Author Archives: ecologicalfitness

Me-RN PhD

I don’t usually talk about my work here, which is that of a professor of nursing. Right now I’m spending some time thinking about how the meta-paradigm of nursing and ecological fitness overlap and speak to one another.

Ecological fitness can be found here.

Meta-paradigm. Well, simply stated, nursing is a discipline which privileges the person-hood in a caring manner. The domains which are often considered a priority are; person, environment, health, nursing.

So, thinking of about this upcoming hike. I’m nursing me, my family, my community and the environment itself, which is us and it

Who is this person, what is the environment he finds himself in (internally and externally)

what is his health, what might it be if he forgoes this hike, and what if he sets off? Nursing here becomes the act of caring for myself.

to my family, my students, to our patients, we owe this type of act.

I made the painting, its Floflo

preparing for the PCT

Last summer my wife, ten year old daughter and I hiked the John Muir Trail. It was a somewhat daunting and yet terribly successful experience. Through that experience each of us learned a great deal. First, that our bodies and our minds were capable of a moderate section hike in the high country, and second, that we loved it. Each of us came away feeling like we had a very special time, each learned a lot, and each, without any pressure, felt that we would do something like that again. As this summer approached I was really ambivalent about taking another hike. I didn’t want to put any pressure on my daughter. I didn’t want her to feel any pressure that this sort of thing was a requirement for our summer trip. So when she told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted to go out again, and that she wanted to do a different section of the PCT, I was cautious but excited.

We researched and found that the PCT from Tahoe to Yosemite would be beautiful, slightly lonelier and importantly not quite as difficult. This was important because this year, we had a new theme. The JMT required a bit of steely resolve, with plenty of fun interspersed. This time we knew we were totally capable, and decided that fun was the primary goal. Because passes would be lower, with less time above tree line, we knew we would feel less pressure and therefore more time to enjoy the beauty. For us, and especially for our daughter, this meant more swimming, and more building of fairy houses.

The planning:

We would hike from Donner Summit at Hwy 80 to Tuolumne Meadows at Hwy 120. Traveling along the PCT would allow easy navigation. That said, going north to south would make use of the normal guidebook a little more difficult, as it’s written South to North. Aside from that, it’s a very friendly hike, topping out just around 10,000 feet at Sonora Pass, providing three resupply stops and plenty of swimming, fishing and lounging, interspersed with an average of ten miles of hiking per day. Adding to the fun would be the fact that we would meet a friend and hike together for the last 80 miles. With layover days at South Lake Tahoe, Markleeville and Kennedy Meadows North ((two being rest days) we would be out from June 22-July 17. Overall a great time to be out, especially given this year’s drought.

 

The Gear:

Aside from new quilts (thanks to enlightened equipment for providing Adeline’s free and for making us a custom one) and inflatable sleeping pads, we didn’t need any new equipment.

Adeline

Carried:

Pack-Osprey Women’s x-small Talon 22

Enlightened equipment custom quilt (16 0z)

REI inflatable flash pad (16 0z)

Cheap puffy hooded down jacked (9 0z)

Harry Potter

Knit hat, gloves, terramar long underwear top and bottom, Marmot wind shirt (lined), lightweight rain jacket and rain pants

Worn:

Columbia stretch hiking pants, marmot thin long sleeve shirt, Merrill lightweight running shoes, Grandpas trucker cap.

Her pack is always less than 12 pounds.

 

 

Me:

So this is where I think it gets a little interesting, and where I think parents and those going out with kids might find this report useful. I’ve come to the conclusion that while my goal is ultralight (sub 10Lbs) and lightweight (sub 20 Lbs.) is doable, another definition is more realistic. This new definition is what I’m going to call “Base Mean”. This is because we all have different strengths, and part of ecological fitness is promoting the ability of each member of a group to travel together despite their different inherent abilities. Therefore, why should everyone carry the same amount? If this seems traditional, especially to every dad who has ever backpacked with his kids, it is. Still, by lower the mean base weight, everyone is having a better experience. So, what was it? Mean base weight was around 15 pounds for this trip. What was mine? That changed day to day depending upon how members of the group felt, how far, how fast etc. Still, mine was probably close to 20. Heavy, for sure. But remember, I had as a primary goal the shepherding  a 10 year old. I had zero problems with joints, had a great time and so did she. THAT was my goal.

