Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sensory Inventory IX

I am still mapping progression of neural deficits as they continue their inexorable march.

My comment about sensory loss were premature with regard to my hands yesterday, but you can forgive me for being somewhat precipitous in making such a judgement, perhaps. It is a peculiar sensation, or lack thereof, to grow accustomed to.

I realized today that my palms still seem to register about the same degree of sensitivity as ever. It is the fingers themselves, particularly my fingertips, where I notice a diminishing sense of touch. It is becoming less sensate every day. I am very much concerned about lack of temperature sense, and spoke to my pshrink Rhonda about these concerns yesterday. She suggested using thermometers, and that seems like a practical temporary solution, so I will try to find something to use that is appropriate for the application.

Thank you, Rhonda!

The Saga of Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd, the flamin’ pink flamingo bird,
he flew the coop today, to search the land.
Into the skies of blue, poor Floyd was lured,
enticed, away from friendly keepers hands.

Captivity he fled, to seek his kind,
compounding his own natural mistake.
How seldom has a bird been proved so blind –
he roosted on the marge of Great Salt Lake.

For birds of like, sad Floyd has waited long.
Alas, his flock in Africa abides.
He wastes his days composing lover’s songs,
high hopes on languishing good fortune ride.

Pink Floyd, how long his lakeside vigil keeps,
in unrequited love, the lone bird weeps.

(Pink Floyd is an African flamingo who escaped
from Tracy Aviary and is now occasionally seen
along the shores of Great Salt Lake.)

The Deepest Sorrow of All

I often sing in my mind the refrain of the Tabernacle Choir singing "David's Lamentation" by William Billings.

David the King was grieved and moved;
He went to his his chamber,
His chamber and wept;
And as he went,
He wept and said,
"O my son!
O my son!
Would to God I had died!
Would to God I had died for thee!
O Absalom,
My son,
My son!"

Vic'try that day was turned into mourning
When the people did see how the King grieved for his son.
He covered his face, and in a loud voice cried,
"O my son!
O my son!
Would to God I had died!
Would to God I had died for thee!
O Absalom,
My son,
My son!"

My longing and regret is that I was an absent father for such a long time, and such a critical period in the lives of my sons. I am sad that I missed so much, and feel guilty that I was not there for them. I weep to know of times they needed a dad, and I was not there, and my heart aches. I can never make up for times lost, but can try to make some recompense for the damage I caused, and hopefully they will accept some benign advice and well-intentioned guidance from admittedly foolish and crippled old man.

I am searching in the darkness for the light of inspiration. I feel a real sense of urgency about this, because I think nothing is more important, and my time seems very limited.

There also seems to be much in the way of opposition to overcome. Most of it seems to be of my own doing, unfortunately.

In the horror of nightmares, one recurs. I never understood quite what it meant to me until now. Perhaps it seems more significant, given the current circumstances with myself and my family.

I am dreaming that I am in the woods with a group of young boys. They seem to be looking to me as their leader. We are all more or less outfitted in uniform green.

Somewhere along the trail, one of the group discovers a box that is labelled with a very old label I recognize. It is old explosives, and I tell the boys I see that it is old and weeping, and very dangerous.

I tell them all about handling explosives and primer cord safely, and leave them to experiment with the case of the unstable stuff. As I walk away, suddenly there is a flash and a huge detonation, and many screaming voices and cries of distress. I turn to look, and see the broken and agonized, suffering and begging me, pleading for help! And above all, the living, broken survivors suffering in such pain, and askng me, why didn't I stop them? Why?

I will do what I can.
I will do what I can.

Sitting around weeping never solved anything.

Again, my sorrows are my own.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sensory Inventory IIX

This morning, I could not detect the temperature of the water with my hands or arms. The shower continues to be a most useful gauge of the creeping gradual decrease of sensory loss as it travels across the parts of my body.

I am pretty certain that I suffered another mild stroke or TIA in the brain stem region of my brain last week. I did not feel another trip to doctors or hospital stay was warranted, given the circumstances. They would simply document the new damage, and have me go through more interminable series of "stupid pet tricks". I cannot abide more of that so-solicitous don't you just want some anti-depressants to make you feel all happy and cheerful?

