Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 26

We are in the middle of our life readjustment.  Things are happening at a dizzying pace, and it's hard to keep up with everything that's going on.  I have been busy sorting stuff, getting things ready to sell, getting my Ramcharger up to snuff, and haven't seen the gym as a result.  I was also on call part of the week, which didn't help matters.

I still have lots to do, but I need to make an effort to refocus on weight loss and strength training.  My short term goal is to lose 10 lbs before the end of May.  I am going on vacation and want to be 240 lbs.  As it stands right now, I'm at 250 lbs.  It was hard to get to this point, especially with all that is going on, so I'm going to make an effort to get under 250 and hopefully keep going.  We are almost to goal weight, which is in the neighborhood of 215 lbs.  I just need to stay the course a little while longer and I can achieve this tremendous goal!

Since I'm not on call this week, it should be easier to hit the gym, provided work doesn't get insane.  I actually have some good solid work coming up this next week and the week after and I don't want to miss out on the money that we need so badly right now.  So if I have to stay late, and forego the gym a couple of days, then that's the brakes.  Refocusing our lives, and downsizing is actually an expensive proposition.  I wouldn't have believed it myself.

As for everything else insane in my life right now, I'm going to try to bring some normalcy this week.  We shall see how that goes.



-James

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 25

I can sum up last week in one word: stressful.  We have some big changes in the works and with change comes uncertainty.  With all that comes stress.  To add to it, I have been on call since last Wednesday, worked on Saturday, and some douche bag tried to break into my garage on Friday night!

I feel like I'm playing catch up.  I mean, I'm a day late on my update video and blog entry.  I haven't even started enhancing the pictures from my last mini hike, and I certainly haven't hit the gym since last Tuesday.  Well, if I may step into the excuse box for a moment: I don't like getting too involved with anything when I'm on call because the pager likes to start beeping at the most inopportune times.  Okay, out of the excuse box now.

It's gotten to the point where I must be clinching my jaw at night because my gums have been aching ever since I got home from Jeff's place on Easter.

I'm not going to get into the stress-inducing things in my life since it would not be appropriate at this point, but needless to say, change is in the air, and things are (or are about to start) happening.

Weight loss this week wasn't stellar.  I lost a lb for the week.  Considering I didn't gain anything, I'll take that small victory.  It's better than nothing.

Next week will be my 26 week update.  That will officially be the six month mark for my plan.  I'm on my way!  Hoping to be within striking distance of my goal by my birthday in September.


-James

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Week 24

Finally, after nearly two weeks of feeling like I had caught the Contagion virus, I'm feeling better and I'm back in action.  The good news is that I lost 3 lbs this week and made it back to the gym.  There really isn't any bad news to speak of.  I'm just happy that I don't feel like Death.

This week wasn't terribly busy, but the weekend was.  I had the opportunity to try out Jeff's new gym in Ellensburg, so I took full advantage of it.  It was fun working out with Jeff.  He introduced me to a couple of new things to incorporate into my normal routine.  Jeff also shot some video clips that he will use as an advertisement for his business.  I can't wait to see what he can put out.

I really don't have much to report on per se.  I'm kind of scatter-brained right now because I'm preoccupied with some impending things that are very important to my family and me.  I just hope the increased stress level doesn't adversely affect my workout and weight loss.  I'd hate for that to happen.  That said, I'm going to be very busy in the upcoming months, so I'm not sure how that will affect my "52 Hikes in 52" weeks program, but I'm going to do my best to keep up with everything.  I'm just going to go with it.  In the meantime, I'm just going to roll with the punches.


-James

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ten Essentials Series - Navigation

In the first installment of my Ten Essentials Series of entries, I addressed emergency fire starting.  For this second installment, I'm going to address navigation.  This entry will actually cover two of the Ten Essentials, as I listed in my original entry on the subject.  These two items are a map of the area you will be traveling in, and a compass of some kind.  Originally, I had thought to put these two items on the same line, but separated them out because I felt it was important to show that these items, while they work in conjunction with one another, stand alone as necessary tools in your hiking load out.

