On the bright, sunny, cool fall Sunday afternoon of October 23, 2016, I took a solo hike around the Boone Fork Trail in Julian Price Park, on the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Grandfather Mountain. There were plenty of other hikers on the trails, of all ages, genders, colors, sizes and whatever.
The nearby roads and towns were crowded with fall leaf color tourists. What I saw confirmed what I overheard: this is not a good year for color. But still, it felt great to be outdoors in the crisp, clean air. While hiking through the Price Park campground I smelled the wood smoke from several fires. It made me hungry to go camping soon and build my own fire.
The main thing for me to report is that, as many of my readers know, I have become subject to a breathing disability. It makes me get out of breath during strenuous exercise, mostly from hiking uphill. I am still under-going medical tests and exams. I am waiting for my doctor to tell me the cause and cure, if they can be known. This trip was the same: going downhill and on flat ground I did fine; going uphill winded me out of proportion to how hard (or not…) that I was hiking.
Everybody that I have talked to about the breathing issue - doctors, hospital technicians, athletic friends and family - have agreed that, regardless of my eventual diagnosis and prognosis, I need to keep exercising hard. The more I can raise my heart rate and respiration rate, the stronger I am making my body. The trouble is my lack of will power or time.
If I am indoors, such as on the Stairmaster at the YMCA, after a few minutes then am bored and in mild pain from the work of the exercise. Then when my breathing limitations kick in, I feel like I am choking and want to stop. With little positive incentive, I quit. If I am outdoors, such as hiking on the Boone Fork Trail, then I am not bored. I feel the same mild pain and breathlessness, but I know that if I don’t keep hiking then I will be stuck in the woods over-night. My adrenaline and desire to get home give me the proper incentive to keep going. The next problem is time. I can’t afford to miss work enough to drive to the mountains and hike for half a day four times each week, which is what I need.
The alternative is to stay home and get fatter and lazier. Then the next time I go hiking, I am worse off. To quote the Sea Witch from Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid, “Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?”