Life Updates

Hello all! It’s been a while since I’ve made a post about, well, anything. I have a lot of updates for you. Some good, some bad, some really bad, and some really good; you get to choose which is which. Lots to catch up on as far as Katana, Jessica, hiking, and all of those things combined go.

Some bad news first… I will not be hiking the CDT northbound with my girlfriend Jessica (Dixie) this year. As much as it pains me not to, there are a lot of factors contributing to these changes of plans. Some good news though, I will maybe be hitting the CDT southbound again in June, maybe. I’ll get into that some more later.

Some more bad news; the biggest reason I will not be going northbound with Jessica is due to circumstances surrounding Katana. It pains me very much to inform you all that little CatFox is nearly completely blind. She is only seeing shadows now, and only the shadows a couple of feet in front of her face. She can still get around and find her way, but it’s a lot of stop and go, as well as route finding. I’ve been working with her on verbal commands, mostly “right,” “left,” and “straight.” She has “stop” and “go” pretty well understood already. With her sight fading to nothing, and the need to remove her remaining eye fast approaching, I couldn’t take her out on the trail, nor leave/pawn her off on family or friends while I leave. She needs me now, more than ever to be with her and help her adapt. I’m nervous as hell about the entire thing, but I’m trying to stay positive and hopeful. So that’s where I am with Katana. She seems to be taking it pretty well, but she has good days and bad days due to the pressure building up in her eye from the Glaucoma. The eye drops can only do so much. On her good days, she’s just as playful as she ever was, but she keeps to running, jumping, and sprinting in tight circles, so as not to run into anything when she’s outside, or even inside; so she’s figuring out how to play safely on her own terms!

Nextly, I was recently diagnosed with an “Umbilical Hernia.” I’ve actually had it for close to two years (I hiked the PCT and the CDT with it), but it’s only recently been starting to give me digestive tract issues. This is due to the strenuous workout regiment I undertook when I moved up to Auburn with Jessica. The resistance training exacerbated the hernia and pushed a little more intestine through my abdominal wall. The doctor says I can still hike with the hernia in its current condition, but that it’s likely to get worse as time goes on, especially if I continue to exercise. So, I’m on the fence about repairing my hernia before the next potential hike, or letting it ride. I’ve been cut on so much in the past decade, I’ll put off any more surgeries if I can.

Thirdly, I’ve had a lot of people ask me when the PCT book is going to be done. I’ve given several (hopeful) release dates over the months, but it keeps getting pushed back. I’m hoping to have a final draft finished before the potential CDT hike this June. I wouldn’t say I’ve been struggling to write this book, but I have been taking my time. I will say I am very pleased with what I have so far. Writing an engaging book about long distance hiking can be very difficult. Long distance hiking itself is extremely repetitive, and writing about it can be the same way. My first book, “Lost on the Appalachian Trail” felt repetitive at times, but for the most part, I think I was able to keep it engaging enough to not end up in the “repetitive pitfall,” which as reflected in its subsequent success, for which I am infinitely grateful! As you might have guessed, trying to write a second book about long distance hiking without getting repetitive, and without reusing the same observations, revelations, and descriptions of the experience from the first book has proven challenging. So as to not let this PCT book feel like, “same shit, different trail,” I’ve had to dig fairly deep. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that I’ve hit pay dirt as the process has unraveled. I ask you to please continue to be patient, and I promise you will not be disappointed with the final product!

