Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quicksilver Almaden Park Hike

Quicksilver Almaden Park Hike (16 miles, 6.5 hours, April 17, 2010)

Spring is a really good time to do some of these long hikes, as the temperature is perfect and it is beautiful outside. We were scheduled to assemble at LifeScan parking lot at 6 AM. I was the last one to reach, as I was asking Promila to make tea little more special as my manager was going to join this hike. Well, it seemed to work as she asked for refill. Who knows, little buttering up might help, though we would never know the exact impact.

Thanks to Paul for planning this hike and agreeing to drive. He knew the trails very well, and even knew the hidden mines and equipment which were off the trail. We went from Hacienda Parking lot till the other end of the park as per
map, and did the loop. Paul and I were using hiking poles, when we ran into a group of senior citizens who commented, “Look at the gal, she is keeping up with the boys without any help from the poles” (Note to myself: missed opportunity to praise here). Well, I had to agree here, this was Liz’s first big hike and she was able to keep up pace with me and Paul.

Though the elevation gain was not that much, it was lot of ups and down. I asked Liz about her new Wii, as I knew that she could play a mean game of boxing. She told me that since Sean went to college, she did not see the use of it and sold it. Paul and Liz, both shared success stories about online dating. I did not know that there were three times more women than men who are subscribed to these sites. Is it because women are more adventurous or courageous or hopeful or plain romantic, may be all of the above ? I was surprised to know that Liz’s 87 years young mother is still reading smuts (new word for me – meaning quick-read-romantic-novels-with-steamy-scenes) , almost every day. Just like men are still attached to video games and sports, looks like girls never grow up either, and fantasize about romance throughout life.

Therapeutic part, and probably the best part of the hike, was once again venting off sessions. Liz sighed deeply, when Paul asked about her son. He was graduating this year from George Town University, with double major in finance and business; and minor in theater. This minor is creating major drama in Liz’s life (though he is now legally drinking age). What we heard then, was related to girlfriend’s monopoly over the son, when they visited Liz recently in spring break for a week. Liz complained that they were hardly at home, even in a get together Sean was around his girlfriend and did not mingle. They preferred Jamba Juice instead of Liz’s cooking. Most of us in office knew about Liz’s Death-by-Chocolate cookies and her rum cakes, and how she loved to open her beautiful home for parties. It was good to know that mom-showing-luv-via-cooking-overfeeding-grown-kids and control issues were universal. I think they are more acute in Indian culture. Come to think of it, Liz could have used that Wii boxing after all, it might be worth it to have a match with Hanna.

After reaching the end of the park, we took Guadalupe Creek trail and sat on reservoir to eat snacks. We saw a lot of California poppy, and they opened up as day wore on. I talked about ‘Bleed’ investment strategy described in ‘Black Swan’. However, the fund which is using it, is no longer open for new investors. Though it was over 16 mile hike, as it had happened many times earlier, time passed quickly and it did not feel like a long hike. Of course, since it was Liz first long hike, she felt it afterwards. On Monday, she told me about pain all over shins and thighs and blisters on feet. However, it was a good pain, fully recovered by Wednesday; and asked if Paul and I could take her on another hike.

Paul had a severe backache just 10 days before the hike, he was taking prescription painkillers. As long as he was moving, he had no issues. This was first time he did the whole park in one stretch. He is hiking Half Dome with me in June. So he wanted to do at least one more big hike before Half Dome. He is proposing Nisene Marks hike (begins from Aptos); sometime in May. If anybody else is interested, let me know. However, let me warn you here, whenever we come across a steep hill, he would pick up speed, muttering under his breath, ‘Go ahead, make my day’. He is a big Clint Eastwood fan !Logistics: Park opens up at 8 AM, so if you want to start early, you have to park on the street across the park. We started the hike from Hacienda gate.
Directions Video

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rose Peak Hike (April 10, 2010 – Saturday)

Thanks to Chetan for getting permit, planning the hike and driving to it, we all had a great long endurance hike of 20 miles from Sunol Wilderness to Rose Peak. Again this was for preparation for Half Dome and Mount Whitney later in the year. How appropriate was it that there was a place called Little Yosemite which came early on the trail, followed by a rock which looks like Half Dome.

