American Long Distance Hiking Association - West

  • 02 Aug 2017 5:27 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    Hiker Talk

    Charles Baker, ALDHAWest Gazette Editor

    This segment of the Gazette, allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question which they are presented. Answers should be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch... If you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please send it to:

    Today's question: "What does the acronym “LNT” stand for?"

    Lawton “Disco” Grinter – “Late Night Tramper”

    Mike “Hikermiker” Cunningham – “Leave No Trace”

    Jon “Recon” Booth – “Love (my) Nasty Trowel”

  • 25 Jul 2017 8:42 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    When I Hike Alone, I Am Truly Free
    Amanda “Not-a-Chance” Timeoni

    Person A: “Are you going to hike next year?”

    Person B: “No, being out there all by myself for so long earlier this Year gave me perspective on things. Like I told you before, happiness is only real when shared… Going out there all by myself just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It just feels worthless.”

    Some long-distance hikers have a hard time hiking alone because it invokes feelings of loneliness. Feeling lonely is depressing. You might want to ask yourself “what is the cause of your loneliness?”  For Person B, feeling lonely is correlated with their belief that happiness is only real when shared.  That’s what Christopher McCandless wrote before he died in the Alaskan wilderness, after spending several days in solitude. Mind you; he wrote that knowing he’d never see another human being again.

    If you take what he says literally, it makes no sense; for example, when I think to myself “I am happy,” that proposition is true and it exists. I don’t need to share it with someone else for it to be real. Perhaps what he said can be interpreted as:  A person cannot truly be happy without interpersonal relationships. I can imagine a life where only I exist, and that life lacks love and friendship; things that contribute to happiness. When I embark on a long-distance hike alone, I expect to return to my interpersonal relationships where I experience love and friendship, and so, my happiness remains static. It’s not as if I have lost these things when I don’t have them in every moment of my life. Perhaps someone who lacks love and friendship in their normal life will feel less fulfilled by hiking alone.

    While I think love and friendship are necessary components to total happiness, they aren’t sufficient. Other things like having good health, and living in a stable economy also contribute to happiness. Another thing which contributes to happiness is freedom to be autonomous, and hiking alone is a good example of that.

    Hiking with others does not guarantee happiness. I have found that attachments are maintained only at the cost of great personal compromise. When I hike, my happiness is measured by how much freedom I have to decide on things like - how far I want to go, how fast, when I want to take a break and for how long, etc. It is very difficult to find someone whow ants to hike the same way as you.

    So why do I hike alone? Because to do so, I am truly free.  When I am free, I feel happy.

  • 19 Jul 2017 5:08 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Matt Tucceri, of STABIL, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Matt a few questions about Stabil so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Matt, please leave a comment.

    1. Please give a brief description of your company.  What products do you sell?  How did you decide which products to specialize in?  How long have you been doing this?

    “STABIL specializes in ice traction products all made in Maine for the past 25 years.”

    Matt Tucceri

    2. Are there products you used to sell, but no longer do?  How did you make this decision?

    “We have altered and refined products over the years, and have discontinued our ‘Hike’ product this year as the ‘HIKE XP’ will be taking its place.”

    Hiker XT traction

    3. Who do you see as your market?  How do you reach these folks?

    “Our market is very broad. We cater to all sorts from the 85-year-old who walks to the mail box, to the long distance thru hiker who relies on our traction products to safely complete any trail they are on.”

    4. Did you start as a DIYer?  How did you make the leap to starting a gear business?

    “We started by catering to people who use our products while working (USPS carriers, Linemen, construction workers) We realized that the people who use our products for work were taking them home on the weekends so they could get outside and enjoy the outdoors on their leisure time.”

    5. If you were to play “futurist” in your industry, what would you predict?  Materials, design, market, etc.

    “I think that the goal here is to always find something that is better, lighter, and stronger. If you don’t strive for these goals you will quickly become obsolete.”

    6. Do the big gear companies pose a risk to cottage manufacturers? E.g., can the big companies control the availability of materials or limit retail space opportunities?

    “We use all proprietary materials, designs, and manufacture in the USA to overcome a lot of these foreseeable issues.”

    7. Do you see the possibility (opportunity and/or threat) that the big gear makers try to buy up the cottage gear makers like we see happening in the craft beer space?