OK, I’m clearly a little defensive about this heavy weight, but I think the point is valid, especially when you see that for a silnylon (no Cuban) gear list, we were pretty dam minimal.

I’m not going to go crazy on the gear list b/c most of it is totally normal for UL.

We don’t go out and buy the newest and lightest every season. I’m on my 8th year of a feather friends Hyperion because well, it’s a very warm, very light jacket. I could get a less warm lighter jacket of course, but I’d be out 200 bucks. The same goes for each of us. The Patagonia sweater is no longer near the lightest warm layer, but guess what, its fine.

The tarp tent rain shadow is hard to beat for weight per person for three.

We’ve had it almost 10 years and it’s going strong. I am a believer in buying the best thing once rather than changing every few months because there is a one ounce better piece of gear. In fact I consider that approach anti-ecological, cottage industry gear or not.

That said we put away our shared WM Badger and bought a custom enlightened equipment two person quilt. I think they are great! Great I say. Saved us half a pound and I think perfect for summer sierra trips.

We also upgraded from z rests to REI Flash pads. 12 years and it was time. Money well spent although they did ultimately fail and were returned for blown out baffles! Weird.

Other than that we are pretty standard UL people. Wind shirts over thin long sleeves etc. UL rain jackets which we used A LOT!

 

 

My gear

Carried:

Golite Jam 70

Tarptent Rainshadow

Custom Enlightened Equipment two person quilt (28 0z)

First aid, repair, fire kits. 16 oz. total.

Bear Vault BV 500

Fly rod, small fishing kit, light my fire mora knife, zipka, wind pants top and bottom (10oz)

TNF “rain” jacket 5 oz.

Wife

Carried

Golite Gust (12 years old and going strong (dyneema!!)

Cooking kit (we use a 1.5 liter MSR frying pan for everything. This was we can fry fish, quesadillas and water) We love it

Bear Vault BV 500

Sleeping clothes (LU top and bottom, hat, gloves, extra pair of socks, Patagonia down sweater)

This year?

As indicated, most of it all works well. Still we made a few changes because we are planning on encountering a new type of terrain. What new terrain, you ask…the desert! Yes, we are pretty serious about a thru-hike and it looks like the PCT is the goal. It’s all down to Adeline really, and for some reason she wants to do it. Neither of us are too stoked on this length hike, plus we are actually nervous. Still, let the planning commence.

Our primary preparation will not be gear, rather it will be hiking. This is because to have a chance we need to hit the desert doing 20 mpd minimum. We met a badass thru-hiker/ultra runner last year on the Tahoe PCT section who gave us some advice, thanks Leslie. She remarked that it seems people spend the offseason worrying about Cuban fiber versus sil-nylon, rather than getting stronger. Hmm, and yet here I sit typing. It’s harder to work than to move my post- holiday body.

Back to gear!

We are trying out the new six moon designs backpacks. We have fusion 50 and I have a 65. We’ll see. Very very nice and a huge step up in terms of carrying from the Jam and Gust.

Considering a pyramid because I’d like the opportunity to feel comfortable in the high desert winds. MLD supermid v HMG 4. Pretty big money and we probably just stay with our trusted rainshadow.

Walking with the older, walking with the younger

My mom came with us to the cabin of our dear friends. I have written quite a bit about bringing kids backpacking, but less about being integrated with those who are older and less, rather than more, nimble. As we sat around the outdoor table after dinner, the Yuba River running almost silent feet away, we decided to take an evening walk to the Union Pacific tracks, a mile away and four hundred feet up. Mom was reluctant but agreed and we hiked slowly from dawn to dark, past an old pioneer grave, reaching the tracks to the cheers of the younger members of our group. While her feet hurt and we had to walk slowly, it was worth it to go out together, to walk slowly, shining the flashlight against the rough road to illuminate the way. We were tired upon our return, a short two mile venture a tiny speck compared to the 230 miles we had just completed. But, no less beautiful.

Walk with those slower, faster, weaker and stronger. It feels good.

