Saturday, October 23, 2010


"Destiny rarely follows the pattern we would choose for it and the legacy of death often shapes our lives in ways we could not imagine.  Death comes to everyone in their time--to some a parting, to some a release."  --M. Wylie Blanchet

time will tell what the next few hours, days, weeks, and months will bring.  i have always thought it very unfair to keep someone alive through artificial means, merely for the comfort of someone else.  the most difficult job is to choose what the patient would want when he cannot speak for himself.  it comes down to what the patient wants; not what others want for him or what others might want for themselves.  but if the patient cannot speak for himself, we end up choosing, and hoping that we have chosen wisely and as the patient wished.

and at other times, i think to myself; if the patient is going to die anyway, does it really matter if we carry out what may seem to be a futile treatment?  maybe it will make someone else feel better; even if it does not help the patient; because the other person feels then as though they have tried.

if it were me, i would not want others to be put in the position to have to choose for me.  i would write it out; spell it out for them so that there would be no doubt.  but have i done that?  the answer, quite simply, is no.  because i think we all have some difficulty facing our own mortality, especially if we are seemingly healthy.

my mom died of a long-term illness.  my father is in the midst of one.  10 years ago, my boss and mentor died in an unforeseeable accident in the mountains.  all of them i wish i could have back, in the healthy way that i felt i knew them best.

"I never had held death in contempt, though in the course of my explorations I have oftentimes felt that to meet one's death on a noble mountain, or in the heart of a glacier, would be blessed as compared to death from disease, or some shabby lowland accident.  But the best death, quick and crystal-pure, set so glaringly open before us, is hard enough to face, even though we feel gratefully sure that we have already had enough happiness for a dozen lifetimes."  --John Muir

Friday, October 22, 2010

rough week

this week has been a rough one.  my brother and i got word at the end of last week that my dad was admitted to a hospital in northern Germany while he and his girlfriend, Elke, were visiting her family.  it sounds like he had a fall on the day of their arrival.  he had been doing better and recovering, but shortly before the weekend he took a turn for the worse. 

my dad has had some health problems for several years, but has been hanging in there until now, thanks mostly to the good care and friendship that he has received from Elke.  it has been a roller-coaster week, with Dad having good days and bad days.  today was one of the better days.

Stefan and Abigail flew over to Germany yesterday, and I am delaying my start date for work in Nevada until November 8th.  i fly out to Germany on Sunday.  needless to say, i will very much miss my pups while i am gone.  they give me so much comfort everyday, but have been especially comforting this past week.  they have known that i was upset and have hung extra close to me (if that is even possible, because they are my little shadows on a daily basis.)  thankfully, i have some really great friends who are going to take care of the pups on short notice while i am gone.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Birthday Week Continues--Timp View...

i've been wanting to get up Mount Timpanogos for a while now; probably for as long as since the the first time i hiked and ran  up and down it about 12 years ago with my buddy Karl.  it's a beautiful route to one of Utah's highest peaks, at 11,749 ft.  Timpanogos is named after a perhaps fabricated fable of a Native American Princess, lying in repose after learning of the death of her lover.  the mountain itself does resemble a sleeping Indian, with a little imagination.

last weekend i went running with my friend Sue in the foothills above Salt Lake City and we talked for quite a while about how i was going back and forth on whether or not to run the Pony Express 100 out in the west desert the next week or not.  we finally came to the conclusion that:  1) if a seed of doubt exists about whether to do a race or not, it's best not to do the race and 2) i have been feeling better with every run that i've gone on since being injured, so i'd like to continue on that positive trend, and not muck anything up by attempting another 100 right now.

so we made the plan to go up and down Timp on Friday, the day of the Pony Express 100.  we started out early, probably because i was recalling the crowds that are present during the summer and especially on weekends up on the Timpanooke trail.  but it was a Friday morning in mid-October, so there were actually fewer than a dozen cars in the parking lot and only a couple of people prepping to go up the trail.

we took a couple of obligatory trailhead photos, and i dallied inside the car against the warmth of the seats while Sue got her running shoes on (it was about 40 degrees at the trailhead at 8am).  we started up the trail and promptly passed a couple of groups of people.  wow, the weather was perfect and the light was just starting to hit the high peaks.  the hills were golden as the grasses and aspen leaves were adorned in their autumn colors.  the air was crisp and magical.  we got to the upper basin and saw several tents nestled into a cozy depression and thought to ourselves, what a perfect place to camp.

