A 2007 photo from where we camped
last night at the end of a logging road.
First, I want you to know that I haven’t been posting or visiting blogs much lately because I’ve been busy on my summer work-list (paint the computer room; build and roof a deck; replace flooring in kitchen, den, computer room, living room, and laundry room; build a shed; replace edging along house; replace paneling between garage doors). Now...

Peggy climbed nearby 7,144' Fuji Mtn for the
14th time yesterday (photo from 2007).
Hiking and camping in our van was a major part of our lives until my knees went out, at which point we bought folding bikes that we could carry in the van. Then, my shoulders went out, and I couldn’t camp either. Last summer (after not going for years), we made one camping trip, and we’ve made two trips this year, last night being the second. Both times, I hurt too much to sleep for more than a few hours, it being harder to control pain when camping.  
Black Butte or, as a Southerner
called it, Black Butt.

This morning, Peggy woke up with her weekly three-day migraine, and since she had forgotten her migraine pills, we came home. I felt a little about this because my wrist was hurting too much to bike. Peggy usually drives, but I drove today and couldn’t keep my hands from “going to sleep” on the steering wheel. This was no surprise because since I’ve started doing projects again, my shoulders don’t just hurt, they also itch and tingle right down to my hands. If money was as common as the clover in my yard, I would go to a neurologist, but after seeing more doctors and physical therapists than I can remember, plus having three surgeries with multi-year recoveries, all for little benefit, I’m not encouraged to burn through tens of thousands of dollars more unless things get so bad that I have no choice, as they seem to be doing. 

Some High Cascade volcanoes. Raynauds 
has made winter camping impossible.

Another thing that makes camping difficult is that I have Raynauds Disease, so my fingers turn white and lose feeling and function if they get the least bit chilled, and mornings here are chilly even in summer. Then there’s the fact that I don’t dare sleep without a CPAP (especially with all the drugs I take), and this means hauling a 12-volt battery, a charger, a converter, eight feet of tubing, and a CPAP mask on our camping trips. I also take headgear to keep my mouth shut so I don’t drool (what with all the drugs), a balaclava to go over the headgear so the CPAP mask won’t rub my face raw, and a toothguard so I won’t grind my teeth. On this trip, I even threw in a wrist brace because my wrist has been hurting ever since I “slept” atop my arm two weeks ago.

This photo was taken near a ghost town,
complete with abandoned mine shafts.

If we camped in regular campgrounds, we could buy a regular camper in order to make hauling things easier (we’re so crowded that we carry the bikes on the bed) and our bed cushier, but we don’t camp in regular campgrounds. We camp down “roads” that are rough, narrow, partly overgrown, and partially collapsed. Sometimes, they’re totally overgrown or have fallen completely off a mountainside. We carry loppers, a handaxe, a shovel, and two saws, for such road challenges as we can overcome.

When we were ordering our bikes ten years ago, a couple in their seventies came in to pick up their new custom-made tandem. They had been avid bikers for decades, but the man contracted Parkinsons and could no longer balance himself on a bicycle. He and his wife figured he could still bike if she were balancing him on a tandem, but he was very unhappy about it. I felt sorry for his wife as I watched him destroy whatever joy she might have felt when their shiny new bike was rolled out. I also thought that a man who could afford twelve-grand for a bicycle might manage to show appreciation for his wealth, as well as for having a wife who was willing to put herself at risk so he could continue biking, and for the fact that he was a lot better off than millions of people his age who sit around nursing homes in wheelchairs mumbling and peeing on themselves.

Beautiful scenery close to home
is commonplace in Oregon.

