An Update on Our Journey Through NPH

A couple months ago, I wrote about my mother’s slide into Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, her diagnosis, and her surgery to install a shunt to drain the excess fluid from her brain.

I am back to report that she is doing better and better, 4 months after the surgery.  She has moved back into assisted living, she is reading again, going to the wellness center to exercise, and using her iPhone again.  She is so much more engaged in day to day activities, and what is going on with the rest of the far-flung family.  She goes shopping with me, and helps get meals ready at home.   These were all parts of her life that she had lost.  Physically, the incontinence problem is much improved.  Her mobility and balance are all on the upswing.  Often she leaves her walker parked in a corner while she moves around a familiar space.  And she is talking about traveling again.

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~Mom is enjoying the spring sun at Indiantown Gap, about 2 months after the surgery~

As I have thought about our journey, I am continually amazed at how slowly and insidiously the problem crept up on her and us.  In my previous post, I wrote about what NPH is and how it progressed for her, and how it was treated.  That doesn’t speak to how insidious the condition can be.  So I looked up a few statistics on brain function and fluid capacity.

Did you know your brain makes 500-700 milliliters of cerebrospinal fluid every day?  To put that volume in perspective, remember that a pint–2 cups–is about 500 milliliters.  (Sorry–the science world and the medical world move in the metric system, even if the rest of the US does not.)  The volume of fluid in a normal brain and spinal column (they are connected) is only 100-150 milliliters. That means that the entire volume is replaced 3-4 times per DAY.

Let that sink in for a minute.

So if you only have 100-150 milliliters of fluid in your brain, and you make 500-700 milliliters per day, even a tiny amount of extra retention of fluid will add up pretty quickly.  Just because the math is simple, think of a retention rate of 1 milliliter per day–which would be 1/3rd to 1/4th of a milliliter per total volume replacement.  In 50 days, you will have increased the volume of fluid by 50 milliliters, an increase of 30-50%, each one of those extra milliliters putting pressure on the brain.   (If it helps, think of a bucket with a hole in the bottom, where you put in more at the top than can drain out of the bottom.)   I suspect the actual retention rate is far less than that, especially in slowly developing NPH, and that is probably why it is so insidious.

One of the diagnostic techniques is to remove an ounce or so (about 30 milliliters, just to keep the units consistent) of spinal fluid, and to observe any changes in the patient.  Some will be immediate and dramatic, if NPH is really the problem.  (Remember, this condition mimics dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological conditions.)  In Mom’s case, the doctor removed an ounce of fluid via a spinal tap.  Within a matter of minutes–mere minutes!!, Mom was noticeably more conversational, more mobile, and had improved cognition and memory.  When we asked her how she felt, she said it was as if a fog had been lifted.  The next day, she had an MRI, and followed the technician out of the procedure room to the waiting room, without her walker–a distant of 40-50 feet.  This was a woman who a week before was barely able to walk 6 feet without the walker!

That experience alone went a long way to convincing us we were onto something, and the results of the surgery have confirmed it for us in spades.

So where do we go from here?  Mom is thrilled with how good she feels.  She is talking about traveling again, to visit family across the country and maybe to spend Christmas in Italy, with the grandson whose job will take him there.  She wants to drive again, and move back to her house.  Some of this may be realistic, some not so much.  She still has a long way to go to build back her strength and stamina, both of which she lost in the months of languishing with NPH.   We will take it one day and one month at a time, but it is all positive these days.

As for me, Hubby and I are taking a footloose vacation this summer.  We  feel comfortable doing that now.

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Not so Foot Loose these days–A Journey into and out of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

I started this blog to celebrate my freedom to travel, to set my own schedule, to see the world and my own backyard at my own pace, with minimum encumbrance of outside responsibilities.  To be sure, I still had responsibilities–but I could plan my travels around them and hire help to manage them while I was gone.

All that changed a year ago–just as I was starting this blog, in fact–but I didn’t know it at the time.  Literally as Hubby and I were boarding a plane to visit the wandering daughter in New Zealand, we learned that Mom had fallen in the middle of the night in her home.  She was in the hospital, banged up and bruised, with a dislocated shoulder and a stretched nerve that deprived her of the use of her left arm and hand.  We consulted by phone and FaceTime with Mom, my nieces who were with her, and my brothers, all of whom encouraged us to continue with our trip, as Mom was safe and being well cared for.

