|Me under my pretty parachute|
In a way, the few jumps I've made since returning from southern California in April has been a good segue into my desire to stop skydiving after this season. Rather than just driving down the 75 miles to Snohomish to get my knees in the breeze and jumping with anybody who might be around, I've begun to focus on other activities. That's not to say I won't miss it, I know I will. But things change, and we grow older with every passing day. Acknowledging change is important.
When I moved here six years ago, part of the reason I wanted to leave Colorado was to get away from the teaching aspect of skydiving. For the previous twelve years, I made well over 200 skydives every single year (unless I was injured) and taught numerous First Jump Courses to new students and took them out skydiving. Every weekend I made six or eight skydives with students, sometimes more during the long summer days. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I knew that skydiving would become seasonal, and that was all right with me. It was a good way to point my interests in new directions and discover what this new environment had to offer.
Much has changed in those six years. When we first moved here, there was a Drop Zone in Vancouver, BC, managed and owned by an old friend. Because of access issues, that skydiving venue closed down a few years ago. We stopped going north of the border to skydive. Then because of his shoulder injuries, Smart Guy stopped skydiving, and I knew that the time was coming for me to think about stopping, too. Last October in southern California I re-injured my left knee, which had ACL replacement surgery back in 1994. I wasn't really wanting to acknowledge how much I had hurt it, but as the weeks and months passed afterwards, I knew it would never be back to normal.
In that twenty-year-old injury, I had a good bit of meniscus damage, and the doctor told me that the knee would eventually develop arthritis, more than likely. I've been spared that, but the alarming popping and clicking that has become a daily occurrence tells me I've got to be careful not to let it get any worse. I started wearing a brace on that knee when I go hiking or walking, and miraculously the knee pain has diminished to almost nothing. Although I can no longer sit back on my heels (because of pain in the left knee), I can now do pretty much everything I could do before the October injury.
My Thursday hikes are very important to me for many reasons, not the least of which is because of the incredible beauty that I get to enjoy when I'm out in the wilderness. The friends I've made over the years, and the ability to stay fit are also important aspects of those hikes. When I first joined the group (six years ago), I figured that a group of hikers organized at the local Senior Activity Center would be easy and probably not much of a challenge. How wrong I was! I well remember that first hike: it was in September, and we went up to the Mt. Baker wilderness to hike the Chain Lakes trail, around seven or eight miles and up and down more than 2,500 feet of elevation. I was the only one in the group of twelve or so that didn't have trekking poles. I had never used them before, and I thought they were not very useful.
That day we had everything except a view: it rained and hailed and the wind blew us sideways. We kept on trudging, and frankly I was impressed with the hardiness of my fellow hikers. I had what I considered to be adequate rain gear and clothing, but by the time we reached the end, I was soaked through. And that was also my last hike without trekking poles: the next week I borrowed a spare set of Al's and the week after that I had my own. I am on my third set of poles already. They make an incredible difference, partly because of the balance, but mostly because it gives me a way to take the majority of the weight off my knees on the downhill sections. I don't think I could do without them now.
I also learned from my fellow hikers how to find a pair of waterproof hiking boots. I love having dry feet while tramping through puddles and crossing streams. That took a good bit of trial and error, but I found a brand of boots that fit my feet and keep them dry and comfy (Lowa's, if you're wondering). They are not cheap but they last for several years if I take good care of them. At first I didn't and found that leaving them, wet and covered with mud, in the trunk of my car after a hard hike was not a good idea. These days I bring my precious friends inside afterwards, take out the insoles, and clean them up. It's worth the effort.
One of these days, I won't be able to do the hard hikes any more; just like skydiving, it takes a certain amount of fitness, and abilities change over the years. But that's not today, and I don't intend to do anything that will keep me from enjoying the outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest for many years to come. Of course, life itself is not guaranteed, much less the ability to run and jump and play. One of the things that this blog gives me is some perspective on my life, on how the years follow one after another, and small imperceptible changes can be noticed.
One thing I realize as I sit here, tea now gone and my partner still asleep next to me, there's a feeling of anticipation from just thinking about a day of skydiving that I don't get from a hike. A flutter of anxiety in my stomach, not only from the thought of skydiving but also driving 150 miles (there and back) on the freeway. Although I'm careful, there is no way to anticipate accidents, just pay attention and be cautious. But there's no way I would stay away because of what might happen, so here I go, off into my day, filled with joy and gratitude for what these old bones still allow me to do! Please take good care of yourself, and until we meet again next week, I hope you will also be filled with joy and happiness. That's my wish for all of us.
|The flowers on last Thursday's hike|