I will start with maps.  I've used any number of different maps of trails I've hiked on.  From topo maps (Topo is short for topographic), city maps, simple tourist maps, to maps included in guide books, it's always a good idea to have some sort of reference so you know where the heck you are.  They come in handy for identifying landmarks and showing you what your progress is and where you are in relation to your destination.  I'm not going to get into all the different map styles there are out there because there are so many.  If you want to delve deeper into the different kinds of maps, I suggest you check out Wikipedia.  I will, however, focus on the type of map that is most relevant to the hiker or backpacker - the topographic map.

A "topo map," as it is referred to in the industry, is a map that not only shows landmarks, road, rivers, streams, etc, but also shows elevation and terrain profiles by the use of contour lines.  This is also known as relief.  Many modern topo maps also have shaded relief built in to assist the hiker in identifying different kinds of elevation profiles and mountain ranges.  The contour lines are spaced out according to vertical intervals in feet, like 20 feet for instance.  So, for every contour line you see, the altitude is 20 feet higher or lower in relation to the line next to it.  With a topo map, you can see, not only your location, but your altitude and relative position on a ridge line or valley.  You can also see how much elevation you will gain or lose over the course of a section of trail you are on.  By using the data, you can actually draw out and plan your hike based on the elevation profile you read directly from the map.  If you look at your path, and see that the area you are going to be hiking is very steep, you can plan to hike less miles that day.  On the other hand, if you see that the area you will be in is relatively flat and rolling, you can plan on more miles hiked that day.  Of course, how far you travel in a given day is completely up to your competence on the trail, level of physical conditioning, and backpack load out.  The map simply gives you the necessary data so you can plan your next leg based on your personal needs.  The map can also be used to help you find your way should you find yourself off course.

When it comes to measuring distance, maps are generally shown in a scale.  This is simply a ratio.  For instance, a map could have a 1 inch scale that represents 2,000 feet on the ground.  This would be a 1:24000 scale map.  Coincidentally, this is the scale I prefer because it provides enough detail close enough to work with, but the map area is large enough to get an idea of the bigger picture.  This is also known as a 7.5 minute quadrangle map because it covers 7.5 minutes latitude by 7.5 minutes longitude  For backpacking, this is the ideal scale for me.  For more information, check out the USGS map scales fact sheet.

My map of choice is made by a company called Green Trail Maps.  The maps are up to date and highly detailed.  They are also very large, but come in uniform sizes.  They also sell a see-through sleeve that you can place the larger maps in to protect them against the elements.  The large map above is in such a sleeve.  Green Trail Maps has a map for most major recreational areas as well as some urban places.  They just came out with a waterproof, tear resistant line of maps, which I bought in a 1:24000 scale for my Wonderland Trail hike.  I have yet to test the waterproof qualities of the paper, but considering that a map isn't exactly a dollar anymore, I'm going to keep mine in a waterproof sleeve.  Green Trail Maps are inexpensive, and they cover a large enough area that one map can serve many different hikes in the same area.  I think I paid $14 for my Wonderland Trail map, but it covers the entire Mt Rainier National Park, so it was a worthwhile investment.  Most of their non-waterproof maps can be had for less than 6 bucks.  I buy one before every hike in unfamiliar territory.  In most cases, it's a one-time investment because you can use your map for years, unless a major change takes place, like Mt Rainier blows up.  That'll render all current maps obsolete in a micro-second!  You can buy Green Trail Maps at REI.

This is where your compass comes into play.  To the right, I have two compasses shown, both made by Silva - my favorite compass manufacturer.  The compass on the right is a basic, stripped down baseplate Polaris model.  It is a budget priced compass that will help you with the most basic navigation needs out there.  It's nothing that will impress your friends, but in a pinch, it will work.  The compass next to it is the daddy.  This is the Silva Ranger CL, and it is packed full of way cool features guaranteed to impress even the most hard core weekend warriors.   Your needs may vary, but for the money, this compass is the one to buy.  If your finances can justify spending $50 on a compass, then do it.  Heck, even if they can't.  Don't drink coffee for a week, and you'll save enough cash to get this one.  It's worth it.  Now, instead of bragging about the one I own, I'll just go down some things you should look for in a compass.

