Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday - An MRI and Hunting Elk - Antlers that is!

Imagine the scene - there is a writer hunched over his keyboard typing and pounding away.  A bottle of alcohol and a shot glass sit close by and for every page he writes he reaches over and fills he shot glass and then drinks down the alcohol with gusto.  The air is thick with smoke from the small hand rolled cigarettes he drags upon like his life depended upon it.  You can't be sure what is in those cigarettes - is it simply tobacco or is something with slightly better mind altering characteristics.  Is it the 1950's and you have a brief glimpse into the life of Ernest Hemingway?  Or is it another day and age and it's Hunter Thompson pounding away at this key board?  I'd like to think of it as me as the passionate writer putting his greatest thoughts to paper.  And I suppose it could be me except for the fact that I don't smoke anything.  Actually with Colorado acceptance of medical marijuana, I have thought of finding the doctor who will write MMJ cards for anyone and seeing how it fine tunes my mind.  But I can never do that to my lungs.  So that is the picture of myself I would like to envision.  I sit here every day and I crank out page after page of prose.  You all only see a fraction of what I write and I am not sure the world will ever see anything else of my writings, but it is an illusion of that kind of writer I keep in my head.  It's actually kind of remarkable, as I never thought of myself as much of writer.  But now if a day goes past and I don't put finger to keyboard, I feel that there is something missing from me.  Just a short tangent by which to start today's post.  A tangent to feed my ego and my imagination of who I might be.  I am sure you put me in front of any publisher or editor and my ego will forever be destroyed.  And now on to the main act for the day....

Well it is Saturday - proverbially the best day of the week.  Normally you don't have to work, think of work or plan for what you are going to do at work tomorrow.  That was pretty much the philosophy of the day for us.

The day started pretty early for me as I needed to be at Littleton Hospital for yet another MRI on my back.  I spoke to my surgeon's PA on Thursday afternoon and she indicated that the scheduler would call me sometime within the next 24 hours to get another MRI scheduled for me.  The call from the scheduler didn't come in until we were getting ready to leave for the Nuggets game last night.  The scheduler offered me two different slots to get my MRI either this morning at 8:15AM or 6:45PM on Monday.  Ahh...  that was a no-brainer for me, get the MRI scheduled as quickly as possible so that I can get the results as soon as possible.  I was up at 7:00AM this morning to feed the dogs and get the day going before I had to head to my appointment.

I sometimes really like being up and about early on weekend mornings.  Usually early in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays everything is relatively quiet and there is no one up and about.  This morning was no exception!  I left the neighborhood at 7:45AM and there was literally no one out on Yosemite - the major road that runs on the outskirts of our neighborhood.  The temperature was pretty cool but the sun was up and shining brightly so it made for a very pleasant morning to drive to the hospital.

The hospital was pretty dead and I got checked in within 5 minutes and only had a couple of minutes to cool my heals in the waiting room.  The MRI technician was pretty cute so she kept my attention while she went through all the pre-MRI info for me.  Really - at this point I think I could give the whole introduction myself.  This is something like my 5th MRI since December 2nd.  Unfortunately I have the routine down pretty cold at this point.  No matter what I wear I always have to change into one of those god damn hospital gowns.  I don't seem to have any pairs of shorts that doesn't have metal zippers.

There was one difference this time after two surgeries on my spine.  There is now so much scar tissue built up around my spine that they now need to use contrast to help them see all that they need to see.  So after I got all changed into my gown and in the MRI room, the tech had me climb up on the MRI's gurney and then she got me hooked up to an IV for the contrast.  No problem with that as I feel that I am immune to the pain of just about any needle.

After that she left the room and the insertion process began.  I could go so absolutely rude on the whole process of "inserting" me into the MRI tube.  There are so many sexual innuendos that could be made about the whole MRI process it isn't funny.  But because I want to keep my blog at least PG-13 I'll refrain from going into it.  But because I was sitting there thinking of the cute technician who was running the test, my mind did tend to wander to all those sexual innuendos.

Despite the constant thumping and humming of the MRI gradients I did manage to catch a few minutes of sleep during the test.  (I ask the tech today how the MRI works and she told me in a very comprehensible way.  And now I know the elements of the MRI that make all the noise are magnets called gradients.  Who would have know?!)  Before going into the tube you are equipped with ear plugs that keep a good bit of the sound out.  Enough sound is kept out that I can relax and often fall asleep and fall asleep for some it.

