Sunday, January 16, 2011

Are things looking up or is it just the great weather?

The Man and I took a hike yesterday on one of our favorite trails, the Lost Valley Trail in the San Rafael Wilderness. A long time ago when The Man was married he used to go up to that trail and cut the brush with loppers. I think he went every weekend for a whole spring and summer. It gets blazing hot in the summer. He loves to work hard in 100 degree weather. He's nuts. Back then, he wanted to see that trail and the Hurricane Deck trail kept open. The forest service seems to have decided these trails should be abandoned. Probably because they go too close to Native American archaeological sites. We've watched it decay over the years and haven't been there for a while.

Seems the forest service got a bit of stimulus money recently and opened up the Lost Valley trail for about 4 miles. The trail was in great condition. A few blow downs, but otherwise better than it has been. For the first 4 miles anyway up to Oak tree camp. Then the trail has fallen to pieces. Our jaunty 3mph pace slowed to 1mph in a few sections.

Near the summit, though, it improved and past the Pine tree camp the brush was dry and easy to get through. The area had burned in the 2007 Zaca Fire and remains fairly easy going. We reached the junction with Hurricane Deck by 1pm.

We had lunch up at the junction. We enjoyed views of the Sierra Madre. It was so clear and the air so clean I knew if we had been on the Sierra Madre mountains we would have been able to see the snowy peaks of the High Sierra. I commented to The Man that this was the first hike in a long time where I actually sweated some. It was pretty warm.

After a quick lunch, we headed back down. The Man decided to cut brush with his loppers and asked me to go ahead of him so he wouldn't get carried away with brush clearing. I enjoyed a leisurely pace down to the Oak tree camp. The Man put away his loppers and we hurried down the trail. After a while we started jogging. We were losing the daylight on this short January day. But not the heat. It was still in the 70s and the running was making us sweat.

We really wanted to get back to the creek crossing of the Manzana creek before dark. The Man didn't want to try and cross the creek in the dark. Even with headlamps it can be hard to see the bottom and get a good footing. He sprained his ankle on Apache Peak last year and still has trouble now and then. He went to the emergency room three times last year. We joked often that he was gearing up for another trip, such as when he would slip on a loose boulder in one of the landslides or something. He didn't seem worried.

The Man said he really enjoys our solitary hikes. Nothing to worry about compared to the Sierra Club hikes where sometimes people will cause problems with bad decision-making or poor physical conditioning. We often go out half daring ourselves to get stuck somewhere. We never have, though. It's fun to be adventurous and tempt fate without worrying about the babysitting and liability blah blah blah of a group hike.

He was in such a good mood today. When he gets on the trail he becomes a different person. I got him to open up about retirement the other day. Turns out he's got enough money to retire. The only thing holding him back is health insurance. He's just holding out for medicare. That made me wonder. What about me? Am I going to have to work until I'm 62 because of health insurance? Normally I don't care about health insurance. When I was younger I was super poor and knew how to get free health care. Free clinics with the sliding scale. I always fell on the free side of the scale. Sometimes I could just tell a good sob story to a doctor and get free care. Not sure that works as well when you are 40+ as when you are 20+.

Anyway, I've planted little seeds in his head about doing more hiking, maybe traveling around in an RV or van. We could bring the birds. They couldn't go backpacking, although I think The Man thinks maybe they could. I don't think they could, but I know they could go camping. Years ago we took Ariel camping and she slept with me in my sleeping bag. It is really hard to sleep with a big giant bird on your arm. Even more years ago I went on a road trip in my VW van with my little parrot. She slept inside a plywood nestbox. I stuffed a sock in the round opening so she couldn't get out and I slept with the nestbox under my blankets in the back of my van.

I guess I feel a little better about working lately, like maybe there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, like maybe it is not so permanent. Could just be the weather makes me feel better. Or maybe that I've done more walking lately. Since I don't have my second job anymore, I'm back to walking to work. I haven't made any new shoes lately so I've walked after work, too.

