Holidays, Alzheimers, Exercise for Brain Health Research, and the PCT

As we here in North America settle into Labor Day Weekend, I will use these “holiday days” to post a tribute to my friend, and his labors of love for his wife and their cause.

You may (hopefully) remember my post of the introduction of Diggerfoot and so my friend Kirk. Kirk, his daughter Charissa, and his wife Cindy, are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) with, and for, Cindy’s bucket list. Cindy has Alzheimer’s. The couples core is as long distance hikers, or as they seemed to be called, thru-hikers. As a couple they have traversed the country (The Continental Divide Trail,) hiked the Appalachian Trial and this is Kirks second time on the PCT. Compleating the three is called the Triple Crown. It’s a desire of Cindy’s to have that accomplishment, matching her husbands. As Kirk so clearly stated on his website, and I want to remind you…”We will use the hike for a mission to spread Hope for Alzheimer’s.  The first avenue of hope is with Cindy’s journey, demonstrating that people with Alzheimer’s still can pursue their dreams.  The second avenue of hope is through raising awareness for how lifestyle choices can improve Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.  The most important of these lifestyle choices is physical exercise, the only “treatment” show to halt and even reverse brain decay.  The third avenue of hope is through Exercise for Brain Health Research, for which we are raising funds.  To see how you can help us spread Hope for Alzheimer’s please visit that page.”

Cindy-and-Charissa

Flowers-Sierra2

I will take two consecutive posting here on The Botanical Beauties & Beasties site to try to recap some of what I found the enticing tidbits of info and fact from the first two months of their journey. These two postings may be a bit longer than usual, but I hope you will find them compelling and that they tempt you to connect to Kirks blog and find out more about their cause and journey. (http://www.humanityhiker.com/) ~

The hike began at Snoqualmie Pass. This pass is about 45 minutes from the Seattle Metro area and is part of Rocky Mountains. It was a little tougher than expected the hikers had a false start. From Kirk’s blog -“We spent our whole first day in the snow, also struggling to find the trail. The day never climbed above freezing…” So here in MA we were enjoying all the summer trimmings and they were in snow! For a few reasons, Kirk makes the call and they turn back. He decides “We would go further south to start our hike north to the Canadian border, precisely at Mackenzie Pass in Oregon. I also resolved that we really had two goals. One was to get Cindy the Triple Crown. The other, and more important, was to enable Cindy to enjoy life, even at the cost of the other goal.”

With this change of their plans they have created  “a “flip flop” thru-hike in order to stay away from snow and make the hiking easier for one not as sure of foot as she once was.….Our first day out from Mackenzie Pass, after first hiking through a lava field reminiscent of a moonscape, we encountered over a mile of hiking on snow, followed by burned forests littered with extensive blowdowns. This was not making hiking easy for Cindy but I made the call to go on this time because the snowfield was on gentle slopes, no steep traverses, and burned forests don’t go on forever.”

Sonora-Pass-View2
Panoramic views!

Now, they are on track, up at 10,500 feet, they have climbed out of Sonora Pass and have an amazing panoramic view. Sonora Pass northern boundary is Yosemite National Park, and it also where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Hwy 108 for those of you who know roads! With an elevation of 9,620 feet, it is the second highest paved pass in the Sierra Nevada range. By early July the gang is in the S. Lake Tahoe area. Kirk is running support and a self-appointed Sherpa to make this journey possible. He says in his posting that “I think is one of the most beautiful stretches along the PCT, the Desolation Wilderness.” I read that the temps are in 80’s, I haven’t read bad words about snow for a few postings now, and the trip seems to be moving along. I am glad for them.

A July posting is called Collapsing Tent Poles. Cindy is struggling with daily tasks and  towards the end of his post Kirk says- “At times like this you wonder why you would continue with this. The answers come from Cindy. We are always meeting other hikers and tell them something about what we are doing. To one group I gave the report on how exercise is the only thing shown to actually regenerate brain tissue. Cindy chimed in cheerfully: “Yep! That’s why I’m out here! …. Well, and I love hiking.” The positivity that Cindy demonstrates, and the strength they all show, is proof of the wonders of the human spirit when we, as people, need to call it up, somehow it seems to rise to the occasion! If you are mindful of it, you can witness this all the time in our daily lives. The struggles are unique to our own paths, and each one is equally important to the individual facing the challenge.

A few days later and the group is about 10 miles N. of Sierra City, headed over to hike the Sierra Buttes section of the PCT. “As we descended into Sierra City we finally got down low enough to be out of the snow.” (Amazing out here on the East coast we were enjoying a very lovely summer! Sun and no snow thank goodness!)…By mid July I am seeing posting that mentioned Cindy and her gang are hiking 20 miles a day! Impressive!

SNOW!
SNOW!

This posting is from Kirks blog on July 26, and the three hikers are back close to where they actually tried to start their hike originally. Remember that a 10 mile snowfield turned them back around to begin elsewhere!  “We were just a few miles into the Three Sisters Wilderness…As we tackled this section south of Mackenzie Pass on July 22 there were no ten mile snowfields. Indeed, I failed to remember how spectacular the scenery was through here, a source of continual awe were it not for being focused on the footpath. The lava fields made for some tough footwork for Cindy, as did the snowfields. For though they did not last for ten miles the patches occurred frequently over such a length.” Day two of that section, and thunderstorms hit…rain, drizzle, and cold, created this sentence. “All rain gear not made of rubber, to my knowledge, have a saturation point. Ours had reached that in the continuing rain. Wet and cold, I knew Cindy faced hypothermia conditions. After only three miles I knew I had to find a campsite soon.” As expected, they weathered the storm … one of the most heart warming moments in my readings of Kirk’s post is what he wrote after setting up a campsite, cold, wet, and in that storm – “This was the essence of us as a couple: content in our sleeping bags after a day’s hike, weathering the storm. This was normal for us; the way things should be. I looked over at Cindy and absorbed the music, knowing just how fleeting such “normal” moments now are. I wanted to freeze and hold onto that moment forever.”  http://www.humanityhiker.com/weathering-the-storm/  As Kirk stated, the experience had created a new normal and they had gotten thru it all. An interesting question for us to think about. That concept of “normal” and how it is really a very wide dynamic range for most of us and pretty much most of the time! Do you have a new “normal”? Is yours ever evolving? I know mine is.

So I will end this post here – and in a day or two, I will ”recap” the best I can the August postings! Catching us all up-to-date, and hopefully a little more “aware.”

As I write those words, I can’t help but also be reminded of all the awareness that the Ice Bucket Challenge has brought to the ALS issue. There are so many important places, things, and issues that call for our attention and awareness these days!

 “Slowly, I witness the constants in my life fade around me. All things must pass. I just wish we could have more control in the manner of their passing.” – Kirk Sinclair

 

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