as we got up higher on the mountain, the sun started to warm us, and we made our way up to the saddle.  as we popped over the saddle, the city below that had been blocked from our view by the ascent, clearly came into view and it felt as though you could reach out and touch it; although it was a good 5,000 feet below us.  i thought to myself, if this hillside were covered in snow, what an amazing descent on skis it would be (until you reached the choke at the bottom... )  we happened upon a group of young adults who were huddled and cold on the windy pass, taking a break.  they were unsure if they would attain the summit today, and we gave them some words of encouragement that they needed to stay positive and push on to the top, because only a lucky few have been granted this opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this mountain.  (indeed, they heeded our sage advise and were headed up to the summit as we were on our way down... )

just a few more minutes of climbing up through the rocky section and we would soon be at the peak.  Sue and i chatted the entire way, and picked our way through the rocks up, and up even running for a while at 11,000 feet.  we got to the small shelter on the top, and the summit was surprisingly warm, probably about 60 degrees.  the route across the rocky spine to the snowfield descent (more like an ice patch at this time of year) suddenly did not look very appealing to me.  i had been trying to talk Sue into going the alternate route out the spine and down the snowfield, and as i gazed upon the route that might be taken, my legs got shaky and an adrenaline rush sent electrical charges through them; an affliction that i like to call "jimmy-legs".

we stood on the summit for a few minutes taking in all of the peaks and ranges around us: we were at 11,749 feet above sea level.  we commented on the fact that we were the first ones to ascend the peak that day.  then we took some pictures and a short video and resolved to go down same the way we had come up.

part-way down from the saddle, we decided to take a small diversion in the route.  there was an alternate trail that went through a scree field under the cliffs and through the upper basin.  it looked quite inviting so we decided to take it.  once we got on it, we realized that it was quite steep and after encountering another group of hikers who were coming up the trail, we both slid and landed on our butts:  me first and Sue 30 seconds later (i blame the momentary loss of concentration as i acknowledged the other hikers coming up the trail... ) i landed pretty hard on one cheek, and realized that i had put a hole in my tights.  later when i got home, i realized that i had not only put a hole in my clothing, but also gouged a good amount of skin and bruised myself pretty remarkably.

after cruising down the majority of the trail at a comfortable jog, we came across an older couple, Ralph and Annie, who had both lost their spouses several years ago, but found each other.  never having been hikers, they found this love for hiking after meeting each other.  they were unsure if they would make the summit that day, but we all agreed that hiking in the beautiful mountains in the company of a good friend was the highest reward a person could ever hope to have, and far beat out sitting in the valley and eating donuts at home.

Sue and i got back to the car, and started to head home, only stopping to get Pringles and drinks at the mega-Smith's grocery store in American Fork.  what a day, what a day...  Princess Timpanogos shared her magic with us for a day and we felt so fortunate that she had chosen to do so.

if you would like to retrace our route, click here and after the page loads, click on the "play" icon in the upper left corner of the screen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Birthday on Beacon Hill

there's a peak just east of Salt Lake City officially called Mt Wire where there are some big old radio reflector panels.  i've stood between the panels before (almost 20 years ago now... ) and although one could say that radio waves are not technically supposed to affect you, wow, it really felt weird.  hard to explain, but weird.  not a feeling i would ever want to repeat.  so although i go up on the mountain often, i've never stepped between those panels again.  the peak is also called Beacon Hill by some, because there is an old, defunct airway beacon on the top.

yesterday was my birthday, my 39th!  and i couldn't think of any better way to spend it than to go up on a hill overlooking the city with my two best friends:  Franklin and Artie.  it was a gorgeous October day.  about 60 degrees and brilliant Fall sunshine.  i always remember my birthdays in Michigan being quite rainy and a little bit dreary.  i remember my friends having parties in the Spring or Summer where we played games and ran around in their yards.  my birthday parties were usually spent indoors carving pumpkins.  fun, but not outdoors.  (i gotta admit, i had some pretty good birthday parties as a kid despite the weather.)  my favorite birthday treat will always remain yellow cake with chocolate frosting and candy corn pumpkins on top.

i think the thing that i most remember about my birthdays is that the maple leaves were always in the height of turning color:  in October, the luscious green leaves progressed to brilliant red, pink, peach, orange, and finally brown.  raking up crunchy, enormous piles of maple leaves and jumping into them, giggling and gasping for air as i became engulfed in them is one of my very favorite childhood memories.  i remember trying to lay as still as possible, at the bottom of a leaf pile, and never could quite be still enough, holding my breath, to get the crinkly crunching of the leaves to stop.

this year started out a bit rough for me, but i've turned a corner.  the bleakness of Winter melted into a Spring and Summer of rejuvenation my energy through running in the mountains with my friends.  a minor Fall setback, and i've resurfaced again, enjoying the brilliance of the season.  this year has brought me so many situations that i have learned so much from.  i've learned who my true friends are and what really makes me happy.  i've learned to take the bad things a little better in stride and not to take issue with every little thing.  life is for living and learning; and for living...