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~Mom was banged and bruised but in good spirits–this made it much easier for me to travel~

We had a great trip to New Zealand and a fun visit with the wandering daughter, complete with lots of FaceTime and phone calls with Mom and other family members.  As soon as I got home, I organized my affairs for the short term, and flew off to be with Mom.

By that time, nearly a month after the fall, she was in rehab in a nursing facility.  It really looked like things were improving over the next couple months.  She regained the full use of her left arm and hand, the bruises on her face and shoulder faded away, and she moved into an assisted living facility where she continued with rehab and therapy.  I found myself spending about 1 week a month with her, managing her house and her bills, taking her out for visits with friends and back to her house.  She even started to play the piano again.

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~Mom went to Ft. Indiantown Gap for the burial ceremony for a friend.  It was one of her better days at the beginning of the back-slide~~

About four months into her recovery, she stopped recovering and started back-sliding.  At first it was slow and almost imperceptible.  She was less stable in her walking, had more difficulty with writing and memory, and became less able to manage her own affairs.  She spent three days in the hospital with a raging infection.  By eight months after the initial fall, she was using a walker, could barely write her own name to sign a check, and could not remember day to day activities.  She had frequent minor falls, and was increasing less stable, less mobile, less balanced and more incontinent.  By ten months after the fall, she was in a wheelchair and back in the nursing facility, struggling to remember where she was, barely able to walk the few steps from her wheelchair to the bathroom, and unable to manage even basic personal hygiene by herself.

It all happened so fast.  It was so hard to believe that only 18 months before, she had traveled with me to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and been hiking (well, sort of).

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~Mom at the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, just 18 months earlier~

Her primary care physician suggested seeing a neurologist, and even gave us a tentative diagnosis–normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)–essentially water on the brain.  We scheduled an MRI; one neurosurgeon looked at the images and said that wasn’t her problem–she was just declining as her brain atrophied.  My brothers all but gave up on Mom.  They talked about calling hospice, and one doctor suggested her prognosis could be measured in months.

We pressed on and got her into to see a neurologist, who ordered another battery of tests.  The results of the tests were positive in the sense that they pointed to the high likelihood of NPH, and we made an appointment with another neurosurgeon, who agreed with the tentative diagnosis based on the test results.  I spent half my time with her from month nine to month eleven, taking her to all the doctor’s appointments, and ultimately to a scheduled surgery to have a shunt installed in her brain, to drain the excess fluid.

In the process of all the tests, the surgery and her recovery, I learned a lot about NPH in older persons.  It affects 1 in 100 elderly, and is not diagnosed in about 80% of those people.  It’s symptoms–reduced mobility and stability, impaired memory, and incontinence–mimic Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic neurological conditions of the elderly.  Unlike those other conditions, if promptly diagnosed and treated–with a brain shunt–the symptoms can be reversed.  The only way to know if a shunt will work is to install one.

In Mom’s case, the results were initially quite dramatic, at least to start with.  A day after the surgery, she was happy, alert, chipper, and ready to leave the hospital.  Literally 5 minutes before she was ready to walk out of the hospital, she crashed with an infection–trembling, vomiting, feverish, delirious, unable to walk, or even remember her own name–all in less than 20 minutes.  Needless to say, she stayed in the hospital.  Hubby and I thanked heaven that we were not in the car on the way home when that happened.

Mom is back at the nursing facility now, recovering both from the surgery itself and the sepsis she suffered in the hospital.  She is improving in all areas–cognitive, mobility and incontinence–although not as fast as we had hoped.  The doctors did say the improvement could be spread across 3-4 months, and we are not quite there yet.  I am still spending about one week a month with her, now managing all her bills and her house.

The upside to this adventure in healthcare has been that I have spent a lot of time with Mom, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday and my birthday.  I have spent a lot of time with Hubby as well, as he has been with me and Mom every step of the way.  I am a silver medallion frequent flyer, and I know my way around multiple airports pretty well these days.

As Mom gets better and needs less day to day attention, maybe I will get a chance to use all those frequent flyer miles, and resume my foot loose ways again.

