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Archive for May, 2013

I’ve been hesitant to write this post.  This blog is certainly not a travel blog, and it was never intended to be a place where I posted my exciting travels (and to be honest, during the final years of my PhD and third year medical school I didn’t really have any exciting travels to write about).  That being said, I can’t help but post about my adventures in Moab.  If my antics encourage just one person to get outside and enjoy time in the great outdoors, I will consider this post a huge success…

 

Moab…

After completing my Wilderness Medicine Elective, I opted to take two weeks of vacation time (4th year medical students can get a rather absurd amount of vacation time if we play our cards right) to recoup, relax, and since I was already out west, spend time in Colorado with my best friend.  With over 100lbs of luggage to lug around, I managed to sweet talk my best friend into picking me up in Salt Lake City (where my elective wrapped up), instead of hopping a plane to Denver.

 

My best friend is a good sport about road trips (I suppose she should be, as I once drove 28hrs straight with her when she moved cross-country to Colorado), and she was happy to come pick me up, suggesting that we route our trip back through Moab for a bit of outdoor adventuring before heading back to Colorado.  I didn’t know much about Moab before I got there, but I knew Arches National Park was right next door and that the desert portion of my course was in Canyonlands National Park, so I thought it might be fun to swing back through and at least check out Arches on our way back.

 

That was before heading west… Once I met and talked with the river guides who work out of Moab and spent a “transition” day there between the river portion and the desert portion of the Wilderness Medicine elective, I was counting down the days until I would be back.

 

Moab is a stunning place- the rock formations and geology surrounding the town are truly “other worldy”, with the red rock shaped by time and weather into precarious and beautiful structures.  There is also a LOT to do in Moab for people who enjoy the outdoors.  The Colorado River can be enjoyed from rafts, boards, boats, or the shore, there seems to be a new hike for every day of the year, biking (mountain and road) is king, and the weather in May is wonderful for camping (sans-tent, for those-like myself- who are so inclined).

 

There are plenty of places to stay in Moab, but being on a budget and having spent the majority of the prior 3 weeks sleeping outdoors, I was more than happy to camp in Moab.  There are many campsites with RV hook ups, tent sites, and amenities such as showers, but I’m a fan of primitive camping.  Fortunately, for those in the know (or those who get the scoop from knowing river guides), there is plenty of dispersed camping to be had in spots around Moab.

 

view from one of our camp sites up off Klondike Bluffs, about ten miles north of town.

The view from one of our camp sites up off Klondike Bluffs, about ten miles north of town.

 

We spent out first morning in Moab getting coffee (“That Paleo Guy”, Jamie Scott, would swoon at all the coffee spots in Moab) and sorting out plans for the next couple days.

 

Wicked Brew- home of a mighty fine shot of espresso

Wicked Brew- home of a mighty fine shot of espresso

 

After a morning in town we headed out for a hike at Fisher Towers.  This hike, while popular, is a bit off the beaten track (at least in comparison to the tourist heavy hikes in Arches National Park).  The rock formations are stunning and the plant life was beautiful. This place is popular for rock climbers, and it was breathtaking to see them atop the tallest towers.

 

Fisher towers- if you go on this hike, make sure you get on the proper trail… we ended up scrambling quite a bit looking for a trail on various dead ends when we erroneously got started on a “photograph trail”.

Fisher towers- if you go on this hike, make sure you get on the proper trail… we ended up scrambling quite a bit looking for a trail on various dead ends when we erroneously got started on a “photograph trail”.

 

“The Titan” is the tallest structure at Fisher Towers, and is very striking.

“The Titan” is the tallest structure at Fisher Towers, and is very striking.

 

 

Alas, I seemed to have a knack for attracting rain on this trip… As we rounded the turn at the top of the hike, we were greeted by storm clouds and a flash of lightning.  Needless to say, we made a rapid retreat (I did learn about lightning strikes on my Wilderness Medicine course, but like almost all aspects of medicine, the best solution is prevention, prevention, prevention!)