In short enough time I was done and being pulled out of the MRI tube.  Getting off the gurney and into a standing position nearly cost me most of my dignity as the muscles in my right left screamed in agony.  No matter what I do, no matter what kind of pill, what kind of alcohol I consume, the pain when I go from lying down to standing is now always a constant presence.  It's not like one of those tiny little pains that you go "ouch" and just get on with things.  No, it is like one of those child-bearing pains, and this coming from someone who has never borne a child nor have the necessary equipment to bear a child.  It is pretty much a mind searing pain that can stop me in my tracks and make me wish I were dead kind of pain.

Then it was time to change out of that ridiculous gown and get out of that hospital.  Maybe it was my imagination but perhaps that MRI tech thought I was cute too as she walked me with the whole way out of the Radiology department.  Doesn't really matter as I won't be seeing her again - such is life.

Once I got home I sprung the question on Zack - "Do you want to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and hunt down some elk antlers?"  His response was a quick "Yes I do" and we were off to get ready.  I made a quick call over to my brother house to see if Cole was interested in going and he was.  Sounds like we got a good adventure planned for the day!

The drive to RMNP was totally and completely uneventful, except for Zack screaming at the top of his lungs that my driving was going to kill us all.  Zack is still suffering from fear of driving based upon our drives through Costa Rica.  Ruben is quite skilled at "Costa Rican" driving (i.e. driving without traffic laws) and Zack was terrified by it.  As for me, I enjoyed Ruben's driving as it was exciting but not too crazy as if we had been in India or Africa.  Regardless, Zack did not like my driving along highway 36 from Lyons to Estes Park.  He thought I was driving too fast and I was too willing to pass drivers who weren't going as fast as I wanted.

Despite Zack's protests we made it just fine to Estes Park.  We made a quick pit stop to fuel up on pizza at our favorite pizza spot in downtown Estes Park and then we headed off into the park.  The main entrance to RMNP is about 4 miles outside of Estes Park.  After clearing the entrance booth I took us straight to the area that seems to have the highest concentration of elk - Moraine Park.  During the rut in the fall I have on occasion seen upwards of 100+ elk grazing on this open meadow.

We drove around for awhile until we all agreed on spot that might provide us with access to elk antlers.  The area we parked at near the northwestern end of the Moraine Park meadow.  We chose and area that filled with isolated Douglas pines.  Our reasoning behind that was that the elk tend to scratch their antlers against the trees at various points.  The isolated trees are more frequently the ones against which the rub their antlers.

Parking in one of the picnic areas are the extremely large meadow, we made our way down the hill to a group of lone pine trees.  Setting out with huge hopes we expected to see elk antlers everywhere.  That was definitely not the case.  There were plenty of fallen pine branches that looked like elk antlers but they were just that - pine branches.  Meandering along the side of the meadow we decided perhaps our best area to search was the opposite side of the meadow where the pine forest came down from the hills and mountains.  The walk across the meadow proved that there were lots of elk there and recently.  There was lots of fresh elk dung and more elk hoof prints that we could count.  But as for now - there were no elk.  As the snow recedes to the higher elevations the elk are moving back into the mountains in search of fresh forage.

After about 45 minutes of some intense antler hunting we came to the realization that we were going to find any.  My guess is that we are about 4 - 5 weeks too later as the elk begin dropping their antlers in February.  I am relative certain that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who come to the park on the same quest as us.  Well next year we'll try much earlier in the season and see if we can come up with anything.

Despite the lack of antlers we decided to make our stroll into a good hike and adventure.  We were moving off trail with only the landmarks of lone trees and solitary rocks to guide our way.  I don't really think there was much we could have done to get lost.  Cross from the meadow into the depths of the forest we spent a good bit of time just moving from one spot of interest to another.  The land is still asleep for the winter but there was still lots of beauty to be seen and heard.  After walking deep into the forest we stopped and just listened.  There was silence expect for the sound of the wind through pine needles.  How absolutely different than the sounds of the jungle we experienced in Costa Rica.  In the jungle there is never silence.  There is life growing and crawling and fighting existence at every turn in the jungle.  Each piece of life there seems to have it's unique noise that stands out from the rest.  Here in northern Colorado there is just dead silence with only the calling of a Clark's Nutcracker to awaken your sense of hearing.

(Looking across one of the meadows at Moraine Park)

(Zack and Cole on a big rock out cropping.  I should have been using a filter with these pictures as there are so washed out by the brightness of the sun.  I didn't realize it as I was wearing sunglasses.)

(Longs Peak in the distance.)

(Me smiling at the camera with Longs Peak in the background.)

(Zack and Cole trying to take 3-D pictures of Longs Peak with their Nintendo 3DSs)

(The beauty of Longs Peak across the distance)

We walked and explored for a good hour and a half before heading back to the car.  We spent another hour or so driving around and visiting some of the other large meadows in that end of the park.  Longs Peak loomed large over us through most of our trip and we had some fabulous vantage points to get a great view of the summit.  After spending a bunch of time staring at the summit of that renowned mountain I am relatively certain I will not be climbing it.  The path to the summit just looks too precarious and nasty.  I don't want to be one of the people who are killed upon that mountain every year.

