Friday, April 1, 2011

Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.

Spring break is now in session.  Until two days ago I had planned at this very moment to be driving down to Bishop to meet up with some buddies to go climbing.  That was two days ago.  Now instead of climbing, rafting and skiing over break I am going to be seeing doctors and hopefully scheduling a surgery.  

Wednesday afternoon Renee and I were embracing the warmth of the sunshine while spending an afternoon of climbing at Grizzly Dome.  It is amazing how fast things change; one moment I was at the crux of the route and about to pull through, then the next moment I saw the bones in my shoulder make an unnatural shift as I simultaneously peeled off the rock.  I looked down at Renee and yelled, "lower me quick.... it's out!!" 

Like good little W-EMTs, we had my shoulder back in the socket in minutes. (we actually had to put it back in twice that day, since it popped out again as I scrambled up the talus slope to the car.) That was the simple part.  Since the end of last summer my shoulder had now come out four times total.  My eyes began to well up with tears, not from pain, but from the realization that I had been in denial about the condition of my shoulder.  I had suffered from over optimism, thinking that my body could through proper rehab repair and heal itself without requiring surgery. Now surgery is inevitable.

With much daylight still remaining we were in no hurry to go home.  We perched on some rocks along Grizzly Creek, talking and munching on pistachios. The river guide in Renee emerged as she managed to find ways to make me laugh.

By no means am I happy about my current situation, but I take comfort in knowing that God had this planned and that He is going to work through this. I physically will not be able to guide on the river as I had planned for this summer, but it is looking like I will be able to return to a former job in Sequoia National Park.

I am trying to not dwell on all the things I won't be able to do for the next 7 months, rather I am attempting to shift my thoughts to all the things that I will have time to do now.  It is exciting to think that this summer I should be able to scratch off a few things that have been on my list for a while, like

  • Picking up the ukulele 
  • Learning to yodel
  • Knocking out a few sewing projects
  • Training for and running a marathon (I wanted to run a short ultra-marathon, but Renee talked me down from 50 mi. to 26 mi.) 
  • Hiking from Mineral King to Mt. Whitney in 3 days or less
  • Mastering the art of making sourdough bread
....the list continues.

Our first daffodil blooms of the year-  Spring is here!


Take a lesson from the sun
Respect your stomach
Express your appreciation
Avoid ragged edges
Make happiness a habit
Walk past failure
Who says you can't?

Tiny Tim


Monday, March 21, 2011

Today is the second day of Spring and mother nature seems to be reluctant to let go of Winter.  The array of gear on our front porch is indicative of this season of limbo.  The items range from skis, snowshoes and a snowboard to a kayak paddle, river sandals and neoprene socks.  If you open the front door you will be greeted by the odor of our soggy river and snow gear as they dry while hanging on the banisters of the stairs. Our current recreational pursuits are as conflicted as the weather we are experiencing. 

Imagine having a weekend where you are able to indulge yourself in all the chocolate cake you could desire without being accompanied by the subsequent guilt of your gluttony.  Being able to burn more calories than you can consume sounds awfully enticing.  What else could motivate 35 people to spend a weekend rafting in the snow?  It turns out there are a multitude of good reasons, but when I say "good" I am not necessarily implying "sensible."

The precipitation was beginning to transform from rain to snow on Friday morning as about 35 of us huddled in the equipment room for our first day of raft guide school.  Rain, snow or shine; FRC offers this 6 day course every Spring.  It was in this class last year that I first learned the fundamentals of guiding a paddle raft and I returned this year with a desire to work on my rowing skills.  Friday we only ran a short portion of Spanish Creek given the less than ideal weather.

By the end of the run if anyone had feeling in their hands and feet, they were the exception.  Despite the physical discomforts, many were still jazzed at takeout.

Saturday morning came with a blanket of snow.  I had a little over 30 minutes of "thinking time" while I commuted to school.  At the moment it was still snowing and there I was, skiing to school while carrying all my boating gear in my backpack.  Even I saw something a little odd with that concept.  It was like we were defying God and nature with our hopes of boating when we should be skiing.  Just like you need to have a variety of clothes in your closet for a variety of weather, I also think you should have a variety of activities to accompany whatever the weather is offering.  It was blatantly obvious that Saturday was not a boating day.  