Alas, I seemed to have a knack for attracting rain on this trip… As we rounded the turn at the top of the hike, we were greeted by storm clouds and a flash of lightning. Needless to say, we made a rapid retreat (I did learn about lightning strikes on my Wilderness Medicine course, but like almost all aspects of medicine, the best solution is prevention, prevention, prevention!).

 

After our hike, we headed back towards Moab, making one stop at a local vineyard and a detour down Onion Creek Road.  If you are around Moab and have an AWD vehicle (or are comfortable taking your vehicle through multiple stream fords), definitely check out Onion Creek Road.  If you’re really lucky, one of the dispersed camping sites might be open and available (we didn’t have any luck on that front).

 

My best friend is an avid paddle boarder, and she’d contemplated packing her paddle boards down to Moab for us to use on the Colorado River.  It seemed that renting boards in Moab was a much better option, so after making some inquiries, we ended up renting two inflatable boards (Badfish MCIT) from Canyon Voyages, strapping then to our car, and driving them up river to our drop-in point.  We’d scouted the river the day before and had decided to drop in at Take-out beach and to get out at Lion’s Park: a ten-mile paddle downstream (with my friend opting for the hitchhikers shuttle after parking her car down at the pull-off site. Pro-tip: carry your PFD (personal flotation device) and catching a ride is pretty easy).

 

Boards- Ready for adventure.

Boards- Ready for adventure.

 

While a road parallels the Colorado River the length of our ten-mile paddle, the trip was still very calming.  I’ll be honest- I went through our lone rapids and a couple of the choppy fast-water sections firmly on my knees.

While a road parallels the Colorado River the length of our ten-mile paddle, the trip was still very calming. (Though I’ll be honest- I went through our lone rapids and a couple of the choppy fast-water sections firmly on my knees.)

 

The rest of our day was spent driving out to Dead Horse National Park, seeking out dinosaur footprints (yes really), cooking dinner at our campsite, and then meeting up with a new friend from my Wilderness Medicine Elective- one of the river guides from my travels down Desolation Canyon.

 

I can’t tell you if they’re Therapod or Sauropod footprints, but they were pretty cool!

I can’t tell you if they’re Therapod or Sauropod footprints, but they were pretty cool!

 

As much fun as the previous two days had been, the real adventures began when we started hanging out with a local… My river guide friend was just back from another long trip down Desolation Canyon, which meant that he had a bit of time off before heading back to the river.  The next morning he took us on a hike up to Cable Arch, an arch off the beaten track on an unmarked trail.  Our drive out to the trailhead took us past quite a few petroglyphs, including one that I found very interesting.

 

The birthing rock- my picture isn’t the best, but this petroglyph seems to show a breach position birth.  Some readers may remember that I’m interested in “traditional” positions for giving birth, so I found these depictions particularly interesting.

The birthing rock- my picture isn’t the best, but this petroglyph seems to show a breach position birth. Some readers may remember that I’m interested in “traditional” positions for giving birth, so I found these depictions particularly interesting. (Here’s a better picture.)

 

An arch all to ourselves… something you seldom get in Arches National Park

An arch all to ourselves… something you seldom get in Arches National Park

 

Not another person for miles...

Not another person for miles…

 

Scrambling up and down rock faces is a lot of fun (and an excellent work out)…

Scrambling up and down rock faces is a lot of fun (and an excellent work out)…

 

After a relaxing lunch in town, we headed up to the Sand Flats for an afternoon adventure of rappelling.  I’ve never been rappelling (save for the ~15’ rappel we played with up in the alpine on the Wilderness Medicine course), and I’ll admit that at the top of our first descent I was more than a little nervous.  However, as I lowered myself into the slot canyon (into an area aptly named “the medieval chamber”), my fear was replaced by exhilaration.

 

Rappelling down into the "Medieval Chamber".

Rappelling into the “Medieval Chamber”.

 

The second rappel, off a natural bridge, landed us at the focal point of a somewhat well travelled out-and-back hike.  My best friend went first, and her adventures were well documented by some of the sightseers below!

 

Kate, headed down off the natural bridge

Kate, headed down off the natural bridge

.

