Saturday, September 27, 2014

Off The Grid - John Muir Trail Expedetion

Lizzie, Jeremy and I decided to create an unique experience for our family during the summer of 2016; thru-hiking the 220 mile John Muir Trail (JMT) in California. This trek will take us from Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park, on thru King's Canyon National Park and summiting on Mount Whitney (14,000+ elevation) which is the highest peak in the continental US. Cross training begins now since I need plenty of time to acclimate my body to both carrying a backpack and hiking at various elevations.

You may ask, "Why would you want to do this with a fused spine?" Because I believe I can.

My marathon training is the perfect complement to the JMT training. Our 2015 summer is already mapped out with activities, specifically, things Lizzie wants get under her belt before graduating. She will take a gap year 2016 and this will certainly be a memorable event during that timeframe.

The three core basics of hiking are the pack, shelter and sleeping system... let's not forget boots!
I talked with my surgeon and he cleared me to backpack since I am almost 3 years postop. He told me to be sure to get the right pack, don't overload it, and don't bend or twist. There has been a lot of research going into the right pack for me. For those of you new to my blog, this is what I'm working with:

3 pounds of hardware hold me up after my spine collapsed; unable to bend/twist because the hardware is anchored into my sacrum. Small price to pay putting complete faith in God to pull me through the time when I was bed ridden with pain for one year. Since my hardware is so close to the surface of my skin (you can see and feel it), I needed to find a pack that doesn't touch my spine. How does that work?
There are LOTS of choices!

The Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 has a channel of space located between two padded areas that are designed to reduce sweat by keeping air flowing across the back. Amazingly, this channel is the perfect space for my spine that in no way touches the pack. Who knew?!

So not only is there nothing touching my spine, but because most of my back is numb, the only place I feel some weight is the upper thoracic area and on my hips. The Deuter has an internal aluminum X-frame that is designed to distribute weight off the back. Happy Camper!
I've had 3 milestones occur in the past 24 hours:
1. Carried a backpack with 10#
2. Managed to get down, crawl into and sit in a tent
3. Lowered myself to lay on the ground for the first time in 3 years to practice getting down into a sleeping bag.
My back is a little tweaked today from waking up some sleeping muscles.
We decided to go with the Sierra Designs Flash 2 person tent for me and Jeremy.  Lizzie will either get the same tent or the Lightning 2UL, we haven't decided yet.  The big appeal is I snatched a great deal on the Flash 2 for almost half off!  While it's 9 oz. heavier than the UL (ultralight) model, I couldn't pass the savings.  The Sierra Designs tents have the fly sown into the tent and set up is super simple and super fast.

Inside a Lightning 2UL

Sleeping System:
We are still researching bags and sleeping pads so not much to report here.  The leading pad is Klymit brand.
There are a LOT of options!

Lizzie and I are breaking in Keen Bryce boots.

Upgraded Cane:
The more mileage I walk every week in prep for the 2015 NYC marathon, the more my cane hand, arm and shoulder hurt.  A fellow Achilles athlete recommended SideStix which have a built in shock absorber.  It comes with hiking mods so this will be useful in the woods, in races or around town.

For those of you with a disability wanting to try a new activity, be sure to consult your physician/surgeon.

Until next time, hike hard, hike strong.

1 comment:

  1. Very brave of you!!

    Hey there. My name's Michaela. :)

    I have scoliosis and a blog about it as well... I haven't really got any followers yet, because I haven't promoted it yet. Here's the link if you want to check it out:

    The reason I'm writing is because I recently got inspired to create this survey. I was wondering if you'd be open to posting it on your blog for your readers to fill out? Or send to your scoliosis network... Or even just to fill it out yourself? It would be a big help to me. I'm currently trying to figure out what I can do for work, since I can no longer sit or stand for long periods of time (due to my spine and related conditions). I have a business idea related to this survey that I want to try to pursue.

    Here's the survey:

    Thanks very much for your time!