Backpacking Stories For Active Boomers – Uncle Tom: via

I submitted this article to more than 7 months ago. It just showed up  the front page of their e-magazine.

Read the full story here–>> “Uncle Tom” Jamrog Receives the Triple Crown is a website dedicated to assisting Baby Boomers and beyond in finding the latest information on getting the most out of life for active seniors at any age. Their focus is in the fields of human powered outdoor activities and adventure travel, including geo-caching, and they encourage people with experience in areas such as health, aging, humor, to share their advice and stories.

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Local Adventures Way Down South

I’m known as Opie here in Austin. Opie is known for slinging a fishing pole over his shoulder, hopping on his bike, waving bye-bye to Aunt Bea, and heading off into the Mayberry’s countryside for local adventures.

Ever since I read Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, I’ve been embracing the concept of enjoying outdoor adventures on my own turf, wherever that might be. B1hi_AiCcAEFeWE Alstair Humphries’ idea of going local is catching momentum. There is a detailed explanation of microadventures here.

For the past five nights, my side kick Tenzing and I have been camping out in our host Mike’s back yard. photo

I been hiking in and around Austin the at five days.

The first morning I was here, I fired up the Garmin eTrex 30 and did a long loop walk of a couple hours. That first morning, I saw a turtle, nesting parrots, house plants by the sidewalks that were Hulked out to giantness, as well as some some most unique signage.

Pole dancing academy

Pole dancing academy

The next morning, Tenzing joined me. Sniffles, AKA Chameleon Boy, signed on with us then next morning. By the time yesterday rolled around, all of the folks in the house massed up with me and made the 7 mile round trip to El Chilito for breakfast.

Pounding pavement to burritos

Pounding pavement to burritos

The stunning Hamilton Pool was the object of our awe the next morning.

Mike and Dusty going in

Mike and Dusty going in


Sniffles coming up

Sniffles coming up

Later that day, we headed northwest of Austin out to Hill Country, where we had a most pleasant afternoon hiking at Enchanted Rock State Park. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Big times

Big times

The next day, we had another local adventure here: Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center.

Grandfather trees abound here

Grandfather trees abound here

Tenzing, uplifting

Tenzing, uplifting

Yesterday, I reunited with my fellow Triple Crowner, Richard Wizard and his fiancee, Emmie. We took in a fun loop around Lady Bird Lake where we paused for picture of the two of us, standing deep in the heart of Texas.

Uncle Tom and Richard Wizard, hanging and hiking yet again

Uncle Tom and Richard Wizard, hanging and hiking yet again

Strava tells me that I’ve logged 50 miles of walking in the past five days. I’ll take smileage wherever I can get it, even in a city of close to 2 million, deep in the heart of Texas.

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Uncle Tom’s 2007 Appalachian Trail Journal- April 10

I’m now reading reports of  hikers moving north from the start of the AT this season, and it’s got me homesick bad for The Trail. One of the things I do now is to get on the internet and go back to my Trailjournals to revisit where I was on a particular date, like today.  The post from April 10, 2007 was just before I entered the 70 mile slog way up into the Smokies. I hiked 162 miles in exactly two weeks, reaching Fontana Dam, gateway to North Carolina’s Great Smoky National Park.

Lifetraveler, packing heavy. We finished together on April 15. LT worked a minimum wage job for a few years to save $$$ to do this hike.

Check out my entry here–>  Uncle Tom’s 2007 Appalachian Trail Journal

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Sugarloaf’s First Fat Tire Festival

Weather at the Sugarloaf Fat Tire Festival eventually cooperated.

John riding shotgun

John riding shotgun

I was able to put together a decent ride on Saturday, after the thermometer dropped below freezing.

Hard packed and ready for rolling fat.

Hard packed and ready for rolling fat.

Friday afternoon, when the air temp rode to above 50 degrees, the riding was less than ideal. I only racked up about five miles – the distance from our rented condominium, on the slopes, to the Nordic Center, which was the base of operations for the action here on fat wheels this weekend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The cross country trails here are well groomed, wide as a highway, and fairly solid underneath, but I had trouble on the uphill segments, my rear wheel sinking in the softness on Friday.

Fifty riders paid $40 each to race early Saturday. It looked to be a slog up the slopes, with a good deal of hike-a-bike to reach the high point and then a good slide down. None of us raced- the surface looked to be too loose and soft.

The cold came back Saturday afternoon. By 2 pm, it dropped under freezing, so I decided to head out with Buck, Ian, and Blaine and ride around for a couple of hours. Much better surfaces, allowing for some very fast downhill swoops.  photo 7

As long as you stayed on the packed track, you were smiling, but veer off the snow highways and you were going down into the deep snow.

Ian, halved !

Ian, halved !

The Bubbas represented well, with a dozen of us occupying the condo- I had a clean bed in a room with Tom P., John Anders and Tim Sewall sharing snoring shifts with me.

