Saturday, August 27, 2011

Listless in Seattle

The beautiful PNW.  Above i-90
Helen Keller once said "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing".  Sometimes in life though, things just don't go according to plan.  This summer, both Tiff and I succumbed to injuries.  I'm not talking an emotional trauma spurred on by one of the wettest & coldest June/July's on record.  This was the corporeal variety; which thundered down on our once salubrious road tripping bodies.  Regretfully, our demise hasn't an ounce of high drama or heroism to note.  There are  no juicy anecdotes of daring, or courage in the face of onerous and harrowing pursuits (i.e 'certain death stuff',  like climbing into an erupting volcano or doing the first roller blade descent of Priests grade).  Our woe was of the soft tissue variety.  Different mechanisms, but equally invisible and debilitating.  Mine came about at the end of June while exploring the crags of Deep Creek...

{Read: if bored now, please skip to photos.  It really won't hurt my feelings.}  -----Well, actually I wasn't really at Deep Creek, but in the Walmart parking lot in Spokane, spinning our seat swivel in the van.  One minute I was happy fully able bodied Ben, and the next, ka-blamo!  Jacked.  Literally, I merely tapped (rather mildly might I add) my left Patella on some metal part of the swivel.  It didn't hurt much.  Perhaps I said something to the affect of 'ouch'.  I thought nothing of it until I tried to lower myself out of the Van on my left knee.  ZING!!  Sharp pain like a nail being hammered smack center under my Patella wracked my senses.  In the past I'd had some similar type of pain.  Simple quad stretching and a few anti-inflammatories usually did the trick.  Time would show that this recurrence was far more serious.

Scrubbin' down the Corliss Hot Tub waiting for summer to begin.
Though I managed to climb that day and the following week at Little Si (while consuming handfulls of ib profin), it only got worse.  One week after that fateful swivel tap, I was unable to bend my knee without pain.  And, walking down stairs became a one legged activity.  Instead of the climbing adventure I'd imagined in June, my summer quickly became a physical therapy clinic, piloted by an arm chair PT rookie, myself.  Endless hours were spent pouring over knee pathology and etiology on the internet.  The more I learned, the more I knew I was stabbing in the dark with my newfound knowledge.

Basically, the knee is a bunch of bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, all mechanized by lots of muscles.  Elementary right?  Simple huh?  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?  Ligament strains, meniscus tears, osteo-arthritis, housemaids knee, tendonitis, tendonosis and bursitis to name a few.   On top of it, they actually have a nice umbrella term "patella-femoral syndrome" for a host of reasons that your knee might be experiencing anterior knee pain.  It could be a tight IT Band, Quad (esp. Rectus Femoris), over pronation (flat feet), hip flexors, glute/TFL imbalance.  Furthermore, other baffling conditions like Chondromalacia, pseudo-gout and gout were other possibilities.  The latter of these problems is caused by the over accretion of tiny calcium crystals in major joints.  This one runs ghost until fluid is drawn out of the suspect joint and tested.  As you can see, the knee is far from simple.

Ice clad Lake Serene.  July.  Tiff day hiked here.
Having a long standing history of Patellar-Femoral (and ITB) syndrome, I quickly honed in on virtually every stretch and strengthening program one could apply.  If I couldn't assay the specific imbalance or hypertonic structure, I'd use therapy Napalm, and carpet bomb it.  There were some days in the ensuing weeks that I actually clocked 2 hours per day of stretching, not to mention the exercises.  At the height of my stretching zeal, there was a two day period where my knee actually started buckling.  It was then that I realized that even stretching too much can be bad.

To draw this long winded tangent to conclusion, I'm finally on the road to recovery.  A very magnanimous friend offered pro bono therapy on my knee; and through the course of a couple weeks of electric stim and ultrasound, endless hours stretching and working on tracking stabilization, I'm almost normal, and can now walk down the stairs with two legs.  And, though I missed out on 5 weeks of climbing this summer, I'm getting back in shape; albeit slowly.  It brings me pure joy to merely dip my hand in chalk, and cram my feet into those cramped shoes, despite the appearance of a new bone growth on my right big toe.