Well, no, thanks anyway, but sometimes I just want to wallow in misery and self-pity. I'll get over it. Like the gods who prepared Achilles, they left me with a weakness. It is obvious that I need an occasional refuge from the harshness of reality. SSRIs and drug-induced euphoria simply do not seem to do it for me. So I take leave from reality. I lose my grip. I go slightly nuts. However you want to put it. The place I find comfort is inside, a dream world of fantasy and perhaps a bit warp nightmarish that simply does not exist outside the walls of my mind. There is a fully rational part of me that knows and recognizes this fact. But, nonetheless, sometimes I give in to the fantasy. Perhaps it is a regression to childhood dreams. If it is, I don't remember them, or have blocked the recollection. All I know is that it somehow works...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Memorium: Go Toward the Light

Yesterday I witnessed the memorial for my son Jim and daughter Jen as they buried their infant daughter who was lost in too early childbirth. The baby was perhaps only 6 months of term, and was simply too premature to survive in this world. Her tiny mortal body only survived a few minutes before she succumbed to the struggle.

It was a sad but sweet farewell for now, as we recognized that Ellenlee will dwell at the feet of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, serving them until the time when families will be together without end.

Then all tears will be ended, and our joy will be unceasing together, forever.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Miracles X: Unfolding

I have sought for a way to explain what took place that shares my amazement as effectively, and it continues to elude my grasp. So let me try to just chronicle the events as they took place, and you can draw your own conclusions.

After I thought the nurse was trying to start an autopsy on me, things are a bit blurry for a while. I saw a lot of ceiling tiles of hallways of the U Hospital as I was wheeled around form place to place, and I suppose someone told me what they were doing to me, but I don't recall much of it. One incident I recall fairly clearly in a sort of vignette memory was the performance of cerebral angiogram. They placed me on some sort of apparatus like a turntable that allowed them to rotate my body as needed to feed a catheter up from femoral insertion point, through my heart, and into my brain. From there, each separate vascular system of my brain could be singly injected with x-ray opaque dye timed with blood flow to outline the select vascular system on a fluoroscope and trace the brain's individual vascular flow very distinctly and very finely.

I listened as the techs and the neurologists chattered, as this procedure progressed, and they watched the pictures form. They talked to me occasionally, mostly by way of offering instruction and encouragement. They noted one major system after another was "slick", or "looks good". "Clean as a whistle" was an expression I kept hearing.

Then they steered the catheter into the basilar artery system, and everyone grew more quiet. They commented about obvious extensive development of atherosclerosis, saying that the vascular path of the basilar artery system is what they term "tortuous". Accumulation of extensive scar tissue and plaque build up are the obvious source of brain stem strokes. This was pretty grim news, because it pretty much confirms that the strokes are not much subject to any kind of medical intervention, and all they can do is let nature take its course, with some very good measures that can prolong my term but only effectively delay more inevitable brain stem damage. Even these good doctors cannot give me a new basilar artery system.

Somewhere about this time, Dr. Skalabrin, whom I presumptuously and affectionately started calling "Dr. Brin", literally adopted me as her cause. I was not aware at the time, and not until much later, but she became my private advocate in the neurology department, and worked tirelessly on my case. Indeed, she exhausted herself and her personal energy, and after they found the spinal tumors, her own colleagues insisted that she go home and not come back to work until she had rested sufficient.

The first I remember that I personally noted Dr. Brin was one day when she came in to my hospital room leading the teaching rounds. She lead the team through extensive neurological examination, which I have taken to referring to as "stupid pet tricks" after having performed these types of manipulations so many times. After Dr. Brin was satisfied, she summarized with a short speech of encouragement that I thought was part for MY benefit -- I don't remember anything of what she said, except that she iterated the neurological deficits they noted, and very emphatically asserted that they were NOT OKAY. This as an assurance that they would continue to try to find causes. And she was as good as her word.

After that, things slowed down again. I interject here that I met a nurse at this point who calls herself "Tina". She is really of Vietnamese ancestry, so that is not her real name. She was delightfully witty and kind, and I was absolutely enthralled with her cool offhanded comments observations about cultural anthropology. She was really intelligent, and could hold up her side of a discussion as a true peer without any need for me to tone down my rhetoric or make pretences about respectable argumentation. It has been so long since I was so impressed by such a woman that I fell in love with her, and resolved to propose. Like a stupid fool, I approached the whole thing far too aggressively, and of course, she declined. She said she had promised her parents she would never marry but to a Vietnamese man. I understand, but still maintain some hope of salvaging something. A strictly platonic affair is the only ideal I could manage under the circumstances.