Park opens up at 7, and we reached around that time. Chetan spoke edgily couple of times before start of the hike, about forgetting of key and some other stuff. He apologized immediately. He is a new father; lack of sleep might be the cause. I told him that it was ok, this was our 3rd hike together and it seemed he felt fairly close enough to us to be able to express his angst. Well, at least this was what my manager’s boss told her when she yelled in a meeting. (Ummm…wondering if I can use this reasoning at home. Nope, it would not work.)

Sky was overcast, and ideal for hiking, however I thought it would clear up soon. It didn’t. It became more windy and cold. We missed the trail, had to come back a bit. By now everybody was chatting with gusto. Prasad was fatherly explaining to Chetan as how not to move his hand fast while taking video, sit on his knees to take photos and remove his fingers from flash. Chetan complied dutifully. I did not feel thirsty, and thus was not stopping to drink. All other hikers had Camelback. (Note to self – Remind myself to thank Prasad for taking frequent breaks, otherwise I probably would have been dehydrated)

We talked about the books we just finished. I talked about inverse relationship of praise and kid’s confidence (not that Indian parents have to worry about it); as per the book ‘NurtureShock’. Nitin talked about ‘Autobiography of Yogi’ where in, apart from other things, there was an interpretation of Bible story of ‘Adam and Eve’. As per Nitin, interpretation was that God made humans as perfect where they do not have to eat anything to survive. If they live as per His advice and not give into temptation (apple); they could have lived peacefully forever. Everybody in the group had vehemently agreed on this, that there were people who had survived without eating anything and it was very much possible. And we ate, between 4 of us, three huge omelet sandwiches (Chetan did not eat them as he was vegetarian), 8 half vegetarian sandwiches (thanks to Promila for making cucumber, tomatoes, avocados, chard and alpha-alpha sprouts on oat-nut-whole-grain bread), countless cliff bars, nature bars, biscuits, drank ginger tea; and later in evening, topped it with 7 beers and a large Pizza pie.

Chetan was a walking encyclopedia. He knew so many trails and hikes, it was as if he had been doing them forever. His knowledge about various religions was great. He spoke about rise of Mormon sect of Christianity and temples. And when we were cribbing about the taxes, he told us that they had amended the constitution in 1913, Amendment 16; to collect taxes. His love about Geography was obvious, he knew more than one way whether to explore Cloud Rest, Half Dome, Mission Peak or one of his favorite place, Twin Peaks. I only know Amendment 1 and 5.

Again thanks to Chetan, who decided that Mission Pizza would be a great place to go after the hike. I had to admit here, I did not have high expectations, however, this place truly surprised me. It had 32 beers on tap. It was apparent from the d├ęcor, countless beer bottles, photos, live music; that the owner took pride in his work. I was not sure about which beer to get, and I was given sample in chilled glass. Pizza was also one of a kind, overall excellent choice. While everybody else was having second round, two cops came in. I had been told that it was another testimony that Mission Pizza was a great joint, as cops ate at only the best places.

It was apparent that we had a perfect day. It started early, hiked for 10 hours in cool breeze (very windy at the peak), chatted ( occasional swearing), venting, pulled each other legs, lot of sweat (I can tell; as people moved away from me when I was tasting beer at the bar), followed by great pizza and real cool beers.

Well it had to end somewhere. Prasad started to schedule some TV time together with Nitin. Nitin said that he had to check the weather; and he was not talking about the weather outside. We were all thinking of how to bribe our wives to keep this perfect-day-feeling a little bit longer.

