Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 1

Welcome to 2019!
Here’s an update on my plans and goals for the year.


I’ve reluctantly suspended commercial guided backpacking trips in 2019. I learned my lesson in 2017 when I had to cancel and refund cash money for two fully booked 5 and 10 day backpacking trips. At that time, issues with serious medical conditions involving two of my family members demanded that I stay home and address the care of my loved ones. While those issues continue to be managed in the best manner possible, there now exists a real possibility that I will not be able to be in the wilderness if and when the health of my family takes a nosedive.
Nevertheless, I have made alternate plans to get out and schedule few things that allow me to be outdoors, sleeping on the ground, hanging out around campfires, and enjoying what I can in the forest.

I consider myself blessed.
Everyday life offers me engagement in the outdoors on a daily basis, in all seasons.

A very slow, but steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

I live in a sort of “park” in midcoast Maine, where several of my neighbors hold large 100+ and even 1,000+ acre undeveloped properties. Long stretches along High Street, where I live at 430 feet of elevation on the southern side of Moody Mountain, not only don’t have any buildings, there aren’t even any utility poles or wires. What’s there instead is a canopy of towering oaks and other hardwoods that tower over the narrow roadway. This past couple months I’ve observed several mature bald eagles who have remained for the winter perched on a rooftops and trees, and even watched them glide over the bare open fields are they scan for their meager, but apparently adequate sources of sustenance.

I’ve stopped caring that the deer are still feeding on my shrubs, and fruit trees. That’s all that’s left for them and the flocks of 30 plus wild turkey after they ate the remains of my vegetable garden down to the ground after harvest.
I am blessed that many of my neighbors continue to allow me to hike and mountain bike right out my door, through the fields, abandoned roads, and trails that I’ve traveled over the past forty years that I’ve lived in this hand-made house. May all this continue as long as it goes.

Heading home, sinking..

At this point, I refer the reader to this article from Self magazine: The 2 Things That Will Help Motivate You to Be More Active

The article builds on data compiled between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018, from all 36 million people who use Strava that was aggregated and de-identified to respect athlete privacy.
Two factors lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.
My increasing engagement in walking and biking outdoors has been greatly enhance by both these practices.

I plan to continue writing about my 2019 plans in subsequent posts.

For 2019,  please consider joining the 919 other people who are subscribed to future pots from this blog.

Disclaimer: I paid for my Strava Summit ( formerly Premium) yearly membership

Hearing Loss Threatens Mind, Life and Limb

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Ever wondered if  family and friends who are concerned that you might be experiencing hearing loss might be right? Poor hearing is not just an annoying inconvenience.

“Two huge new studies have demonstrated a clear association between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls and even cardiovascular diseases.”

Read on via Hearing Loss Threatens Mind, Life and Limb – The New York Times

FYI:  I will continue to get mine checked yearly.

Record Breaking Antarctic Slog

“In an effort that could go down as one of the great feats in polar history, the American Colin O’Brady, 33, covered the final 77.54 miles of his 921-mile journey across Antarctica in one last 32-hour burst during which, without sleeping a wink, he became the first person ever to traverse Antarctica from coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided by wind.”- NY Times

Story here

 

 

My Top Ten Books – 2018

I’m a goal oriented person who hoped to read 35 books this year.  I’m thrilled to report that I have ended up reading 45 books, with time for at least one more in 2018. I use Goodreads to track books that I want to read, books that I’ve read, and to see what my friends are reading.  Consider using the Goodreads app to improve your own enjoyment of and engagement in reading books.

Ten books stood out for me in 2018:

Ten Million Steps by M.J. Eberhart  – M. J. Eberhart, aka  Nimblewill Nomad, was a 60-year-old newly retired doctor in January 1998 when he set off on a foot journey that carried him 4,400 miles (twice the length of the Appalachian Trail) from the Florida Keys to the far north of Quebec.  It is also the first known public report of hiking the International Appalachian Trail, an extension of the AT  from Baxter State Park through northern Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec. 

On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moore– Moore is a young man who is already a a huge writer that has won multiple awards for his nonfiction work. As a hiker, I found the whole book interesting, but the Prologue and Epilogue holds the best writing about long distance hiking and “hiker-trash” philosophy that this hiker has ever read.

Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age– “Through fascinating profiles and first-person anecdotes, Bercovici illuminates the science and strategies extending the careers of elite older athletes, uncovers the latest advances in fields from nutrition to brain science to virtual reality, and offers empowering insights about how the rest of us can find peak performance at any age.”- from Goodreads

This Land Is Our Land- Ken Ilgunas– “Inspired by the United States’ history of roaming, and taking guidance from present-day Europe, Ilgunas calls into question our entrenched understanding of private property and provocatively proposes something unheard of: opening up American private property for public recreation. He imagines a future in which folks everywhere will have the right to walk safely, explore freely, and roam boldly–from California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters.” – From Goodreads

Gut: The Inside Story- Julia Enders : I’ve read a half dozen or so books about the connection between gut health/diversity and functional performance and this one is fun, brief, easy to understand, and well focused.