Unrequited love, so sad.

Anyway, more about me and Dr. Brin, my favorite of the neurology team.

My next study of ceiling tiles was a trip across the ward to a room where they conduct EEG studies. With the help of some very capable EEG techs, I donned a not-so-fashionable hat crafted of dozens of electrodes pasted on to various places on my scalp and around my head, with a tail of many colored wires trailing back to a mysterious black box that fed signals into a polygraph trace machine. I could not blink my eye or wrinkle my nose without the machine tracing lots of squiggly lines down the paper to record the event.

The neurology team was disappointed in the EEG results in one respect. I was definitely not having anything like epileptic seizures. After a multitude of "Shark Attacks" under close medical scrutiny, there was no conclusive brain signature that would be indicative of any kind of seizure activity. I started hearing groups of doctors gathering outside the door conducting whispered conferences of concern, using words like "psychotic" and "somatoform".

(You gotta see what these terms really mean to truly appreciate what all these guys were thinking about me at this time. They were pretty sure I was a genuine fruit cake, and I wasn't about to argue.)

At this point, I really did not care what diagnoses they presented me with, as long as it could help me understand better, and hopefully stop me from hurting.

While I was in the EEG study, there was a visit from the psychiatric team that I cannot recall the details of clearly. I will ask for some assistance from others to recall. One thing I do recall very vividly was a question directed from the head of the team, delivered in rather a tone of amazement. "Then, you have hope?", he asked. I answered him most emphatically and in the affirmative, that I have the most firm of convictions that the course and purpose of my life is firmly sealed, and that I place utmost faith and confidence in that. That is all I remember of the incident.

Along about this time, my son Jim and his wife Jen showed up one day, along with their two children Katelynn and Christopher. I have not seen Jim for over a decade, and was almost ready to get up out of bed and walk, I was so inspired by their visit.

My darling sweet grandchildren played by my bed, and were intrigued by my strange looking multicolored hat. Katelynn, a precocious 7-year-old, was curious enough to climb up on the bed and take a closer look, but Christopher, the young two-year-old son, was happier with his great-grandmothers lap and views of the fire engines and life flight helicopters operations visible from the fifth-floor window view. He was having nothing to do with the old guy in the bed wearing the weird-looking hat, and I can't say that I blame him.

On other occasions, all four of my sons, visited at the same time, and we exchanged hugs. My sons gave honest pledges and unmistakable tokens of their love, and I believed them. It had been so many years since I had even seen my sons. Even to see one of them was beyond my greatest dream. Imagine all of them gathering together.

If I had to die right then, I was ready for heaven. Fortunately, heaven did not ask me yet. Not just yet. In fact, sacred promises were made and sealed upon this occasion that I would live years to survive and I believe long enough time to fulfil my mission here upon the earth. I look forward to that with eager anticipation, and am hoping it involves spending time with my sons and their families. That will be almost as blissful as heaven itself.

For the next act, Dr. Brin summoned me once again to the imaging lab, this time for an MRI scan of my spinal column. All of the scans heretofore had focussed on the brain, but Dr. Brin apparently deduced that they were missing something significant from the neurological deficit picture. So, scanning for abnormalities of the spinal column.

It turned out to be a very inspired action. They detected an abnormality - a tumor mass on the  lumbar spinal column.  Of the type known as a Schwannoma, the tumor was judged to be significant, and the neurosurgeon, Dr. Kenneth Yonemura was summoned to operate at 1:00 in the morning. He responded with every haste, and the procedure was performed.


Hallelujah! I could feel my feet moving as they should feel! There was an immediate and gratifying sense of proprioception in my lower body that was completely and totally absent before the surgery.


Next instalment:  Home Sweet Home II

Monday, February 23, 2009

Basilar Migraine: Educate Yourself

Dr. Digre prescribed increased dosage of Verapamil, a calcium channel blocker. The desired effect is to dilate the walls of smooth muscle such as spasming arteries that thought to be principal cause of the "Shark Attacks".

Read more here.