A Very Unsatisfying Travel Experience

I just returned from a weekend trip–it was a great trip except for the flights.  I often travel on the weekends, for a variety of reasons.  I have not flown United Airlines in years, but they were my carrier this weekend.  What a disappointment!

As an aside, let me say that I have not deliberately avoided United–they just didn’t have the routes I wanted for my more recent travel, conveniently and at a reasonable price.  I have taken some terrific trips on United in the past and I have been very happy with their service.  For this trip, they were the best choice and I chose them.

So let’s start with the things they did well.  The flights were on time and relatively smooth.  We landed safely.  There were no mechanical problems or in-flight disasters.  These are the basics–we expect nothing less, and most of the time we get it.  Timeliness and turbulence are flight-by-flight characteristics and often outside the control of the airline.  Mechanical problems and the associated delays are also isolated issues, usually confined to a single flight.

No, this time my complaints are more systemic.  These short-haul flights–one to two hours–are little more than glorified bus rides, and this is true with every airline I have flown in the past 10 years.  I get that and it is obvious that the airlines do, too.

My first flight was on a Canada Regional Jet, as small commuter type aircraft.  I frequently fly this type of aircraft on another airline, so I know it can be a comfortable flight.  This United Express plane had the most uncomfortable seats I can ever remember flying.  I might have been more comfortable flying cargo class on a military C-130.  The seats were like boards, hard and stiff with little to no padding.  The entire seat back cannot have been more than 3 inches thick–a huge space-saving design, I am sure, but uncomfortable as anything.  The seat bottom was so hard and flat, I seriously question whether it could be used as the floatation device the flight attendant told us it was.

To make matters worse, the man sitting next to me was very large, and did not fit into his own seat space.  I felt scrunched up along the window because his shoulders overshot his seat by at least 5 inches, and his knees overshot the space in front of his seat by about the same amount.  And this is with the armrest down!  Every time I moved at all, I bumped into him.

The return flight was on a larger aircraft, and thankfully the seats were somewhat more comfortable, but still not as comfortable as the seats on comparable aircraft flown by the competition.  What gives??

When it comes to “food and beverage service”, flight attendants usually at least go through the motions of serving some refreshments that are refreshing.  United seems to have dispensed with much of that.  On both flights, they offered a very small drink–smallest I have been offered anywhere, more ice than drink, and limited selection of offerings–and a tiny “snack pack” of utterly flavorless snack food.  I can’t decide if this is because 1) flavor costs more and they chose to not to spend the extra money; or 2) nondescript flavorlessness is equally palatable or unpalatable to everybody.  Or are they worried about somebody with food allergies having a medical issue with the potential offerings?  Whatever it is, it is not a customer-pleasing strategy.

For a $500 plane ticket, I expect a little more.  I have given up on being able to check a piece of luggage for that price, and am resigned to having to schlep all my stuff around myself, within the TSA restrictions.  But I still expect to be able to move within my own seat space without running into a fellow traveler.  I expect to be able to exit the aircraft without a major backache.  And if I am offered refreshments, I expect them to be moderately refreshing.  Since other airlines manage to provide this service at that price, I know it can be done.

If United Airlines wants to be a low-end bus service, then they should price their service accordingly, and let travelers choose.  Otherwise, upgrade to airline service.  That said, any time I have a choice, United will not be it.  Especially since they are now apparently going to charge for luggage in overhead bins.  Even the busses don’t charge for luggage in the luggage compartment.

Traveling with Small Children

I have been traveling all my life, and clearly remember my parents–Dad was career military–traveling with us as very small children.  Although things have changed a lot since I was a small child 50 years ago, and even since my own children were small–25 years ago–there are some basic lessons and truths.  Technology may change, but little kids really don’t.

With my Dad’s military career, Mom and Dad decided to make the most of every travel opportunity.  When I was 4, we moved to Europe–a family of 5, including 3 very young children.  We traveled all over continental Europe–Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Austria, Switzerland, etc.–in the 2 years and 9 months we were stationed there.  Mom tells the story of how we pulled into an Italian city late at night, with 3 kids asleep in the car.  The porters at the pension carried the sleeping children up to the room and laid us on the beds, while others brought up the bags.