    “Of course, there is always that possibility. However, if a company is true to its roots and mission, they will persevere and people will always desire a brand that caters to their specific needs.”

    8. What is your goal for your company?  How big do you want to be? Are there new product lines you would like to be in? 

    “Since we do not sell into big box stores and only cater to better independent retailers our growth is somewhat limited. With that being said, a company must always look to grow and expand their brand. We feel there are still plenty of great retailers which we have not tapped into yet. That is where we are putting our focus, and drive.”

    9. What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product…expand the US market, Europe, Asia?  How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?

    “Canada. Outside of the United States, this has the largest growth potential for our company.”

    10. What do you think was the smartest move you have made?  Conversely, what was the biggest mistake you have made?

    “Smartest: We have made tremendous strides in captivating and developing our online presence. Sales continue to grow in this market and attention to this channel will only help improve our brand awareness in the future.

    Mistakes: Not capitalizing and developing a strong social media presence early on. We have now developed our platforms and brand ambassador programs. As a small company this becomes difficult to dedicate the appropriate time and energy on this vital resource.”

    11. Have you found that customers outside the US are skeptical of ultralight/lightweight clothing/gear?

    “No, our only issues overseas are knockoffs of our products which are extremely difficult to enforce.”

    12. Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?

    “We are involved in a number of organizations including the National Park foundation, as well as local and regional agencies that work to preserve and promote the healthy use of these spaces.”

    13. Favorite beer?

     “Personally: Coors Light”
    “As a company: Consensus seems to be a good IPA, or Pale Ale.”

    14. Favorite hike?

     “Thus far: Mt. Washington in early spring.”

    Stride poles on Mt. Washington

    15. Where will you go on your next vacation?

     “Mexico baby!”

    16. Is there anything about your company that you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered yet?

    “Our company is really all about innovation, and staying committed to our roots where we don’t sell out to big box stores and make cheap product overseas like our competition. We want to have the best performing longest lasting products on the market. It is always great answer the phone and talk with someone that has been using the same pair of cleats they got 10, 15 years ago. That is really what we strive for and what has kept us prosperous all of these years!”

    Matt Tucceri

    Matt's hiking buddy...

  • 06 Jul 2017 9:25 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    Allowing for proper planning and execution, what you eat on trail should be your choice.   This decision is contained in the concept of “hike your own hike.”  Whether you are carrying a veritable rainbow of fresh produce or powering your way down the trail on Captain Crunch cereal, the options you choose affects other aspects of the hike – gear, prep time, replenishment, enjoyment, energy levels, and others.  You are probably not alone in what you like to eat; other hikers may have similar preferences.  What they may not have is that secret recipe, formula, or concoction you are carrying around in your trail cuisine tool bag.
    With that thought in mind, we are opening the opportunity for you to share your favorite backpacking recipes!  Raw, fried, baked, boiled, or just ripping open the package; we want to hear from you.  The more detail you provide, the better!  Please send in your recipes and other formulas of power via email to  If you have a question regarding a published recipe, feel free to email your questions to the editor.

    ALDHA-West’s Secretary, Kate “Drop-N-Roll” Hoch, the champion who pushed the idea for this segment to fruition, is our first contributor. 

    Charles Baker -Editor

    Backpacking Recipes
    Contributor:  Kate “Drop-N-Roll” HochThe following is currently one of my favorite backpacking supper recipes. It requires a little home preparation but is simple, filling, and delicious.

    Coconut Curry Chicken


    1.5 packs ramen noodles, crushed up (could sub instant rice)
    1 tsp chicken broth powder (or seasoning packet from chicken flavored ramen noodles)
    2 Tbsp coconut cream powder (find at your local Asian grocery store or online)
    1/2 Tbsp curry powder
    1/2 cup freeze dried chicken crumbles, optional (I get mine at WinCo, could sub with TVP)

    At home:
    Put everything in a 1 quart Ziploc freezer bag. 

    On Trail:
    Add 1.5 cups of boiling water to the bag and let sit for 5 minutes.  (You can, of course, mix the water and food directly to your pot if you prefer not eating out of a plastic bag).

