PWP Goes Hiking

PWP (person with parkinsons) Goes Hiking



I decided we should go on a hike. I am not sure why I chose a hike when I have not even been out walking much. It just seemed the thing to do on such a pretty spring day.And we were on the road to where there might be interesting hiking trails.

Driving to Ellensburg on I-82 to deliver a piece of furniture to niece Kimi we found ourselves distracted by thoughts of the Yakima River Canyon. We turned off at Selah and followed the highway up the canyon. Drift boats and fly fisherfolk swarmed the river and its banks. We pulled into the Umtanum recreational area. I reached for  my trekking poles and lumbered like a lazy bear to the suspension foot bridge crossing the Yakima River and leading to the Umtanum creek trail. It was apparent, immediately, that this was going to be more than a spring stroll…

It was going to be a stupendously challenging, monumentally overwhelming PD obstacle course.   Why would I be so challenged with this gentle climb along a meandering creek.  After all I had been preparing for hiking. My PT (physical therapist) Kimber encouraged  me to pick up my feet when I walk,  The LSVT “BIG” program she administered taught me to overemphasize movements because what I thought were huge steps were really small to  tiny steps. My “PT” (personal trainer) Cindee has been guiding me in building agility   (those crazy frontwards, sideways, backwards, in and out and out and in steps on the ladder) and strength (yes ma’am I can lift weights while walking 22 mph on the treadmill at elevation level 15 with a 50 lb. back pack oh just you wait and see). One would think that I can do anything, ‘cuz after all I think I CAN DO ANYTHING.  My body image is of a 105 lb  twenty something softball player, horsewoman, backpacking athlete. Until I look in the  mirror, that is.  My realistic body is well, uh,  me…what I am now…oh you know, I don’t need to describe my current appearance.  Just let it suffice to say I look like me.

Back on topic here
I view things differently now as a PWP,  After a few face plants and a broken ankle I cautiously scan the area around me for anything that may impede my travel, or cause me to fall.. My ears are in tune for bicycles coming from behind  if  I am walking and cars from any direction if I am biking. I have even learned some avoidance strategies. Crowds of people cause me anxiety as I may be accidently knocked off balance and create a dominoe effect by knocking other people off balance until we are all trying to help each other up..oh yeah, back on topic…

The first obstacle I encountered  was the  suspension bridge across the Yakima River.  It was fine, well maybe almost fine as my weight did not sway the bridge too much.

 I was balancing ok, gazing down at the rushing waters  passing underneath when VALLOOMP I was thrown off balance. (balance is a challenge for PWP) Charlie had stepped on the bridge and from about 10 paces behind me was making the darn bridge move so that between the two of us there was the most peculiar sway.  My equilibrium could not handle this.  Out came the trekking poles, my legs spread out in my drunken sailor stance and I got a grip on my terror.   “OK Carol”,  I said to myself.  “You are NOT going to fall into the river, there are guard rails. Get moving!” Maintaining my balanced stance with my legs spread three feet apart I got across safely.  I am sure I was quite the sight to the fisherfolks tying flies on the other end of the bridge.

From the suspension bridge we walked down a steep embankment, under the railroad tracks and up to a place where there were a choice of trails.  The trail to the left went along the tracks, the trail to the right went up. I should say UP! because it went practically straight up.  The next obstacle…my husband…I hate these lectures that squeak out of his generally kind mouth.  “I hope that’s not the trail” I said.  Here it comes.  ” Now Carol, what are you going to do in France if that’s what the trail looks like and its the only way to go”.  Oh those “what if’s!  Luckily UP! was not the way to go  and we followed the trail left.

Up the gradual incline of the winding  path.  I was stiff from riding in the truck. My back was killing me.  It was work to pick my feet up over the rocks.  They felt like boulders and then there was POISON OAK.  It was here, and it was there and I had to turn my body this way and that to get around it. These were movements I didn’t know I could do anymore.   An unknowing spectator would have wondered if I was doing the “twist” or maybe being attacked by killer bees that had migrated to the Yakima River Valley from South America.  I managed not to brush against a leaf! Charlie either. Danger of infestation  behind us, we continued on.

I asked the all knowing husband the time.  He looked at his phone and replied “1:59”.. I did not want to argue that it was 1:37 when we left the K-Mart in Yakima  (where it took 30 minutes for him to purchase 2 bottles of water) And that had to be an hour ago.  PWP can tell the time without a clock. Almost to the minute this girl knows when she needs meds.  It  had to be three o”clock.  We walked on a few more steps and I came across a nice sitting rock.  “I think I will sit here and take my meds, could you check the time again”  “2:59”  Hmm how time flies when you are having fun.  We walked on and I started getting into the swing of things when we came upon the Carol height native grasses. The grasses reached like tentacles wrapping around my trekking poles, jerking  them out of my grip mid step and throwing me off balance.  Self talk again: Ok Carol you can walk without  trekking poles a few feet. Get over it and move on.

I forgot to mention there were some delightful things about this trek. Blue sky above (with vultures circling)  beaver dams, a huge beaver lodge (I almost fell into the creek trying to take pictures of), the sound of song birds (probably carrying bird flu) …then…

There it was, the next obstacle.  A branch crossed the trail about chest high.  Can’t go over it, can’t go around it, must go under it.  Another thing this PWP can no longer do is the limbo.  Bending knees as much as I can (cuz this girls back don’ bend so much anymore) I made it under and to the other side.
Husband did the same thing.  He didn’t look any better getting under that tree than I did!

We took a few wrong turns (no yellow Camino arrows here) and backtracked to find the correct trail up the narrowing canyon.  The final obstacle appeared before us.  The creek needed to be crossed.  I have crossed many creeks in my life (and fallen in a few while doing so).  Today was not a day I wanted to slip off that half submerged log and land on the rocks I was supposed to be jumping three feet distance to reach. My sense of timing played in perfectly.  I checked my phone.  “Oh, its time to turn back if we are going to make Elllensburg by 5.” Saved!

I usually beat butt on the downhill. I even had a chance to practice the “Australian Pole Dance” (Yvette) the  downhill use of trekking poles. I sent  Charlie  across the suspension bridge first so I could take some photos (wink wink). No huge sway this time. The hike was ending nicely.

I celebrated this first hike of the year with a delish dinner and a dessert of brownie sundae with extra ice cream.  No obstacles were noted in the consumption of food this night.

We all face obstacles in our paths.  Yours are no different than mine although we may call them by different names. Keep an eye out and an ear open to what’s  happening in your home and in your workplace; with your family and with your co-workers.  We cannot avoid obstacles (or guide others around them) without recognizing them first. No one should stumble or fall. Step high, be kind and choose the right path.

Please comment. I love to hear your thoughts!

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