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~stretching our legs after a picnic lunch in Spain~

While I do remember boring visits to dusty museums, I also remember chasing the cats in the Roman Coliseum, and pigeons at the Piazza San Marcos in Venice, skiing in the German Alps, knocking over the candy display in a campground store in Spain, and taking the train to Berlin through East Germany.  Mom and Dad tried to find the right mix for keeping us kids happy and seeing the world with us.  (They were not happy about the candy display, however.)

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~Driving cross-country while moving to Korea with a family of six–first time seeing the Rockies for any of us–a sight we would have missed if we had flown to the west coast~

Since my husband and I have had our own children, we have continued to travel and learned a lot about how to do so successfully, by making some mistakes along the way, as well as some really good decisions, too.  Our first trip with a very small child was when our daughter was  just under 2 and we flew with a lap child to California.  She was great–but she slept a lot too.  We have not always been so lucky.

Since then, I have traveled with my husband, and alone, with small children, around the US and to Europe and to the South Pacific.  Every trip was an adventure, and half the fun was just getting there.

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~this little guy was only 3 months old, and very portable in a front pack carrier, when we visited Fort Frederick in Maryland~

A trip with small children is not a romantic couples trip; if that is your goal, leave the kids at home.  That said, a trip with little kids can be very satisfying, fulfilling, and educational, and create memories that will last you and your children a lifetime.  The trick is finding the right mix of fun and activity to keep everybody happy, engaged, calm, well-rested and well-fed most of the time.  You know your children better than anybody else, but these tips can help you find that mix that works for you and your family.

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~time out to play with other children in Germany–language is no barrier for kids!~

My first cardinal rule of travel–never have more luggage than you can manage on your own.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but I cannot begin to tell you how often I see parents juggling multiple carry-on pieces, several children, and carryout bags of food, while hurrying through a crowded airport terminal towards security.  It is even worse at baggage claim, when they collect multiple huge suitcases.  It is a wonder no one gets left behind.  Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate!–you will be glad you did!  You probably don’t need nearly as much stuff as you thought you did anyway.  By the way, this cardinal rule applies whether I am traveling with kids, Hubby, or my 84 year old mother.

A brief word on packing with kids–brief here, because it is a topic that deserves a post of its own.  While it is more than true that the size of the child is inversely proportional to the amount of stuff you need for them, you must–must–must pare down the list of what is essential.  If you are driving your own car someplace, it is not too big a deal to load in everything but the kitchen sink even for a short trip.  If you are paying $25 for a checked bag, you will probably want to be more judicious.  My general rule of thumb was to buy certain things at my destination–like diapers and some toiletries, for instance–and to plan to do laundry periodically, even if it is in a bathroom sink.

In keeping with that theme, consider the ages and abilities of your children.  A 4, 5, or 6 year old is plenty old enough to carry his or her own backpack, with his or her own small things.  A 3 or under can be in the parents’ backpack–a well made child carrier, with its own carrying compartment, preferably.  This frees up the parent’s hands to hold someone else’s hand, or to carry another item.  When I traveled like this, the carried item was a carseat–to be strapped into the aircraft seat–and a carry-on tote was strapped into the carseat, consolidating the two into one.

About the carseat.  Yes, you can still travel with a two year old as a lap child, and check your car seat if you need it at your destination.  Given a choice, I would never do that again.  Yes, I know it is much less expensive, and not too hard if the flight is short.  But having your small child in his or her own carseat is much safer than on your lap, and it also gives you a place to put the child if you can’t hold him or her.  My own experience is that children accustomed to using a carseat will be comfortable and secure in their seat–sort of like a safe space for a toddler–and, bonus, they sleep better on the flight!

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~a completely pooped 11 month old did not slow down the rest of the family~

The 4, 5, or 6 who is carrying his or her own backpack can be engaged in packing by choosing one or two special items to take on the trip.  A special stuffed friend or blankie is lightweight, and worth its weight in gold when somebody gets cranky.  It also encourages the child to actually carry the backpack–who wants to leave Bubbie or Blankie in the nearest trash can?  Of course, one must use judgment in enforcing the rule that they carry their own stuff.  If you are facing a complete meltdown, you may have to relent at least for a few minutes until you can find a place to sit and calm your traveler down a bit.  After all the last thing you want is to lose the services of Bubbie or Blankie for the rest of the trip!