The next day found us rappelling again, this time in Arches National Park.  We were truly spoiled to have a local show us yet another awesome spot, for while we left our car in a crowded parking lot, we quickly backtracked along the road and scrambled up a rock fall to find ourselves isolated atop a large mesa.  Hundreds of feet above the other tourists below us, we spent much of the morning relaxing above Arches, in our own world, away from any other visitors to the park.

 

Above Arches- We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the top of the mesa, but eventually we settled down to soak up the sun, talk, and relax.

Above Arches- We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the top of the mesa, but eventually settled down to soak up the sun, talk, and relax.

 

Above Arches- I’m not sure the scale comes through…

Above Arches- I’m not sure the scale comes through…

 

After an hour or so of basking on the rocks, we started our descent back down into the canyons.  This (again, unmarked) path took us down a number of small descents before finally putting us atop a 100’ wall down to the canyon floor.  The rappel was a rush.

 

Can you find me? Hopefully the scale comes through now!

Can you find me? Hopefully the scale comes through now!

 

My best friend and I did plenty of other things in Moab, including taking a drive and some hikes through Arches National Park. Arches IS stunning, but after getting an insiders-tour to some stunning and relatively unknown-to-tourists spots, hiking along crowded groomed trails to ogle at postcard views lacked some luster.  I don’t mean to sound snooty, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way, but I think my favorite moments of this trip to Moab were the moments with friends around bonfires, scrambling up rocks, and quietly taking in all that our surroundings have to offer.

 

After more than a month away, I am finally headed home to New Jersey.  I am heading home physically tired but psychologically refreshed.  I have always believed that nature is *good* for humanity, but I have never experienced this goodness so intensely as in the last month.

 

Through the wilderness medicine elective, my trip to Moab, and then a Memorial Day Weekend camping trip in the mountains of Colorado, I have experienced many different environments.  A big part of experiencing these environments, to me, is learning to be present in the moment- to quiet the mind of all the banality and drama that so easily catches us and to really appreciate what surrounds us.  In the hustle and bustle of normal life this skill takes practice, but it is practice that pays back in dividends on the principle that nature satisfies a deep and primal part of our humanity, and we should seek it out and absorb it whenever possible.

 

Memorial Day Moonrise over Twin Lakes in Colorado- Not sure I can think of a better way to end the day…

Memorial Day Moonrise over Twin Lakes in Colorado- Not sure I can think of a better way to end the day…

 

Find your people, find your places, and enjoy the moment…

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I have spent only 5 of the last 25 nights in a bed (4 different beds, to be precise). At this point I feel a touch claustrophobic in bathrooms and feeling clean is certainly a novelty.  My Wilderness Medicine elective is over and I have had an exceptional visit in Moab (more on that in another post). Tomorrow I head to the mountains of Colorado for one last stint in the wilderness before heading back to New Jersey where I will start a radiology elective on June 3rd.  From a month in the wilderness to an elective spent in dark, windowless rooms- the change in environment couldn’t get much more extreme (which is saying a lot, coming from someone who has gone from alpine camping to desert camping in the course of 3 weeks).

 

This is the final installment of “Pic of the Day”, at least for the Wilderness Medicine Elective.  I may not be able to resist a “Pic of the Day, Moab edition”… we shall see.

 

For the desert portion of the course we headed to Canyonlands National Park, specifically The Needles District of the park.  We spent 4 nights in 3 different sites, hiking up to 12 miles a day with heavy packs.  I found this portion of the course the most physically demanding, but at the end of the day it was unquestionably my favorite section.

 

I’ll write details in future posts, but for now: Pic of the day- desert edition.

 

Day 1- Canyonlands

 

The geology of Canyonlands (actually, the geology of much of Utah) is stunning and fascinating.  This is in the needles are, near Lost Canyon, where we spent our first night in the park.

The geology of Canyonlands (actually, the geology of much of Utah) is stunning and fascinating. This is in the Needles District, near Lost Canyon, where we spent our first night in the park.

 

Day 2- Perspective

 

Looking back at Lost Canyon as we hike out to Elephant Canyon, our next campsite. From many vantage points in the park you could see the snow capped La Sal Mountains.