 A certain sport project, which I started at the beginning of the summer and has at numerous points on my road to recovery set me back a week here, a week there.  Well, its almost finished, I think.  Last week I peeled off the last hard move.  I've gone back a couple times and winged off for various reasons right at the end.  So close...  This rig sits on the smaller World Wall 2 at Little Si.  Facing directly South, on sunny days it turns into an oven like mirror by 10:30am.  With our little marine climate heating up these last two weeks, showing up early has become paramount.  But, drumming up people to do dawn patrol isn't easy.  The pressure is palpable during those mornings that I realize I have only one redpoint attempt before the sun turns the corner.

What the First Ascent party Mike Orr might have worn on the FA of the Sickness
"The Sickness" was put up in the early 90's; and yes, it was born in that equivocal age of muddy ethics.  Consequently, it has numerous drilled or otherwise enhanced holds.  There are few foot options on the route, there are no rests, and most foot placements involve the same holds used by the hands.  The moves are big and burly, not my strength.  Blatantly drilled out rigs arn't usually my bag, but for some reason, probably having to do with the limited amount of harder routes around North Bend (and its historical nature), this one has sucked me in.  I'm optimistic that this relentless beast will let me summit before we set sail for Idaho.

Aside from my physical woes, I've had ample time to focus on academics this summer.  I've become a big fan of Algebra and the Khan Academy.  If you've never gone there, do:  There are countless lessons covering an eclectic variety of learning.  Before this year, it had been at least 17 years since studying Math.  In highschool I didn't care for it much.  But, all that has changed, and I just can't enough of the Quadratic Formula!  All this study paid off a couple weeks ago when I passed the math entrance tests at Cascadia Community College where I intend to start attending this Winter.   Consequently, I only have to take Statistics in addition to all the science coursework.  Psyched!

Tiff landed a temp job at Group Health in late June, and has enjoyed working in their small Eastside Oncology clinic for the summer.  She has now become an eminent starter of I-v's, though, I still won't let her practice on me, even when she gets tractor vision on my sweet forearm veins.  Our living situation has been interesting to say the least.  Though still living fully in a van, we have pin balled between my parents place in Woodinville, our friend Carrie's place in Renton, and Tiff's parents place in Lake Tapps.  We both agree that being spread out over multiple residences isn't the best in life.  It makes organization really complicated.  That said, it has been wonderful to connect with our friends and family this summer despite our injuries and other challenges.

Lest I forget, Tiffany was rear ended in early July while coming home from a day hike in the Cascades.  The belligerent party (a young girl), was most likely texting or on the phone, and claimed to just not see that traffic had completely stopped.  Of course, they had already been in stop and go for at least a mile.  She has for the last month plus been seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist several times a week.  The car was easier to fix.  It is frustrating to have your lifestyle change so abruptly, just because someone didn't pay attention.  After a seemingly endless amount of medical help, she is finally getting back to normal, and ready for the next adventure.

Phew!  Here are some shots from our summer.  Thanks for reading our blog and check in again soon for more updates.  The final phase of our trip is imminent, and we are ecstatic to be headed back out to explore the mountain states.

This is the main Pit Wall at Deep Creek.  Problem Child 14c, Motley Crux 14a and the Masochist 13b all proudly ascend this plumb buttress of basalt.  During the first day of my knee debacle, I managed all the moves on Motley Crux and was quite impressed by the movement quality.  I'll definitely be back.

Dim Sum feast with the Gilkison Clan.  Can't say enough about Seattle China Town.  YUM YUM!

The Gilkison Clan minus Tiff.  Yep, singing, smores, vino, and a great time by all.

Tiff and I representing the sweet goods of BD up at the Squamish Climbers Festival in July.  Though it was too rainy to climb, it was still nice to get back to this magical place.

                                                                    Just so CUTE!

In late July we had the opportunity to visit the Corliss Cabin on Heron Island in the South Puget Sound.  It is a private island with its own ferry.  Once there, we had a great time going for walks, paddling, and lounging in the sun.  The island also has an immense concentration of Deer.  They are literally everywhere and quite content to hang out, eat grass, and beg for food.  If ever a cougar learned to swim 1/4 mile of salt water, he, or she, would be in cougar heaven.