So it is that if I have to give up camping once and for all, I will try to remember that I can still do a lot. I can bike, bake; do yard work; do almost anything that needs doing to a house; plus, I can botanize and geologize. Yet, when I can’t camp, it will be a loss that I can ill afford because nothing I have ever done has given me so much pleasure as taking off to the woods every week or two with Peggy and the dogs. Now, the dogs are dead, and I feel like I’m slowly being lowered into my own hole. Sure, I can make day trips, but the quality of being in the woods for a few hours doesn’t compare to staying overnight, and even if I somehow find a way to stay for just one night at a time (while writing this, I ordered a new mattress for the van), I won’t be able to visit many of the places I’ve treasured or see many of the sites I’ve cherished

I love camping above clouds. We awakened in clouds
today, but dropped below them on the way home.


Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. Appreciation for what I have, and what I can still do is well and good - but it doesn't ease the grief for what is gone. I am so sorry for your losses. Hurting for you, hurting with you.

Elephant's Child said...

PS: I am in complete awe at what you can still do. I believe that you epitomise more stubborn than stains.

Helen said...

You and I share the cursed Raynauds Disease ... just this morning (and it wasn't even cool) I lost circulation for way too long. Hate it when that happens. Oh how I hope you never have to give up those overnight camping trips .. out in the open surrounded by the beauty of Oregon. In spite of the CPAP and wrist brace. I am also sorry that Peggy suffers from migraines .. I did for years, then they mysteriously disappeared. I believe completing menopause was a huge factor in their demise. Happy weekend - to both of you!!

rhymeswithplague said...

You can still botanize and geologize, and Elephant's Child believes that you epitomise. At least not a single one of us has been lobotomized. Yet.

Feeling your pain.

Snowbrush said...

"I believe that you epitomise more stubborn than stains."

Not so much that as being happy when I work and miserable when I don't. As for what I can no longer do, I try to be about it like I try to do about missing the dogs so much when we go to the woods, i.e. I remind myself of all the things I DON'T miss about having dogs when I go to the woods--things like rolling in shit (them not me), getting mud all over the van (again, them not me), having to be bathed when we get home (them and me, although I bathe myself), etc.

"I am also sorry that Peggy suffers from migraines .. I did for years, then they mysteriously disappeared."

Peggy's either came about or got worse with menopause, and at 62, she still has several hot flashes an hour that are so bad that you can tell when she's having one just by looking at her (fortunately, they are slowly becoming fewer). As for the migraines, Zomig is the only thing she has found that helps, and it's now so expensive--due to insurance changes--that when she runs out, she'll be trying another drug.

"At least not a single one of us has been lobotomized."

And of sodomizations, "I'll not be here to" tell (in the words of an old Western song), but if you want to, please feel free.

Strayer said...

I haven't been camping in so long. It doesn't seem like much fun alone, but I used to go alone all the time. Your post has made me determined to go, alone or not.

stephen Hayes said...

I'm not sure which would be worse, physical ailments preventing me from doing what I loved (like camping) or mental issues denying me the ability to remember all of the marvelous things I've done. I've never awoken above the clouds.

Charles Gramlich said...

Although I much enjoyed camping out when I was young, I haven't done it in a long time and find I don't really miss it. I still get to take my walks in nature and sit on my deck to see it in my backyard

Myrna R. said...

Letting go of the things we love is so hard. Yet, I'm so impressed with all you do to your home. Thanks for all these wonderful pictures. Makes me feel like I can share a little bit in the activity you love so much.

Kerry said...

Growing old is a bitch. I love camping & backpacking but have done very little in the past 2 years, due more to time constraints than anything else. Which is stupid because the Cascades are just 2 hours away.

Reynauds runs in the family. Our daughter has it, but I don't. Two years in the hellish heat of Niger almost cured her of it though.

May you & Peggy feel better soon. How about renting a cheap little cabin at Clear Lake, and doing day hikes? I know it ain't the same, but still.

angela said...

Illness takes so much from us. It really is cruel to be slowly denied those things we love so much. It is nice to remember to be thankful for what we still have but sometimes a good grumble about the unfairness of it all makes you feel better. So grumble away today and then be thankful.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Snow, I'm so sorry. I know how much you loved camping!

possum said...