It cost each of us $100 for our share of the rental for the weekend, a most excellent location, and place to hang for the weekend. Thanks to Blaine Curtis for setting it up.

I volunteered to cook breakfast for the gang on Saturday- eggs, bacon, home fries, English muffins, coffee. Suzie Cooke organized the most excellent Saturday night dinner in the condo. On Sunday, John Anders whipped up an excellent batch of breakfast burritos, with Buck kicking in a massive plate of bacon sausage from Maine Street Meats in Rockport.

Sunday was the day of my longest ride.  Maine Huts and Trails hosted a Stratton Brook Lunch Ride on Sunday.

Suzie, Buck, and Rick ready to flow

Suzie, Buck, and Rick ready to flow

We sampled their winter trail system with a ride up to Stratton Brook Hut where we congregated with fellow Fat Tire riders, before heading back down a spectacular descent of close to two miles on the Oak Knoll Trail.

Ian and Buck enjoying the Stratton Hut

Ian and Buck enjoying the Stratton Hut

I am pleased to work in 27 miles of winter riding this weekend.  Who knows how the riding will go back home, beside Penobscot Bay this week?

This was not my first time fat biking Maine Huts and Trails.

Here’s my  October 26, 2013 blog post from my maiden voyage on a cold October day,   from Route 27 to spending a solitary night at the Flagstaff Lake Hut.

I’ll be back for next year’s Fat Tire Festival and plan to hit up the Maine Huts and Trails again in 2015.

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Hiker tip #2- Set a hiking goal

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
― Bruce Lee

Goals are there to assist us when motivation fades.

Last year, I organized my hiking and backpacking in order to sucessfully reach one goal- walking 1,000 miles in Maine. I thank Carey Kish for suggesting it. Here’s my blog entry with a link to Carey’s idea.

In 2015 I have set a new goal- walking or biking 1,000 miles. I don’t come up with these ideas myself- my son Lincoln suggested the 1 hour daily average. Thanks, Lincoln! He also suggested that I pony up and pay the $59 bucks to get the Strava premium app, which has great analytics, and additional features over the free version that allows one to set goals and track progress.

I have been using the Strava ( premium) app for three full months, and have been able to keep up with my goal of one hour per day average of vigorous walking or biking. In addition to mileage goals, the program is able to track energy expenditures.

In 2015, I’ve covered 396.8 miles in 97 hours, on 72 outdoor adventures. (No more gym for me.) My weight and total cholesterol are both under 200 (the first time in my life).

Here’s a screen shot of my progress to date (via Strava). This is just one way that graphics can be displayed in the program :

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 6.56.31 AM

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Hiking Tip: Careful with that ibuprofen, Eugene !

I’m putting out a short series of hiker tips, given the eventual melting of snow outside my window that will eventual lead to starting up again backpacking season once again. People have started thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in droves already, starting in Georgia and moving north, here to Maine.

One practice that they best avoid is the tendency to treat ibuprofen like a cough drop, and ingest it on a daily basis, sometimes for months at a time. In fact, ibuprofen is jokingly referred to in hiker circles as “Vitamin I”.

At one time, twenty years ago, I was taking 600- 800 mg every four hours, on a daily basis. I was experiencing severe pain in my right shoulder, suffering from chronic shoulder impingement, a nasty constellation of tendinitis, bursitis, and arthritis. I eventually succumbed to surgery, after my sleep became increasingly interrupted. What led to my decision to do the surgery was the advice of the shoulder specialist, who told me that I was using ibuprofen in a manner that could lead to heart problems and increase my risk of stroke or heart attack. Given my family history, I listened to him. I may still have pain where I have to take 600 mg/ 4 hours for a day or two, but then that’s it.

Learning to appropriately address pain is sometimes part of the hiking game. Pain is a signal that let’s the body know that something may need to change, and not always eradicated.

Now, there are additional concerns expressed about ibuprofen, especially if your heart is not that healthy to start with.

Ask your doctor about your use of ibuprofen, and check out the link below to today’s editorial in the Bangor Daily News. it’s short, but the takeaway in the past line sums it up pretty well:

“What you don’t know can hurt you.”

Doctor Patent

Do you take an ibuprofen every day? Tell your doctor. It could save you. — Opinion — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

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Pleased but pissed about my cholestersol blood test results


I’m pleased and also pissed with my cholesterol (lipid profile) results that came in just yesterday.

I have a family history of cardiac disease. My father, Chester, died at age 72 from heart failure after several cardiac attacks severely compromised the last six years of his life. His father died when my father was a baby. My maternal grandfather died at age 57 when I was three. On the positive side, my mother, Isabel, is 88 years old, on no meds, is very independent, and had bought herself two tons of beach stones on her last birthday. She spread them around her gardens herself, with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

To date, I have chosen to be closely monitored for signs of the disease, with thirty year list of figures in columns than I keep in a manila file.

