November 2, 2014

Hunter Mountain via the Spruceton Trail - Nov 2014

November 2, 2014
Had a wonderful outing on Hunter Mountain with my good friend Gary and his wife Trisha. We drove down to the Catskills and climbed right up to meet winter. Yep, in some areas, winter has definitely arrived!

Our mountain for the day. On our drive down, as we got deeper into the Catskills, we could see snow on the mountaintops and wondered how our chosen trail would be.

Yikes. Lots of snow sightings in the area. Good thing I wore and brought warm clothes!

Getting set to go - 3.5 miles up 1945' to the fire tower on the summit.

We took Spruceton Trail up the old fire tower jeep road, which meant a wide and relatively smooth route. But plenty steep.

A pretty view along the trek up. 

Arrival at the summit.  Strong winds kept blowing through, whipping snow from the trees across our faces. As soon as we got there, we had to turn back around away from a huge wind gust.

Fire tower and ranger cabin. Thermometer on the cabin's porch showed a balmy 20F or so up there at 4,040', not taking into account the wind.


 Gary and me in front of the cabin during a calm spell.

 We ventured up a couple stories of the fire tower to see the area mountains. We didn't go up farther because it was so cold. Gary said when the gales came through, it almost felt as if we were going to be blown over, and I agreed.


Me, feeling a bit cold but very happy!

There was a ring of lovely little snow-covered evergreens around the summit.  Here are some of them from the tower.

Gary enjoying his lunch, with the word "enjoying" being used loosely.
I didn't even get mine out.

Heading back down the lonely trail. Ours were the only footprints on it today.

Back down at the bottom, close to the parking lot,
where most of the snow on the trail had melted. What a fun outing!!

October 27, 2014

A Revamp

I haven't posted on this blog in forever but I think I'm going to start again - with a revised blog name and all.  I'm surprised it gets any hits but since it does, I'm really hoping that the info regarding my awful digestive/colitis/autoimmune reaction issue has helped others.  Since I'm in good shape as far as that is concerned, I'm going to share more general - and typically more fun - info on here.  And hopefully some people will find those posts helpful too.  I know I'm frequently doing searches on the internet in hopes of gleaning helpful info from other peoples' experiences and knowledge, so I'm hoping to give back in that regard.  :D

October 26, 2014

Plotterkill Preserve - October 2014

October 26, 2014
My friend Nancy and I decided to spend some girl-time together at Plotterkill Preserve out in Rotterdam, NY.  The start was nice and smooth, and we decided to take the red looping trail, a trail neither of us had taken before but that looked pretty straight-forward and simple on the map posted by the trailhead.

I knew from my own and others' experiences, the trail marking here isn't particularly good.  We followed the little paint marks on the trees pretty well for a while and then found ourselves like this - crab walking along 45 degree angled slick-as-hell terrain.  Once we got ourselves down, around, and re-oriented, we saw that there was a set of stairs we could have conveniently taken.  Hmmm.

 We're good sports so we easily laughed it off and kept going, to this lovely spot.  You might notice my hand is clenched.

In hindsight, I'm guessing it might be because we were on the edge of a remarkably steep ledge.  Here's looking down from where we were standing.

Taking a little break to enjoy this sweet little waterfall. 

The pretty pathetic markers seemed to appear and disappear randomly. We were seeing red, yellow, and white ones, and none of them seemed to provide a clear path. We hadn't even seen a white trail on the map. We decided to go down, down, down this steep trench because we wanted to keep going and to see the falls, and I recalled our going down a steep trench to the creek on an earlier visit. This is when Nancy announced that she had become an official tree hugger. When we got down there, we remarkably saw a red trail blaze. We couldn't believe it! Until we realized "a" was the key word and we couldn't see any other ones in any direction.

We saw people on the opposite side and asked if they had come from a trail. Nope, they had gotten there the hard way - up and down and criss-crossing the creek. So we figured we'd go with it and criss-cross our way upstream, which we knew headed towards the bridge we had initially gone across.

Yay! We ended up at the bottom of a beautiful falls. Ran into two other folks. Had they come from a trail? Nope, but they had a plan for getting out and back to their vehicle, which was at a different parking lot than ours. Didn't work that well for them as they returned 10-15 minutes later to try a new plan.

