Blood pressure: 119/61
Pulse: 66
O2 saturation 97%
Weight: 175.5 lb.
BMI: 29.5
Temperature: 98.6

My cholesterol is down to an “acceptable” level. Blood sugar is a little bit high. All other blood tests are within normal values. I am fully vaccinated against just about everything Kaiser will vaccinate for, including this year’s influenza, both Shingrex shots, and 3 Moderna COVID shots.

I am trying to get back into shape. Every 2 or 3 days I go on a demanding hike, something involving significant elevation change. Something that takes at least a couple of hours, leaves me exhausted and forces me to stop and rest several times along the way. Yesterday it was a couple of miles on the flat, then a 1600 ft elevation gain over 2.4 miles and back again for 8.8 miles total. Maybe a 15 lb. load – boots plus fanny pack. According to my handy dandy Calories burned hiking calculator, that’s very roughly 5,000 calories.

Soon I will increase the weight of my load. In spring I will start hiking at higher elevations. When I can once again do this at 8000 ft. with a 40 lb. load, I’ll be happy.

Excercise is simply good for you. It gets the blood racing through all those vessels and capillaries where it otherwise kind of slowly crawls through. At least in my case, there is a release of positive pleasure-inducing chemistry from being surrounded by nature that does not happen for me in a gym or an at-home workout. Since the brain needs plenty of blood supply and the right chemistry to work at its best, I honestly believe that is why I feel a greater mental clarity on a hike. Regardless, there is good scientific evidence supporting my belief that exercise supports brain health.

Aside from your brain. it is good for your blood sugar. Being overweight can cause your body to require 2 or 3 times as much insulin for a particular amount of sugar. And most people don’t realize that under a demanding load, muscles can burn sugar without needing insulin.

Physical training can be considered to play an important, if not essential role in the treatment and prevention of insulin insensitivity.

No, I’m not going to live forever. Age has seriously cut into my physical well-being. My joints are all infested with varying levels of arthritis. My brain is definitely not what it used to be. Neither are my vision and hearing. Old injuries come back to haunt me and recent ones don’t fully heal. The Grim Reaper is tentatively probing my defenses. I am feeling a bit of urgency in doing things I would like to do as there is a lot more sand in the bottom of my glass than the top.

I really wish I’d felt that urgency a couple of decades ago. I’ve had to discard a lot of dreams along the way simply because I was physically no longer capable. I call it kicking the bucket list. The moral of the story is not to put off things thinking there will always be time tomorrow. Keep a balance. Do what is necessary to survive – but also do things that make surviving right now worth the effort. When you get older you will not be reminiscing about how good it was to work all those extra hours instead of doing something to enrich the day.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
  Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
  Tomorrow will be dying.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick

My roses are no longer buds. They are old and ragged around the edges. Still, I intend to gather them while I can.

This spring I’d like to take a swipe at the California Hiking and Riding Trail (CHRT). It is roughly 40 miles thru Joshua Tree National Park. Maybe take another swipe at a hike through the Sierras.

The last time I backpacked through the Sierras it was a disaster. Well, sort of. I fell desperately ill the very first night and ended up getting myself evacuated the next day by the SAR folks in a helicopter. Despite feeling like I was going to die, I got to experience something unique and that was worth something. Post-mortem thinking showed that I had experienced some mild stomach symptoms on the drive up (about 300 miles) but dismissed them.

I don’t have a choice about dismissing minor maladies. If I didn’t, I’d spend most of my life waiting in urgent care. When you get old enough to retire, you discover that there’s always something acting up. You are never in perfect health. In this case, the stomach bug unexpectedly exploded into something really bad, complete with a really nasty fever.

Next time I won’t dismiss it. I’ll make sure I have the freedom to wait it out and see what happens. Unfortunately, there are a lot of places where permits are hard to come by. You miss the permit window and you’ve missed the opportunity. That’s what happens when a thousand people want to go somewhere but the Park Service only wants to let in a hundred.

The Joshua Tree backpack was something I had planned for April of 2020. It didn’t happen and we all know why. I’ve rescheduled it for April of 2022. A 40 mile trip through the desert might sound risky but it really isn’t. The CHRT crosses roads several times along the way. At each crossing is an opportunity to cache water and if need be, hitch a ride. The longest stretch between roads is only 11 miles. Not even a day’s hike for an average hiker and most people do the whole thing in two or three days.

It is not so heavily used that permits are required. As long as you keep moving you might never see another person but if you stop, someone will soon be catching up to you. And I have my Spot communicator for emergencies.

A detailed map is available on Cal Topo and was created by Hiking Guy who has an incredibly detailed blog about the trip.

The typical way for a solo backpacker to do this trip is to first arrive in the park at the west end. From west to east you drive through the park, dropping off caches of water at every road crossing. Then you park at the North Entrance (which is farthest east) and call an Uber to take you back to the Black Rock entrance which is back at the far western end.

April is the perfect month for it. It is when the wildflowers peak in the area. The snakes are not yet out. Not so hot as to cause heat stress and dehydration and not so cold as to require extra gear. Even though this is during the park’s busy season, experience tells me that few hit the long trails. I expect I will be alone for most of the trip. It will be midweek and not near any holidays. Spring break is in March for the big colleges out here. For me, alone time means a chance for some freehiking. Yay!

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I’ve made plans before only to have them evaporate like a mirage before I get there. Probably more often than they have succeeded. I suppose I should not make plans since having them fall apart is so painful. However, the act of planning is itself pleasurable. The successes are sources of excitement and good memories and even the failures provide grist for the mill of my mind. IMHO, the benefits outweigh the risks.

And at least I can say I’m trying, which is more than a lot of people my age can say. Too many slip into a tired, melancholy, nonexistence, having forsaken adventure and challenge. Men who retire and shrivel and die from lack of purpose or anything to look forward to.

These are not anyone’s “golden years” in any sense other than bladder issues. They are at best, a tarnished copper for those of us without financial resources, social position, and exceptionally good health. But still, it is all in your head. Copper can be polished to be just as beautiful and I intend to try.