Once again, I can identify... tho on a different level. I gave up far sooner than you. I tried sleeping in the van, but that was mostly out of fear of rabies in the area. But the energy it takes to set up the tent - and walking even just a thousand feet is now beyond me.
In my case, Lymes is the culprit, that and old age and a car accident or two that broke many bones...
I struggle to be grateful for what I had and not get on the pity pot for what I cannot do any longer, content myself with my yard and flowers. Wish I could do as much as you do around the house! If you ever come to the Eastern Shore, I will give you a job! But NO mountains to climb! Not even a hill worthy of being called a hill!

Joe Todd said...

Glad you were able to go camping.. Looks like we both went to 'The Mountains" recently.. Linda and I usually travel with my sister and brother-in-law and split the cost of a cabin/house though I am the proud owner of 5 tents of various sizes LOL.. Have a good one Snow

Linda said...

I have surgeries to endure in order to not lose the ability to walk, to fix my torn meniscus, and torn rotator cuff. But, the thing I miss most is the ability to go to events around the area and not being able to walk for even a short time. So far, at 67 I only have these things wrong with me and all require surgery.

I would rather have my mind and limited mobility. I will kill myself if I ever have to be in a nursing home. It is all about quality of life.

If you ever come back to the warm South, I have a few projects you can tackle.

I have no idea if you live rural, urban, country or what, but can you build you something in the yard or edge of the woods to get the sleeping outdoors sensation? As for me, I am grateful I have never had to go camping. That would be punishment!

I, too, feel sorry for the woman who was trying to help her husband stay active. Maybe when he has a burly, brusque male attendant helping him because she is too old and worn out to do it, he will appreciate a partner who can help him stay active, not just change his diaper.

I am quite sure I will ever find someone at my age and with even my limited problems that will be cured by surgery. So, I try to just enjoy the solitary life as much as I can.

Did you see my giveaway?

lotta joy said...

NOTHING prepares us for old age. Certainly not youth. When we were younger, we could get hurt, bruised, even break a bone and we knew we would HEAL. Bounce back. Be good as new, and continue doing what hurt us in the first place.

Then age hits, and the first hurt, bruise, or something broken, doesn't HEAL. We stop bouncing back. Once we are hurt, we are wounded and stay that way. Then the hurts start adding up. None leave but are joined by others, then all of them combined are accompanied by diseases like Reynaulds, Diabetes, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and that's just ME!

Age is a serious series of loss. Loss of bodily functions. Loss of loved ones. Loss of our furchildren who accompanied us on walks until THEY were no longer able. Then by us when WE are no longer able.

It's all about letting go. Losing. Giving up what we would give our hearts to do again. Everything that mattered. It's a slow heartbreak that doesn't end or get better. Then we no longer exist.

Aging is one horror on top of another.

Snowbrush said...

"How about renting a cheap little cabin at Clear Lake, and doing day hikes?"

Only if all else fails. Peggy is wanting to climb Mt. Scott in October, so we'll probably stay at Crater Lake Lodge because the days will be so short by then that if we camped, we would have to spend too much time in the van. Staying indoors is good, and sometimes necessary, but I would never choose it unless it was all I had left.

"I have surgeries to endure in order to not lose the ability to walk, to fix my torn meniscus, and torn rotator cuff."

Linda, so far as I know, everyone who has rotator cuff surgery ends up sleeping in a recliner for anywhere from weeks to months, so I hope you either have that, or better yet, an adjustable bed. I would also suggest that you buy at least three of the kind of oversize ice packs that you can keep in the freezer and change out as the one you're using gets warm. If you can't find them locally, I'm sure you can order them. Therapy Gel is the brand that I have, and it is far better than the expensive, unwieldy, messy, and troublesome cooling crap they send you home with. People say that they can't stand ice, but ice works better than narcotics (ideally, you combine the two), and, believe me, heat will just multiply your pain. Whatever of a resource I can be to you, I will be. I've had two rotator cuff surgeries and a partial replacement, and the rotator cuff surgeries were worse than the replacement. The only good I can say is that you do get through them, and every week should be a little better than the week before.