Let's start with an accurate dial.  The dial allows you to figure out what your heading is in relation to magnetic north.  The dial, when used in conjunction with the map, allows you to plot a course and then make sure you are staying on course.  This is especially handy in wide open areas, where the risk of walking in circles is very real.  The Ranger above has a 2 degree dial, which makes for every accurate navigational work.  Being able to identify a mountain top with 2 degrees of accuracy is pretty impressive, especially when you are 5 miles away.  Think of that.  From 26,400 feet, you can dial in within 2 degrees of error.  That's pretty good.

Next, let's talk about gun sights.  No, this isn't a weapon.  I get it.  A good compass will have a set of "sights" that allow you to aim it at an object and then read the bearing on the dial.  Instead of just holding the compass down at your hip and looking down and then looking up, you can quickly sight in your target, rotate the dial to line up the needle, and you can take an accurate reading quickly.  Then you can take a back reading just as quickly.

How about a sighting mirror?  On my compass above, you can see a sighting mirror under the hood.  When used in conjunction with the sights, it allows you to line up the dial quickly without ever taking your sights off target.  The mirror on the Silva Ranger has a thin vertical line running down the middle, from the rear sight to the base of the compass.  This allows you to accurately find the exact coordinates within degree markers.

Declination adjustment.  Whoa!  What the heck is declination?  Declination is the angle between magnetic north and true north.  Depending on where you are in the world, your compass will not point to true north (IE, Santa's headquarters).  Instead, it will point to magnetic north.  Magnetic north changes all the time.  The earth is nothing more than a huge ball of liquid metal.  As the earth rotates, all that metal swirls around under the earth's crust, and this changes the direction of magnetic north in relation to your position on the planet.  The graphic to the left shows how the angles of magnetic north have changed from the 1600's up to just recently.  In my part of North America, my declination is 16 degrees, give or take.  It changes about 10 feet per year, which isn't much.  If you do not have declination adjustment capability (My ranger does, my Polaris does not), you need to make these adjustments either in your head, by drawing magnetic lines on your map, or writing them down and doing the math as you go.  Compasses that have declination adjustment have a little tool that allows you to screw in or out your adjustment gears, and will make your needle point to true north, which makes your map and compass work together with no extra steps required.  Neat huh?

Base Plate with a Ruler.  You wouldn't immediately think so, but having a ruler in the same scale of your map is important.  Having a base plate provides a straight edge that you can use to scribe lines into your map with.  So, if you were standing at a junction, and wanted to head in the direction of a mountain you cannot see, and had two trails to follow, you would simply orientate your map, and figure out what heading the mountain is in relation to you.  Then pick your trail accordingly.

That's it for the major needs.  Any other is just an extra goody for you to use.  As for map and compass work, you should get a book to read on the subject.  My favorite is the Land Navigation Handbook.  The official Boy Scout Handbook also is a valuable resource.  You might just pick the BSA handbook up because it's chalked full of good stuff - not just land navigation.  At $10 or so, it's the best deal on outdoor guide books you can get.  I love mine.

Now what about GPS?  I have one.  I love it.  It is great for instantly identifying your coordinates, tracking telemetry, pointing you toward your destination, and a whole lot of other way cool features that I won't get into detail here.  Most modern GPS devices even have topo maps built into them so you can effectively navigate using nothing more than this handy device.  Just don't forget extra batteries.  And don't drop it in the water.  Oh, and don't drop it, period.  Regardless of how cool my (no longer in production) Garmin Etrex Vista Cx is, I would never leave home with just this device.  If I'm out in the back country, I'm taking my map and compass with me.  99% of my GPS use is to track telemetry for my hikes.  I can see how many miles I've gone, elevation gain or loss, walking speed, moving time, ascent/decent speeds, and a whole lot of other stuff that makes reviewing my hikes easy for me.  Just turn the GPS on, clip it to your backpack shoulder strap, and walk.  Let it keep track of everything.  A word of caution: GPS isn't the end all be all of navigation.  Something as simple as a thick tree canopy can render the device utterly useless.  If I know I'm going into a heavily forested area, like when I did my Dry Creek hike, I might just leave the GPS home because it will be very expensive weight for me to carry around and not use.

