Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Three weeks ago I was heading back from Colorado. Three months before that I began our little walk from Louisville, KY to Kansas City. As I made my way through the towns and cities I reflected on what we had done. On the folks we met and the places we stopped. I was in awe at the expanses we walked. Dumb struck would be good descriptive for how I felt.

I stopped at a few new friends I had met as I went back home. Many more I wanted to visit but my home was calling and bills were awaiting my attention. The ones I did see made me feel especially welcome.

Since I have been back I have busied myself with work and caught up on sleep. I have had trouble with knowing what to write next on this blog. Whether to give a detailed account of my return trip, To suggest in a polite manner that the 2300 plus people who have joined the cause may give to it also. Or to tell of my mixed feelings about being home again. I have felt like a fish still in the plastic bag getting acclimated to the water before being released.

I needed to write something to get past this quiet stage, this post travelling syndrome doldrums. This post will begin my breaking out of this silent time after the little adventure of '09.
Thanks for the help and encouragement from my many friends. Our GPS...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Suggestion Box

Before I loose you all to everyday life or clutter this blog with mine as I save and plan our next walk. I would like some ideas about what to do next. Leave your thoughts as a comment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Push to the summit , and You good people.

I awoke to the sunlight colouring the eastern sky. I was the first one in the A-frame to rise. The last to start the final three miles to the top. I had to pump some air into the World. Then, up we went.

Altitude and fatigue still were a problem. Now the rocky mountain loomed over my little speck of a world. When the trail, with bushes and tree trunks, gave way to alpine flowers and grass among the stones and boulders, I could see the small figures of the runners and hikers far off above. The thoughts from the previous days magnified. How will I get there?

A runner offered help. He was one of those who they called "the one, two, three runners". These athletes run to the summit then back to the three mile mark, up again to the summit and down to the two mile mark, up again to the summit, then back to the one mile sign and back to the top again. To say I was out-classed is an understatement. This man pushed with ease as I heaved and scrambled with the pack on my back and Nice (the dog) in tow. He helped bring the World higher and higher, patiently allowing me to stop and catch a breath. At one point when I was falling over from the leash getting tangled on my back pack, I saw the Spaniard smiling and encouraging me as he ran down past us. Finally the runner said he would help later and ran on. I was spent. I had not made it to the sign indicating two miles to the summit. I rolled upward.

A group of young men from Nebraska who were cross-country runners volunteered their help and off I went again. They were much slower than the man before, and I was able to last longer between breaks. One of the young men was like a mountain goat and held the leash as he ran along the boulders on the high side of the trail. I was amazed and grateful for the help. When others would pass, I, being the heaviest and most experienced at handling the World, would often hold the World over the edge of the trail. My young friends would answer the question of "why" which most everyone asked as they passed. I could hardly talk at that point. I was more than twice these young mens' age and carrying a pack on my back. One of them was the designated "dog walker" while the others switched-off pushing next to me where space allowed. At one point, Mr, 1-2-3 came back to help but was much too fast for even the boys, and he soon went on training like a gazelle, up the mountain. I was sometimes left holding both the leash and pushing on my own impressing myself at my ability to forge ahead with five boys bounding around me. They did let me rest often. I was out-classed by these young athletes as well. They helped me for a long while until one of the young men's parents impatiently called from the summit to "get up here!". I took a break longer than a minute then.

I looked down at the terrain they had helped climb and was grateful beyond words. Without all the help I had to the summit I would be camping on the mountain-side at thirteen thousand feet that night. We were close enough to see the overlook structure and the passing of the "cog railroad".

The last part of the climb was the "16 Golden Steps", the steepest and most narrow "switch backs" of the climb. My legs were giving out, my balance was failing, the weight of the pack made climbing the steep rocks difficult at best. The turns were so sharp, as were the rocks and boulders--not having been rolled and polished by millennium of erosion--tore holes in the fabric of the World while I, alone, had no choice but to drag it up at times. I was overwhelmed. The altitude and fatigue from the help had drained me. I was about to give in to the thought of deflating the World and honouring my Uncles 82nd birthday with a pile of canvas at the summit. Then a man came and offered to help the rest of the way and a woman took Nice (the dog) by the leash. Not long after, she offered to carry my pack; I was unable to manage the steep rocks and swing the World around the ledge without knocking myself over on the rocks. I fell several times. The trail was too narrow for such acrobatics and a pack sticking out behind me.

The man and I worked together swinging the World around boulders and up the "switch backs", holding it over the side as others still had to pass. He stayed with me as I lost my balance and my will up the "Golden steps" and then we were in sight of the top.

A few more jagged "switch backs" and we made the summit. I stopped several times and gratefully shook his hand. When we got to the top the crowd cheered and applauded. I let them know I could not have done this without help from good and friendly people like these two who helped me get to the top.