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~you can’t please everybody all the time, so you may as well not let it bother you.  Save the photo for his wedding some day.~

This brings me to my next point.  You can’t always control your schedule, but you should plan on a reasonable amount of time to change flights, trains or whatever.  Rushing to get somewhere is stressful and hard, especially if small and big travelers are tired and cranky. This includes getting to an airport early so you do not have to rush to get through security. If there are special lanes for families traveling with small children, don’t be shy about using them.  You will get through security or passport control or whatever faster, and no one else will have to listen to a hungry, tired, cranky child waiting in line.

I also packed–secretly, in my own carry-on bag–little treats and surprises for children.  I bought small, lightweight games, toys, books, snacks, etc., that I would secrete away, to pull out at an opportune time to distract a cranky impatient child.  We traveled in the days before sophisticated handheld electronics–you may find that a new app or game works just as well.  The element of newness and surprise is the important part.  Food also helps.

With small children, we tried to stay in self-catering accommodations–places we could prepare out own meals.  This is easier than it sounds, with prepared foods, fresh fruits and vegetables readily available in many markets, and then preparing very simple meals.  We also carried food with us, in a small soft sided cooler, perfect for stopping for a picnic lunch along the way.  It is far less expensive, much more comfortable and relaxing, and it sure beats trying to keep a young child happy in an expensive restaurant after a long day of sightseeing or travel.  Or even an older child.  We once had a 12 year old fall asleep at the table in a restaurant before the food arrived, after a transatlantic flight.

Along the same line, keeping the days short and giving kids a chance to have some down time is important for avoiding overstimulation and over-exhaustion.  For some kids this will be a nap; for others, it will be a chance to burn off energy on a playground, or kicking around a soccer ball.  A very young child may simply sleep in your backpack while you are hiking, or in the car if you are driving.  An older child will need time to do their own thing–running around or reading quietly.

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~a 3 hour ferry ride was forced downtime, and he amused himself~

Final note–BE PATIENT!  Traveling with kids is a lot of work and has its trying moments for everyone, no doubt about it.   But it is worth it all to hear your child give a half hour presentation to her school class on her trip to New Zealand, or to tell his friends about visiting the ruins of a medieval castle on the shores of Loch Ness, or finding ammonite fossils on a North Sea beach.  How many kids get to do that?

Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Six months ago, Hubby and I visited New Zealand, for the second time in our lives.  This trip was far different from the first–when we traveled with three children under the age of 10.  This was a trip for the two of us, notwithstanding the fact that our daughter is living there now.

Now, of course we had a long “to do” list–for months we had been listening to our daughter tell us about all the terrific things she was doing and what we needed to see and do in the two short weeks we had to cram everything into.

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~our daughter at the Tongariro Crossing~

 

One thing at the top of the list was hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a rigorous hike across an active volcanic area, at the foot of Mount Doom.  Everything we read told us that we needed to be in good shape–really good shape–to successfully complete this hike without a heart attack, stroke or complete collapse.  I joined a gym, and Hubby took up walking miles everyday, for months before the trip.

We picked up an added incentive that we had to do this on our very first night in Auckland.  Our hosts at our B&B in Auckland, Devonport–the Admiral’s Landing–had hiked the crossing for their 50th wedding anniversary, only a few months before.  If Joy and Howard could do this, so could we!

So, fully prepared and with extra incentive, we booked a hostel in Taupo for two nights, giving ourselves one day and only one day, to be able to make the crossing.  Everyone, including our daughter, recommends that hikers book with an expedition service, which provides transportation to the National Park, to the starting point, and pickup on the opposite side of the mountain at the finish line.  These services monitor the weather on the mountain and make a decision as to whether to take hikers to the park–at about 5 am.  (They also keep track of their customers, making sure that each person they transport gets back safely or they call Search and Rescue–a service that provides a lot of peace of mind.)

With these conditions, obviously we had one and only one chance, and it might be iffy, to make the crossing.  We booked our transportation through the hostel, and were given a phone number to call at 5 am to see if it was a go.  The weather was iffy, cool, possible rain.  The real weather problem on the crossing is wind–after all, it goes across a mountaintop.  The 5 am phone call told us that yes, the expedition was a go.  We packed sandwiches, water, hats, etc., inside waterproof bags, dressed carefully in layers, and headed out to meet the bus, along with a half dozen other guests of the hostel, at 5:45 am.