Logistics: Drive north on I-680 and exit at Calaveras Road. Turn right on Calaveras and proceed to Geary Road, which leads directly into the park. There is plenty of parking in parking lot. The permit for Sunol wilderness can be bought at Coyote Hills entrance, it is valid for full year ($2/person) More details/Logistics Video

Monday, April 12, 2010

My son’s asthma control

My son, now 6 year old, had been suffering for Asthma for over 3 years. He would build breathing issues as soon as he catches a cold or have a runny nose. Western medicines would just prescribe Albutrol (Xopenex) and Pulmicort (steroid) through nebulizer. I bought one at home. As time progressed, it had been taking longer to come out of asthma episodes; when he was 1.5 years, it used to be just 1-2 dose of Xopenex; at 4 it was Xopenex and Pulmicort for 3 days, he could not eat anything during these 3-4 days; and this has been occurring almost every 4-6 weeks. As a result, he was slow in catching up with a lot of things, speech delay, and other basic skills. We have to go to ER every 2-3 months, and I was really feeling helpless. I just could not accept that nothing else could be done. I started looking for alternative medicines. One of the OTC Homeopathic drug worked 2-3 months, but was not effective later. Finally reading few books, I came across certain things. Though I did not have the medicines prescribed in the books, however, I just followed few things, and since these minor adjustments, followed in last 2 years, we had couple of minor manageable-at-home asthma episodes, no ER visit.

1. Diet: We have reduced dairy based products. Though not completely eliminated them, he some times still eats pizza, but if he is having runny nose, we follow the guidelines strictly. There are other foods which the book lists out not to eat, but dairy is the main one. I remember, when we were not following these guidelines, and if he was having asthma episodes, and not eating anything, we would try to give him some cow milk to drink, and he would always vomit it. We used to think, it is just because of coughing, and on discussing with 4-5 different doctors, nothing came up. However, this book was very clear on impact of milk and vomiting.

2. As I know that most of the time when he had runny nose, he was not able to excrete the mucous and while he is sleeping, the mucous would go down and block the bronchioles, I thought we needed a good expectorant, but none of western medicine expectorant worked. We just started giving him ginger juice and honey mix (never refrigerate it), two to three times daily. We still give him almost every day. I think this is one of the biggest factor in preventing his triggers (runny nose) to build into asthma. This mix has been amazing. How to make the mix – Grate small piece of fresh ginger as you can not refrigerate the mix, it would work for 3-5 days on room temperature then its potency start decreasing. And just press the grated ginger, using your hands for ginger juice. Measure the quantity of juice ( say 3 tsp) and mix equal quantity of honey. Give half tsp of this mix at a time, 2-3 times a day. Try to give one just before the kid sleeps in night.

3. For milk, we have totally switched to Organic soya milk, and put licorice (mulethi), saffron, turmeric and honey while giving him in night. We have observed, some times if we do not give it to him, and if he had some runny nose, he would start coughing in night. Licorice tea helps when he is trouble breathing or coughing, the effect is immediate. To make Licorice tea, boil 1 tsp of licorice root in water for 2-3 minutes. Tea is good for 3 days, just take 1-2 sips every 10-15 minutes if child is wheezing.

4. No cold drinks (or ice creams) if he has runny nose. Even we give him warm water for drinking, he does not like it, but he understands. We have observed that some times, just giving warm water stops coughing in night.
Another thing I observed, when he used to cough in night, and it was not a productive cough (you have to hear it whether it is productive or dry); to stop such cough we tried chopped garlic clove, boiled in soya milk for 2 minutes, and then put some turmeric in the end, let milk cool down enough where it was drinkable. This worked for us all the time.

5. Warm water bath, almost every night (30 minutes), and if he has runny nose, I encourage him to blow his nose 10-15 times, continuously.

6. Massage with mustard oil on chest and back and neck, before sleeping or during sleep, if we find he is coughing in night. The effect of mustard oil massage is just amazing and immediate, he stops coughing/wheezing and immediately feels better.

7. Saline solution in nose is excellent way to help relieve congestion and help him breath better. You can make it at home.