  • 22 Jun 2017 3:07 PM | Kate Hoch (Administrator)

    Pacific Crest Trail Days is a 3-day summer festival that celebrates outdoor recreation, with a focus on hiking, camping, and backpacking.  Attendees are able to learn about outdoor products from exhibiting sponsors, participate in activities, games & presentations, win awesome gear at the raffle, watch a slideshow and a film, listen to live music, enjoy local food & beverages, and get great deals at the largest gear expo in the country.  Whether you’re into car camping, day hiking, or long distance hiking, the gear you are looking for will be here!  PCT DAYS is free to attend, with a small fee for overnight camping on Thunder Island.   This year the festival will be held August 18-20, 2017.

    Meet vendors and see great gear in person 

    For ALDHA-West, PCT Days is an extremely important event.  We have a booth alongside all the vendors, providing us a great opportunity to interact with a wider, more general audience of outdoor/hiking enthusiasts who are not part of the more niche long distance hiking community.  It's a great time to get our name out, explain to folks who we are, and what we do, and drum up interest for the Rucks.  We also provide a Sunday breakfast for current year PCT thru-hikers. Trail magic is always fun, and of course, it helps get our name out too!  

    ALDHA-West serves up thru-hiker breakfast

    Additionally, PCT Days is fina
    ncially key for us.  PCT Days generously donates all raffle proceeds to ALDHA-West and the PCTA.  This is our largest fundraiser, typically bringing us $3000+, and is a key to our success.

    Get your raffle tickets!

    It's important we show our appreciation for PCT Days and support the event to ensure it's continued success.  We are in need of volunteers both to help staff the ALDHA-West booth and to help with general PCT Days (setup/cleanup, directing parking, selling raffle tickets, etc).  Shifts are only 4 hours, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the event as an attendee. As a bonus, you'll get free camping and some great SWAG for volunteering! 

    To volunteer, please contact  

    See you there!

  • 13 Jun 2017 6:49 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Travis Avery, Marketing Director for Sawyer, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Travis a few questions about Sawyer so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Travis, please leave a comment.

    1. Please give a brief description of your company.  What products do you sell?  How did you decide in which products to specialize? How long have you been doing this?

    “Sawyer started in 1984.  Our first product was the “Sawyer Extractor,” a snake bite venom removal kit that we still sell to this day. It can also be used for bee stings, wasp stings, scorpion stings, ant bites, and more.  We then moved into sunscreen and insect repellent, then to first aid kits, and lastly to water filtration which is where we are debatably most well-known now.”

    Mini water filtration system

    2. Are there products you used to sell, but no longer do?  How did you make this decision?

    “We have discontinued some products over the years.  Our Broad Spectrum insect repellent was a great formula that also worked against flies but now our Picaridin lotion and spray perform even better.”
     Insect repellant done right!

    3.  Do you see the possibility (opportunity and/or threat) that the big gear makers try to buy up the cottage gear makers like we see happening in the craft beer space?

    “Absolutely and we are regularly approached.  We are however fortunate to be able to maintain our position in the industry and we hope to continually to influence it and provide dependable products that can help provided outdoor protection to our fantastic customer base.”
    4. What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product…expand the US market, Europe, Asia?  How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?

    Saving The World One Filter At A  Time

    “A large part of our water programs are in Africa, but we are looking to expand our water filtration systems and insect repellent availability to Central and South America where the need for both are prominent.”

    5. Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?

    “We try.  We have been a “Leave-No-Trace” partner for several years now but the larger portion of our giving back programs are via international water relief.”
    6.  Is there anything about your company that you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered yet?

    “We have our brand-new Foam filtration systems coming out this year and we are excited to see how they are received as we hope to once again, raise the bar with personal water filtration.”

    We keep you outdoors


  • 30 May 2017 12:10 PM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996; Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment

    Charles Baker - Editor

    The Department of the Interior (DOI), has issued a notice to the public that it is inviting public comment on 27 National Monuments which are under review.  The review is to determine if policy has been conformed to and “to formulate recommendations for Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other appropriate actions to carry out that policy.”  The deadline for the Bears Ears Monument in Utah has passed, however, the remaining 26 monuments have a submission deadline of July 10, 2017.

