Quail Hollow Moonlit Walk

A scorpion in the wild, highlighted at night by ultraviolet light.

I’ve written before about accessible open spaces or nature preserves that accommodate a variety of ability levels. In my post, “Zooming for your Passions” I discussed the fact that I find a huge gap between what able-bodied people feel is doable for handicapped folks, without any clear idea of the mix of abilities hiding their handicaps and trying to pass for normal as they go through life.

Last night’s moonrise walk during the full “Buck” moon was a perfect example of an opportunity to be out and about, vs. the ability to do so safely, without needing to bother anyone else for help, or end the evening with the EMT’s being called because I way over estimated my abilities, and could not hide in plain sight.

In a prior case, I had previously invited a 79 year old friend and neighbor to go for a moonrise “walk” with me on June 25th, in the foothills above San Jose, CA, and once we got there, the preserve was anything but practical for the lung-challenged walker. So, I didn’t invite her to go with me to last nights’ walk as I didn’t want to disappoint her twice in a row for getting in an interesting.

In the original invitation, there were a number of major issues: First – almost sheer up and downs, suitable only for billy goats and sheep for abilities levels.

Secondly – the trails were 1-way only trails, so anyone going on a walk had to commit to completing whatever loop they were on, as there was no simply turning around and returning the way you’d come.


Note the fine print on the bottom left – “One-way trail map”

Now, I’m as game as the next person to do something foolishly stupid, but years of trying to make healthy efforts while hiding in plain sight have taught me to not be an idiot. So, I can only drive to the parking lot of this particular preserve and meander along the top of the ridgeline of that particular area as even the gentlest incline is too much for me to risk, now that I have a better understanding of the terrain. But, I went with a neighbor, so we sat around and sucked it up and we still had a good time despite very little actual walking…

Sunset, looking toward SF Bay, 25-JUN-21

Overlook at Sunset, from the San Jose foothills
Moonrise !

While I could read the maps to numerically understand the potential gain or heights I would be risking during my walk in June, it just doesn’t translate to my numerically-challenged, dyslexic brain.

1,000 feet…

1,600 feet…

1,800 feet… it’s all just so much gobbeldy-gook to my brain, as there might be flat walking areas along the ridgeline, and I won’t know until I get to the preserve and see for myself.

For instance, on the map for the Sierra Vista Open Space preserve trails, there are numbers for height or incline shown in terms of waves:

So, in preparing for last night’s second attempt at a moonlight stroll, my expectations were pretty low.

If you look at last night’s map of Quail Hollow, about an hour’s drive away in Felton, CA, there are waves indicating height everywhere, but the numbers I can see – 656 feet, 492 feet – are few and far between. So, my estimate was that the walking path may be half the height of the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve, yet this area is in the Santa Cruz MOUNTAINS… so, one would think this would be a much rougher terrain for a handicapped person by the name of the location alone.

However, listening to our docent (walk host / safety leader), the actual height or incline gain would be only ~150 feet. A number mentioned nowhere on the preserve map. 👀

There are trail experts to whom height vs. distance numbers = calculable areas for gain or elevation / steepness in terms of grading a hike or walk. They can do the calculations in their sleep.

Since most novice hikers have zero ideas about how to calculate elevation gain over distance,

Part 1 – how to grade a hike’s difficulty
Hike difficulty calculations, part 2

and most descriptions or maps are inconsistent in terms of what data is shared for grading the trails for true accessibility for all levels of ability, the visitor is usually going to want to check trail descriptions, see trail photos and decide for themselves if the trail accessibility is overstated or understated in terms of terrain difficulty… IMHO, most people aren’t going to know how to do the calculations to estimate height gained or lost during a walk, and, even if they are able to do the math, can’t translate those numbers into reliable, factual, spatial relations data in their own head without actually walking the trail.

(Time to stop and catch your breath)

I am pleased to say that I was able to keep up with last night’s walking group, despite a 150 foot elevation gain and loss over the period of a mile – but only because we kept stopping to beat the leaf fall and underbrush for scorpions and centipedes. 👀

(Another version of last night’s trail map, with no indication of heights or elevations at all)

So, we left the Park Office (the old ranch house) where a wedding was taking place, walked North along the Italian Trail, along the Upper Meadow, then around through the Lower Chaparral and back to the Park Office.