Potentially more dangerous than boating would be the activity of driving to and from the river on the snow covered roads.  With all the factors taken into consideration, Rick cut us all loose to have a day to be warm or to go skiing.  Naturally, we went skiing.

Come Sunday, the road conditions were much better which allowed us to do a 6 mile section on the East Branch of the North Fork Feather River.  Rick gave his full disclaimer and even encouraged people to not go.  Many heeded his advise, others....not so much, as is evident by the following pictures:

 The snow made for the easiest put-in I have ever had at the Y!

Happy 1st Day of Spring!


A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not why we build ships. 
John A. Shedd

Friday, March 11, 2011


Being able to do all four activities within a 15 mile radius and sometimes not having to venture further than your back door.  Yes, that is why I love Plumas County.

Back over the summer I used that as a selling point to convince Renée that she wanted to move up here.  In my sales pitch I told her that there is nothing to preclude you from climbing, biking, skiing and paddling all in the same day.  (Okay, so we found out that is not entirely true...I'll get to that in a bit.)

Yesterday, March 10th, was a significant day.  In fact, so important that Renée and I started planning the itinerary for it all the way back in August.  Anybody who is anybody knew that Thursday, March 10th was Miss Renée E. Hartsman's birthday.  To celebrate we were going to do it all: climb, bike, ski and paddle.  Our logistics for the day were laid out perfectly, or so we thought.  We were going to start with an early morning paddle before I had to go to class, after class we would break out our climbing shoes to do some bouldering, from bouldering we would go to Buck's Summit to ski, and from skiing we would finish with a sunset mountain bike ride.  It sounded like it was going to work, however, we hadn't made accounts for weather or visits to the doctor.

I have been house sitting on a ranch in Genesee Valley, which wove perfectly into our plans.  Wednesday afternoon Renée came out to stay with me and anticipation grew as we began to prepare for the next day.  We did everything that we could do in advance to save time on the big day- inflating the canoe, securing it on the car, packing our gear, etc.  That evening I was out splitting wood and obtained a splinter in my finger from the hatchet handle.  It was deep and out of sight, but I was unconcerned.  It was just a little splinter- let it fester inside and it will eventually work its way out, right?  By late that night my finger had swollen to almost double its normal size.  We tried a few methods to remove the foreign body, but that proved unsuccessful since we couldn't even see where it was.

Morning couldn't have come too soon, and after a hearty breakfast of banana pancakes we were on the water before 0800.
We put in a few miles upstream from the house, did a mellow class I section of Indian Creek, and took out right on the ranch property.  Canoeing wasn't our ideal mode, but it was the best option since my shoulder isn't quite ready to kayak yet.  It was still nice to be on the water, regardless of the craft we were in or the difficulty of the run.  We were aware ahead of time that the canoe had 1" gash in the left tube, but we slapped a good amount of duct tape over it and crossed our fingers.  We brought the pump along with us and had to stop a few times to refill the rapidly leaking air.

When we put in we could see storm clouds looming over the ridge in the distance.  They caught up to us by the time we made it to take-out.  We dumped the canoe off at the barn and had just enough time to get changed before I had to go to my class.  It was pouring rain when I was done at school.  Renée and I looked at each other in disappointment, both knowing that we would have to scratch climbing from our day.  We looked at the bright side; rain in Quincy probably meant fresh powder up at Buck's!

It is always a good day at Buck's, and yesterday was no exception.  After skiing/snowboarding we were preparing to go back to Genesee where we would get good and muddy while mountain biking, clean up, and soak in the hot tub before dinner.

Until this point I had been ignoring my finger that now resembled a sausage.  Swelling + redness + heat = infection.  I knew that, but I was in denial.  It took a couple people telling me to go to the doctor before I finally gave in.  I felt silly for going to the doctor for a splinter, but it was imperative that I start antibiotics before the infection spread to surrounding tendons and bones.

Fortunately my other roommate, Cynthia, is in a management position at the family clinic and she was able to squeeze me in to see a doctor at the end of the day.  Because of the location of the splinter, they opted to not dig for it, so as to avoid damaging the nearby nerves and tendons.  I got my antibiotics, and well, hopefully this splinter will continue to fester its way out.