New Developments

Basilar Migraine Syncope

The "Shark Attacks" have a proper medical characterization that has been observed and diagnosed clinically in other patients. NOT necessarily all dismissed as mental cases!

This from Dr. Digre at the Moran Eye Center at University of Utah Hospital Clinics. She is a Neuro-opthamologist specialialist of long standing and experience. After an examination of some hours, and help from a couplof assistants, this was the initial diagnosis.

Her recommendation was drug therapy that further relax cerebrovascular elements that are spasming to cause the "Shark Attacks". Relaxing the basilar artery will result in an overall increase of blood flow to the brain stem in general, hopefully resulting in reduction and eventual elimination of the condition that results in syncope and spasms. This is the first good news.

In addition, initial eye testing revealed other problems that may exacerbate trigger points for migraine. Special eyeglasses with filters and corrective lenses were ordered.

Next instalment:  Letter from Dr. Digre

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sensory Inventory VII

Today in the shower, the fingertips of my left hand are beginning to lose tactile sensation. They still feel pressure. Sensation is not absent.

This sensation deficit is peculiar, because in other cases I can remember, the sensation loss is signalled by a tingling or some other warning. There was no warning here -- simply absent any feeling at all, suddenly, like the plug has been pulled.

I thought this artists picture was intriguing, because my neurosurgeon cut me open just about exactly where the doppler waves seem to be emanating from, at least judging by the scar on my back. I think the took out some of the baby back ribs, or something. Maybe not, I guess thats really not the kind they serve at Chili's anyway.

Oh, well.

Wilderness and "Closure"

The feds agents have all kinds of ways to entangle public lands in complicated schemes that, for all practical purposes, prevent them from the stated multi use public dedication that public land management purpose is supposed to be dedicated to.

Just what does true multi use really mean? Obviously it means different things to different people, and has not been static, through the years.

Just ask the former loggers who have this food product on their shelf what they think about the preserving the ecology of old-growth forests to maintain a habitat for nesting spotted owls.

In 2008, my partner and I bid for some forestry contracting work clearing overgrown forest land in the Fishlake National Forest. The contract work start date was contingent on pending surveys of the nesting goshawk population. If there were found to be nesting goshawks in the area, the beginning of work operations in the area would have to be delayed appropriately to avoid disturbing the nesting and brooding goshawk pair.

Why does the use of one preclude the good pleasure of another? Who gets priority or first pick? Why does one particular group or interest represent more "goodness" or "merit" than any other particular group?

I don't know. The loudest voice, or the most popular, seems to rule the day.

When I lived on the Colorado Front Range for several years, I saw dramatic illustration of how irrational this rule can have been applied in historic times. During the frantic settling and mining history of the West, Colorado was ruled by railroad and mining interests. If there was something to be dug out of the ground, or needed some rails to get you there quick, you only need bring enough men and shovels and dynamite, and mountains could be overcome.

Eventually, mountains were overcome, and there was nothing left in places but barren ugliness. That was such a sadness, if we had known what we were doing, we would have wept at the madness. In these beautiful places, we bypassed the beauty to hurry through dark underground labyrinths, past the mountains and forests and the rivers and streams, on our way to more of the man-created ugliness. Incredible.

Okay. Enough of the hubris. Stop, before we destroy everything that brings wonder and joy to human hearts. "Tree hugging" is certainly justified, from this very personal perspective.

And who is to say, after we fell all the two thousand year old Douglas firs in the forest, how will they ever be replaced for our children?

These kinds of questions cannot be answered. There are no answers, only questions. The point is to ask them before it is too late, and ask the informed question there IS an answer for now. We must ask before we do a thing we now know that we CAN do, if we SHOULD do? Therein lies wisdom.

My friend, Patricia, mentions an incident that took place some few years ago in one division of the Canyonlands National Park, where a temporary closure of the area was implemented and permanent closure was urged by some certain extreme advocates. If it is the same event I have researched and have received reports on now, the closure was implemented in the summer of 1995. It was occasioned by an unusual event documented at this NPS WEB site. Some visitors to the Horseshoe Unit "Great Gallery" happened by chance to discover some invaluable and as yet unknown cache of artifacts in that immediate vicinity.