As far as hiking the CDT this June goes, certain stars need to align. Let me start off by saying I’ve been up nights thinking about the CDT. It feels like my entire life is on hold until I can complete the Triple Crown. I think about it every day, it consumes my thoughts. I’ve been finding it impossible to focus on anything else other than completing this endeavor which began four years ago. Right now Katana is the biggest factor determining whether I’m going to hike in June. I have absolutely no idea if I’ll be able to take her with me, and I have to make the decision whether I’m even willing to go without her. If by some chance she was able to go, it would have to be after her remaining eye is removed, so that she would have zero pain. She would also need to have the new commands mostly mastered. And I would need a better method of carrying her other than across my shoulders. I’ve been looking into slings and chest packs for carrying dogs, but I don’t think anything was meant to carry a dog for the distances we’re talking about. On top of all that, the snow levels in Montana are 150% of normal, and they’re still getting snow. All conditions and sources are pointing towards this year being a terrible year for a southbound of the CDT. I have no problem going into snowpack by myself, but while carrying a dog… I don’t think so. If there aren’t any major melts before June, then the decision will probably be made for me. But wait, it gets even more difficult. My parents are really the only people who can watch Katana, and they have summer plans that won’t allow a dog to tag along, especially a blind dog. So as of right now, I have nobody to watch Katana if I was to go hike. Unless something changes, the only way I’ll be able to hike is if I take Katana with me. Part of me relishes the challenge, but the other part of me is scared shitless. I don’t know. I have to get this trail done, and I want it to be done this year, no matter what. If I don’t finish it this year, then I’ll have to do it next year while Jessica goes on some other adventure. I’d really rather adventure with my girlfriend than continue to have separate adventures which leave us not seeing each other for months at a time. I’ll be honest; this whole “getting the CDT done this year,” thing, has me very stressed out. I’m trying my best to go with the flow and rely on things to work themselves out and fall into place the way they need to. It seems they always do when I let go of all anxieties and expectations. I’m trying.

My gut feeling tells me I’m going to be on the CDT this year, one way or another, and without making decisions I’ll regret or worry about.

As far as I can recall, I think that’s about where I’m at in life right now. Girlfriend is hiking without me. Dog is nearly blind. Intestines are pushing out of my abdominal wall. PCT book is coming together. Lots of snow in the north. And hopefully everything falls into place and I’m back in the wilderness where I belong this summer.

I’ll be posting more regularly now. The past month and a half has been very hectic and busy with Jessica preparing to leave and Katana preparing to go totally blind. Things have leveled off a bit, so I can think a little more clearly now. My next post might be of great interest to some of you, as it pertains to a new pack I received the other day. A custom pack from a new gear manufacturer who takes custom orders, then builds your pack to your desired specifications. I must say, I am very pleased with the pack they built me, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

36 Comments

  1. Good to hear whats been going on . Excited for your new book . Will keep both you and katana in prayers that your health issues are safely taken care of and fast healing . Hope all works out so you can hike this year ! Take care of yourself and catfox .
    .

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  2. Wow Kyle,
    Thanks for the catch up. You have a lot going on. I’ve thought of you and Katana a lot recently because my chihuahua Cabo had his eye removed in February. It’s been a tough adjustment for him. He’s suffering from an optic nerve cancer. So now, my job is to give him the best life I can until he’s no longer a happy boy. I can relate to your challenges. Be strong and follow your deepest heart and intuition. You’ll make the best choice for yourself and that cute lil Catfox.
    Thanks for your openness.
    All the best to you!
    Sindy

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  3. Sending love to you and Katana during both of your difficult physical hurdles. From what you’ve shared with us, I know you both will come out strong! I understand the struggle when your furry child can’t be included in all your adventures. It sucks. It’s just a different part of your journey together. ♡♡♡

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  4. Thank you for the updates….sorry to hear about Katana’s remaining eyesight. it’s hard when our fur babies have issues. My thoughts are with you as you make decisions regarding the CDT. Go with your heart. You will know when it’s right. Annie

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  5. So sorry to hear about Katana. What a frustrating set of circumstances! Try to keep your head up and remember how fortunate you are despite it all. You will get there and this is all happening for a reason that will reveal itself in the end.

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  6. I don’t blame you for staying with Katana, she needs you right now and that is where you should be. Hope your hernia improves. Can’t wait for the new book!

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  7. I would take Katana in a heartbeat. But you don’t know me from Adam. Plus I’ll be living in my 36ft motor home on the beach. Or would that be a good thing?!?!
    You’ve made some tough decisions and that can be hard emotionally.
    I hope your health improves. I know what that feels like when ones health thwarts all plans. Good Luck on your book! We all look forward to hearing about your adventures and expertise. Godspeed!

