Date- June 27th – July 2nd
Location- Northern California
After waking up on the side of Hwy 108 Monday morning, I caught a ride into the town of Bridgeport, 31 miles away, with a 20 year old kid that had been doing some early morning fishing nearby.
Once in town, I was finally able to reconnect with family, friends, and other hikers via phone and social media.
After my sprint through the High Sierra, I had actually managed to beat my girlfriend and Schweppes’s mom to Bridgeport by about 6 hours. I checked into a local hotel, and set to work uploading journal entries, and matching up pictures to stories/descriptions. I managed to get it all finished before they arrived.
Reuniting with Katana was amazing; seeing her get so excited to see me warmed my heart. She pins her little ears back, squints her eyes, and wags her butt, since her curly tail doesn’t really wag on its own. I only get that kind of greeting on special occasions.
Long story short, we stayed in Bridgeport for 3 days, before Schweppes caught up, and got into town around 8pm on Wednesday.
Since Schweppes was going to spend at least a few days with his mother who had driven all the way out here to see him, that meant I was going to be spending a few more extra days too.
Since we didn’t want to sit in Bridgeport watching the cows graze in the fields all day, I decided to drive us around a bit. I took everyone to one of my old stomping grounds; Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The next day I took them to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a few other sights, and not to mention Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39.
We drove back to Bridgeport the next day, and spent one more night, with plans to hit the trail with Katana Sunday morning.
So all in all, I got to enjoy about 6 zero days (Monday-Saturday), and visit some areas that I haven’t been to since I was a teenager. I enjoyed showing the others around the most. Everyone fell in love with Santa Cruz. It’s funny, because Santa Cruz is what I think of when I think about the California of my youth. All of the parts of California that I’ve gone through on this hike have been nothing like the California that I grew up with. It’s been a totally foreign experience.
To be perfectly honest, I do not enjoy taking that much time away from the trail. It really does a number on my psyche, and the flow of my routine that I get into out here. I had a great time, and the rest was great, as well as the company, but it almost felt like too much.
The first night in the hotel, I slept terrible. My legs twitched all night, and I couldn’t get comfortable. That next morning, I was up early, rearing to go; Every muscle in me wanted to hike. I had been in that routine for weeks now, and not in a leisurely way. My body had wired itself to hike every day, and hike hard, and that’s what it wanted me to do. I actually found it difficult to relax the first few days. We had a vehicle, but I still preferred to walk everywhere in town. Nothing was far, but still, the option to “not walk” was there.
I lost about 15 pounds during those 2 weeks through the Sierra. Although I’d seen my girlfriend only a couple days before starting my 300 mile sprint, she was surprised to see how much I’d lost in that short time. I don’t think I barely lost 15-20 pounds during the whole 700 miles of desert.
On a more somber note, I have some updates on Katana. While home, she went to several appointments (out of state) to see an animal Opthomologist. It turns out that the Poodle Bush had nothing to do with what was going on with Katana’s eye. I sort of suspected that it didn’t, only because of conversations that I had with locals, while she was still on trail with her eye problems. I spoke to probably more than a dozen local dog owners in the desert, who said their dogs got into poodle bush all the time, but nothing ever happened. Hearing that made me think, but I couldn’t think of what else could have done it. I even told the two different veterinarians that I went to, “If you think it looks like something else, treat her for that.” Well, they treated her alright, but for what specific thing, I have no clue.
When I got her to her normal vet back home, they immediately diagnosed her with Glaucoma and referred her to an Opthomologist. The Opthomologist immediately diagnosed her with Glaucoma, and was even familiar with Poodle Dog bush. He even confirmed that it was coincidence the Glaucoma hit the day after the poodle bush, and that poodle bush takes multiple days to take effect. Come to find out, her breed is extremely susceptible to Glaucoma, starting between the ages of 5 and 6 years. Katana turns 6 this September.
