Not Dead Yet – The Disabled Hiker

 

Start of the trail to Crab Orchard Falls.

I wave at the girl coming down the path to assure that she saw my dog, Birdie. While Birdie won’t pull me down, the large dog with her could easily pull her off the path and down the steep hill. She nods an acknowledgement. I ask her if the path is the one to the water falls. She ignores me. I see she has ear buds in so it could be she didn’t hear me. It saddens me that she missed out on the beautiful sounds of nature while she hikes.

I decide that me and Birdie will follow that path anyway. It is the likely correct path to the Crab Orchard Falls. There are signs but they are pointed in strange directions. Perhaps some prank by a youth walking by, perhaps some animal brushed against it for a scratch. There are bears and deer in the area. A sign would make a good scratcher

Birdie is being a pill today and pulling harder than ever. She woke up on the bossy side of the bed. At first I hooked her to my bag so she would have a longer leash. We didn’t walk far before it was clear that she would need to be tied around my hips so she would know who was really in charge. Also, maybe she would help me walk farther. I used an old ski pole to stay balanced. Once everything is hooked safely, we start up the hill.

Immediately I had to turn to take a photo of the fields below us. The snow had kept the skies so gray. Then the rain kept it grayer still and the fog thicker than pea soup. It was nice to have a clear day. Streisand was right, that on a clear day you can see forever. At least, the beauty of this day reaches beyond the ordinary.

Below me is the Valle Crucis Conference Center

 

When I first began having problems with balance and pain management, I was discouraged that I would have to give up hiking. I love to hike and always have. I learned how to hike with asthma and did fine for years. When my marriage broke up because of my disability I argued that “I am not dead yet!” Now that I’ve had to move and the air is cooler, that turns into a motto of sorts. Whenever I get down, I remind myself that I am not dead yet and change my attitude.

Discovering that there are tons of trails on Beech Mountain and also near my church, I’ve made up my mind that I will find a way to hike. At least if I die on a trail, I will die happy!

That being said, my goal is always to stay well. I’m learning these helpful things.

  1. It’s okay to go slow no matter what the dog says (or the humans who might hike with you). When I walk too fast my arthritis complains more. It can also trigger asthma.
  2. Stop and rest along the way. Each time I stop, I also look back the way I came to ask if I think I could make it back. When I first tried to hike with my current disabilities, I always forgot the hike back. There were times I was in so much pain or my asthma was scary because I forgot this vital piece of information – do a health check to make sure you can go back the way you came. If you are unsure, it is better to turn back and go home. The trail will be there for another day. At least you showed up! That is the first step to getting back on the trail.
  3. Be okay with people passing you. Yes, it is awkward at times. When I first hiked Waterrock Knob in Waynesville, I had to sit down on the rocks and sometime the very path where I had to walk. This meant for people in a hurry to go up or down the path, they had to watch me struggle to get up and out of the way. Yes, it was awkward for us both, but that day I knew I had to make the hike. It was the first time I tried to hike and the first Father’s Day without my dad. There were some sixth graders who passed me and were rather rude. They were sixth graders. Who cares if they laugh or make eyes? They are the sixth graders, and not us. It’s okay to let people pass you or see you sitting.
  4. This actually should be #1 on this list. I leave it in this section because it goes with today’s hike. Don’t forget your water! My meds make my mouth dry. No, I don’t want to have to take a leak while on the trail, but you don’t want to be parched either. Besides, your dog might also need a sip. Today Birdie and I were both too thirsty to keep hiking.
  5. Enjoy the close up, detailed view. We don’t know how much we miss by simply hiking up to a view and then back down to our busy lives. By stopping and sitting, catching my breath, doing a health check up, I have been amazed at the beauty that the fast hikers are missing. Slowing down and having to stop every so often has not lessened the pleasure of hiking, but heightened and deepened the joy. Don’t miss the beauty at hand.
  6. It’s okay if you don’t reach the destination. Yes, it may be disappointing, but the goal is to remain active and still get to hike. Today I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the waterfall. Although the path evened out for a time, it turned rocky and started uphill again. I stopped, looked behind me and asked if I could easily make it down. Then I looked up the hill and knew I couldn’t go on. Also, by stopping, I could feel the pain in my feet throbbing. By pausing, I could feel how labored my breathing was and realized it was too hot for me to go further without having an asthma attack. So I turned and started back down.
  7. Focus on what you DID do rather than what you couldn’t do.
  8. Remember that life is about being on a journey and that at the top is just another view. There is a view before your eyes that you can appreciate. Lichen, rocks, trees, all have interesting colors and patterns. Have you ever really looked at that beauty before? Have you ever seen so many shades of green or brown?
  9. When you get back to the start of the trail, DO congratulate yourself because the hike was hard if you had to turn back. You got the full effect for your health. AND now you know what you need to do in order to prepare to hike further the next time.
Even the start of the trail has a beautiful view.

I asked a new friend to hike some this summer on some of the trails here on Beech Mountain. I would love to hike Linville and Grandfather Mountain and I know I could not hike safely alone in those places. I make sure to tell people that I hike slowly and often have to stop. That way they are free to say no while we are not on the trail.

Hiking is about being out in nature for me more than it is about finding a view. I love views of course, but more than anything I love the sound of water flowing, birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind. Nature is good for the soul. Get out and hike, the distance doesn’t matter! Be good to your soul and get out!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”  ~ John Muir, Our National Parks

 

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A friend of mine who also battles arthritis and fibromyalgia reminded me of her cool walker that helps her still be able to hike. Check out the Trionic Walkers on FB if you need more than a cane.

 

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