 Our spectacular plan? To scale up the side of the gorge to the trail we knew was along the top. We figured that if we could successfully make it up the slippery mud section, we could then pull ourselves up using tree roots and rock corners as leverage until we traversed over to the rock shelves which would be relatively easy to get up. Somehow, it worked, and we made it. <sigh of relief> 

What the hell is this?! Oh, we made it to the top of *that* falls but not all the way up, and we didn't have it in us at the moment to continue scaling up the gorge wall. Guess we'll keep heading upstream, criss-crossing our way across the creek as needed any way we can. . .

until we came to the next, beautiful, bigger falls! You might note how steep, again, the sides are. <deep breath> We could attempt to retrace all that we had done (which would have required us to dangerously go back down the gorge wall back by the other falls) or we could suck it up and scale up this part of the gorge.

This time we'll be going up the other side, which we knew had a blue trail at the top heading to our parking lot. I had been on the blue trail before, knew where it was, and knew just where it went. Choose your spot carefully for a steep, slippery experience.

Did I mention it was very steep and slippery? We held tightly onto anything we could find that didn't move. Surprisingly (or maybe not) a lot of things moved and slid, sometimes pretty much all the way down. Those things, we tried hard to avoid.

Every so often, we would hold onto and hug a tree tightly, take a few deep breaths, share a laugh about what we were doing, give each other words of encouragement, and plot a course for the next section of the climb up. 

I suppose it's obvious that we made it up. And we immediately came upon the blue trail that would lead us home. Phew! Here's a look down from where we came on this side. We hugged, we high-fived, we cheered for our combined awesomeness.

On the way out, we looked at the trail map again and noticed this statement that was posted about the red trail. You don't say, eh?!! If nothing else, with all of the energy we expended, we'll get a good night's sleep.

May 26, 2013

Brrrr. . . it's cold out there!

Things to do on a super soggy and unseasonably cold long weekend - delve into your next armchair adventurer book, spend countless hours getting your next vacation's itinerary well under way, remove every single item from your refrigerator and freezer to do a deep cleaning and reorganization, remove all of the camping totes from the closet and go through each and every item in each and every tote, watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (again), build a huge pile of items to bring out to the road for a Craig's List Curb Alert as soon as the rain passes, even more greatly than usual enjoy Body Sensing and Yoga Nidra knowing you don't have to bust your butt later in the day getting ready for work and school the next morning.  :)

Things to NOT do on a super soggy and unseasonably cold long weekend - dust, clean the sinks, scrub the toilets, shine the showers, vacuum, change sheets, wash clothes.  :))

May 12, 2013

I admit it. . .

I hate Mother's Day.  If I could abolish it, I would - because frankly, it seems to me like it's some sort of cruel joke.  Every single Mother's Day, I get to do all of my typical "chores".  There's no celebration, there's no day off, there's never been a breakfast in bed or even a special trip out for breakfast.  Nope.  I get up and make breakfast for others, clean up, do laundry, get groceries (and carry them all in and put them away without help), pick up the house, prepare food for the upcoming week, do some more laundry, make dinner, clean up again, etc.  

I'm going to say it.  

It sucks.  It really truly sucks. 

Should I be thankful that I have this blessed opportunity to be a mom?  Sure, and in general I am.  But on one stinkin' day of the year, it sure would be nice if my family were thankful for what I do day in and day out - and actually showed it.  

The only good thing about it used to be talking to my own mom on the telephone, and this is the third year now I haven't been able to do that.  

So there you have it.  All this day is to me now is a very painful reminder that my mother is no longer here and a reminder of how many unappreciated tasks I still have to attend to.  Which I'm going to go do right now.

May 4, 2013

My other autoimmune ailment. . .

Guttate Psoriasis.


Ugh.  That's one of the most non-disturbing pictures I was able to find of the lesions, and I can still hardly stand to look at it.  Brings back a lot of terrible memories.  Guttate is from the Latin word mean "drop", and apparently it was decided to call this type of psoriasis "guttate" because someone (or someones) a long time ago thought it looked like the person was out in the rain and got a lesion where every drop of water fell.  Something like that anyway.

One to three percent of the population has some form of psoriasis, and guttate is a rare form of psoriasis, with only about 2% of psoriasis "sufferers" having this particular type.  Most of us are familiar with the more common chronic plaque psoriasis.  This is the same general disease manifested quite differently.  The lesions aren't as thick and large but tend to be much more widespread on the body.  The plaque lesions are usually in patches; the guttate lesions are in "drops".  The plaques lesions tend to be chronic; the guttate lesions tend to appear as acute outbreaks.