The people were good enough to report their find undisturbed to the park service officials, and the closure was implemented immediately, so that archaeologists and other scientists could have a chance to study this find in place, undisturbed as it had been cached for aeons of time. They also took the opportunity to comb the area for any other such artefacts. After they were satisfied that the search was complete and thorough, the closure was lifted. Thus it has been explained to me. Sounds reasonable and prudent.

On the flip side of that story, I am personally aware of professional pot hunters who take little regard for public interest in such artifacts. They are interested in the merchantability of artifacts on the black market, and it is apparently substantial.

Private collectors prize the baskets and pots of the ancient peoples for their own private viewing, and care little for public interest or ownership of such property. I really don't care either, but I believe in upholding the law of the land.

When I was working with Rocky Mountain Research, my partner for a time was a forester who had invested substantial time and effort studying and arranging a forest timber sale that was timed to benefit the harvest cycle of the trees, and thus public interest in profit and merchantability. The plan was to selectively harvest the area with clear-cutting methods that are most efficient for that predominant species and the loggers working the area, as well as rapid reforestation and recovery efforts.

The proposal for the timber sale was opposed by a local environmental group, and tied up in court. It has never been settled. Most of the standing timber is well past prime now, and not worth logging. The Forest Service would likely have to pay a contractor to clear cut the area rather than use the profits from harvesting timber to pay for their logging operations. In the mean time, the predominantly lodgepole pine stand has become heavily infested with bark beetles and dwarf mistletoe disease, and is largely without value at the sawmill, but stands as a substantial hazard to wildfire threat.

Is this the point of environmental activism?


When I was working for the US Forest Service Ashley National Forest some years back, I noted something difficult to understand that made me sympathize with the "tree huggers" completely. I saw a beautiful grassy green meadow, perfectly surrounded with access road paved with nice drainage and gravel.

The meadow are was posted thoroughly around with signs indicating that it was a sensitive area and was closed to 4wd and ATV traffic. Yet this lovely green wet muddy meadow was criss-crossed with fresh scars running every which way forward and back and nowhere at all, and bogging deep holes in the mud.


Speaking of posting, you may have noticed that public land management agencies have resorted to new space age materials for signage in recent times. One of the reasons for this is simply economy. The materials are cheaper plastic based and last longer. The other is a more sinister indicator. It is because the newer materials are more resistant to vandalism and destruction.

When I was first introduced to the forest environment, I had read the works of men like John Muir and Gifford Pinchot. I would no more consider destroying a sign or defacing something in the forest than I would spit at my mother. But a new generation apparently regards the forest differently. They somehow see the world through a different set of lenses.

They don't regard the sacrosanct in every forest glade and grotto, like I do. What enjoyment do they derive from wilderness?  In the wanton and seeming senseless destruction of things, apparently.

The new sign posts are resistant to damage from being shot, driven over stomped, uprooted, spit upon, ect, ad nauseum....


My definition of "wise use" is best summarized thus:

Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.  (Doctrine and Covenants:59:16-21)

Utah Places: Secret Glades on Sanpitch

These quiet old farms in Milburn hide some secret places that few people have ever visited. I first sought out the headwaters of Sanpitch River just out of curiosity, but was at first frustrated for quite a long time by the many barb wire fences and no trespassing signs that stood in the way. Then one day, just by accident, I happened across that magic yellow gate that opened access to the Forest Service lands beyond, and suddenly I was happy to roam across many new miles of foothill trail, across the base of the Manti La-Sal. I discovered new places, secret places that only cowboys and sheepherders, foresters and pipeline layers knew about. No one else ever came here.

Most remarkable was finding the Sanpitch headwaters. It is a beautiful glade, shady and cool, sheltered under tall old Douglas firs on the south, and a mass of aspens on the north, that makes the steep canyon a private, hidden place, where the world cannot find you, and cool waters come tumbling off the Skyline straight from snowbanks. The banks are over arched with Cornus, the native flowering dogwood species, and it forms a protective barrier that guards against encroachment from any sudden intruders. Along the entrance, scrub oaks guard the way, growing so close down along the way that they scratched the paint badly along the sides of my 4runner, and I was angry, until I arrived at the bottom pool of the stream, and saw the enchanted glade beckoning me with a magic sirens song in the soft breeze sighing through the tops of the towering swaying green trees.

I wanted to lay down on the carpet of leaves and grass, and stay there forever.