It was dark when I left the doctors office.  I suppose we still could have gone for our bike ride by headlamp, but we had already resigned to ourselves that it wasn't going to happen.  I know I was ready to be clean, warm, and full.  Cynthia and Renée both came out and stayed with me at the ranch that night.  We dressed up, had a nice dinner, and indulged in the chocolate silk pie that I had made the night before.  The day obviously did not go completely as we had hoped, but it was eventful and MEMORABLE nonetheless!


Nature has no mercy at all.  Nature says, "I'm going to snow.  If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough.  I am going to snow anyway."
Maya Angelou

Thursday, February 17, 2011

There is no doubt about it.  
Today was... and still is... a ski to school day.

This semester I have made it a Thursday tradition to commute to school by running.  Today is Thursday, however, when I looked out my window this morning, the thought of running wasn't an appealing one.  Skiing... that sounds much better. 

I maybe look a little too excited here for being on my way to school     

Enthusiasm was apparently oooozing from my pores and evident to all today.  (Renee said I was frolicing around the house as I was getting ready this morning, but I think she was exaggerating a smidge.)  When I first arrived on campus I ran into Dr. Connell.  We exchanged hellos and he remarked "You are the first ecstatic person I have seen all morning!"  I thought that it was odd that more people were not rejoicing for our first storm in almost a month, but it wasn't until I encountered more people that I realized the context of Dr. Connell's observation. 

I was a little early to my first class, and when I walked into the room I noticed that every student appeared to be sullen and unhappy.  I had never felt so out-of-place for wearing a smile.  I did my best to bring sunshine into the classroom today, but that can be a daunting task when there is a thick cloud-cover.

By the time I left school to head back home, my tracks from a few hours earlier were almost completely covered.  Once back at home, I warmed my body up with a hearty bowl of leftover bean 'n' ham soup with cornbread— the perfect comfort food for a stormy day. 

I think I am going to ski to school again in a few hours for my night class.  I could drive, but at this point it is probably safer to ski. (People drive crazy in the snow.) Plus, night skis are so enjoyable.  Nothing compares to the tranquility and serenity of gliding through fresh powder in the light of the moon.

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I just diagnosed myself with a premature case of the Fever. 

Spring Fever.

 As far as I know, the only cure for this strain of fever is sunshine, taken in copious amounts.


It is only the beginning of February, and I am sitting on my back porch, comfortably dressed in a t-shirt and capris.  We are in the Sierras.  Shouldn't it be snowing?  

Days spent skiing have been minimal since we've been back this semester, and I have found myself engaged more in non-snow-related activities due to our lack of recent storms.  When I feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, it makes it almost impossible for me to stay indoors.  When I finish my classes each day, Renee and I have been spending our afternoons either climbing, bouldering, running, or biking.  

If  Mumsy is reading this, she is probably wondering if her daughter ever studies.  Well Mumsy, yes, I still take time to study.  In fact, lately I have been integrating studying with recreation. 

Look mom, no hands.
A Sunday afternoon ride OR an EMT study session?

I have finally figured out my "learning/studying" style.  I know that I have a hard time being still, especially when there is daylight to be used.  Over the past few years I have also discovered that my mind studies best and can concentrate better when my body is exhausted.  I am thankful that I am not in elementary school right not, otherwise I would probably be diagnosed with some hyperactivity disorder.

Those study tactics have been working well for me so far.  The past few weeks I had been preparing for my EMT National Registry exam, which I took yesterday.  Last fall I was in FRC's EMT class, but passing the class alone did not make me an EMT; I still had to pass the National Registry to become nationally certified.  The exam yesterday was my first experience with computerized adaptive tests, and it had to be the most brutal test I have ever taken.  When you arrive at the testing center, they almost put you through more security than the TSA.  Palm vein scans and pat-downs aside, the test itself leaves you feeling like a complete failure.  There is not a set number of questions on the exam; the computer just abruptly ends the test when it knows if you have met...or fallen short...of passing criteria.  When the computer shuts off, you feel like you failed, then you have to endure the agonizing two days while you wait for the final verdict.