People came to ask me why and I quickly was speechless, the reality of what Nice and me had done over the last 90 days and the altitude made me a bit of a mess. I could only lower my head, raise my hand and cry for a moment while I struggled to get my composure.

I was able to get across that I had walked over 500 miles in memory of my Mother and had gotten to the summit there in honour of my Uncles 82nd birthday. A symbolic gesture to his surviving so long with diabetes.

Emotion still sweeps over me, and it is nearly seven days-to the hour since that moment.
Tomorrow is my Uncle's birthday, and I wish him well.

I hope I have done some good.

Friday, August 7, 2009

From Barr camp I rolled on. I was able to make progress without using the leash and the willow walking stick attached to the World over the broad path for awhile. Not much later I was back to holding the World by a string with one arm, and getting the world past rocks and trees, keeping it from rolling off the path with the other.

My goal the second day was to get to The "A" frame, the shelter at timber line that is three miles from the summit. The trail became ever-steeper and narrow. Throughout the day I had to let pressure out of the World as it got warm and expanded to be able to maneuver between tight places. A balance between too hard and too soft had to be maintained. Too hard, and my arms ached from the impact against the boulders and trees. Just right, and the World would roll over the obstacles like a motor-cross tire, and my shoulder could absorb the constant redirection without jarring as much.

Not knowing what lay ahead seemed to be still a good thing. Often, as I would stop and catch my breath and look at the beauty around me, I would see someone who had passed me and now up above me. Then question, "How the World would get there?" The answer was, I would get it there. The "switch backs" where hidden from below and I'd never know where they would turn back up the mountain. At those corners is where I could sometimes rest while still allowing the joggers, walkers, and hikers a way past. There were other places I stopped where I could lean the World against two trees and only have to hold the string in case a wind blew. Other times when I was gasping for air, the World would be balanced against a tree on one side and a large boulder on the other. If a hiker bumped it too hard as they passed, my rest was over and I would have to resume the climbing of obstacles, none the same as the last.

On occasion, again, I would get a helpful push or words of encouragement. Telling my purpose was hard amid my constant labored breath. A man passed at mid-day with a slight Spanish accent who helped by encouraging me when I was overwhelmed inside by the mountain. All these runners were lapping me daily. Everyone was passing and I was plodding over boulders that they easily weaved through. Any stone sticking up more than a few inches required more than a simple push. As with this Spaniard (who had a striking resemblance to Adam Sandler), when I was in need; someone was there with an uplifting comment or a simple push over a boulder before they passed.

Was I in this for the recognition of getting to the top of Pike's Peak alone? No. Without all the help we have gotten along this walk across three states, Good people giving of themselves, I don't know that we could have gotten this far. I had struggled with my pride at times during the past three months. Wanting to walk over bridges or walk through the night in rain storms. Instead of seeing the sign of a flat bed truck stopped on the middle of the bridge, or six women at the edge of an all-night rain who were offering dinner and help to safety. Our relatives and friends who live with diabetes may need some little push or encouragement, even active help. Selfish pride would have gone against a part of the spirit of my walks and there was no question this mountain was the hardest thing I had ever done. My Uncle was getting my recognition for decades of staying alive with diabetes. I was doing this for those who climb that "Mountain". None of us can climb life's mountains alone.

As I approached the timber line, the path became close and, just before I got to the A-frame shelter, I had to let so much air out of the World in order to squeeze through that I could see over the top of it. The world almost made a flopping noise as it rolled. I got to the sign that overlooked the A-frame and I tied the World to it. I took of my pack and lay in the gypsum gravel. I rocked back and forth like a bear to smooth down the protruding pebbles and massaged my aching spine before finally relaxing for the first time since almost five that morning.

Some Boy Scouts and their leader were sitting on the rocks there at the sign also, and the leader was concerned at my apparent exhaustion. He asked if I was all right. I lied and said "Yes." After they left, I made my way to the A-frame. I could see the world from down in the cradle of the mountain gully where the timber line camp was, and I was confident no one would roll-off with the world. After looping the dog cable to the foundation of the A-frame so Nice (the hound dog) wouldn't chase the colony of chipmonks chirping and calling, I watched from the large Boulders that were rounded from advancing down the mountain over the years. This was avalanche country and here the evidence was clear. Putting on my rain slicker over my sweat-wet shirt and donning my winter cap, we lay on top of the nap-sack I had recieved from a person the night before. Cradling an ear in my boot hole (my boot was the perfect pillow) I was quickly asleep.