Looking back at Lost Canyon as we hike out to Elephant Canyon, our next campsite. From many vantage points in the park you could see the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the distance.

 

Day 3- Druid Arch.

 

Before we packed hiked our big packs out to Chesler Park, we took an early morning park out to Druid Arch.

Before we hiked our big packs out to Chesler Park, we took an early morning hike out to Druid Arch.

 

Day 4- The Joint Trail

 

Probably one of the coolest trails I have every hiked, winding through a narrow slot canyon.

One of the coolest trails I have every hiked, The Joint Trail winds through a narrow slot canyon.

 

 

Day 5- Sunrise and out.

 

We left camp at 4am for the 3+ hour hike out.  I led the group of 19 by head lantern for 2 hours before stopping on a bluff to watch the sun rise around 6am.  Pre-dawn hikes are something I will be adding to my repertoire.

We left camp at 4am for the 3+ hour hike out. I led the group of 19 by head lamp for 2 hours before stopping on a bluff to watch the sun rise around 6am. Pre-dawn hikes are something I will be adding to my repertoire.

 

I did not expect to fall in love on this trip, but I have certainly fallen in love with the desert.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I hope it is soon…

 

Chesler Park.

 

Chesler Park

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My Wilderness Medicine elective has officially come to a close. In the last three weeks I’ve experienced three very different environments (alpine, river, and desert) and learned lots of pre-hospital medical care for emergencies that arise in the wilderness.  I have quite a bit to write about, but I liked doing a “pic of the day” for the alpine session, so before I get to a thorough write up of the course I’ll post a “pic of the day” for the river and desert portions.

 

While the course is over, my adventure hasn’t come to an end.  I’m currently taking 2 weeks of vacation time to visit with my best friend, first spending more time in Utah in and around Moab and then heading back to her home in Boulder Colorado.  I hope to get some good writing in during this time… we shall see!

 

Without further ado- “pic of the day” river style!

 

Day 1- We started our adventure at the Sand Wash put in on the Green River where we camped, sans-tent, under the stars…

 

Camping under the stars.

Camping under the stars.

 

Day 2- Over the next 5 days we travelled ~87 miles down the Green River, passing through Desolation Canyon and Gray Canyon.  We saw a few different areas with petroglyphs, presumed to be from Fremont people.

 

Petroglyphs carved into "desert varnish", which according to the river guides (and wikipedia) is at least partially made of manganese.

Petroglyphs carved into “desert varnish”, which according to the river guides (and wikipedia) is at least partially made of manganese.

 

Day 3- Sun rising on the cliffs of Desolation Canyon.  This pic is a bit deceiving, as we actually had more “bad” weather than good.  I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that we got to experience rain in the desert, but getting hammered with more than a third of the area’s average annual rainfall over 4 days could get a bit demoralizing!

 

A great view by which to enjoy your morning coffee...

The morning view from our campground. A great view by which to enjoy your morning coffee…

 

 

Day 4- Please allow me two pics for this day- I couldn’t chose just one (it would be easy to pick a gorgeous landscape for each day, but there really was a lot more to see).

 

The view from another campground...

The view from another campground…

 

Equipment at an abandoned ranch. During our float down the river we saw abandoned ranches, old mines, and even an old moonshine distillery.

Equipment at an abandoned ranch. During our float down the river we saw abandoned ranches, old mines, and even an old moonshine distillery.

 

 

Day 5- At the end of the day we would gather around a fire recapping the day, telling jokes, and marveling at where we were.  Off the grid, without technology or the distraction of modern society, it was wonderful to decompress.

 

Social gathering place and hot spot for heating evening beverages.

Social gathering place and hot spot for heating evening beverages.

 

Day 6- Our last day of camp was spent just below Rattle Snake Rapids (I loved going to sleep to the sound of rapids).  We were pampered on this portion of the trip, being taken care of by river guides- renaissance men of the modern age.  They’re guides, chefs, handymen, naturalists, historians, and fascinating individuals… I hope to reconnect with some when I return to Moab.