We arrived at the drop off point at about 7:30 am.  The weather was cool and cloudy, not quite raw, and this was at the base of the mountain.  The tour guide informed several potential hikers that they were seriously not dressed to hike in an alpine environment, temperatures at about freezing at the summit–these young ladies wore gym shorts and t-shirts, and not much else.  Hubby did not pack even a rain parka–what was he thinking??–but the expedition service could help.  He could rent a parka for a few dollars.  He did.  (He also did not pack a hat–but he bought one the evening before.)

We set off at about 8 am.

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~yipes!  almost twenty kilometers!~

There was at least one point in the morning that we thought the weather might clear.

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~that white sliver in the distance is the shed roof at our starting point~

There was no such luck.  Not only was it cloudy and foggy–it actually started to sleet when we got near the summit.

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~there were places where we didn’t see much of a view!~

We did have lots of company; the hike was a odd combination of meeting a very personal singular goal, with many similarly motivated fellow travelers along the way.

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~all the hikers had a common goal–make it across~

Our fellow hikers were such a varied group–from the happy-go-lucky college aged hikers, to the elderly Japanese and Korean tourists, to the New Zealand dairy farmers (husband and wife) who make the hike regularly, to the young French mother with 3 small boys, including one she carried on her back.  My hat really goes off to that mother.  She plugged onward and upward, as her two older boys–they looked like they were about 5 and 7 years old–hiked the mountain three times–twice forward and once back as they went back and forth, running ahead of her, and doubling back to go back to her.  Since we did not hear that anyone was lost on the mountain, we assume everyone made it back safely.

To be very honest, we barely could see the beautiful lakes in the photo at the top, though the thick fog.  At one point, crossing one of the craters, we could not see the next trail marker ahead of us, and the markers were only about 30 feet apart.  On the other hand, by that point in the hike, we were more focused on the challenge at hand, and less on the view we could not see, as we stopped to catch our breath every thirty seconds or so.

We stopped briefly at a flat area, where we could sit on a rock and have something to eat and a drink of water.  The rocks were wet, even though they were warm–after all this is an active volcano–and it was windy, sleeting and drizzling.  We did not stay too long, just long enough to grab a bite or two of sandwich, and a swig of water.

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~that last push to the top was the most trying part of the hike–slippery, steep, and nothing to hold on to~

When we finally reached the very top–the crest–of the crossing, and started down through the gravelly scree, I reached out my hand, in the cold and sleet, to steady myself against the rocky ledge next to me.  It was the very rim of the volcano and it was hot!  The incongruous juxtaposition of the cold sleet and fog against the rough warm dry rock will stay with me for the rest of my life.

From there it was down, down, down.  The scree was slippery and wet, and our feet just slipped out from under us.  Some people were running down the slope in a zig-zag, a barely controlled rush to the bottom, with the prayer that they didn’t take someone else out along the way.  It worked best for us to go slower, to step heel first and let our heel settle through the scree to a solid spot.  This downhill hike was almost as hard as the uphill side, straining our knees and legs trying to maintain our balance as the ground literally slipped away.

Eventually we reached a more even trail, some ups and some downs, but marked and groomed and constructed.  The heat was out of the rock, the vegetation growing along the trail again, the ground mere dirt and not volcanic scree.  Unfortunately for us, the sky, the fog, never really cleared up.  We warmed up as we hiked, coming into a forest at the lower levels of the mountain which was not so foggy.

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~this tropical rainforest at the base of the volcano is so far removed from the harsh, rugged, and rocky summit that it is hard to believe it was all part of the same hike~ 

The recent heavy rains had washed out parts of the lower trail, and the danger of flash floods was not over at the time we hiked.  Signs warned of the danger of the floods coming down the mountain.

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~flash floods are a hazard on the lower parts of the mountain~ 

Six hours and 30 minutes after we started out on the other side of the volcano, we arrived at the end point of the crossing, found our expedition representatives and checked in.  Several others hikers also checked in and joined us in crashing on the return bus.  We compared notes, including how far our smart phones told us we had hiked and how many feet or meters we had climbed.  I know I moved as little as possible, every move was an effort!