There were about 40 of us, including parents with kids, and we heard all about the Italian Brothers who’d squatted on the land, to the point of building cabins, and which the original homesteaders tolerated (probably because they often traded for their labor on the ranch).

We heard owls, flushed out something small in the undergrowth (probably quail or partridges), and I managed to keep up and have fun despite the misty dampness, the dry trail sand being kicked up, and my pine and redwood tree allergies trying to clog up my breathing. Most important, though… we were able to pick up a few scorpions hiding in the underbrush, which our docent flushed out with his ultraviolet flash light (gotta get me one of those!). The picture at the top of the blog is a much more reasonable quality image than the blue speck I was able to get with my camera. But, here’s the grouping from last night’s fb post for anyone who cares to see my actual efforts…

Meanwhile, I tell you all that to tell you this:

I looked at my sand-covered, steel-toed boots this morning, and they’d gotten another good workout for breaking-in those ridiculously heavy boots without any wear and tear sores on my feet. Yes !

(Regarding my proper gear obsession – Living in fire and earthquake country, there were only ~17 firefighters / emergency personnel to come save us decrepit 55+ residents in the event of a natural disaster when I first moved here to the old folks Summer Camp 5 years back. Now that the area residents have grown to almost 250,000 more people – and the police and firefighter staff have not been increased – there is even less likelihood we’ll be a priority on the first responders list, so it pays to be prepared to help yourself and your neighbors).

Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this. You *can* do it ! You can keep trying to stay fit and independent despite what the breathing numbers may say in your PFT (Pulmonary Function Test) reports.

I may be down to only ~16% of normal lung function, but you have to keep trying to help yourself be the best you can be. Besides sitting around waiting to die, what else have you got to do with you time? Might as well have some fun, and enjoy the world in all its beauty, if that’s what makes you happy.

Plus, you never know what you may see ! I still have the goal to take photos like these hobbyists, but until that talent magically appears, I’m going to share other people’s better photos of similar adventures…

The milky way over Arcadia National Park
Strawberry Moonrise – Portland, Maine
Another moonrise over my beautiful Atlantic ocean…

Tomorrow is another day… let’s see if I have enough energy to get up at 5am to get ready for a birding walk an hour’s drive away in Watsonville… Must keep finding reasons to push myself to get out of bed and ignore my pain and failing health. Life is too short to sit around waiting for the end to hurry up and get here.

And, while the spirit was willing, the body quit.
Maybe next time…

7 Ponds Blog

Heard from my EOL Doula today with an interesting article she’d come across the she thought might apply to me, and she was right. I found it very interesting, especially this part:

“In 2016, Canada made medically assisted death legal. And in 2021, they passed another bill to broaden access to allow people with a serious medical condition to apply, even if their death is not considered imminent. This is different from most legislation in the United States in which one must have a terminal condition with six months or fewer left to live to be eligible.”

This change in Canada’s euthanasia conversation and laws gives me hope that I won’t have needless suffering at the end of my life, should America grow up and separate the religious dogma against suicide from its euthanasia / quality of life concepts, conversations and laws.

Sadly, my Cousin T has been in an incredible amount of pain, to the point where she’s had multiple surgeries this year, playing whack-a-mole with her symptoms, trying to get her some relief. The worst part? She had a bone spur on her cervical collar / spine, probably the source causing loss of control of her legs, forcing multiple concussions and injuries over the last few years.

Now, I clarify they “believe” this bone spur is also causing her incontinence (previously fixed in childhood and re-operated on in May), but because of the whack-a-mole approach to her care, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not this will be the treatment that sticks and fixes her major aggravations.

In Cousin T’s case, she went in for what she thought was a reasonable outpatient procedure, where they would do a simple operation on her spine (simple?!! What where they thinking?!!). Anyway, I tell you that to tell you this:

The surgery left her without any practical use of her arms and hands for 3-6 months, AND they denied her rehab support, saying that – as a low income SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipient – she could go to a nursing home / board and care home, but could NOT go to rehab.