The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life- Rodney Dietert

“How would you react if you learnt that the microbes in, on and around your body could be the key to your physical and mental well-being? This is the enthusiastic claim made here. And it’s certainly a thought-provoking assertion. The metaphor of the “superorganism” represents the claim that human being cannot be understood in isolation of the bacterial and archaean colonies that live inside it and help it survive and strive.” -Otto Lehto

The Overstory- Richard Powers – This is the only fiction book on my list.   “From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us.” – Goodreads

Reading the Forested Landscape- Tom Wessels This book is a re-read for me.  Given my almost daily forays out into the various ecological locations depicted graphically and verbally in this book, I refer to it multiple times most days.  It is essential reading for exploring the edges of abandoned forests and the overgrown fields and swamps in coastal Maine, where I live.

The Man Who Walked Backward- Ben Montgomery I’ve started to listen to audio books while driving.  There’s plenty to choose from at my local library.  Here’s the first I tried out and I loved it.  I chose it after reading Montgomery’s Grandma Gatewood’s Walk,  the best book I read four years ago.  I wasn’t the only one who thought it exceptionally strong.  Montgomery won the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards for History/Biography for his story of the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times.  I reviewed the book here.

The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great Depression
“In The Man Who Walked Backward, Pulitzer Prize finalist Ben Montgomery charts Plennie Wingo’s backwards trek across the America that gave rise to Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, and the New Deal. With the Dust Bowl and Great Depression as a backdrop, Montgomery follows Plennie across the Atlantic through Germany, Turkey, and beyond, and details the daring physical feats, grueling hardships, comical misadventures, and hostile foreign police he encountered along the way. A remarkable and quirky slice of Americana, The Man Who Walked Backward paints a rich and vibrant portrait of a jaw-dropping period of history.”- Goodreads

The Book of the Hut -John Silverio  Another book that I have re-read.  I wrote a review of it here.  Jack’s book inspired me to build a 14 foot  diameter octagon at my Maine camp on Hobbs Pond.   I plan to head over to the hut today and light the wood stove for the first time.  There will be a ” grand opening” of the little building sometime this spring. Let me know if you’d like to visit !

Please be aware of the current 30% off sale of my own new book – In the Path of Young Bulls.  When ordered though this website, from now until Jan.1, 2019 the book is only $19.99 plus shipping.  Happy Holidays!

Buy In the Path of Young Bulls

 

My New Book is 30% Off Until New Year’s

When you order through the link on this page my new book , In the Path of Young Bulls,  is 30% off  now until Jan. 1, 2019.   Happy Holidays from Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures.  Copies will be signed, and there is a chance for you to request an inscription as part of the ordering process.

I hope that you will enjoy the book, which is into its second printing already!  Thanks to all my supporters over the past several years !

Buy In the Path of Young Bulls

My 2018 Mileage Goals: MET ! YEAH !

Yesterday was one of my big days for 2018- the day when I finally  amassed 2000+ miles, balancing out half the miles on foot with the other half on one of my bikes.  Total hours spent hiking and biking was 506,  averaging one hour and 22 minutes a day.  I target about 75 minutes  of moderate to robust action a day.   If there are days where I am too tired to get out or I don’t feel up to it, I have to make up the time on another day, usually on the weekends.

Here are the Strava screenshots summarizing my achievements:

1,013 miles on foot
1,002 miles on a bicycle

Here’s a 2016 blog post about how I came to walk 1,000 miles in Maine a couple of years ago.

Some things that helped me meet my goals:

a)  I was injury free this year.  No crashes on my bike, where 95% of my bike miles are off road!  It is to the point now that if I get thrown off the bike, onto one of my bad shoulders, I’m a month off the bike.

b)  I was in good health all year, avoiding even a cold.

c)  I use a 2 minute daily heart rate variability measurement upon awakening every morning.  These days I’m using the Elite HRV App on my iPhone.  I’ve also switched from putting a cold heart rate chest strap to a CorSense heart rate variability sensor.

Here’s a blog post bout how I use the daily reading to gauge my recovery status, which guides how hard I plan to work out on any particular day.

d)  Get social.  According to Strava’s analysis of factors that contribute to increased time spent engaging in physical activity, there are just two factors that lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.  Read more about that here.

I’m strongly motivated by riding or hiking in a group.