    Fiddler Cove Canyon, Bears Ear National Monument, Utah

    To review this Notice and submit written comments, please go online to and entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search Bar and click “Search.”  Please be aware that any personal information you submit in your comment – such as your name, address, phone number, email address, or other – may be made publicly available at any time.

    The following National Monuments are being reviewed:

    Your comments are a way to “have your voice be heard,” and may include your views on a range of topics; share your individual experiences in these areas, the importance of protecting public lands for your and future generations, the protection of historic and sacred sites, economic benefits, or perhaps your opinion of this review.  Whether your interest is hiking on the surface or diving below the waves, this review is an opportunity to lend your voice of support to our wilderness areas.

  • 23 May 2017 10:56 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    The Big Three of Photography
    Gary “Shutterbug” Lawton

    Most hikers, who have poured over gear lists in the hope to lighten their pack, have probably heard of the “Big Three”: pack, sleeping system, and shelter.  In my quest for the perfect photo, I believe there is a big three of photography: subject, composition, and light.
    A thru-hike is an adventure of a lifetime and capturing the memories in photos is important to most.  As a photographer, I will admit most of my pics are simple snapshots capturing a not to be forgotten moment and to share my journey with family and friends.  But I also hope to capture a few images that will be truly worth sharing.  This capture happens when the big three come together in one image. 

    The wilderness and the long trails we love abound with scenic beauty and worthy subjects.  The landscape around us can be stunning, but don’t get lost in the big scene, the smaller details are also worthy of our attention.  While I love capturing the grand vista, some of my favorite pics from my thru-hikes are of the minute details: a delicate flower, a colorful moss covered rock in a stream or a close-up of a fellow hiker’s beaming smile.

    A photographic image is two dimensional.  Use composition to expand the image into the appearance of a third dimensional.  Converging lines do this exceedingly well.  Using the trail or a stream leading into the frame can do this.  To avoid a static pic, avoid placing the main subject in the center of the frame if possible.  Divide the frame into thirds, vertically and horizontally and place your main subject at one of the points where the lines intersect.

    In nature, great subjects abound, and compositions can be manipulated to your liking, but the most important aspect of a great photo is light.  Without quality light, the result will be lacking that wow factor we all hope for in our photography.  I am known for getting early starts on the trail, but I rarely make big miles first thing, because the light can be most special at that time and I am constantly stopping when the light is good.  There is a reason the first and last hours of the day are called the “magic hour.”  It’s what makes those amazing sunsets and sunrises so grand. 

    Pack up the big three on your gear list and keep them light and remember the big three of photography to capture your best pics.  Happy trails to all and bring back some amazing photos. 

  • 16 May 2017 10:31 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    "The Craziest Things We Saw on the Great Himalaya Trail"

    By Justin “Trauma” Lichter

    Pepper and I set out into the unknown in the spring of 2011. The guidebook and maps were somewhere in the production process but had yet to hit the shelves. We researched everything we could online and in print, and struck out to Kathmandu to challenge ourselves and see if the ultralight mantra we’d been following for years would also translate into the realm of mountaineers, Sherpas, 4-season expedition tents, and just flat out huge mountains.

    Upon arriving, we were immediately aware of the cultural differences and significance the language barrier would play. We decided to hire a guide for the first ten days or so to help get accustomed to the differences and the expectations of locals and tea houses. Knowing that we are not the normal client, we went through a rigorous interview process to make sure our guide was familiar with the terrain we’d be heading and would be fit and willing to hike 10+ hours per day. After a couple of days, we selected the guide, Tenzing, we thought was eager and right for the job.

    Ascending Lumba Samba La (5159 meters) before the deep snow and waist deep potholing in the basin above.

    The next day we traveled to the start of the Kanchenjunga base camp trek, the terminus of the GHT. We were carrying very heavy loads with ten days of food and technical gear and were moving slowly. We needed to break into form and get used to the elevation. Day 2 we began to wait for him a little bit. By Day 3 we were waiting nearly the lengths of our breaks for him to show up. By Day 4, it became glaringly obvious that his pack was not reducing in size as ours was beginning to lighten significantly from the food we were eating. We learned that his pack was heavy with stuff, and not food. He was not carrying any food and was stopping in local’s houses for them to cook him meals.