On top of the difficult of the climb to the top of Longs Peak I had a realization today that will potentially change how I climb any mountain in the future.  As we bushwhacked through the meadows and forest I really began to notice that my legs are not responding to me the way they did before my broken leg and injured back.  Before these things I was at ease in almost any hiking or climbing environment.  Today as I jumped over streams and climbed over dead falls, I noticed that my right leg will just not do what I want it to do.  I have never experienced something like this before.  I wondered if this is what people feel like before they are diagnosed with ALS.  There is really not a thought in my head that I have ALS - seriously I am not thinking that.  But with all the nerve damage that I have suffered from my herniated discs and the surgeries my neurosurgeon has told me there is a level of feeling and hence control I will never recover in my legs.  Today was the first time I had felt it.  Today was the first time in all my years that my body hasn't done exactly what I have told it.  I am not great athlete by far, but my strength, power and ability to deal with any obstacle when hiking has never failed me.  Thankfully the terrain today wasn't exceedingly tough, but I will now question my ability to do some of the hardest things I have done before.  My ability to make it through the extremely tough terrain during the spring on the Mt. Evans Massif is definitely now in question.  Some of the hikes that I did during the summers of 2009 and 2010 will not be in my reach unless I can recover this ability to make my body do exactly what I want it to do.  Only time will tell if I can make that happen.

Zack and Cole seemed to really enjoy the day.  They weren't even too disappointed that we didn't find any elk antlers.  They just enjoyed getting out into the mountains and doing some fun bushwhacking.  For Zack this is the first time we have had a chance to do anything like this since the spring of 2011.  All-in-all it was a great day!

Of course these kinds of days spur all kinds of thoughts in my head.  In the past I could always find a sense of solace and peace in the silence of the wild.  Today that peace and solace were elusive.  No matter what I did, no matter how I looked at the beauty around me, my mind was still in a sense of turmoil.  There are way too many thoughts that run through my head to describe.  But what is the general direction of what I am thinking?  I am thinking of how badly I have been cheated.  It has only been in the last short time that I have fully come to appreciate what Patty's death means to me.  There is so much that I will never get back.  I also think of all the bad decisions that I have made since her death trying to recreate what I lost.  It is absolutely maddening.  And I have come to realize the worst part of it.  Now that I have finally reached a point of clarity on the situation, I have realized what was staring me in the face for a long time and then I threw away.  Whereas I was trying to recreate my past when I was with Shelly, I had the opportunity to create a new future and I totally flushed it down the drain.

When I dated Brenda last summer I really had a chance for something totally new and different.  There was no way in this world that anything I had with her was going to be like my past.  It wasn't possible as she had 3 kids who are an integral part of her life.  I could have set up a totally new life that was different and possible even better than my old life.  And I screwed the pooch!  You know I could sit here and write all kinds of stuff about how great Brenda is and it frankly doesn't matter.  I threw it away by my own actions and as hard as I try now I don't think there is any way in this world I can get it back.  I really thought after I saw her again back in February that I could do it.  But Brenda is too strong and so very convicted to her principles.  She is a good person and perhaps she deserves much better than me.  For now there is nothing I can do to get her back, but it takes this stubborn brute a long time to realize when his goose is cooked and too move on.  I should have realized months and months before I did that I needed to move on from Shelly.  Even despite her negative behaviors I still saw the good in her and hung on until I truly realized that nothing was possible with her.  So I have nothing going on.  One neighbor tried to set me up with one of her friends and I turned that down.  I am going to find a way to be OK being 100% on my own, because sometimes you have to set your sights on what is really right as opposed to an illusion.  And as I have told her countless times - Brenda is one really good egg.  And until some other guy has her, I won't move on.  I will be strong in my convictions for once and stand by something that is good.  These are the thoughts that occur my head. 

Yep - you all can say I am totally crazy when it comes to women and I probably am.  But if I am going to be crazy I would much rather it be for some one who is really special and has more compassion in her soul than any one I know!

I am done with my public ramblings for the day. Thanks for reading my slop.  Hopefully all practice will one day make me a better writer!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

1 comment:

Jana Christensen said...

Did you know that the hunting season in Moraine Park, Pennsylvania annually takes place from late September to January of the following year? So, no wonder you didn’t catch any elk. Anyhow, there is an additional law about the hunting hour that was mandated for hunting elk in that area. The legal shooting hours begin at half an hour before sunrise and end half an hour after sunset. September is fast approaching, by the way. ;)