According to the Opthomologist, once the Glaucoma flares up, and the eye swells, they can begin losing their sight within minutes. I got her to a vet within 10 hours of waking up to her swollen eye. If we could have gotten a proper diagnosis then, we could have maybe saved more of her sight with proper medication. The standard procedure, should the eye remain swollen (this is painful for the dog), is to remove the eye, and sew the lids shut. After some more tests, she was found to have the very early stages of Glaucoma in her other eye. The Doctor said it could flare up tomorrow, years from now, or never; there is no way to tell, only steps we could take to help prevent it.
I cried when I heard this news, and was very close to shutting down all my social media, my blog, and cutting myself and Katana off from everything. My heart broke when I heard all of this. She has done and seen more than the majority of human beings; now doomed to possibly be completely blind, so early in her life.
All of this swirled around my head while I was home, and during the bus ride back to California. I was utterly depressed, and I felt like a piece of me was dying; it really almost destroyed me. It was while dealing with all of this news that I stopped posting on social media, and updating the blog for nearly 3 weeks. I really just needed solitude, and to not speak to anyone. In the end, the solitude did me a lot of good, and I drew strength from this new predicament, which helped me to complete the High Sierra as quickly as I did.
Despite all the negatives, I took great comfort in the fact that the doctor said that none of this would affect her hiking or quality of life. He said she’d adapt, and become hyper in tune with me, even if she was to become totally blind at some point. He basically said that her quality of life would be dependent on me. Do I shelter her and leave her behind because of this new handicap? Or do we rise to the challenge without breaking stride and forge a new path?
I gave all of this a great deal of thought while solo in the High Sierra, and in the end, I decided to approach it the same way that I end up approaching most things; with an open mind, positivity, and a general acceptance of whatever the predicament is, while working to adapt and flow with the circumstances. The key ingredients and essence to a happier, less stressful life.
Katana and I will rise to meet our new challenges that now face us, as well as the ones we may eventually face in the future. We’ll adapt and do what we have to do; If something doesn’t work, then we’ll find another way. What I don’t intend to do, is put her through any kind of prolonged, unnecessary discomfort. If I see that she seems depressed, isn’t her normal self, or isn’t having the good time that she has everywhere we go…then decisions will have to be made, and steps will be taken in order to keep her best interests and health in mind. These will be uncharted territories for both of us, so all we can do is…our best.
I have two types of eye drops that I’m now carrying for her. One is 3 times a day, in both eyes, and works as a prevention for the Glaucoma. The other drops are 2 times a day, only in the bad eye, and works as an anti inflammatory to keep any swelling and pressure down. As long as the pressure is down, there is no pain, and we can keep the eye (even though she is nearly, if not totally blind in it). The only catch…the anti inflammatory drops have to be kept cool/refrigerated. How do I do this while hiking? We bought a special “Yetti” thermos that seals completely air tight (I’ll post pics). After some experimenting, we found it could hold ice for 5 days, and keep the water cool for more than an additional day. That’s more than enough time to get between towns out here, so for now, I’m making a go of it. Her eye drops sit on top of the ice, and will stay cool for days while we hike we hike and I administer them. I’m sure the ice will melt faster with me opening it twice a day, but we’ll just have to see how it works out…
I can’t wait to get back on trail with her tomorrow.
As of July 7th, I went ahead and followed through with my initial thoughts to deactivate my social media. I truly do not like social media; It is a tool to me. It does connect people, but it also disconnects and detaches them. There are many positive aspects to it, but it’s nothing more than a tool that should be used to communicate; communicate with friends, loved ones, advertising, etc. However, the bottom line is that it’s not real. When you begin to have a second life in cyberspace that parallels or even starts to take precedence over your REAL life, consuming just as much, if not more time than your REAL activities…then it’s time to unplug. I am no where near that kind of ratio out here, but I want to detach even more from the cyber world, rooting myself even deeper into my current reality.
So feel free to share my blog and pictures within the various hiking, dog, and Shiba Inu groups on social media if you want. I do greatly appreciate it, but I’m giving that world a little break for now.
My newest book, “Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail” is available.