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.
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…
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.
1,800 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,
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.
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. 👀
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…
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.