 

The nomadic life, with a new campground each night, was great- especially when gear was being floated down the river and not packed on our back!

The nomadic life, with a new campground each night, was great- especially when gear was being floated down the river and not packed on our back!

 

I’ll post some pics from the desert section when I get a chance!

 

——-

 

And for the skeptics, who question whether there was any medical learning on this trip…

I’ll write more on the medical learning in a future post, but here you can see me rocking an improvised humeral fracture splint… in a torrential downpour (thank goodness for Gortex!)

I’ll write more on the medical learning in a future post, but here you can see me rocking an improvised humeral splint… in a torrential downpour (thank goodness for Gortex!)

 

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If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’m currently away in Utah on a Wilderness Medicine elective.  I’ve just come back from the first evolution, the alpine section, and have one night in Salt Lake City before hitting the road tomorrow morning to head to the Green River and Desolation Canyon to take on the next portion of the course.

 

I certainly don’t have time for a thorough write-up of the last week, but I thought I’d give a quick “pic of the day” from the last week to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to.  The pics certainly can’t show all the learning that’s been going on- while there is certainly a large component of this course that many would consider recreation, I think I’ve learned more practical medical skills in the last week than I have in quite some time.  Sure- I don’t know when I’ll next be using an avalanche beacon or when I’ll next use an ice axe to “self arrest“on the side of a cliff, but the skills of dealing with medical emergencies is non-hospital settings and with limited means is certainly important.

 

Without further ado (and because I don’t have much time…)

 

T-minus 1 day… I went shopping.  I knew I wouldn’t be enthusiastic about much of the food available on our trip, so I packed a significant personal stash to keep me going (I ate more nuts in the last week than I have in the last few months).  I also rented double plastic boots, snowshoes, and an ice axe from REI.

 

Yes- I packed a stick of butter and a jar of coconut oil up the mountain... And if I never eat cold, unseasoned, packages of salmon again, it will be too soon

Yes- I packed a stick of butter and a jar of coconut oil up the mountain… And if I never eat cold, unseasoned packages of salmon again, it will be too soon

 

Day 1- The hike up.  I’ve never hiked in snowshoes with a big pack before, so why not add in dragging a loaded sled to the process! Our group of 20 (12 students, 4 residents, 2 fellows, and 2 attendings) hiked up to our site near Lower Red Pine Lake in the Wasatch Mountains.

Wool was definitely my friend on this trip, starting on day 1. Can you spot the avalanche beacon I'm wearing?

Can you spot the avalanche beacons?

 

Day 2- Water. Our group was broken into 4 teams of students and residents, and each day we had different tasks. On our second day my team was in charge of water, which we filtered from this lake.

It is incredibly peaceful out on the lake pumping water (at least when it was warm enough the water didn't freeze within minutes in the tubing.

It is incredibly peaceful out on the lake pumping water (at least when it was warm enough that the water didn’t freeze almost instantly in the tubing).

 

 

Day 3- Snow.  Yeah… this happened. A good 6” of “dust on crust”.

Fresh pow

Fresh pow

 

Day 4- Home. This tent was my home for 6 days. I shared it with two other medical students, and with overnight temps dipping  into the teens (F) I got very familiar with the workings of my 0o mummy bag.

 

Our camp was quite impressive- 7 tents, a double kiva with dug out benches and tables beneath, and a kitchen dug into the snow pack.

Our camp was quite impressive- 7 tents, a double kiva with dug out benches and tables beneath, and a kitchen dug into the snow pack.

 

 

Day 5- Hike day. On our last full day we hiked up to the ridge leading to the false summit of Pfeifferhorn. The views were stunning.

View

 

Day 6- Out.  This morning we woke at 6 to pack camp and head back to civilization.  My feet won’t miss the heavy double-plastic boots, but I will definitely miss these mountains.

Out

 

I plan to write more about the actual medical aspects of this course, but for now I hope you enjoy these pics!

 

And for those that see the t-shirt picture and think this was a warm-weather hike, this is how I was dressed most mornings in camp.  

 

Cold

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