"It's all about letting go."

Let go or be dragged, as it were.

"Aging is one horror on top of another."

I saw a PBS show this week about fasting, and it was a good show. It started with a 102 man who took up running in his eighties and had just completed his first marathon in seven-plus hours. The show gave give me hope that I can at least improve my lot even if I can't make it good. Nothing sucks like feeling defeated even though we're all defeated eventually. Truly, without feeling that there is something more to be done that at least might help, we're worse than dead even while we're alive. Yet, maintaing hope is a very hard thing to do when option after option after option is tried and has failed, often at horrendous expense and bad treatment by the very people who are supposed to help.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. Linda, sleeping pills are also good during those first weeks. I would suggest Dalmane or Restoril, both of which come in a generic. As for narcotics, you will need something strong like oxycodone or Dilaudid, and you want to avoid anything with acetaminophen because it's easy to slip into a toxic dose when you're taking narcotics all night long, if not during the daytime too. Doctors commonly under prescribe, and it took me a long time to discover this. I would take some kick-ass drug and still be in pain, and this made me despondent because I took it to mean that I was condemned to suffer terribly and without the ability to do much for it (ice is wonderful, but it has its limits, and it can lead to nerve damage). Then, I discovered that I was on too low a dose, and that no allowance had been made for building up a tolerance. After that, I started increasing my own dosage and doing everything I could to get as many narcotics as I could and to hoard them because it's awful to be in pain and have no way to control it. I'm about narcotics, sleeping pills, and a drug called Neurontin, like Depression-era people were about money even after the Depression had ended, the truth being that doctors can't be trusted to help a person when he or she needs help, so it's good, as much as possible to have pills laid-by to help oneself.

Linda said...

I have lots of pain pills prescribed for me, bottles and bottles. They did nothing, so I quit taking them. The doctors won't prescribe good pain pills until after surgery, they say.

There is a prescription for the lift chair for all my surgeries. I cannot rise from my chair with only one hand/arm. I cannot rise from my chair and not put weight on my leg after knee surgery. They tell me I will need the lift chair after back surgery. Sooo, the recliner costs over $1000 that I don't have.

My goal is to be drug-free. I cannot take Neurontin. I was prescribed that for a hand injury that led to permanent nerve injury. I was drunk and staggering after the second dose.

As for any drugs, a neighbor upon seeing me struggle to walk, asked about my pain meds as he talked about his struggle to find enough. So, I told him I took nothing for pain. It is true, but I think if I had pain meds, the guy would probably wait until I left and break in and take them.

Sometimes, I hurt so that I shake uncontrollably.

Thanks for the information and supportive attention.

Robin said...

Snow, such photos of stunning beauty.... I hope you and Peggy will be able to continue spending days (and nights) in the Forest... that has to be a truly magical experience.

It IS hard as we age (and we all do) discover we can't do quite as much as we once did... but, hey still can do a lot my friend... around the house and around the Forest/Mountains... I was a runner for 25 years - about 10 years ago, my knee gave did my running days... I have learned to enjoy my hikes and long walks...(but I miss that *Runner's High*)... I also miss climbing in the Bavarian Alps...the realisation that I will probably never get to do that again (finances) makes me sad at times... but I have my photos and a good memory to recapture the scents and sounds of Bavaria... have this ability too. We are still more fortunate than some... most of all, you have a loving Wife and Cat..and a lot of friends who really are and love you.. I'm one of them!

Big Hugs to all three,


♥ Robin ♥

A Plain Observer said...

I've learned that we always compromise. What else is there to do, but compromise? Sure we can pity ourselves and be miserable remembering what we no longer can do, but I'd rather compromise and find enjoyment somehow.

Snowbrush said...