The personal satisfaction we felt that day at completing the crossing was mirrored by the muscle soreness we felt the next day, and for a few more days to come.  But it was all worth it, and next time–we will do it again.  Hopefully with better weather!

Hello World, here I come!

Hello world!

Welcome to my travel blog.  I say “Hello World” now, but I have been saying that in one way or another for most of my life.  Travel around the world has been part of my life since I was a small child.  I took my first plane ride before my first birthday, and had my first passport at the age of four.  (I know that doesn’t sound unusual to many people now, but in the 1950s, it was.)

I grew up as an army brat, and wear the title proudly to this day.  Mom always wanted to travel–it even says so in her college yearbook, and Dad was a career military man who did not hesitate to take his family around the world to far-flung duty stations.  When we lived in Europe, we traveled all over the continent, camping out of a little blue Volkswagen much of the time.  That is not always an easy trick with three young children, but it didn’t faze Mom and Dad.

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~Camping along the Rhine River–We camped and dined in style, with table and chairs, and Mom dressed for dinner–notice her skirt!~
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~A gorgeous summer day in the Alps~

When we were not off on a camping trip to some other place, we spent our weekends  riding bicycles in the Waldstadt, or taking a Sunday drive to the Black Forest.  Mom liked  shopping in the local shops for groceries–European bakeries are a class unto themselves, and I remain thoroughly spoiled to this day.

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~Bicycling in the Waldstadt~

I attended high school–one of the three I went to–in Seoul, Korea, when Dad was assigned there in the 1970s.  It was an incredible culture shock to an American teenager to see the grinding poverty of what was pretty much a third world country pulling itself out of the devastation of the Korean War twenty years earlier.  We had the opportunity to get out into the city, and I saw how hard people worked to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.  It is no wonder to me that Korea is a bona-fide first world country today.  I have not been back to Korea since leaving in the mid-1970s–it is on my bucket list to return someday.

It has been one of the great joys of my life to be able to continue traveling with my own family, to take my children to Europe to see the homes we lived in, the sights I remember from my childhood and to share the adventure of the unknown and unfamiliar.

The Hubby and I began our life together by traveling abroad, first to Scotland and then to Israel where he worked for 4 months.  After children came, we took them to Germany, to New Zealand, to Ireland, and to Scotland. I will be the first–or maybe the second, after Mom–to say that traveling with young children is not easy, but it is SO worth it.  Today, those children are grown up, and are confident young adults unafraid to venture into the world on their own terms.  I credit travel for at least some of that confidence.

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~We took two small children into the Salt Mines near Salzberg, Austriait seems they were the only children on the train!~
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~And now there are three.  Not everybody was so thrilled to have to climb a thousand steps to the abbey at Mont Ste. Michel but the view turned out to be worth it.~

 

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~Here we are at the Abel Tasman Park on the South island of New Zealand.  When the two year old decided to swim with his clothes on, we had to make some adjustments; fortunately his clothes dried in the sun before we hiked back to the car!~

So what does all this have to do with being “Footloose and Fancy Free”?  It is a state of mind–a state of mind that allows one to pick up and go with confidence, to travel to unknown places without trepidation, to believe that the adventure is in going and doing, whatever happens along the way.  If I can take three young children around the world, I can do anything!

Now that those confident young adults are out in the world, Hubby and I are back to traveling on our own.  Most recent trip–New Zealand, again.

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~The Tongariro Alpine Crossing might have been too much for the kids when they were little, so we saved it for this trip.  Who are we kidding?  It was still quite an undertaking!~ 
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~We visited the glowworm caves at Te Anau….~
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~…and Milford Sound.~

If you are not a footloose and fancy free traveler now, I hope you will be inspired and encouraged to reach outside your own comfort zone, and explore the great wide world around us.  I’ll be posting articles on travel basics–my cardinal rules, plus some, on traveling with small children, on traveling with someone who is mobility limited (Mom still loves to travel–she just isn’t as able as she was when she chased her own small children around)–as well as articles on places and things that appeal to me, and why they are important to me in my travels.

In addition, I’ll be writing about our future travel plans–sort of the anatomy of planning a trip.

So come along with me as we head into our next adventure!!