 

 

ecologically-unfit

From Completing the John Muir Trail, bottom of Mount Whitney in pure celebration to walking the final ridge of life

Celebration at the bottom

Celebration at the bottom

friendship

friendship

sickness

sickness

living and dying

living and dying

2013-07-15 12.02.292013-07-15 19.47.39
magic

magic

2013-07-15 05.40.01

Sometimes one has to do things for others or for ones life that give the distinct feeling of creating unfitness. Working a 12 hour night shift to support your family comes to mind. I spent years in the emergency department doing just that. Writing a dissertation while working full time. I did that too. Healthy? Not really. In the big picture? Maybe, who knows. I’ve helped some people through tough times. I completed a PhD and for that my students are mostly glad. I have summers off now to walk long distances with my daughter and wife. In other words that un-healthy generated some space to now do what is-healthy. There is this non-linearity to it all. The parents up late catching a few minutes together and at the crack of dawn to those fresh vocal cords. Healthy? But what parent would trade any of it? There is something then to the actual sacrifice. Something of the actual material that becomes our lives. Sacrifice of our own life, in real terms, generates what comes to define it. Sacrifice for our opinions and needs then too. Our husbands, wives, partners and friends. Each actually made in some way of a sacrificial material that is un-healthy. At least to us, to me, to you. That ego body necessarily takes a hit for the greater good. So now I’m staying up nights with my dying father. Sitting with him, holding his hands as he teeters across the floor. Heartbroken cannot be healthy. Shattered cannot be healthy. Yet. The broader, whole of who I am is expanded in that heartbreak. The narrow me wants so badly to run away, to a wide desert void of responsibility. To run up and over the  other side of mountains. Perhaps I’ll have that chance again, and then again I may not. Ecological fitness must be a state of mind. It has to survive sitting up all night holding the one you love. It has to survive ones own demise.

Carrying wood with kids

 

My brother in-law and I were having a nice time carrying recycled 1o foot tongue and groove 2×6 flooring up to my house. As usual I was thinking about how this was an opportunity for ecological fitness. Why not, as our backs were aching, our hearts pounding, sweat was dripping and we were having fun. I thought it would end at us. Two brothers working hard together to improve our family life. In this case a new-old floor to replace the fiberboard which had been there too long. But the kids added another dimension. Five kids under five were running around on the deck and playing, swinging on the apple tree and generally having a five under five type of time. So there we were having our heady conversation when two short people pokee their heads around the corner and ask what we are doing. “Carrying these beams” I told them” At that moment I realized an opportunity in line with the type of fitness I’m trying to describe. They asked to help, and I jumped on the opportunity. Although I did think “darn, this is going to slow things down a bit”. I told the two of them to follow me and we together we could move a ten foot long 2×8 tongue and groove fir floor board. They followed, down the slope and over the hand dug stairs. I picked up one end of the board, “you two get this end”. I looked up. I saw two backs and a cowlick disappearing back around the stack of lumber. “we don’t want to actually” There is another type of flexibility, one that promotes an interest, that emphasizes what is important, but that at the same time recognizes that everyone has their own pace. I had asked too much of them. I wanted them to be tougher than they were capable of being. The reality was that I didn’t need them to help, and perhaps they new this. I kept working and a half an hour latter one of them was back, this time with another friend, a girl who is my cousins daughter. They asked what we were doing and again, we told them as we were headed back down to the bridge to get more lumber. “Would you like to come and help I asked”. They nodded and began to bounce down the trail. We walked more slowly, two grown men now quieter, a bit less pontificating. At the bottom I picked out two nice pieces of firewood for each of them to carry. ” Bring this to Adeline’s grandma’s house OK” It was a slightly closer but still challenging destination. They made of, quit proud of helping I could see. “I’ll show you were to go” I heard the girl tell the little boy as they passed above us on the trail.