Last fall I became concerned when daily morning readings of my pulse rate were recording results between the high 40’s to low 50’s. I was asymptomatic, not having any fainting experiences. I had also recorded the highest LDL cholesterol level on a previous blood test, one that was taken right after I had returned from a 2500 mile 5 month hike over the Rockies on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. I had suspected that the high reading was due to the fact that I was eating a raft of total junk food for months on end: potato chips, french fries cheese, and fats, fats, fats.

My physician was not that concerned. She did not suggest a Statin, nor was she concerned about my low heart rate, which she felt was an aspect of a high level of fitness for my age. Nevertheless she suggested that I get a second opinion from a cardiologist, and made the referral which I followed up on.

The tech in the cardiologist’s office was doing the intake before I saw the doctor. She turned to me after reading my data and asked me, “ Why aren’t you on a statin?” At the time I didn’t want to retort with the fact that I knew that statins have quickly become most successful class of drugs in history, generating more money in the United States every year than all professional sports combined, or that in the less than 20 years that Statins have been around, over 1,000 publications have discussed their toxicity.

By the time I was out of there, the cardiologist told me I had a 15% risk of having CDV (cardiovascular disease). He had even noted a small fold line in my right earlobe as a factor. Although I was unwilling to make a final decision at the time, he handed me a prescription for Lipitor, and encouraged me to go right out and put it on my shelf for later (implying after I had smartened up). He told me my risk should be 7.4% or lower.

I asked the doctor about any non-drug options, and he handed me single sheet that listed a raft of dietary changes and supplements. He claimed that some of his clients had reduced their LDL reading by 40% by following this protocol.
It leaned heavily on reducing dietary sources of cholesterol: red meat, cheese, trans fats, potatoes, sugar, and increasing the consumption of plants, especially soy products, and nuts. I was encouraged to ingest fish oils, a small bar of chocolate, and a red yeast extract.
He also recommended that I eat Quorn three times a week at least. Quorn is mostly made of mushrooms. Quorn is a highly processed product that includes Textured Vegetable Protein as an ingredient. TVP is composed of artificial and natural flavors, MSG, colorings, emulsifiers and thickening agents, including nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. I wondered why actual mushrooms were not listed as a food to consume rather than Quorn.
He also gave me another sheet that had listed several pharmaceutical products, like Smart Balance butter, that I should start eating. There were several pills suggested in this category as well. At the same pharmacy where I bought the Lipitor, I asked the pharmacist what shelves held these “ healthy heart” products. He told me they didn’t carry any, and when he volunteered to order me what I needed, he got on the computer and informed me that several of the items on the cardiologist’s list were no longer available. He then remembered reading that they didn’t pan out, that the principle behind those products didn’t hold up, and that he thought that the FDA had some role to play in it.

My lipid numbers have always gone up and down. However, this new set is the best I’ve ever recorded. My Total cholesterol reading dropped under the magic 200 number for the first time of my life. My HDL Cholesterol is safely planted at 68 mg/dl, as is my Triglycerides reading of 65. All three figures are listed as within the Standard Range on the message I just received from the hospital. The sole outlier is my LDL Cholesterol Direct reading of 123, which is over the 57-99 Standard Range.

Here’s what I am pissed about:
1) If I enter my figures and calculate my chances of being alive in 10 years with the newly updated Cardiac Risk Assistant, then it’s 7.4%. However, if I calculate it tomorrow, on my birthday, it goes up to 8.4%. What changed about me at 12:00 AM when I turned 65, in addition to picking up Medicare?

2) A search on the NYTImes website indicates that my 123 HDL reading fall within the Near Optimal (100 – 129 mg/dL) range on their summary table.

3) My cardiologist’s recommendations now appear to go against the latest info that just came out.
From February 12, 2015-Patrick J. Skerrett, Executive Editor, Harvard Health
“Warnings against eating foods high in cholesterol, like eggs or shrimp, have been a mainstay of dietary recommendations for decades. That could change if the scientific advisory panel for the 2015 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has its say.
A summary of the committee’s December 2014 meeting says, ‘Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.’ Translation: You don’t need to worry about cholesterol in your food.
Why not? There’s a growing consensus among nutrition scientists that cholesterol in food has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. And that’s the cholesterol that matters.”

4) If was living in my homeland, Poland, or any other European country. I’d be considered healthy.
Here’s what I picked up from a web search for: “What do European doctors say about our guidelines for statins?”
“About 1 in 5 people who take them develop some problem, often just muscle pains and weakness but sometimes diabetes and probably thinking and memory problems. The new recommendations released in 2013 by the American Heart Association would have us encourage the majority of people over the age of 65 to take these drugs, as well as quite a few health younger people.
Since drug companies are major players in funding research on statins, we may never get truly unbiased information about their risks and benefits. Healthy diet, regular exercise and not smoking are far more powerful ways to reduce risk of heart attack and overall death and disability due to all causes, but advertising this makes nobody any money. It is possible that guidelines which increase the use of statins will also make us just a little weaker, achier, stupid and diabetic.”
Medical procedures are now politically influenced.

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