I wore my hiking shoes on yesterday's Lost Valley hike. They worked pretty well but my feet slip around a bit and that started to annoy me after a while. I got an instructional CD for making unlasted shoes and want to try it. It includes instructions on how to make the pattern by wrapping your foot with tape, drawing the seam lines and then cutting the tape off your foot. You get a better fit. That's what I need. A better fit. Otherwise, the super wide, zero-drop, no arch-support thing seems to work out very well for me.


  1. When I used to work, there were guys that said, "I'm just here for the health insurance."

    When I quit my job to hike the PCT it was a big deal because health insurance was awarded to us by how many hours you worked. You could bank some hours but not a lot. Once your bank was depleted you had to work for 500 hours before you could even start to bank hours again. So it would take years to get back to where you were, working a seasonal job.

    I asked if I could pay for my own insurance and they said yes but it would cost 400 dollars a month. I decided to skip health insurance.

    After watching "Sicko" I said, "Health insurance is a scam. There is no guarantee that if you get sick they won't deny you treatment or say it was a preexisting condition." If I get really sick I don't want to spend my last days arguing with an insurance company.

    My plan was to take good care of myself and if I did need some major medical expense to go to a foreign country and get it taken care of cheaply or to just except that I'm mortal.

    I did break my ankle and it ended up costing me 5000 dollars. Still cheaper than if I had paid out the 400 dollars a month.

    In my town there is a clinic that charges based on your income. You have to show them you tax forms from the year before.

    Later my son turned me on the Washington Basic Health plan. It is based only on income not on assets. And they don't count long term capitol gains. I now get insurance for 17 dollars a month and it pays for pre-existing conditions after 9months.

    It is a comfort to have health insurance but I was reading a book by a doctor and in it he said that health was 50% lifestyle, 20% environment, 20% genetics, and less than 10% medical.

    I have also found that Amazon sells "fish" antibiotics cheaply in human doses. Now we can get antibiotics and giradia meds ourselves.

    I also read "Where there is No Doctor" and wilderness medical guides and think about what I would do in medical emergency. When I broke my ankle, I was able to traction it back in to position and splint it with my closed cell pad and duct tape. The emergency room was impressed but said that an ankle should be surgically set.

    You can wait until your covered with medical care to retire but that is no assurance of not being financially ruined by sickness.

    Another thing to know is that the insurance companies negotiate with the doctors and hospitals. You can negotiate too.

    Glad you are feeling so good.

  2. I'm with you on the insurance is a scam thing. Especially with all the stories of them canceling coverage when people actually get sick and need the insurance. I saw the movie Sicko, too, and also the PBS series Sick Around the World. I am definitely NOT happy that the gov't signed that health care bill to force us to buy health insurance. I say give us health care, not health insurance.

    When I decided to go to college I planned to pay my way through on my part time job selling flowers. It was $500 a quarter. I could do it. Within the first year they raised the fee to $800 a quarter. Then to $1400. I could no longer pay my way. So I got financial aid. Now there was a whole layer of bureaucracy to pay for and they mostly paid me to go to college. I got a very small loan to get through one quarter and that involved even more layers of paper-pushers that had to be paid. I couldn't see how this was better than just letting me pay a small amount. I see health care as being similar. Why feed a giant money-grubbing industry of paper-pushers. They are in the way. Get them out of the way and it would all be so much cheaper. But now they want to force me to pay them for a product I don't feel I need that they will continue to find a way not to deliver. Oh... Don't get me started. It makes me very mad.

    I have health insurance now through his job. I rarely use it. I'm not getting my money's worth from it at all. Every time I go to the doctor they just tell me to use over the counter stuff. I'm rarely sick enough for the good stuff. The only thing it was ever good for was paying for my hysterectomy. Best dang surgery ever. I highly recommend hysterectomies to those still menstruating. No need to suffer with fibroids if you don't have to.

    The Man's mom was a nurse and used to tell him stories all the time. He might be running with a pencil and his mom would say, "A boy came into the ER just the other day with a pencil stuck in his eye. He was running with a pencil just like you. He'll never see again." He tries to laugh at his upbringing but I think it really affected him. He's very cautious and traditional about health care. He's really touchy about it though and absolutely will not discuss doing things differently.

    Perhaps he would be cheered to know about Washington's insurance. I could tolerate living in the east of Washington where it's not a gloomy tangle of rainforest.