one raises their hand and asks them just what the heck do they mean. Their ability to answer the question would probably be problematic.

My left knee helped me through my depression, all those miles, all that physical gratification, all that feeling of accomplishment, all that connection with my friends, my family, my son; but I had to pay it back for its service and end the constant pain. I had enlisted a joint replacement surgeon, the best in his field. Now the surgery was complete. But, I was frustrated by my lack of progress. I wanted more, because I wanted to be back where I was. It felt like it was slipping through my grasp. Like an astronaut who has lost his tether, his lifeline, I was drifting away from my goal. After three months post surgery, I complained. “I seem to have reached a plateau. What can you tell me?”

My orthopedic surgeon summed it up nicely, reassuring me that I was way ahead of the curve. I was doing great! But, he said “Your whole karma is about hiking.” The constant discomfort and tightness from my total knee replacement was confining me to the blacktop, unable to even think about hitting the trail. I had the procedure to revive my hiking career. Now, so preoccupied with the short-term situation and fear of what could happen, I was forgetting about the long-term. With my sights below the peaks, my glide path was headed into the trees. I was worried and depressed. I told him, “What I need is a change in attitude!” I had to raise my point of view above the horizon to save me from crashing below the peaks that I love. My surgeon said he couldn’t treat me for my emotional despair, but he did have the obvious recommendation. Paraphrasing all the things he told me over the last three months: “You can’t break it. It’s space age titanium, ceramic cement and durable plastic. It’s good for at least fifteen years. The x-rays show that every thing is fine. You are ahead of the curve. Forget about the discomfort. It’s just the soft tissue protesting to what we did to it. Just go hiking!”

So, I did!

We went to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. My wife and I had already climbed most of the peaks in this park, a jewel in the National Park system. They’re all small mountains (really more like hills) surrounded by lakes and sea, the exposed gray-white granite ledges of surrounding peaks beckoning you to revisit them. The European discoverer of the area, Champlain, called this place Mount Desert Island, because of the prominence of rock and lack of foliage on many of the peaks as seen from the sea. I’m sure there were Native Americans sitting on those rocks when he drifted by, never knowing what mischief these discoverers would bring to this new land. We visited the seldom-visited Champlain monument erected in 1904 by the local Mount Desert Island town to celebrate Champlain’s discovery 300 years earlier.

We picked off the remaining peaks on our list of places we hadn’t yet sat upon. The visibility was incredible, at least fifty miles in all directions including straight up into dark blue space. The purple, red, orange, yellow and green autumnal foliage was the best in years. We hiked inclines up to 45 degrees. We walked the bare ledges, anywhere from two to forty feet in width, some as wide as parking lots. Bright blue sky, wispy tendrils of high cirrus clouds, intercontinental jet contrails, ridges, rock ledges, red, brown and green bushes, blue ocean, reefs, breaking waves and white caps, green and barren islands, horizons where the sky meets the end of the early maritimer’s world, all compete for attention. Just stop and sit and stare. Watch time go by in the silent motion of waves and clouds.

I followed that incredible vacation with my wife with a trip to the Adirondacks with my son, four months post surgery. I was still stiff, but we knocked off a few small peaks. I seem to forget the discomfort when I’m in motion, the scenery gliding by.
My six month visit to the surgeon proved all was well. I was still stiff, but he insisted, “You are doing great, see you in six months.”

For my nine-month anniversary, call it a gestation period, my son and I went back in the Adirondacks to do some snowshoeing. I had learned a few more tricks. Standing, I could kick back my left leg and grab my foot with my hand to pull it back and stretch out the tissues around the kneecap. We were climbing a small peak that I had done before in summer. I had forgotten how steep it is. Within a half mile of the summit, the snowshoes became too slippery on the precipitous slope; you might say forward progress had become problematic. A slip could send us into free fall. Off with the snowshoes and into our crampons and ice axes! I muscled up the peak, burying my ice axe up to the hilt in the icy crust, and plunged-stepped on the way down, ready for an ice axe arrest. I haven’t done this in five years. I’ve been reborn. I’ve virtually forgotten myself, concentrating on my next move.

Suddenly, it hits me. I’m doing what I always did. I’m not wincing in pain or yelping except for joy. I want to cry, but I’m too happy. I always intended to write a story about my knee replacement adventure, but it had no ending that satisfied me, just more of the same. The conclusion just snuck up on me. It’s not an ending. It’s a beginning. I’m back in the saddle, stiff knee and all. Wait till I tell my surgeon what I’ve been up to! “Oh, by the way Doc, it’s still stiff.”

I’m sure he’ll say, “You’re doing great!”

Maybe, I do need an oilcan!

Next Week, “The Tent”, Chapter 23 of “Inside and Outside” (I’m not sure of the length of my gestation)

“Four-Legged Hiker”, Chapter 21 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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FOUR LEGGED WINTER HIKER IN THE ADIRONDACKS OF NEW YORK STATE

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, Four-Legged Hiker, Chapter 21 (gliding a foot above the floor between rows of empty desks)

Next Week, “The Tin Man”, Chapter 22 (Does he have an oil can?)