Soon other hikers arrived for the night. Three people came with two tents, a large and a small dog, and all the comforts of outdoor living. Then two more who came and made a fire for their steaks which they shared with Nice (the dog) and me. We had a good evening talking and getting to know one another. One was a seasoned outdoors-man, the other had made the peak a goal because he had turned back as a thirteen year old at timber line because of altitude sickness. Now he knew how to control it. His review of the symptoms and regulation of breath were very helpful for my final three miles. The other shared the confidence of experience. As we bedded-down, three more men came and piled in the A-frame. Nice had a room full of warm breath to protect and absorb.

Before the last three men came, the outdoors-man shared that he had wanted to raft down rivers in an effort to raise awareness for the disease his brother has, muscular dystrophy, and wanted to know how I do it. I quickly joked and said, "You grab a hold of the string, keep it taught with one hand, and use the other to spin it, like a wheel and an axle." I told him of the unconventional way I have gone about this quest with much success. I am always learning and always am open to help. This is just a mountain, and in no way the last thing I do to help the cause of diabetes. We all can do something for what we have passion, whether the gesture is big or little. Like Miley Cyress sings, "It's the climb". Our second day on the mountain was ended.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't give up, or, "How I topped-off my summer vacation..."

I had a friend who told me of a mathematics course she had in college. She was late to class, and when she arrived the professor was lecturing on theory. On the board were two equations. She wrote them down and that night she was able to solve one, but the other seemed impossible despite hours of ciphering. The next day she got to class early and while handing the professor the assignment, told him she was only able to solve one equation and wanted to know the formula for the other. The professor told her both equations were examples without solution. He then checked her work and found she had, in fact, correctly solved the impossible. No one told her so she was able to solve it. Years later I heard the same story in a seminar being used to point out every problem has a solution, even what seems impossible to most.

I, over the past three days have attempted to tell the story of my walk up the hiking trail of Pike's Peak, the Barr Trail. My blackberry has begun to freeze-up and lose most postings except for the shortest of script. At a friend's home I stayed with, I was stopped by a problem with the computer. Every word I would write would turn to Arabic when I pressed the space key. I lost yet another post earlier today when my hostess wanted to play me a song and did not "save as draft", and hours of writing was lost. Each time the content has been different, down to the titles. I will attempt to get my story out and get it on line. I am just as curious as you may be to see what I have to say: the above story and title were not in any of my previous attempts.

Last week when I wanted to walk up the road to Pike's Peak the ranger told me I couldn't as I would impede traffic. He said "they" may let me walk the trail on the East face. I had just finished walking over five-hundred and fifty miles for diabetes in honor of my Mother and Uncle and was determined to celebrate my Uncle's birthday by reaching the top of the peak; a symbolic gesture to his achievement of managing diabetes for decades, and being there for his relations, his children, and grandchildren. Until "they" told me otherwise, I was going to get there (to the summit). Call it stubborn pride, love, dedication, or being late for class and not hearing the professor say it could not be done. I was going to get the World to the top.

Friday morning at seven I put on my backpack, unleashed the World from the back of the van, leashed Nice (the dog), and hit the first steps up the trail. I was just in front of a large group of soldiers who were at first willing to help get the world to the top but their mission did not allow the time needed to get over this mountain. After a few yards they had to pass. I would lift the World on the pole railings or the rocks and shrubs as they passed in small groups. There were also many runners training for this month's summit run and marathon who had to pass. Hikers, families, and dogs passing also. All of whom had their mission: to get to the top of the mountain. And I had to get the six-foot-wide World out of the five-and-a-half foot path with post rails on one side and rocks and shrubs on the other, out of the way for every one. This meant rolling it up the rocks or atop the rail sometimes using my head as anchor to allow them by.

No part of my task was easy. The world was twice its usual weight from the rain the night before making it very heavy. I was keeping Nice (the dog) close while dogs and their owners passed still holding the World up. Many of the runners were irritated at the obstacle on their path. The bolts on the rails gouged paint from the canvas surface of the World; as did many rock and boulders. The first three miles had railings and the World was always too wide, causing me to roll up on the top rail without losing it over the side, or to squeeze it by each set of post bolts every eight feet. The altitude kept me out of breath as many who passed asked "Why?", "What?", and "Where?"... all asking as I teetered on the edge of the rail or while I was holding the world against a bolder or tree. I could hardly breath or answer having taken less than two days to get used to the altitude.

Nothing I had done in life had been this hard. I was having doubts about getting to the summit. The World was too wide for the path, and so many people were going by. I was exhausted. I asked a man going by how far 'till the railings ended, and said I was thinking of just deflating the World and carrying it up on my back, after he had told me these railed turns went on for three miles. I'm not sure what he said to encourage me, but it was enough to calm my oxygen deprived mind and I resolved to round the third turn...