While it can certainly be considered a skin disease, it's actually an autoimmune disorder.  The immune system gets messed up and starts having the body produce new skin at a much faster rate than the body can shed the old skin, and the new skin stacks up on itself causing lesions.  
 ". . . special white blood cells called T-cells become overactive. These T-cells "attack" the skin and set off a cascade of events that make the skin cells multiply so fast they start to stack up on the surface of the skin. Normal skin cells form, mature, then are sloughed off every 30 days. But in psoriasis the skin goes through this whole process in 3-6 days." (
 Sounds nice, huh?  Yeah.

I experienced my first acute outbreak nearly eight years ago.  At first, I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something in the shampoo I was using because I started to get itchy sores on my head.  I didn't think much of it, assuming it would self-correct after discontinuing use of the shampoo.  It didn't.  I ended up having lesions covering almost my entire body, head to toe.  The ones all over my head started to bleed.  To categorize it as awful would be quite an understatement.  It was hell. 

Unfortunately, that first case took a good six months to get under control, and I was MISERABLE.  Every night, I would lie awake feeling the terribleness of new lesions forming.  Literally, in the morning, I knew without even looking where I had new lesions.  My life consisted of cool vinegar soaks, coal tar oil baths, severe headaches from the strong vinegar and coal tar smells, and multiple times a day slathering my whole body with sticky icky steroid gel.  I hated going out and when I did, I covered as much of my body up as I could.  I now have a generous supply of turtlenecks.  

At some point, I started going to the dermatologist's office five times a week for UV therapy.  (It's kind-of like a megastrong tanning unit with none of the "harmful" rays blocked, and the light is SO strong I was never able to stay in the "box" for longer than 1 1/2 minutes a visit without burning.)  Any slight irritation or stress to my body (even being in too warm of a room) would cause the lesions to become more inflamed and irritated.  I remember at one point going to the dermatologist and his breathing an audible sigh of relief when he saw me.  He said he had been worrying all morning and was nervous about seeing my condition; he was so relieved that I was actually starting to show some improvement.  I had some mixed feelings that day - thrilled I WAS starting to show improvement but sad that even my doctor had been nervous about looking at me.  :(

Quick, funny story.  The first time I got my steroid gel, the dermatologist prescribed a large quantity for me.  When I went to pick it up, the dermatologist was quiet for a moment and then looked up at me from his glasses.  He said slowly "this is a very big tub of steroid treatment".  Without hesitation, I said "that's good because I have a *very* big problem".  Hee hee.  I always smile when I recall that exchange.

Definitely the first outbreak was the worst, but I've had a couple other pretty bad ones since then as well.  The big difference is now that I'm aware of my own triggers and always keep an eye open for the very earliest signs, I feel like I have some control over it and at any sign of lesions whatsoever, I start treatment immediately.  It doesn't get resolved immediately, unfortunately, because the lesions seem to need to go through some sort of full cycle (which takes at least a month), but these days I'm pretty adept at keeping it under control.  At one point, my dermatologist and I had talked with each other and with my health insurance company about installing a medical UV treatment "box" in my home (that's how frequently I've needed to go to his office for treatment!), but so far, so good.  Things haven't gotten *that* bad *that* regularly.

Instead, nowadays I spent quite a bit of time sunbathing.  With no sunscreen.  At first, I thought my dermatologist had lost his mind when he suggested I do that because we are always told to use sunscreen, limit our time in the sun, keep our skin covered, etc.  I was, of course, concerned about getting skin cancer.  He said that the sun's damaging effect on most people is that it thins the skin, which is precisely what my body needs because it produces too much skin.  He said that instead of the sun's causing my skin to become abnormal, that I'm so far out on the other end of the spectrum it brings my skin back to normal.  So during the warmer, sunny months I'm pretty much fine because I make sure to spend a lot of time in the sun.  Every year, though, I muscle my way through the last half of winter, becoming increasingly desperate for strong sunshine as I slowly have to work harder and harder to keep this beast at bay.  If you see someone downtown laying out in public view in a small 2-piece bathing suit during lunchtime on the year's first real warm days, there's a good chance that's me.  Yep, I become that desperate.  If in the future, the struggle to make it through the winter becomes overly difficult, I'll probably end up moving to a warmer climate just so I can have enough sun year round.

Why am I mentioning all of this now?  Well, because after the trip to DC that proved to be somewhat of a stress to my system, I had an acute outbreak of the guttate psoriasis covering my entire back.  Remember I came home, slept a ton of hours, and then could barely function the next day?  It was that next morning I woke up with it, and it was quite depressing.  Being the end of winter, I was already fussing with a few relatively mild lesions starting to make their appearance, but the stress on my body of the trip apparently put those T-cells over the edge.  