This morning, like usual, I woke up before the sun.  I shuffled down the stairs and began my normal morning routine.  I decided to check my account to see if my fate had been posted.  Pass or fail; I was eager to know. I figured it was probably too early for the site to be updated, but I was going to check regardless.  When I logged on I read the words, "re-certification by test" on my home page.  My heart sank, because my still-sleepy mind only registered the words "re" and "test."  I sighed and thought to myself, That's just swell. I have to go back to Reno to re-test.  I rubbed the crusties that were still in my eyes. Then my vision began to focus on what the words actually said.  The gears were in my head were turning, albeit a little slow.  I eventually began to connect the dots in my mind.... in order for me to "re-certify" I would have to be certified to begin with..... I  am certified!?!  (I never drink coffee in the morning, hence the slow thought processing.)  My deductive logic was confirmed when I saw my registry number in the corner of the page.
I wish I could start every day off with the same elation that I had this morning!  I am pretty sure that I haven't stopped smiling since I found out.  I have already begun discussing with Steve (the EMT teacher at FRC) about the different options available for me to start using my certification and gaining experience in the realm of emergency medical services.

Enthusiasm is the great hill-climber.  
-Elbert Hubbard-

Friday, January 21, 2011

I took a little blogging sabbatical over the holidays, and now I'm back in cozy little Quincy after a satisfying vacation. Between the visits with family and multiple Christmas baking sessions with friends, I was able to squeeze in a few adventures. (with all the baking and consuming we did...we had to do something to work off all that pie, toffee, povitica, fudge, scones and cookies!)

We started burning the Christmas calories with a ski trip up to Mineral King in the southern reaches of Sequoia NP.  Mineral King has always been a magical place for me.  It was there that I went on my first backpacking trip, the location of my first real job, and the place my sister met and fell in love with her husband.  That mountain contains many memories and has done much to shape me into the person I am now.  What made the trip even more special was the company.  My skiing mates, Casey, Molly and Rachel, are as close as family and have strong ties to the mountain as well.

We were blessed with a few feet of fresh powder to blaze through, and we received a little more while we were up there.  Our ultimate goal was to make it to Sunset Point and hopefully continue on to Mineral King Valley, but there was obvious evidence of recent avalanches so we decided to turn around considering time was also running thin.  The four of us were disappointed, but we were simply content to be in the company of each other in such a glorious place.  We had the whole mountain to ourselves during the few days we were up there; absolutely no evidence of life other than the bear, squirrel, and coyote tracks.

I am so thankful Mineral King remains a pristine sanctuary during the winter months when it is closed off to the public.  Had Walt Disney had his way back in the '70s, the mountain would be marred with ski lifts and teeming with people.  Although it is a shame that more people are not able to enjoy the snow-covered majestic peaks. 

It might have been a little chilly too... it was at least cold enough for haircicles to form on Rachel.


After the ski trip, I had a couple layover days at home and then headed down south to the Mojave Desert. I met some buddies at Joshua Tree NP where we spent one solid week of climbing. I was never really much of a desert person, but now I see it in its own unique beauty.

The geologic formations are particularly striking....their distribution and characteristics make it look like God was playing a giant game of tetris, and Joshua Tree NP is what resulted.

 photo by Renee Hartsman

Climbing Partners!
photo by Renee Hartsman

We topped off the perfect week by climbing "Headstone" during the sunset of our final night.  It was a windy evening, of which we took full advantage of.
photo by Nathaniel Bluedorn

Royal and I on Headstone
photo by Nathaniel Bluedorn

"You can not not smile while flying a kite."

photo by Renee Hartsman

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

 Meet Renée and Scott.

This is what Renée and Scott look like after 21 consecutive days of being in school.



 Some of us here at FRC are almost starting to look better on paper than we do in person with all the certifications we are getting.  All our hard work for the past three weeks paid off on Sunday as about twenty of us became certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR).  WFR is an 80 hour course composed of classroom lectures and scenario based learning.  (Here is a link to a video that can give you a better understanding of what the class entails- Stanford WFR)  A huge emphasis of the class was placed on physiology, which is foundational in knowing how to treat a patient whether they are a victim of trauma, environmental factors, or medical problems.  My mind is overwhelmed (in a good way) when I reflect on all that I learned in the past three weeks! 

Again, I have nothing but good things to say about Julie and Abi of Sierra Rescue.  They are patient instructors and their passion for wilderness rescue is evident.  They also did a phenomenal job of creating realistic emergency scenarios; our patients were complete with fake blood, pink frothy sputum, bruising, and even vomiting.

Ready for evac on a backboard with a full
hypowrap.  I'm as toasty as a muffin on a dashboard

Scenario: rafting accident

Feather River College WFR class of  2010

Train Hard.  Be Safe.
-Sierra Rescue-