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  8. Terrible news about Katana. I knew it was coming but was not expecting it this soon. I know you’ll make the right decisions regarding Katana, but that is tough as there is no really “good” solution. Hang in, brother

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  9. So,sorry to hear about Katana. I think I told you this on one of your previous posts but we had a Collie/Shepard mix when we were first married. His name was Timber and he also went blind from glaucoma. I know you are worried how Katana will be and understandably so but honestly, when Timber went blind, it bothered my wife and I way more than it did Timber. He adapted so well, even went swimming. He went blind at 4 and went on to live to be 12 without a hitch.
    As far as your dilemma about your hernia and hiking without Jessica, that’s a tough one. Just know everyone is rooting for you and Katana. I will be waiting in line for your PCT book also! Peace!

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  10. I am writing to offer you encouragement to hike with Katana this year! I section-hiked the AT with my Solo, completely blind pup, and Velcro, blind AND deaf pup! I rigged a retractable leash to the front of my backpack’s hip belt. This allowed me to be hands-free during the hike, and them freedom to explore safely. I essentially taught them left, right, whoa, and back up like you would single-reining a horse. Pulling up in the leash meant stop because we were either at stairs, a big log, etc. that needed to be acknowledged by them. I pulled back on the leash gently when they got themselves into a pickle that they couldn’t get themselves out of. Honestly, the biggest obstacle out there is us, their humans. We have to let them build confidence post-blindness, and not seek to rescue every time they get themselves in a spot, corner, shrub, tree, etc.
    I think the other change that happens is the hike becomes all about them. And that is a completely different way to hike as you become the follower. You are 110 percent thinking about how to keep them safe. But at the same time, I felt more present during those hikes because I had to watch for everything. It is absolutely mentally exhausting to do this, and I admit, I get selfish and just wish I could hike my own hike. But there is a sweet tenderness to hiking with your pup so completely dependent upon you.
    I am confident you will figure out what works best for you and Katana. I am also confident that, should you choose to take her, you will be surprised at how much you actually see on your journey!

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  11. Katana is welcome to stay with us. I know we have never met, but the wife and I foster for Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, so they could be a reference. We have 4 resident dogs, and if they all get along, I’m sure one would be Katana’s guide dog. Just an offer to think about if all else fails

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  12. Good to hear from you, Kyle! Sorry to hear about Katana. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of decisions coming up. I’m sure you’ll make the right ones. Was hoping you and Dixie could hike the CDT together. Maybe you’ll still get to. Thanks for sharing! Keep us posted!

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  13. It hurts so bad having your dog lose their remaining eye, but like others have said she’ll be fine. You’ll cry, but she’ll be fine. I have no doubt she’ll master your commands. Whether or not you take her with you, we’ll just have to wait and see. I wish you all well on your surgeries, hikes, and book(s). Following forever……

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  14. Sorry to hear the sad news about Katana. I think these type of setbacks are much harder on us human parents than they actually are on our fur babies. I’m sure Katana will adapt in no time and continue to live a happy life. She is lucky to have a caring compassionate owner like yourself.
    Also sorry to read about your hernia. I hope you take care of yourself like you do for Katana. From following your adventures in the past, I have confidence that you will find a way get out on the CDT and finish your through hike. I was hoping you would be able to hike with Jessica. I follow Jessica’s (Dixie) adventures on YouTube and the CDT trip has me worried about her because I know there will be times when she will be on her own (not with Perk) and I was hoping you would be there with her especially in grizzly country.
    Best wishes to both you and Katana and hope you both are feeling better soon.
    Lastly best wishes for the CDT and hope you make it out there with Jessica.