"The doctors won't prescribe good pain pills until after surgery, they say."

They're concerned that you'll build up a tolerance so that the pills won't help you when you need them most.

"the recliner costs over $1000 that I don't have."

How about asking for a prescription for renting an adjustable bed? Seriously, after rotator cuff surgery, you almost surely won't be able to sleep in a regular bed. Of course, surgeries by that name differ in how much is done--and therefore how much pain you're in--but I found that I couldn't bear lying in a regular bed for even a few minutes. It was the kind of pain that would have had me counting the seconds had I been forced to stay in a horizontal position, so if that should happen to you, you will HAVE TO HAVE another option for where you sleep.

"I cannot take Neurontin....I was drunk and staggering after the second dose."

Maybe you needed to start with a lower dosage and build-up. I'm prescribed 300 mgs three times a day, but since Neurontin is the one thing that might work when everything else has failed, I never take it that way. I might go for days and not take any, and then take 900 mgs at once. I'm open with doctors about such things, and they assure me that the drug would work better if I took it as prescribed, yet I persist in taking it spread-out in whopping doses that leave me unsteady on my feet and make the very darkness pullulate. That way, I can sleep, and I'm often desperate for sleep. Just know that every drug that you can take for pain can--and probably will--make you feel loopy. It's a fine thing to not want to take drugs, and I even remember a time when I wouldn't take any pain pills, but not taking drugs can have a terrible cost too. For instance, not being able to sleep. Just bear in mind that Neurontin is probably one of the safest, and that narcotics aren't that dangerous either if you don't get addicted or overdose. Most people who need them don't get addicted to them. As for overdosing, the most important thing to remember is that if you're taking a high dose, and you stop for even a few days, you will need to test the water when you go back on them by starting with a lower dose.

"Sometimes, I hurt so that I shake uncontrollably."

If you're telling your doctors this, as I hope you are, you might judge how much they seem to care. Sometimes--oftentimes--doctors have little if anything to offer, but it's of tremendous importance to me that they at least seem to wish they had something to offer. Too many of them treat patients like mechanics treat cars. You surely already know this, but for whatever it's worth, pain leads to fear which leads to more pain. There have been times when I was near panic, and would become fixated on the thought that if then pain got any worse, I couldn't bear it, and then I would wonder what not being able to bear it would look like--would I lose my mind and run about crying and talking nonsense? Such thoughts came to me daily, always in the wee hours of the morning when I was desperate for sleep but couldn't sleep. Now, I feel like a veteran in regard to the kinds of problems I've had, how bad they can get, and what can be done for them, at least inasmuch as they affect me. They're like living next door to a grizzly bear that might come over and mall me, but regarding which I have a degree of power. Feeling completely hopeless, horribly frightened, alone in a nightmare, and believing that one's doctor is inept and callous, can be as bad as the pain itself.

Snowbrush said...

"What else is there to do, but compromise?"

The line between intelligent compromise and simply giving up isn't always obvious to me, so I'm forever experimenting with what I can and can't do. For instance, I went camping again after I wrote this post, only this time on a ten-inch memory foam mattress. It and 900 mgs of Neurontin enabled me to sleep like a top. I awakened many times during the night, but instead of with fear that my sleep was at an end, I felt happy that I was out camping again and would soon go back to sleep. It was like the old days. Yes, compromise is necessary. For instance, I will never run again even for a short distance, and I will never again play Frisbee or throw a ball to a dog. These things I can't do, but with camping, I have more options for making it work.

Hi, there, Robin. I'm sorry about the Alps and the fact that you can no longer run, but you still do get out and about. That's for sure.

Unknown said...

I have been whining about ill health for the last 3 weeks.
I feel shamed.
You fill me with awe x

Snowbrush said...

"I have been whining about ill health for the last 3 weeks. I feel shamed."

Just because you've been whining for weeks, and I've been doing it for years is no reason for you to feel shamed.