Tiffers, Ron & Kristy walking back to the Heron Island cabin after an invigorating boat ride.  Beautiful!

While recovering from my knee injury, we found this easy hike up the Taylor river, to Otter Falls.  It was great to get some miles under my feet despite little elevation gain to get the heart really going.  I've been starkly reminded how easy it is to take for granted the simple things in life.  In this case, a knee that bends & works normally.

You just don't know what you have till you loose it.

A few weeks back my father and I took an overnight fishing trip to the coast.  Last year my Dad sold his fishing boat to Charles Virgin in West Port.  In short notice, Mr. Virgin allowed us to come down and do some salmon fishing out in the Pacific.  Can't say how great it was to spend some quality time with one of my best friends, my Dad!  We got an early start and were soon 15 miles out in the deep blue abyss.  Whales were frolicking, the sun was out, and the Fish were feasting!  It was an excellent day out there.  All three of us limited in Chinook and Silver Salmon.  This was an especial treat for me since I hadn't been salmon fishing for almost 20 years.  Back when I was a kid my Dad would take us out on a charter out of Ilwaco.  We'd head out over mouth of the Columbia, over the bar, and out into the ocean.  I recall loosing my stomach on several occasions.  Fortunately, the water was quite calm, and I kept it together, like a salty sea-dog.

This man is a fishing MACHINE!  Hats off to you Mr. Virgin.   Get er' done.

I must profess I took this with my wife's point and shoot...totally hand held.  

Lastly, this past weekend we did our first couples backpack of the summer, to none other than the fabled Goldmyer Hot Springs.  This place is just spectacular.  After 4.5 miles spent hiking up an old logging road we crossed the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie, and sauntered into ancient groves of Cedar and Douglas Fir.  Owned by a Non profit that pays for seasonal caretakers, Goldmyer is one of the coolest hot springs venues that I've been to.  After hiking steadily uphill through gargantuan trees (some as old as 800 years), we were greeted by a narrow canyon with rushing water and the springs, nestled on a terrace.  The walls of the canyons and trees are covered with verdant moss and lichens.  There are three soaking pools.  At the top,. a cave pool works its way 20 feet back into the rock.  Depth for this pool is around 3 feet.  Once at the very rear of the cave we found a bench to recline on, and soak up the steam congregating.  The acoustics are excellent here, and I had quite a time humming, and chanting sonorous dirges.

With temperatures soaring into the 80's (sizzling hot for the PNW), Tiffany went out for some waterskiing this morning at her parents place on Lake Tapps.  The water was smooth and the early morning sunshine perfect for pictures.  Here's my lady carving up the lake.

We're now down to the final countdown till Vansion Blastoff.  Tomorrow morning I'll be getting up at 4:45, yes, the earliest I have ever gotten up to sport climb, to give a few more efforts on the project.  Not being a morning person, I find any kind of exercise pre-noon difficult.  With a little luck, a lot of coffee, and some 'game face' I'll slay this rig.  If not, I'll just let it go.  It's not going anywhere, but I am.

In 1986 I was a third grader.  Along with acid wash jeans, pegged pants, and the fabled Z28, this song rocked the airwaves.  It told us that bigger playfields, freedoms, and lunch options were in our future.  For us its time to rev the Rpm's up, pop the automated clutch, and burn diesel.

UPDATE: yesterday morning I got up at 4:45am to give some last ditch effort on the Sickness (14a) up at Si.  It was dark when my friend Clint and I arrived at the trailhead.  I can't remember ever getting up this early to sport climb.  The previous night I had slept fitfully.  Yeah, I just couldn't get that song out of my head...the one in the vid, "The Final Countdown".  After getting to the wall and warming up, and feeling a bit nervous, I gave it a go and fell off lower than my last 5 attempts.  It was demoralizing.  ----  yes, I threw a little wobbler, thinking that my probability of sending was moot.

40 minutes later I sent.  It didn't feel easy.  But, I managed to wrap my digits around that last crimp and yard myself to the top.  Gotta say, it was the perfect finish to our Seattle Summer.  Tiff picked me up in North Bend just after noon, and we're now in Idaho, and so at peace.