I hope this little entry helps point you in the right direction (pun very much intended).  Just so you know, these entries aren't written to teach you all you need to know; there are plenty of books and classes out there.  What I do is provide enough information to get you started in such a way that when you go to the websites I link, you are not overwhelmed by all the jargon you see there.  I try to explain all this in the most basic language that any lay person can understand.  Hope you enjoyed it.

-James

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week 23

The last week of March sucked!  In my last entry, I commented on how the entire family was sick.  Well, I was only in the beginning of my sickness when I put that entry together.  The big part of this cold hit me in the beginning of the week, and it really hasn't relented yet.  While I was at work, I would start coughing uncontrollably whenever I started to breathe deeply and heavily.  It sucks when you feel like you're hacking up your left lung every time you exert yourself.   For the most part, I took it easy.  I made sure I watched what I was eating, took my gummy vitamins, tried not to cough up my entrails too much.

I was feeling somewhat better today, so I went out and hiked an easy hike, just to get my blood circulating.  Man, I get all kinds of stir crazy when I'm not doing something physical nowadays.  I'm still not 100%, but I think I'm ready to give the gym a try again tomorrow.  Hopefully, Mr. Cold bug will get the hint and vacate the premises pronto.

Jeff is putting the finishing touches on his gym, and I'm hoping I get to test drive it next Saturday and Sunday.  He's got a nice Life Fitness elliptical machine as well as some really nice weights, a bench, hex bar, various resistance bands, yoga balls, dumbbells, and other stuff that would make anyone with a home gym jealous.  I believe his grand opening is tomorrow.  Good job getting the gym ready Jeff, and good luck!  If nothing else, I hope to put some miles on his equipment when I visit him next time.  For more information on Jeff's business, check him out at Health Fitness Complete.

I believe we are doing another fitness  evaluation next week as well.  It will be interesting to see how far I've come in this journey, and see how much further I have to go.  These days, I weigh less than I did six years ago.  The picture to the right was taken in April 2006 while my wife and I were in Leavenworth, WA celebrating our second wedding anniversary.  I can tell you now that I'm not that big anymore.  As for how much I weigh at this time, there was no measurable weight loss this week, due to the fact that I didn't get out much to do anything.  I was at home nursing the "man flu."  The good news is that I didn't gain any weight, so my diet changes are proving very beneficial to my well-being.  My current weight is 255 lbs.

I went over to my mom and dad's house last night to take care of some business and we started talking about weight loss and health issues.  Dad told me, "Don't keep a bunch of weight around the mid section.  Otherwise, when you get to be as old as I am, you will have diabetes."  Yeah, thanks Dad.  No really.  Thanks.  It's good advice.  But I didn't need to be 50 years old to feel the ill-effects of being 100 lbs overweight.

As I was preparing dinner, my wife and I were talking about my health issues related to being the fat ass I was.  We recalled that when I'd eat starchy foods, like french fries, I would basically be done for the night.  Oh, those things used to knock me right out.  I recall if we ever went to Red Robin for dinner, it would have to be the last stop of the evening because I would get groggy and tired after eating their wonderful steak fries.  They used to "slay me," as Lindsay recalled.  Nowadays, I can eat starchy foods and not feel a thing.  That's not to say that I go around eating deep fried potatoes all the time, but back in the day, it didn't matter if they were baked, fried, deep fried, or boiled.  Potatoes had the diabetic coma effect on my body and I'd just be so tired afterward.