Thursday, October 7, 2010


i went for a trail run with the dogs in Red Butte tonight after working in the clinic all day.  it was delightful.  i'm feeling pretty good the last few days and although i had to stop and stretch a few times to work out the kinks, i really think i'm on the mend.  i couldn't help but think what a granny i've become... sometimes i am so hard on myself.

my reasoning is, i feel like these days it's harder to bounce back from an injury.  it's taken me about three weeks to recover from my IT band, hip, and low back issues but i guess in a lifetime, three weeks is really not that long.  especially if you choose to *live* life actively instead of letting it pass you by...

so anyway, today i was running up an incline on one of my favorite loops (Roxie's loop; a four-miler with a little double climb.  each climb is about 10-15 minutes and about 300 ft elevation gain.  i named it after my departed yellow lab).  anyway, i was running this route (and when i say "run" it is more like steady forward progress, sometimes a shuffle and sometimes a jog.  it is oftentimes a power-hike on the uphill that many would feel more comfortable jogging at that pace).  i digress; i was on this run/jog/hike and as i was about to start the second climb and i heard a mountain biker coming up the trail behind me.  i pulled the dogs over to the side and let the twenty-something-year-old male pass me and the dogs.  then i put my head down and wasn't really working that hard, but moving steadily uphill.

i got to the first set of switchbacks and i could hear the bike ahead of me shifting gears and moving through the rocks (a technical little section) and thought to myself, "huh, he's not that far ahead."  i called Franklin back to me and thought that the biker didn't really need a golden retriever panting at his back wheel.  then i moved through the second set of switch backs, and onto the straight-away climb (not a steep climb, mind you) and i had caught him--the biker.  i hung on his back wheel for a little bit, and saw that he was in his granny-gear and then thought to myself, "he's going too slow.  i can take this guy."

so i passed him.  and he was surprised.  and so was i.  (he actually apologized to me as i hustled around him on the downhill side.)

i am a week away from my 39th birthday.  i have been feeling my age a little bit.  feeling really strong in some ways, but feeling kind of creaky and stiff on some days too.  i wouldn't say i'm easy on myself, physically or emotionally.  i'm pretty hard on myself in both respects, actually.  but i keep plugging along.

i turned around and smiled to the twenty-something-year-old on the mountain bike, and said, "i'm sure i'll see you on the downhill."  but honestly, it was quite a ways (about a half a mile) down the descent before i heard him coming and i pulled the dogs to the side again.  i had to smile.  this granny passed the whipper-snapper in granny gear on the climb.  this granny has still got it.  maybe i'm not such a granny after all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mt Raymond

Thayne peak as viewed from Bowman Fork


Frank near the peak of Mt Raymond

Artie on the Mt Raymond ridge

me with Gobbler's Knob

east slabs of Mt Raymond

Gobbler's Knob

Mt Raymond with fireweed
Franklin on the route to Raymond
the dogs and i went up Bowman Fork in Millcreek Canyon.  the trail leads up to Baker Pass which is situated between two peaks:  Gobbler's Knob and Mt Raymond.  Mt Raymond is likely my favorite peak ever, next to the Herzogstand in my dad's town in Germany which exists very clearly in my mind's eye.  i get to see Mt Raymond frequently:  sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, and at least once a month.  although it is my favorite peak to view from near and far, i've never been up on the actual peak of Mt Raymond, and the urge caught me to summit it today.

let me just say, that class 5 scramble with two golden retrievers is ill-advised.  after hiking a little over 4 miles and about 3000 ft of elevation gain, i got on the rocky ridge-scramble section up to the peak with the dogs, who probably would have been fine to reach the summit with their four-paw-drive, but i got a little nervous that one of them would slip and fall down one of the rocky chutes along the way.  so we turned around to head back down the ridge with only about 100 yards to go to the summit.  but as we were down-climbing the ridge, i realized that down-climbing a rocky ridge-scramble with two golden retrievers is also not a very good idea.  we bailed out into one of the east-facing chutes which ends up in Mill A Basin, a watershed area, where dogs are "not allowed".  but i decided the risk of getting crusty looks from other hikers was well worth the safer route choice.

the fall colors were amazing today.  the dogs and i had fun.  my knee, hip, and back are feeling so much better, and the dogs were just ecstatic to get out and romp around.  i'll have to summit Raymond another time sans canine, but as for this trip, i really didn't feel like it was a loss not getting to the peak.  it was a beautiful autumn day in the Wasatch.