Sunday morning with The Bubbas in the Woods.  A fine congregation !

Two to three times a week I ride with the Bubbas in the Woods, 33 members strong and riding year round on Midcoast Maine trails for the past 30+ years.

It’s pounding rain right now, with 2-3 ” predicted to wash away the foot of snow that has recently fallen here in the past week.  Maybe it will dry out enough so that I can fit in a ride in the woods Sunday morning.   I’m cruising into the last few days of 2018, feeling pretty smug but the way things turned out for me in 2018.

Consider getting friendly with a hiker or a hiker and give the 1,000 miles a year thing a go of it in 2018!

 

 

 

 

Endurance, Activity, Exertion: How Much ?

For the past several months I have been concerned that I have been pushing myself too hard and/or too long on my mountain bike rides. I’m 68. I started to become concerned when a younger guy I was riding with stopped for a rest after a tough climb that spiked both our heart rates.
He told me, “I ‘m going to rest a bit longer, my heart rate is way up, close to 155 [beats per minute]”.
Upon reaching the top of that hill my pulse was 168.
My realization at that moment was, “Wait, if this guy is concerned that he might need more rest, should I be?”

Thomaston Town Forest

When I’m out on trail, I often wear a chest strap heart rate monitor that is linked to my iPhone. My resting pulse rate ranges from 48 to 54 bpm. While I also wear a Fitbit on my wrist, it reads inaccurately at higher levels of exertion. I do use Fitbit to track steps and miles covered while biking or hiking.

Here’s a typical profile, obtained from some of the metrics that Strava offers to those of us wearing chest straps, etc.

Nov. 4, 2018 data from 25 mile ride in Acadia

I discussed these concerns with my doctor at my annual physical, who suggested that I consult with a cardiologist. My physician is a great doctor who admits to having no expertise as to fitness/aging heart rates. I asked around and got the name of a cardiologist in Portland who was reported to have experience in this area.
My MD made the referral and I eventually received a call fro the cardiologist’s secretary. She blocked me from seeing him, stating that the physician was an electro cardiologist who specializes in determining where an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is coming from. Doctors consult with him in determining if the patient needs medicine or procedures like a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, cardiac ablation, or other surgeries. Consultations for my issue was not an efficient use of his time.
So, my doctor found me a different cardiologist that was able to see me right away. After reviewing my chart and administering an EKG, that physician told me that whatever I was doing should be continued, and that if anything, he’s recommend a low dose statin to reduce my LDL a bit. He buffered that recommendation due to my strong HDL level.

My 8/31/18 lipid panel results:

I recently reviewed discussion about LDL levels and statin usage in Medscape. Several articles appeared to challenge the recommendations that have essentially placed practically all aging male in the category of risk for heart attack that leads to statin prescriptions.

Here a study that perked my interest-Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review
“Our review provides the first comprehensive analysis of the literature about the association between LDL-C and mortality in the elderly. Since the main goal of prevention of disease is prolongation of life, all-cause mortality is the most important outcome, and is also the most easily defined outcome and least subject to bias. The cholesterol hypothesis predicts that LDL-C will be associated with increased all-cause and CV mortality. Our review has shown either a lack of an association or an inverse association between LDL-C and both all-cause and CV mortality. The cholesterol hypothesis seems to be in conflict with most of Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation, because of its lack of consistency, biological gradient and coherence. Our review provides the basis for more research about the cause of atherosclerosis and CVD and also for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for cardiovascular prevention, in particular because the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated.” https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401

A recent vision exam lead to further tests that were very useful to me in broadening my own investigation about my particular needs and risks. I have fairly good eyes, or I thought I did until my latest yearly check up with an ophthalmologist. My trusted ophthalmologist had retired this year, so I went with an individual who moved from New Jersey who took up the practice. His initial examination reveled some structural concerns in the posterior region of one of my eyes that suggested concerns about the connection to the optic nerve. He was concerned that I might be experiencing the initial stages of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye, and is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
Four additional tests were ordered, one of which was a 30 minute carotid artery ultrasound scan of both sides of my neck, which displayed the results as live-action images on a monitor. The carotid ultrasound showed some age-related plaque but no significant narrowing. My doctor reported this as essentially a normal result and didn’t recommend any further follow-up. The other tests also ended up with normal results, ruling out glaucoma for the time being.

Bottom line: I plan to continue to keep up with my normal routine of 75-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily of hiking or off-road biking. I plan to continue to use 3 minutes of daily heart rate variability monitoring to gauge my state of recovery and adjust the day’s physical activity accordingly. There is a lot to be said about advocating for one’s self in the medical sphere these days, with a number of studies out there that lead to conflicting recommendations.