Laid-up rookie checking in

4:03 a.m. on September 7, 2012 (EDT)
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Hello all,

I am writing to introduce myself and give everyone here a big THANK YOU for educating this raised in the city, country girl at heart, out of shape bird nerd.  I've been suffering from some insomnia and wanderlust lately, and I happened upon TrailSpace while daydreaming about next spring and making a mental list of places to go. I have come to realize how dreadfully unprepared I am for even the wimpy little dayhikes I have been going on, as I have the habit of leaving everything (including water and first aid) in the car for several mile hikes in places with no phone reception and few to no other hikers. I have a growing list of things to prepare for next time, including a whistle, a refined first aid kit (you can accumulate a lot more when it stays in the car all the time), and yes, perhaps most importantly, a friend who knows where I'm going and when to expect me back.

A little bit about my background: I was raised in the mid-Atlantic suburbs with occasional car-camping trips as a child and teen. My dad is a nature geek but my mom likes her creature comforts, so we never spent too much time traveling out to the mountains, just a weekend every year or two. In my late teens, I became a birder with the encouragement of my dad and bought my first pair of serious binoculars; although I'm still what I would call mediocre to middling as a birder, my pursuit of new species and habitats, combined with the freedom of a car, led me to spend more time looking for undeveloped pieces of land to observe nature's amazing diversity. Some of my best bonding time with my dad has been in the VA/MD/WV mountains as we slowly stumbled down trails, our necks cramped from looking up in the treetops for elusive warblers.

I recently moved to NorCal for grad school. Without a horse to ride - though I do not own a grass guzzler, I have been lucky enough to spend many hours enjoying nature with some amazing equine partners - and in need of stress relief and exercise, I have found myself venturing farther afield and spending more time than I imagined exploring the Coast Range. I'm far less fit and ambitious than most on here, so it was a minor personal victory for me this spring to conquer my first trail with more than 1000' ft of elevation gain and still manage to walk the next day. I go out to enjoy nature, walk a little farther than the previous outing, and clear my mind.

I am currently laid up and starting from ground zero after major back surgery less than two months ago (and several months of progressive debility before that which kept me off the trail). Among other things, I had a fusion at L5-S1; I am still in the phase where I can't even bend over to pick something up off the ground and driving for too long hurts, but I can walk, so I am trying to at least get my legs moving again. I have some residual neurological deficits in my right leg that are improving but still sometimes cause me to trip. Even so, I have been recovering faster than expected and did a fairly brisk mile the other day with just my walking stick for balance, so I have hopes that I will be back in the hills come late winter or early spring.

I see that some posters on here hike with their dogs on occasion; I have a new trail buddy to be, a 5 month old Golden/Chow looking rescue who will probably top out at a lean 70-80 lbs. June is staying with a friend until I am able to keep up with a puppy's daily antics without reinjuring myself, but she knows me as her person, already handled her first car camping trip with aplomb, and knows more than a dozen words. She is shown here at 4 months old:


And here is a picture from a brisk afternoon hike last winter with a friend and a borrowed dog in Cache Creek Natural Area:


Anyway, thanks for reading.  I'm sure I'll be around with questions in the coming months.  I have already learned quite a bit, been humbled even more by what I still have to learn, and been inspired to get myself back into shape as soon as my back will let me!

- CM

11:24 a.m. on September 7, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey birdnerd, welcome to Trailspace. Injuries can be frustrating; just never lose focus on the fact that the trail will always be waiting for your return to greet you with open arms... I mean limbs. :)

Cute pup btw. 

Take it easy-Rick

1:18 p.m. on September 7, 2012 (EDT)
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Every day you lie around and don't move you are going backwards.  Become a serious hiker which will benefit your body in many ways during recovery.  Get some advice from a physical therapist.  Maybe you can begin stretching and light exercise in a pool next.

You have a great dog.  Make him your hiking partner and take him everywhere with you.

3:02 p.m. on September 7, 2012 (EDT)
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Dogs are great motivation - they ALWAYS want to go out for a walk!

Ppine's right - get out and get going. It's too easy to lose ground. But it sounds like you've already figured that out.

If you've had back surgery, you'll want to stay away from backpacking trips until you can build up the muscles again, but there's nothing wrong with challenging day hikes. Shorter distances, but great rewards just the same. This year 1,000 feet of elevation, next year 1,000 metres!

Welcome to Trailspace.