I doubt it's a coincidence that I have both of these guttate psoriasis and colitis issues, but I'm very intrigued about how they may be related.  Is there an actual connection between them or is my immune system just so inherently messed up that I'm going to keep becoming inflicted with weird ailments and having to figure out ways to deal with them?  It's one of my top "I wonder. . . " questions.

April 24, 2013

We have a winner!

We went down to NYC for a couple of nights to hang out a little bit, go on a tour of the Brookdale Dorm, and attend the Macaulay at Hunter Accepted Students Day. It was, eee, okay. The dorm was in worse shape than we had anticipated, and since it's scheduled to be demolished in two years, I'm assuming they're not going to be worrying about it too much - so the way it is now is likely as good as it'll get. We loved *everything* Macaulay, but we didn't quite love much about Hunter. The general facilities are just a bit sad looking, and we were disappointed (and surprised) that they didn't show us ANY of the academic facilities. We didn't get to see a single classroom, they brought us to and talked to us outside of the library door but wouldn't let us even look in, and when asked even about the Macaulay Lounge on campus we were told it was "under construction" and that we couldn't see it. We were concerned. Hmmm. . . They also didn't have department rep areas at the event, so we didn't get to talk with any of the professors he would theoretically be taking classes with. We did like all of the students we heard from and met. They were very nice, and I kept thinking what good role models they would be for Julian. Unfortunately, though, he didn't feel any real connection to them and I concur that he seemed very "different" than the rest of the group. Not that I don't think of Julian as a good kid, but they just all seemed like REALLY good kids in a different sort of way (if that makes any sense). We happened to spend some time talking to the Macaulay advisor who interviewed Julian, and she was very sweet, so that was nice. 

So the next week, we had two visits scheduled - one up in Saratoga Springs at Skidmore (Thursday) and one down in Annandale-on-Hudson at Bard (Saturday). 

On Wednesday night, completely out of the blue, Julian and I each got an e-mail from University of Vermont (where he had back in December been accepted and invited to join the Honors College) saying the president and senior staff had committed more merit money to a select group of first year students and that Julian had been selected for one of the additional awards. Oh my goodness - what a surprise! I knew I was supposed to be delighted, but I actually felt like crying because the process was already overwhelming enough without this twist thrown in at the 11th hour. We loved UVM but it was just too expensive, the most expensive of the entire bunch, so we had put it in the "definite no" bucket. With the extra merit money, though, the cost was brought down right in between Skidmore and Bard. They only had one more Accepted Students Day planned - for FRIDAY! - so we signed up last-minute for it! 

On Thursday, we went up to Skidmore, and Julian didn't like it at all - thought it felt "too refined". I thought it seemed like a pretty pleasant place, but he put it at the bottom of the list (not of just the finalists but of ALL the colleges). Yikes! 

We went home, quickly packed, and headed up to Burlington - didn't get in until after 10 PM and were at UVM's registration at 8 AM the next morning. (Starting to feel pretty tired by this point!) Spent the day there and we loved it as much as the first time we visited. The faculty were terrific - very bright but seemingly laid back at the same time. We got to spend almost an hour in the Philosophy Department with two of the professors, and Julian really liked them a lot. We also spent some time learning about the Honors College and what that all entailed, and we liked that too. We ate in the little cafe nearest where the honors kids live, and he was thrilled to be able to order a fresh made-to-order fruit smoothie and to pick up a few locally-made baked goods to bring home for his siblings. We also walked into the downtown area, which is a real delight. (And of course, being sandwiched in between the Adirondack Mountains on the west and the Green Mountains on the east right next to Lake Champlain doesn't hurt!) 

We drove home after the UVM events and were ready to hit the road again at 8 AM the next morning to visit Bard. (I was seriously starting to wonder if this madness really did have an end!) It was so sad. We had absolutely LOVED Bard when we visited in the fall, but we weren't feeling so much love on this second visit. They had a faculty panel, and we also got to meet personally with a couple philosophy and music professors. They all seemed nice enough and were clearly very bright, but there was just an air of intellectual arrogance that we neither appreciated nor enjoyed. Julian is totally laid back and extremely modest, and that is something he doesn't identify with at all. Halfway through the day, he said that we may as well go home because he had decided he wanted to attend UVM!! 

Can you believe that story?! It's like we went full circle. He'll be attending a college we loved but had definitely ruled out due to cost. UVM was the first campus we visited, the first he applied to, and the first one to accept him! I cannot believe it, but it feels very right. I definitely think he's making the best decision, but it's just so bizarre how we ended up at it!