There were a host of other issues that went along with the weight too, and most of them have completely subsided.  I sleep less these days, probably because I actually sleep when I'm sleeping.  Jeez, before I would snore so loudly that I'd wake myself up.  I'm sure Lindsay appreciates me not snoring anymore.  What I had was Sleep Apnea.  Though I hated to admit it then, I'm not afraid to say it now.  Maybe it's because I don't suffer the symptoms of it anymore.  I sleep deeply now and wake up easier.  Oh sure, I pound the snooze bar once or twice in the morning once in a while, but I think even the most healthy people are guilty of that from time to time.

Other little things that used to bother me are gone too.  My hands don't get clammy and weird anymore.  Before, if I walked any sort of distance, my hands would swell up and it felt like I was wearing thick gloves.  I hated it.  My eye lids used to twitch all the time and it was extremely aggravating.  They don't twitch anymore.  I used to sweat a lot.  Boy would I sweat.  It seemed that all I had to do was bend over to pick something up, and I'd start sweating bullets.  These days, I only sweat when I'm really working hard or working out.  In fact, one thing I've really noticed is that I feel cold more often.  I can be sitting in my house with the thermostat set at 72 degrees and suddenly feel the urge to crank the temperature up to 74 degrees.  The irony is that last summer, I'd be crying if the temperature got above 73 degrees.  I'm hoping that this summer will not feel as frigging hot to me now that I'm missing 60 lbs of insulating blubber around my body.

All in all, I'm hoping for good things.  Short term goals for me are to be under 250 lbs by the time I head to Utah for vacation.  That's two months from now, so it will be a slam dunk.  I could set the goal lower, and it is subject to change, especially if I find myself 5 lbs lighter by the end of next week.  By mid summer, I hope to be under 230 lbs.  That will put me in striking distance of my 100 lb goal by the time my 32nd birthday hits.  Of all the birthdays I said to myself, "This year, I'll lose weight and give myself a birthday present to remember," this year will be the one I make good on that promise and give myself a brand new body (well, at least a thinner one) and quit screwing around and wasting my life away.

Here's to goals and here's to achieving them!      


-James

Soundview Urban Trail

Okay, well today I wasn't feeling the best, so I went over to Chamber's Creek Properties and took a nice stroll on the Soundview and Grandview trails.  My buddy turned me on to this little urban trail last night.  I decided to go over and see it for myself.  I'm glad I did.  I enjoyed this one.  It is ideal for kids and pets.

At the north parking lot.  This is the start.

From the start, the view of the Sound is pretty amazing.

I thought I smelled remnants of the brown trout.  This is a waste treatment center.

Heading down on the south side of the Grandview Trail.  This is the beginning of the Soundview Trail.

Down at the bottom, about 15 feet above sea level.  This wide open space  is ideal for power kiting due to the wind out here.

Some old pieces of structure left.

Here's a map of the area.  I went off trail and headed over to the adjoining trail at the SW most end where the pedestrian overpass is located.  I wanted to get in every 10th of a mile I could.

Another interesting concrete structure in the distance.

Close up.

WE MADE IT! This picture is of me about 1.55 miles into the walk.  GPS verified.

Pet friendly too.

My son would love it out here.  He's all about trains.  I'm bringing him out to train watch.  I saw three different trains on my walk out here.

Ah, the dangers of urban hiking trails.  Normally, I'm on the lookout for cougars and bears, but I've never encountered such a force as this before.

Another gratuitous picture of me near the Sound.

Narrows Bridge peaking out in the distance.

Finally, some uphill travel!  It was just enough to get me breathing a little more than normal and put a little sweat on my back.  It was enough to prove to me that even though I'm still feeling under the weather, at least I'm not hacking and coughing uncontrollably when I exert myself.  This week sucked!

At the top of the hill.  This entire area is the Chambers Creek Properties.  The trail loops around a big golf course.

GPS telemetry provided by the most excellent Garmin Etrex Vista Cx.  Relevant trail data:  Distance hiked: 3.19 miles.  Moving average: 3.2 mph. Moving time 59.04 minutes.
-James