    The next day we were to go over a major pass above 5100 meters. The conditions had been less than ideal, with snow coming each day and piling up in the high terrain. He insisted that he needed a local guide to help him since he admitted he didn’t know the way. We said we weren’t paying for it since we could do the navigation, even though the maps weren’t good.

    We set off in the morning with a twenty-something year old that he had hired to help him. It had snowed another 6-12 inches overnight. They were slow and dawdling. Pepper and I were breaking trail and trying to keep them moving. We knew that the weather and clouds would come in by 10 AM turning the navigation and landscape into a complete white out. We climbed and circled into a high bowl overlooking nearby glaciers, and the snow just got deeper. We were post-holing waist and shoulder deep, moving less than a half mile an hour. They stayed hundreds of yard behind us so they wouldn’t have to navigate or break trail. We finally reached the pass at 10 AM as the clouds were building.

    Whiteout with zero visibility shortly after arriving at the first saddle, made for some very difficult navigation. 

    Pepper and I scarfed down a snack and threw on some layers. By the time they arrived at the pass, we were getting chilled and needed to get moving. The local guide said in Nepali that he’d had enough and was heading back. Tenzing was scared and also wanted to head back. The conditions had turned into a complete white out. We denied and offered to take weight from his pack. After he had divvied up about 20 pounds worth of gear to Pepper and me, we pressed on, leading the way.

    The double pass tricked us with the poor maps and zero visibility, and we wandered around wallowing in deep snow for a while, before figuring out the correct second pass to go over. We had hoped to reach a small village down the next valley for the night. As the day progressed, we realized we weren’t going to make it there with all of the post-holing. Tenzing was extremely anxious and wanted to get to the village. As the sun set, we were about 3 miles short of the village. Pepper and I were exhausted from breaking trail and decided to call it a day. We set up our shelter, while Tenzing set up the tent we supplied for him, and we cooked dinner.

    Packing some of the guides gear into our already heavy packs laden with technical equipment.

    Around 3 AM, we heard screaming from his tent. I couldn’t make out what he was saying in my dazed slumber, and I heard Pepper say something to him which made him stop screaming. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Every now and again I’d roll over and see his headlamp still illuminating his tent the rest of the night.

    Pepper and I woke up a bit before dawn and ate our breakfast in our sleeping bags before starting to pack up. As we picked up the shelter, we asked Tenzing what happened last night. He said that two yetis had come and attacked him. One had unzipped his tent door and was trying to strangle him as it sat on his stomach. The other was sitting outside the tent watching. He said they wouldn’t leave all night, and they are very mischievous, so they kept messing around with him. I asked what they looked like, and he responded by saying they are black and about 2-3 feet tall, and they stand and walk on two legs. Pepper and I looked at each other amazed. That’s not how we ever think of yetis!

    As we approached the town that we had set our sights on the day before, Tenzing was telling everyone the story of the yetis. I could not believe that he was so open about the story since I’d be pretty embarrassed telling a story about a fictional character attacking me, but then again if he did get attacked by yetis, I’m jealous that I didn’t get to see them.

    While Tenzing was telling the story to another local, Pepper and I discussed and concluded that he was probably scared of “wild camping” and for his safety we needed to get him out of the backcountry. The next day we hiked to the end of the road so we could ship him home and continue on our way. We’d had enough of paying for a guide that we were the guide and sherpa for! And on our way we went.

  • 09 May 2017 9:27 AM | Bob Turner (Administrator)

    A Cautionary Tale; How a Bad Bus Ride and a Long Flight Home Nearly Killed Me

    by Scott "Shroomer" Williams  

    This past summer, I had the good fortune to join Francis “Mr. Magoo” Tapon, his wife, Rejoice, and Sym “Symbiosis” Blanchard in Madagascar for two months of trekking and exploring that fascinating country.  Jungles, thatch-roofed villages, rice paddies, baobabs, incredible swimming holes, a whole new culture, and lemurs, were just a part of the fun.  I’d love to have taken a lemur home!  And the jungles they live in were simply beautiful.  Traveling by foot, taxi-brousse, tup tup, pus pus and cyclopus as well as old narrow gauge railways and Pirogues (dugout canoes) we had the adventure of a lifetime.  The only seriously dangerous critters in the country are Nile crocodiles and crooks.  And at least the dugouts kept us safe from the crocs. So, two months in Madagascar was fine, but the trip home nearly killed me.