Update:

Take this sometime humorous article as a stern warning or at least educated advice if you want to extend your hiking (even walking) career. If you are used to hiking poles, you will even be ready to use them when everyone else around you is using low-technology walkers, you know the ones with tennis balls on the rear legs to allow them to slide on the floor. Of course, by then you will need rubber tips, rather than carbide tips on your hiking poles, to keep them from destroying your hardwood floors and expensive carpets. This, and the follow up story, “The Tin Man”, will give you all the incentive you need to take care of your knees, and all your other parts, so you don’t let them slow you down. It helps to have skilled orthopedic and neurosurgeons  (knee, back, hips, shoulder, hand, etc.) to help you carry on. Bowed, but not stopped. See you around the neighborhood or on the trails.

Four-Legged Hiker

I feel a speech coming on. Listen to your elders. This is a serious message from one who knows. I started this piece near the end of the 2007 winter hiking season.

As a child, I loved flying dreams, often gliding a foot above the floor between rows of empty desks in a darkened school. With age and advancing materials and hang glider technology, my flying dreams became more sophisticated, using a wing in the shape of a shield to provide lift. With a downhill run, I could turn my momentum into a dizzying climb, a stall, and yet another exhilarating plunge. I never crashed, or burned. Maybe this had to do with escapism from my underlying earlier depression (who knows), but it was loads of fun.

My next flying dreams were closer to the ground, where I belong. Although a lifelong hiker, I hate, or seriously dislike, heights and, particularly, edges. In these dreams, my arms became forelegs. I ran on all fours, effortlessly, like a man turned wolf. Somehow, gravity was cancelled, making my bounds incredibly long, only touching all my legs to the ground in preparation for the next flying leap.

Now age has moved me one step closer to my dreams. The crowning insult to my hind legs was a fourth trip over the Great Range in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State with a full pack, first helping my old mentor, Swifty, then my son, my brother and finally my good friend, Larry, become an Adirondack 46er. Loading one’s knees eccentrically, meaning braking and holding back going down hill, is the ultimate challenge and destroyer of knee cartilage. After that trip, I had the third arthroscopy on my left knee. I had graduated to a hiking pole to help with the uphill and cushion the downhill shock, but too late to undo the effects of a lifetime of wear and tear and osteo (that growing old kind of) arthritis. You out there, who turn me off at this point, will regret having done so. I’m here to extend your hiking careers and turn you into believers. The grim reaper of lateral and medial menisci awaits us all.

Following my arthroscopy, my surgeon said I was still a long way from any kind of radical procedure on my knee, but he cautioned me to avoid heavy loads, especially when going downhill. He also said, “We have to get you back out there on the trail. Can you imagine a life on the couch?” I can’t. Hiking saved my life, even though I had to give up a little cartilage in exchange. He also suggested taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication before, during and after each hike.

For the last four years, I have become an avid four-legged hiker. My arms or forelegs are a little short to reach the ground, so you won’t see any calluses on my knuckles. But, you will find me with my two hiking poles, one grasped firmly in each hand. I’ve become incredibly adept at using them, like a natural extension of my body. I virtually ski tour through the puckerbrush. They’re also great for negotiating muddy sinkholes and locating compound fracturing crevasses lurking in the under-growth on a downhill bushwhack.

After a recent snowshoe trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, with a lot of trail breaking and plunging in deep snow, my Naproxen Sodium wasn’t working. Getting down to a low seat, especially the kind you don’t want to touch with your hands, was becoming a real challenge. A simple bicycle move, lying flat on my back, was giving me constant jabs. What was I going to say to my orthopedic man this time? “I’m sorry, but I think I need another arthroscopy”? He could have knocked me over with a feather. There was nothing left to “arthroscopate.” He said something like, “You’re down to bone on bone, my friend. You need a new knee joint if you want to continue hiking. Look at the x-ray of your lower leg. It’s moved outward, knock kneed, for the lack of support.”

As of this writing, I’ve made an appointment with the knee replacement team. There is a long queue awaiting the procedure. My surgeon gave me a cortisone shot, which may have helped me a little last weekend snowshoeing with my wife. Half the effort of going uphill is from my arms. I can plunge downhill with my right leg, but can’t brake at all with the left. When I do, out comes an involuntary yelp. I have one more snowshoe trip this season planned with my son, I think mostly on the flat. After surgery, I’m going to be a four-legged walker for a while. I’ll have to remember to put the rubber tips on my hiking poles. Those carbide tips would do serious damage to the carpeting. Heed my advice my friends! If I see you out on the trail, you better be using hiking poles.

Next Week, “The Tin Man”, Chapter 22 (does he have an oil can?)