3:12 a.m. on September 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the warm welcome!  Yes, I have been trying to get my pathetic butt moving as much as I can.  In the past week, I traded out the walker for the hiking stick (blue oak, now with a bit of rubber on the bottom to make it work better inside) as my faceplant prevention plan, and I've started experimenting with walking on gently uneven surfaces as my balance and proprioception impove.  I am seeing the neurosurgeon again on Monday and hope that he will give me permission to start physical therapy, but the early stages of rehab from fusion require extreme caution to make sure that repetitive or extreme movements don't jeopardize the stability of the implants. 

Today was a two-walk day and I also did some off-leash obedience practice with June along an unused levee road; I made her stop in her tracks, followed by a sit-stay, from 150-200 ft away, and she listened almost perfectly.  This was a bit of an experimental day to see how close we are to being able to be reunited, since I CAN NOT have her pull on my back at all, but she did very well both on the leash (just gentle collar pressure made her look back at me for cues) and off. 

Peter: that's actually one of the reasons I decided to get a dog.  They don't let you bail on going for a walk just because it's too cold/hot/rainy/foggy/etc., and they're never too busy to be your hiking buddy.

3:43 a.m. on September 9, 2012 (EDT)
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I had a partial diskectomy in 1998, after 3-4 months of constant pain. I don't bend too good (never), but have been able to stay very active -- hiking, skiing, running, kayaking, etc. My advice -- work up a routine of back strengthening exercises (with help from the PT) and do them religiously. Mine takes 15 minutes, and I do it 3-4 mornings a week, and I haven't had any major flare-ups since I got into the routine.


8:36 a.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi BigRed,

Thanks for the welcome!  I'm glad to hear you are doing so well.  While the surgeon was happy with my lack of pain at the recheck, it is still too early to risk putting more stress on my back.  I am still not supposed to do any sort of exercises right now except walking, lest they cause too much motion or put too much force at the fusion site, but I have a fantastic physical therapist whom I will be working with again as soon as I am cleared.  From what the surgeon told me, once I am fused and get up to full strength, I should be able to be just as active as I ever was and more.

- CM

10:45 a.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace birdnerd,

I share your interest in birds, I am by no means a pro birder, but I enjoy watching and learning about them, I often have a field guide in my backpack.

Good looking dog you have there, I had a trail buddy for 14 years and really enjoyed hiking with my dog.

I hope your back heals fast and you will be able to get out there soon doing all the things you enjoy.

All the best,

Mike G.

7:12 a.m. on September 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace, hope your recovery goes well.

8:01 a.m. on September 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I know how you feel. I got a total knee replacement in nov. 2010. I was able to walk the same day,i can understand how forced inactivity makes you crazy. I was able to walk but my poor stability kept me inside. I live in nh so having a snow base all winter kept me inside. Unfortunately, my knee implant was recalled by the fda. Im gonna have to do it all over again, prob in the next yr. Im in the process of getting two goats to use as pack animals. If you cant carry much weight they will be life savers, or trip savers anyway. I would def get a pack for your dog. She can carry your water and trail snacks anyway. Get a bright color so it can protect her during hunting season as well. Good luck with your rehab and welcome to trailspace!

4:03 a.m. on September 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the greetings. 

Hotdogman, I can only imagine staring down another surgery in the near future.  That's one of the things that motivates me to be a compliant patient - I can't imagine going through that again!  I like the idea of pack goats but I would worry about them getting predated at night by mountain lions out here.   A friend used to practice in the northern Coast Range a few hours from here and lost multiple equine patients to feline predation; most of the victims were yearlings in the 300-500 lb range (so not as well protected by the owners and herd as younger foals, I suppose).  I fear that a goat or miniature donkey tied or hobbled for the night in the woods would be very attractive to a big cat, as they are prey animals and are much easier to catch than their usual prey of deer.  Good idea for back east, though. 

Trouthunter, I'm pretty far from expert, but I enjoy going out birding both to try to improve my skills and also to enjoy the company of old friends.  I'm glad there are other bird nerds out there on the trail - I figure it's a state of being, not a statement of proficiency.  I miss the warblers of the eastern woods, so stop an extra moment to listen on my behalf the next time you are serenaded by a Prothonotary Warbler, or Ovenbird, or Blackburnian Warbler . . .

12:48 a.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Keep up the positive thoughts.  I am happy that you have found a PT that you like.  I met a physical therapist that  is an Indian raised in Fiji that is Hindu.  I tell him he pushes me with one finger.  Five years ago he changed my life and got me out of the wheelchair.  There is an important spirtual conncection there as well as friendship.  I still work out at his place but he will not charge me, nor will he charge for back therapy.  Many of the people in that business are wonderful human beings I am greatly in their debt.  Be ready to work hard, and you will be rewarded in many ways.

April 8, 2020
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