    Symbiosis in the lemur house in the Tana Zoo

    And herein lies the cautionary tale.  I suffered a Pulmonary Embolism a week and a half after returning home.  Two full days of taxis, airports and almost 30 hours in the air was just too much for my old veins and arteries.  A pulmonary embolism, as far as I understand it now, is a blood clot created somewhere in the body, in my case the leg (deep vein thrombosis).  The clot breaks away and is torn into pieces as it passes through the heart.  It then lodges in the lungs in many places, causing a sudden decrease in their ability to process oxygen.  It’s as if your lungs instantly filled with a thousand little bits of buckshot, each lodging in the deepest part of the lungs it could find.  The result, even though you’re breathing, only a limited amount of oxygen is getting to the blood.  Now I was lucky that the clot didn’t find its way to my brain, or been stuck in my heart, as that could have caused a stroke or heart attack, and the results could have been much worse.  

    So, here’s the story.  Shortly after arriving in Madagascar, Symbiosis and I had a very long bus ride to the East Coast where we were to meet up with Francis and Rejoice Tapon to join their trek of the island.  Unfortunately for me, my seat on that bus was broken and over and over again during that long ride, slid forward, jamming into the back of my calves.  I fell asleep several times only to wake up with that damned seat cutting off the circulation at the back of my legs, and unknown to me at the time, causing a blockage, the beginning of what become a blood clot much later, or maybe as early as that first week of travel in country.

     Tsingi National Park, a wonderland  of weathered limestone formations

    When I got off the bus, I could hardly walk, and for the first few days in Toamasina, I limped wherever I went.   When Francis and Rejoice and I set off into the bush, it was lucky for me, not them, that they were both suffering from ailments as well that slowed their pace.  Rejoice was just getting over typhoid fever and Francis, a foot infection.  So we all hit the trail at somewhat of a personal disadvantage and took a nice leisurely first few days.  We traveled through jungles and high plains, got villagers to ferry us across the bigger rivers, and hiked along old railroad beds, which are often the best footpaths through the dense tropical forest.  We ate whatever we could buy at the little villages we passed through and were always the subject of interest as we were probably the first Westerners with backpacks many of them had ever seen.  What a hike! The pain in my calf decreased over the miles, and I figured I’d just suffered an internal muscle bruise on the bus.  And at that point, it might have been just that.  

    Avenue of the Baobabs

    A month later, Sym and I hiked across Isola National Park, a place of dry uplands, whose exposed and weathered rock formations reminded us of the American Southwest.  All of this wonderfully weathered rock towered above river-carved gorges filled with tropical forests and crystal clear streams with the most beautiful swimming holes I’ve ever had the pleasure of bathing in.  

    Francis and Rejoice on top of Pic Boby, in Andringitra  National Park

    Early in the day on a steep climb, I experienced a sudden loss of breath and energy to my legs like I’ve never felt before, almost as if the air had been let out of a balloon. I thought I was just not feeling well that day, and swimming or walking downhill seemed to revive me, but in hindsight, and after experiencing a much greater pulmonary embolism once I returned home, I now think this was the breaking away of the first clot. 

    Inside Tsingi National Park

    I returned home in August after an interminable number of hours in taxis, planes, and airports.  But within a few days, I was back on trail, climbing Mount Diablo on my favorite Burma Burn path with its 42 percent grades, and did a 20 miler in San Francisco and several other good hikes over the hills in Martinez and I was feeling pretty good.  Then one morning about ten days after getting home, I met up with a group of fast walkers to do a simple hike of Briones Regional Park.  We set off at a brisk pace, and I felt fine.  But 100 yards down a flat trail, I began to lose steam and watched as my friends just zoomed by me.  As I tried to keep up, I found I could not move my legs any faster no matter how hard I pushed and I began to huff and puff desperately.  I finally sat down on a log to catch my breath.  Cyndi, one of the hikers, came back to make sure I was OK and I cavalierly waved her on, telling her I would hike at a slower pace this day, but assuring her that I was fine.  I got up and did try to hike, but at the first bit of uphill, found I just couldn’t do it.  An experience all new to me.  I had no idea what was happening as I wasn’t experiencing any pain at all.

