Saturday, October 18, 2014

A long, familiar walk, but always some new images

When Susan and I are training, or these days, when Susan is still recovering and my body needs to walk, we have a local walk of about ten miles. The incentive is a local bakery, five miles away. A croissant and a coffee primes us for the return. The bakery is at 300 feet elevation, we are at 1100, so mostly down for the first half, and up all the way back. This is a two or three times a week trip, so we seek out little variations, always keeping in mind the distance to the nearest restroom. That means keeping tabs on any construction going on midway either direction, and the associated porta-potty.

One of the variants goes down the bear route, where three wood sculptured bears are to be along the way.


 














This last walk was my day for yards with character or at least interest:
They continue up the driveway, representing many happy hours
We are having a drought year, so this brown metal sculpture blends right in.
A block or two further on
This route variation sent me down a commercial street.
Bakery reached, now on the return trip through different streets.
Deliberate or a forgetful child?
As I said, things are dry here, and this sign was miles from any water:
I cut off the phone number for privacy considerations
For some reason there is fresh growth in some shrubs, even though it is fall.
And finally, on the trip up the hill, nearing home, wildlife.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hot weather hiking affliction: Golfer's Vasculitis

This sock had elasticized top
Chances are, you hot weather hikers have seen something like this. That's my leg you're looking at, yesterday's view, and not much of a concern to me since I knew what it was.

The first encounter was a scare - on Susan's leg while hiking in France, and we had no idea what it was. Just it came on while hiking in very hot weather, and was right under the elasticized band of her sock, warm to the touch and puffy, but not painful. A wider, more brilliant band than you see here on my leg.

A few days later, the whole foot started swelling in a major way, all the way from toes to half way up the shin, and extremely painful. That ended up with us going to emergency, where a severe infection was diagnosed, treatable with antibiotics, but we had to cancel the trip and it took two weeks for the swelling to subside. The doctors were unable to determine point of entry for the infection. They did x-rays for hairline fractures - none. Final thought was that hiking had generated invisible cracks in the feet where some infection could have gained entry. This was all very stressful and we totally forgot about the earlier red band around her leg.

Zoom of top image

I also did a lot of Googling, and learned that the usual cause of this is a condition called Golfer's Vasculitis, according to internet comments, unknown to a lot of doctors.

A good link on the subject:
 http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Dermatology/Golfers-Vasculitis-is-more-than-just-annoying/show/543722

It is usually just on the inner side of the leg. The best treatment is avoidance, no pressure at all on the leg in the sock area during hot weather. Stop, remove socks, let leg cool, wipe with water if necessary. Wear very light un-elasticized socks if you can find them, cut or fold down the elasticized part if you have to. Once it occurs, remove socks and get out of the hot conditions and it will be gone in two or three days.

This sock was loose but pulled up
Susan has been ordered not to hike the last few months, to cure severe pain caused by strain of muscle sheathing over a large band of muscle going down the outer leg, so I've been doing hikes in the local area, to maintain conditioning (with notable lack of success). The last ten days have peaked in the 90's F each day - the normal is 60s to low seventies. One night Susan looked at my leg as it rested on the coffee table while we watched The Good Wife. "What's that?" Me: "What's what?".

That prompted me to take these pictures. The final picture is of socks. I only wear liner socks. The rightmost is an REI liner sock from about 10 years ago. It is very comfortable, and does not have an elasticized top. After 10 years it is nice and loose. Unfortunately, the dozen or so I had of these are now wearing out, and are no longer made. All liner socks now have elasticized tops. Your only choice is how elastic. I find any elasticizing at all is too much if the sock is pulled up to full height. The leftmost sock is typical and ok if I fold the top down to the top of my running shoes. The center sock is one that was severely elasticized, so I made a field repair, using my Swiss Army Knife scissors to cut through the elasticized part.

Almost forgot my conclusion. The this weeks incident of me getting the symptoms reminded me of Susan's incident in France. When the infection was occurring, we totally forgot about the two days earlier Golfer's Vasculitis incident. My current thought is that the two days of hiking with this condition created some cracks, minor wounds so that the infection got started there. If you get a GV incident, be sure to keep it clean, and try not to aggravate it further.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Galapagos - Experience of a Lifetime

I love hiking and traveling. Each trip brings experiences I want to remember forever. I'm sort of shy though, about assuming others will share the same feelings. Galapagos is the exception, and possibly Torres del Paine. If a trip to the Galapagos Islands is in your realm of possibilities, do your best to make it happen. The Galapagos part of our expedition was an organized two week trip by Wilderness Travel. We added on Otavalo and Quito, Ecuador on our own, since we had gone so far anyway.

Since we've got back, I've looked at a number of Galapagos trip offerings from various companies. There is a huge range of content, and I'll make some comments later on what to look for in a trip. But... first look at a video I put together that is just a series of images from the trip, set to music. Watch it and then decide whether to read further:

Galapagos 2014 - two weeks on the Mary Anne

Almost the entire Galapagos Islands are in the National Park, and tourism is strictly controlled to avoid damaging the resource. Each ship must have a local guide. The islands are currently divided into some 70 different visitor zones. Access to the zones are limited by time of day and number of visitors. Every tour vessel or private ship must have a permit for a specific time and day for each zone it visits. We never saw more than two other vessels at a site. Itineraries are sometimes changed at the last minute because they couldn't get a permit for the exact time and day they wanted.

Most flights are into Baltra, which is roughly in the center of the islands. From Baltra some tours do the Eastern Islands, some the Western, and some both. On our tour we lived on the boat, but there are many hotels, and some tours operate out of the hotels with day trips.

Our trip covered both the Western and Eastern Islands and we lived on the Mary Anne, a three masted barkentine. Almost every day we had short (a mile or two?) walks on the islands, snorkeling, sometimes sea kayaking, sometimes zodiac trips around the edge of the islands. I found the Eastern Islands a little more interesting if I had to choose, but some favorite moments were in the Western Islands.

Things to look for in a tour:

First, look at days on the mainland (Ecuador) vs days in the Galapagos. I've seen some with three mainland days and four Galapagos days. Get as many Galapagos days as you can. Ecuador is fine, but ordinary South America travel. Galapagos is unique. We had two mainland days, 15 Galapagos days. The current REI tour has eight days, all in the Western Islands except for the mainland airport time at Guayaquil.

Second, if you only have a week, do the Eastern Islands, and be sure the tour includes Tower (Genovesa) Island. I don't see how a hotel based tour would have time to get out to the remote islands, but don't know for sure.

Third, it is mandatory that your trip include lots of snorkeling opportunities and land hikes. One of the most impressive things is the sheer biomass of the fish in the sea. Sometimes the clarity is not great, but the numbers of fish are staggering. The occasional large shark is a sobering sight. If you cannot snorkel or hike, the zodiac cruises around the islands still allow you to see a great deal.

Last, if your airport time includes a day in Guayaquil, be sure to take in the Museum of Anthropology , right along the edge of the waterfront. Go in and straight to the back where the oldest objects are. Some magnificent pottery whistles for example.

At the end of the trip we made our own arrangements and flew to Quito and then went directly to Otavalo to the Ali Shungu lodge. This is an incredible place to stay, and will get a separate post in a day or two. After several days there, we went to Quito for two days and then flew home.

Doing Quito last was a bad idea. Going to Otavalo and Ali Shungu is an excellent way to decompress from the Galapagos experience, but Quito was a traumatic culture shock. It is a huge, busy city. Worth visiting, but do it BEFORE going to the Galapagos.