Soon I got into a steady pace of pushing and then stopping to get air, the effort with the pack, dog, and maneuvering the World through the trees, rocks, and rails had me breathing as if I were running a race. Once when a woman pushing twins in a baby carriage could pass me, the concentration was extreme, and I rolled the World on the top rails past narrow boulders and tree trunks. One false move and it would tip off the side. Occasionally a passer-by would help me in an especially hard situation. Then they would disappear up the mountain, leaving me with my ever more scarred World, my dog, and my doubt. Lack of air and constant heaving from exertion was second to the task of maneuvering the next boulder.

I was given misinformation by an old German the day before who had said he had made the ascent 600 times. He told me it was nine miles and it was more like twelve. People were running to the top and back in a few hours and hiking with packs in eight to ten hours. I had enough food, water, and dog food for a day and a half. The man had told me the Barr campsite at the half-way point had lodging and supplies. He said they had meals also. With the hard labor of moving the World up the mountain, I took to asking some hikers on the decent if they had any spare water. Though I was trying to conserve I needed more than I had brought and would have run dry by the end of the first day. At five o'clock I called my brother after having to let some air out of the World in order to force it through a group of boulders that formed a tunnel that I could not get through (A man had tried to help and just got it wedged-the World needs TLC) I asked my brother "What was I thinking?" He said "As long as you're having fun." I lied and said yes. I had many funny moments and conversations up the mountain, few fun moments. As the first day came to a close I met three young men who had passed with their husky earlier in the day. They had been bumped from their reservations at Barr camp and had decided to come back down before dark. As they walked away I asked if one of them might sell me one of their bed rolls, it was getting cold and the blanket I had would be enough, but I thought it better to be safe rather than dead. One was willing, and they also gave me their bag of dog food as well as an orange and a couple food bars. It was getting dark and thunder brought a light rain. I was a mile and a half from Barr camp with no hope of shelter when I got there. The young men's information led me to think the camp was not the bounty of help the old German had led me to think.

I camped under a pine tree and covered myself from the rain with the small 4' x 7' tarp. We quickly fell asleep. We were first awakened by two men just as it was approaching full darkness who commented I looked comfortable under my plastic and pine bed. I was. Later I was startled awake by Nice (the dog) bolting to the path into four men with head lights who were walking at night up the mountain. He had pulled from the loop of the leash out of my sleeping hand. And, having scared them thoroughly, was wagging his tail with pride and leaning against them as we talked. They also commented on my comfortable sleeping arrangement. The next wake-up call was a nice woman who was going up alone for a summit sunrise. She had seen only the glowing green eyes of Nice the dog (who apparently also looks like a mountain lion in the dark.) She had her knife drawn, but as I woke up again, she was getting the proud wag from Nice and was soon the leaning post of my attention-deprived companion. The nice woman offered to help get the World further up the mountain in the dark with the use of her head light just as a wind and rain became stronger. I thought about it, and even got to my feet, but the wind and my wobbling legs fatigued from the day sent me back under my cover. A little after four I woke finally to the darkness and began to gather my things when Nice began to growl at a light coming down the path. It was the nice woman from earlier who had been soaked from the rain and had napped awhile in the outhouse at Barr camp before heading back down. She said she would try again in a couple weeks, more rested and prepared for the ascent. She shown her light as I pumped some air into the World and got my pack loaded up, another example of our getting help just when we need it. Since beginning this journey from Kentucky months ago we have had so much help for which I can't thank people enough.

I made the mile and a half to Barr camp around seven, the air ever thinner in the darkness before dawn. My exhaustion caused me to stop several times to rest. Once I was almost falling asleep when Nice kept nudging me. He usually is content to lay there when I stop. At his urging I plodded up the dark path. A man passing offered to help at one point just as it became light. He helped for a few minutes before wishing me luck, and, like several good people on the climb, disappeared up the mountain trail. When I got to Barr camp I had coffee and leftover pancakes and garlic biscuits, rented a water filter, and filled my bottles from the stream. The folks were nice to me and I heard of the four men who were sent away in the night. Their lights shinning as they asked to come in and get warm. The woman who ran Barr camp told them to put on more clothes and move along. Wearing shorts in the alpine darkness pleading for help got them no quarter from that well seasoned hostess. I politely thanked her for the pancakes and the filter and made my way up the second half of Pike's Peak. Six miles to go.

Here I will stop until I get to another place to write and I hope to complete the telling of the climb. I have not seen my home in months and am not half the way back. Again I ask for your patience.

Until then, be well.

The climb

I just lost three hours of writing in one stoke. Please have patience...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summit update

I made it to the top after three days and it was the hardest thing I have ever done.
After some rest and when I can write from a computer and not this Blackberry I will tell the tale. I lost this Quik update once already.

Thanks for your patience.