So, Cousin T is stuck at home, this is what her spine looks like:

And she’s NOT entitled to necessary and practical rehab care while they left her helpless to help herself while recovering at home. First, the drain didn’t work, necessitating another day’s hospital stay and second immediate surgery.

Next, she developed an abscess at the surgery site (DOH !) that they are “monitoring” through home health / visiting nurse services.

Now, this is the same Cousin who needs to have her leg amputated because she broke her ankle in 2009, and 21 surgeries later, the leg just won’t stay healthy and uninfected. Cousin T won’t agree to the amputation, and she’s on incredible opioids and CBD items plus pain management services to try and control her pain while ensuring she’s not abusing her drugs…

It’s a no-win scenario, and when you add in the spine surgery to try and mitigate her failing body, there is no pain-free, practical solution that will give my infection-prone Cousin the quality of life she is seeking. And, should she fall prey to addiction or suicidal thoughts because of the unrelenting pain without sufficient paint relief, our ableist society will blame her for her failing body, poor medical choices, unsuccessful outcomes, and will call her a deadbeat for no longer being able to work.

At any rate, I told you all that to underscore that euthanasia needs to remain a viable alternative for people who want to opt in.

Here’s the link that my EOL Doula sent:

Rational Suicide

I hope this blog sparks additional conversation about why access to successful methods of euthanasia may be the only rational choice for folks otherwise trapped in their bodies and constrained by financial and emotional issues that current Death With Dignity fail to address.

Frustration continues

Good evening. Met with the pulmonologist via video call today, and it was pointless. He continues to say to send him the reports from the Ring for ox sat data, but since he’s not ordering sleep studies or otherwise reacting to the data, it’s frustrating and pointless, in my humble opinion.

Nothing like watching an oncoming train wreck and being powerless to change its course.

Really worried about losing brain function to this disease due to oxygen saturation deprivation, but can’t get a second opinion via the palliative care team as they still haven’t acted on my May 3rd request for enrollment in their program (there’s a long waiting list to get in, and I have no idea what their capacity is, or what average wait times may be). So frustrating !

Still no resumption of my Better Breathers Club sessions a year and a half after they stopped all meetings, and I don’t think the hospital is going to let the club resume meetings any time soon – especially since the county is now back to mandating / strongly recommending masks for all indoor activities given the rise of Delta variant corona virus cases in the state.

I’m not expecting to live forever, but I would like to avoid oxygen deprivation issues while we all concentrate on the coronavirus to the detriment of other, more practical, concerns. Life goes on, and if I can’t qualify for euthanasia yet, it would help my peace of mind a lot to know I wasn’t doing damage to my brain that might disqualify my ability to opt for it in the future.

So frustrating to not have answers or an action plan to preserve my quality of life !

Otherwise, same crap different day.

Staying busy with the garden and trying to clean up my messy house and yard in preparation of PG&E’s replacement of our gas and electric utilities over the next year and a half (oh, joy! Construction noise).

Started building a third raised bed dry stacked pavers tiered planting bed to split up my irises into two locations so that they will have more room to spread their roots. All the busy work in the world, though, will not keep my brain from wondering if my shorter attention span and faster temper is a sign of brain degradation from low oxygen saturation periods, and if brain damage will stop me being rational enough to pass tests to certify that I’m in my right mind to opt for euthanasia when the time comes…

To paraphrase Richard Dreyfus’s character, Ken, from the brilliant film, “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?”:

“The only thing I have left is my consciousness and I don’t want that paralysed as well.”

I went to see Black Widow with a friend last night, and in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable evening, I’m gasping in pain and twisting uncomfortably in my seat as my diabetic neuropathy flares and my feet are on fire. Despite the topical. Despite wearing sneakers two sizes too large to protect my crazily sensitive toes…

I am already worried about my other friend, having enough funds left to care for herself as her dementia progresses, without worrying that the current pandemic restrictions are actively eliminating my freedom of choice in the future as my ability to control my own body and its response to pain.

No answers here, but I don’t want to be trapped in my body enduring personal care indignities like this trapped soul…