Hope some of the things which worked for us, would help some of you too. Do not give up, keep trying different things.

Name of the book is ‘Complete book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies’ by Dr Vasant Lad

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin (Saturday - April 3, 2010)

It was a pleasant surprise to get email on Friday evening from Chetan about the hike. I was thinking of doing an endurance hike with Paul at Quicksilver, Almaden; but he was already backed out of it because of back spasms. Chetan further offered to pick me up from home; that was the deciding factor, as I did not have to worry about the logistics as it was a new hike.

We started around 5:15 AM, and when Nitin, Chetan and Prasad picked me up; I was not aware if we’re doing Castle Rock or Berry Creek. It was a good idea to do Berry Creek as we had two days of rains. I remembered doing couple of hikes in Big Basin, and never had any luck finding much water in the falls. Chetan was a bit groggy (new father for 6 weeks now) and needed to find the Starbucks. When I offered Promila’s ginger tea, everybody yelped happily, however agreed to drink it at the falls. Amazingly we found Starbucks open at that time.

As expected the trail was wet and muddy, however, mud was not sticking to the boots. Thanks to Chetan who knew the trails very well, we decided to do the loop, going to the falls from Sunset trail, and then coming back on Berry Creek Trail, 10 miles, moderate elevation gain. Though it was cold, after 20 minutes of hiking Prasad was out of his jacket. Again this was a training hike for Half Dome and later Mount Whitney (August) this year.

We were all enjoying the big thick Redwood forest. And as a real gentleman, Chetan decided to give something back to nature; however he asked for everybody’s advice as which would be the worthy tree to get all that Super-filtered-no-foam-Starbucks. Frankly, it was too much information for rest of us.

Soon we came into a clearing, and out came Prasad’s new Sony camera. Apart from HD video, it has ‘smile-catching’ feature. I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. Soon we all were trying to guess what did that mean. And we all agreed that camera would wait till everybody was smiling together before it would let you click. By the end of the hike, I had more pain in my jawbones then my legs.

We saw a lot of newts and banana slugs on the trail. And I came to know that Santa Cruz sports team name is ‘Banana Slugs’. Now that we know that most of us, Californians, are laidback, but why would somebody pick up Banana Slugs as their Athletic team’s mascot!

We reached the top of the falls, however, Chetan soon clarified that the real fall was below this one. Nitin was the adventure geek of the group. He soon went into the fall. We all followed him, after observing that he did not slip or fall in the flowing water, to have real good background for snaps. He then made a Tarzan style jump (around 5 feet high and 6 feet wide) to land on a dry place. Nobody followed him here.

By this time Prasad was extremely hungry and Chetan, who had been cajoling him to walk another 5 minutes, and that there was a bench around the corner. It was apparent that Chetan is going to be a great father. We walked for another 15 minutes, and finally decided to sit on couple of fallen Redwood trees to eat and have Promila’s ginger tea. Nitin soon found out that tea was scalding hot. However, like a good citizen he warned everybody.

On hiking further, Chetan mentioned that this was the spot, where his wife Mansi, 3years ago, twisted her ankle and got bruised. I asked if he took that opportunity to carry her back. He replied, “Well, we were already married by then…..” He did not have to complete the sentence, we all understood that there was no thrill in carrying once own wife. Nitin chimed in that it might come back and bite you, as memories are dynamic, and in light of new information, the story could change later on.

We further went down, and finally reached a platform which was specifically created to look at the falls. By this time, we saw more hikers on the trail. I think it is a good family hike, as elevation gain is not much. We finally reached parking lot, took couple of more pictures against the roots of a big fallen Redwood tree.

Logistics Video Big Basin Directions

Parking - Park at Big Basin Redwood State Park Headquaters, plenty of parking, for day use they charge $10. If you reach early, you can put the money in envelope (like we did), and put the part of the card on your dashboard. The park headquarters is located on Rt 236 which loops on Rt 9.