enLIGHTened equipment custom quilt

below Whitney in Helium enLIGHTened custom 2enLIGHTened equipment custom quilt

New custom made quilt for 9 year old thru-hiker

After hiking the JMT with our 9 year old we decided to make a few gear adjustments as one might expect. She slept in an adult Marmot Helium while we shared a Westen Mountaineering Badger. Both were good options, utilized gear we already had, and kept us plenty warm. We figure for the three of us our sleeping bag weight was about 4.5 Lbl, more or less. Unfortunately we saved weight on crappy worn out z-rests. This year (Tahoe to Yosemite PCT section) we would like to be at least as warm, more comfortable and perhaps save some weight. I contacted enLIGHTened equipment about some possibilities. First, could he replicate my Badger in size and fill with no hood (we wear hats) and no zipper. After a little back and forth, the answer was yes! We now have a 28 oz two person quilt which, while not quite as warm as the Badger (20 as opposed to 15 degree) should be perfect. I have been sleeping in it all winter and its amazing!
My next question. Might he be willing to make a custom quilt for a tough little 9 year old. Again, the answer was yes! In fact he offered to supply it to her for free if we gave him feedback. His rationale was that he needed to beta test a new model anyway. He is basically just a rad dude and willing to see that a 9 year old thru-hiker is a unique person. It weighs exactly 16 oz, is an easy 20 degree quilt and she loves it. It has spent the winter cloistered in a thick canvas sack protecting it from the cats but is getting ready to undergo some testing. The workmanship is impeccable. I believe it is filled with water resistant 800-900 fill down. The fabric crazy light, .8 oz or something. We are more into using gear than nerding out about a few oz. (I’m lying). Anyway, the quilt is great and a huge thank you to enLIGHTened equipment for being the only company to fully develop kid specific ultra light gear. I can’t say enough about the company and the gear.

do your own work…if you can

It’s great to hire people to help you out. There are things for each of us around which the learning curve, tools, time interests or stakes require or at least support the seeking of help. Sewing sucks for most people, and we hire all kinds of people to do that now. Thankfully cars are now all Toyotas (mine) except this one Mini-Cooper blog so they don’t even need work. You get the picture.   OK. Still there is something cool about doing your own work, and doing it with people you love. Something that brings integrity back from the cliff it always seems to have just plummeted over. And in my America anyway, it feels that the road of daily life is a windy one held fast by a thin ribbon of railing.

The kitchen, dunt dunt dummmmm. Or something like that. Even considering this makeover evokes worry in me. What can stand in more for middle age, a tired marriage, banality, bourgeois values, and surplus money (that does not exist) more than this home improvement endeavor? Moving along.

My kitchen sucked. Anyone who has seen it would at least for the most part agree. The underside of the sink, a green sheet metal job topped with a beautiful white enameled 1970’s sink, was rotted out. Literally, the inside of the cabinet looked like the fender-wells of an International harvester snowplow sitting in a field in Minnesota except that it was stinkier.  There was no counter space…there was no light…it was a literal dungeon…You see. No matter how bad a kitchen is, talking about the remodel makes you into a privileged prick. I hade a kitchen, I had more food than I ever needed, I had hot water and refrigeration. Neither of which my childhood “kitchen” could claim.

Anyway, back to work. I have the best friends. My best friends are two orders of magnitude handier, three orders more successful and one point five more generous than me. OK. Sucking up done. They decided to remodel their kitchen, and with the application of the above everything had to go. Big, tall, light tasteful…DIY (with actual skill)…fast. “I want your cabinets” Again the above indicates a simple nod in the affirmative. “You better be here when he takes them out”, from friend, “or he’ll break ’em”

So I live in the most difficult house to remodel that is not just under the Mongolian Steppes. Yes, the most difficulty house to remodel outside of Afghanistan. Ok, remember that I’m a privileged-bourgeois-whiner living in the bay area. But really, my house is separated from a road by a bit more than you have ever seen. I live in a cabin…in the woods…up a trail, as my mom always tells her doctors. She feels that is important for them to know. It is and its true. Thanks mom.

So back to the kitchen. really, I’m not the one in town who should be taking old wood cabinets. Really it should be someone who has a new fangled “driveway”, whatever that is, leading to their house.

But I land on top of the list because I have awesome best friends, and because I’m weird enough to actually use someone’s old cabinets.

Use old things. Use old things. The cabinets were beautiful and simple, not fancy. No metal sliders, no rain forest wood. Not even a speck of teak dammit. Just beautiful and old.

My friends son is young and strong.

We carried the cabinets.

My friends can build anything.

I helped him install them.

My friend answers the phone.

He told me what to do…and I did what he said.

I trimmed out the new windows. Light!

With the help of my brother in law and my wife, a new door let in even more light.

She painted the old cabinets, meticulously bringing them back to their pre-demo luster.

Finally, we hired experts to install a counter top.

It felt good to do what we did.

It felt good to do what we could.

It felt good to let people help us.

It felt good to hire people to do what we didn’t or couldn’t do.