    I turned around and slowly walked back to my car and drove myself home.  What an idiot!  I should have called an ambulance, but I really didn’t get it till I got home and had trouble walking up my driveway, which is not a big climb.  My wife,  Katie, heard me huffing as I reached the door and whisked me off to the County Hospital Emergency Room. 

    They admitted me, and over the next two days, I was lucky to have nothing but wonderful doctors, nurses, and clinicians of all stripes.  Thank you, County Hospital!  After hearing my story of the recent long flight back from Madagascar, the Emergency Room Doctor diagnosed it correctly within just a few minutes.  And after numerous tests to confirm it and rule out anything else amiss, the ultrasound found the clot right at the spot of that early bus trip injury, at the back of my calf.  That broken bus seat had done some real damage.  The heart work concluded that other than the blood clot, I was very healthy, a nice thing to hear when you’re hooked up to IVs and monitors.  

    I learned a lot about pulmonary embolisms over the next two days.  Common to people laid up in bed after surgery, or during pregnancies, it also affects those who are involved in high-level sports, who travel around the globe on planes, buses, trains, and cars, to compete.  One of the clinicians equated our long distance hiking to an Olympic sport, and me, and all of us hikers by association, to Olympic athletes.  Wow!  Also nice to hear when you’re in the hospital and quite immobile.  

    It turns out that pulmonary embolisms are somewhat common to this group.  An extreme athlete travels to another country to compete, then pushes 150 percent in their sport during competition (not much different than us knocking out a 35 or 40-mile day, day after day) causing micro tears within the circulatory system.  At home where we stay active, this is usually not a problem, but in this case, having a long flight home, these micro tears may become the locus for a blood clot to form.  Back home, and bang, pulmonary embolism soon after.  

    Although age is a factor in our proclivity to create clots, it often happens to very healthy young people too.  Just after my hospitalization, I learned that a dear friend in her mid-twenties had suffered a PE just when I was having mine, brought on by bed rest after arthroscopic knee surgery.  She’s also an extreme athlete and in great shape, other than forming a blood clot.  The good news is that these extreme athletes usually have a complete recovery.  Thank God!  

    I prescribed Eliquis, an anticoagulant drug, and after a few days at home, I got my doctor’s OK to drive across country with Katie and continue my summer’s adventures, but with a few caveats.  He wanted me back to my usual hiking as soon as I could do it.  What a great prescription for a long distance hiker!  In essence, to hike as hard as I could, as soon as I could, with the knowledge that the tiny clots in my lungs would cause this to be self-limiting until they dissolved on their own over the ensuing months.  I wouldn’t be able to go any faster than my degree of recovery had progressed.  He also wanted me to pull over every hour when driving across country and run around the parking lot!  I’ll be traveling differently from now on and did so for all of my autumn adventures.  But here’s some of what I learned.

    How to Lessen your Chances of a Pulmonary Embolism

    Finally, the meat of this long story:  

    • Keep moving as much as possible on long flights or train journeys etc. and get the heck out of bed as soon as possible after surgery. 
    • When traveling long distances, wear full-length compression stockings as they decrease the chances of your blood pooling.  
    • Don’t cross your legs or otherwise allow constriction of the circulation in the legs when sitting for long periods. 
    • If driving, stop every hour to take a short walk, even just running around the car a few times helps.
    • If in flight, get up as often as possible, stretching your legs, standing on tiptoe, performing squats, anything to circulate the blood in your legs.  When I flew back to the Gathering last September, I made friends with the flight attendants and just stood and talked with them for hours.  When they heard what had happened, they were more than happy to talk my ear off.
    • While sitting in a car, bus or plane, move your feet, stretching them back and forth and twitch as much as you can.  The movement helps keep the blood moving.
    • Take a baby aspirin before a long flight as this thins the blood.  While all the doctors I dealt with told me that there are no clinical studies to prove its effectiveness, they all said they do this before long flights.  I think I will too. 

    The bottom line is to keep moving as much as possible.  

    So, with that said, will I be lessening my travel?  Hell no!  I’ll just keep moving all the more.  Not a hard thing to do for a long-distance hiker.  See ya on trail!

©2019 ALDHA-West

ALDHA-West is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software