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  15. Oh Man!…..Kyle, Katana and Jessica…….My heart is burdened for you…..First and foremost, Kyle, is you have to take care of your health issue in order to be of full use to yourself or anybody……Then, there are no other words for it, I am so saddened to hear of Katana continuing to suffer, even though I know you are giving her the best care and love……It was good to see that one person’s comment offering to take care of Katana for you!…..Last but not least, Jessica, I know the anguish you are going thru for both Kyle and Katana and I feel for you, sweet lady!…..

    I’m sure you have thought of this consideration, Kyle and Jessica, but if worse comes to worse, and to be easier on Katana and Kyle, yet perhaps fulfilling for all three of you, why not have Kyle and Katana join you as Reliable Trail Angels for your trek northward on the CDT meeting you at crossroads and car camping the rest of the time for economy, safety and enjoyment!…..It might make a great book, possibly entitled “Dayhiking the Continental Divide Trail” by Jessica, Kyle and Katana…..Subtitle it “Keeping Our Family Together”……

    Whatever you all decide, know that our hearts and prayers are with you!…..Love, Rick and Mary Shepherd 🕊🌞😎❤️

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  16. Kyle, mu brother had a pit bull that was totally blind. She got around fine. It is going to take some time for Katana to get used to it but as long as you are there to help she will be okay. My brother’s dog did like to retreat into a kennel sometimes though. It made her feel safe. Find a location that can be Katana’s safe haven. I too would take care of her for you if I could. She might not want to come home though, lol

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  17. Sorry to hear about Katana. If I lived near you and we knew each other I would happily take care of her for you. That being said I’m sure there is someone that would love and take care of her while your gone.
    Can’t wait for the new book!

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  18. Wow Kyle! Thanks for the complete update. Those of us that read your blog are grateful to hear what’s going on. I am so very sorry that Katana is having issues with her eyesight. But reading other people’s comments, I have no doubt that she will adapt and thrive with your care. The CDT will always be there when you are ready for it. Right now,Katana needs time to adjust. I wish you and her and Jessica all the best. You always make the right decisions so I look forward to your future adventures and your book. And take care of yourself, especially the hernia. I would gladly take care of Katana if I lived nearby. Looks like many of us would do the same!

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  19. Sometimes all u can do is take what life deals u. Sad to hear about the dog situation but impressed with the idea of carrying on eventually once the commands r down.

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  20. Whatever is ahead of you, keep this warmth of your heart all along your way. Huge respect you for what you’ve already achieved, and even more for not leaving Katana behind! You’re a great man, Kyle. I hope everything will turn out fine in the end!

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  21. Hey Kyle….Sending well wishes for you and Katana…..as long as you’re both pain free and have eachother…you’re get through this!!

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  22. Kyle, Thank’s for the updates. Sounds like you have been having lots of stress with Katana, Jessica and your own . So sorry to hear about Katana’s eyesight. She is so lucky to have you for her Dad. I just love how devoted you are to each other and through your book have come to love her too. Praying for you both. You seem to always find the best solutions for everyone involved. Take care of that hernia so you are in tip top shape. Looking forward to more updates.

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  23. Kyle i am truly glad to hear from you. I want you to know I understand how you feel about katana and her sight. I was informed my dog was going blind at a young age from diabetes I was devestated. Little at a time it faded. I didn’t believe when the dr said he would be fine. They use there nose she said. Well I can tell you from my experience she was right Alvin gets around fine. We walk all the time. Slowly I must say but you would never know he is blind Alvin smells everything You will need your patience but the two of you will get it. I know it saddens you because you love her I used to say why my Alvin. Well I come to realize it is my Alvin because I love him as is and bust my but to make sacrifices for him that he might not of had from someone else as with katana with you you were meant for her. As for the trail. My spirit burns to get on the AT I have to put that aside for now for Alvin because he is insulin dependent reading your post i truly feel your delema and could sense the pain you feel for the trail you and I have that in common for our love for our babies and the trail but I also got from your post you are going to make it work. You words said it. You will do it and katana will be fine plans might have to change but it will be ok keep being you mayor you are doing the right thing to work with her and walk her in to this change Please keep us posted Oh and Kyle I would wait years for your book when it is finished I know it will be perfect just as the first book

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