When I explored further up the creek, I was not sure which was more startled, me or the sage hens I scared up.

They must be the silliest acting upland game birds in nature. They exploded literally from under my feet out of the low scrub. If they would have kept still, I never would have even noticed them. As it was, I could have scooped two of them up in my bare hands, and wrang their necks right then.

Instead, I watched gape-mouthed as they flopped around like a bunch of drunken spastics. Then they ducked back under the same bush they burst out from in the first place, and just stood there, aquiver and cowering, as if they had somehow done all they could and were resigned to whatever fate was assigned. Stupid, brainless birds.

In the same canyon, I had a more educational encounter with a young buck deer. He actually vocalized a challenge as he defended his home territory. I had never realized that deer had much of a voice. This young guy was not too careful about making his feelings known. It sort of sounded like an elk with a cold trying to make a bugle, not loud, but definately airy and harsh sounding and threatening. The buck adopted a very threatening posture too, with all his feet splayed out in a wide stance, like he was ready to start fighting. He was across the creek from me, so I felt I was in no immediate danger, but I was sure he would not hesitate to attack me with all his energy and might if I approached any closer. I backed away slowly, respecting his space, sobered by a close encounter with a wild animal probably weighing probably a third my weight, but still willing to go head to head to defend his home ground.

It was a lesson to learn, and I will not forget.

For me, and for you, the freedom of the hills does not come free, nor is it even cheap. It has come to us at a very dear cost, and we must defend it forever, as if our very lives depend on it. As they well do.

As they well do.

Here is another sight I frequently and fondly watch from the banks of the Sanpitch.

Miracles IX: Interacte

I apologize to those following, but I need adequate preparation to chronicle the next series of events, that truly were a series of inexplicable miracles.

I will do my best.

Next instalment:  Unfolding

Monday, February 16, 2009

Miracles IIX: Doctors Let Me In The Door!

After Ruth's wild ride, I was ready for almost anything but what really happened at the ER.

It was almost a major anticlimax. Turns out, the attending who saw me almost immediately was one of the staff neurologists. That was great, I thought. She bundled me up quick and sent me down right away for an MRI. I thought, we're off to a so much better start than at either UVRMC or Mountainview, this has just got to turn out so much better!

Things went downhill pretty quick, and were looking like combat for a few touchy minutes. The neurologist took a quick look at the MRI scan and declared that she could find no evidence of brain stem stroke since November. She turned to interogative, demanding why we had not sought a clinic appointment, since there was obviously no stroke or neurological problem that constituted emergency in her estimation. Some other emergency patient was threatening immediate demise without her quick attention, so she ducked out to take care of that situation, after exchanging a few terse words with my mom, who defended her bring me to the ER, saying that the telephone assistance had instructed her to bring me right in. Ruth had her fight reflexes fully aroused, and was ready to pounce with all her fury, but was throwing verbal jabs too fast to make any comprehensible impression. When the doctor left, we reigned in her leash a bit, but I was resigned, and ready to get my clothes on and go home. My dad was trying to help get Ruth to settle down -- I'm not sure what else he was thinking at that moment. I'm sure, saying a prayer of desperation in his heart.

When the doctor came back, we all unloaded. Ruth reasoned that there were obvious neurological deficits that could not be ignored, and they were getting worse by the minute. Mom said the guys on the hot line told her to bring me, not schedule a clinic appointment, and we lived hours travel away. I said I did not care what the diagnosis was -- I just knew something serious was wrong, and I NEED HELP! Every other place we have gone said there was nothing wrong, or gave me SSRIs. Please HELP! Dad tried to inject at logical quiet tone of reason, saying we came there for help, and trusted the doctors to do their best.

The doctor finally listened, I think most convincing to her was Ruth's argument about neurological deficits. She started to administer what I have come to refer to fondly as "stupid pet tricks" because I have now performed them or variations of them so many times. They are as familiar and tiresome and tedious to me now as doing household chores. At the time, some of the tests were very frightening, because I was suddenly confronted with the stark truth -- I failed. I was failing to perform some of the simplest cognitive and physical tests, things I have know how to do without effort since I was a grade school age child. I could not memorize a series of words, and the effort to remember caused a cold sweat to break out. How could I forget something so easy? She gave me easy reminders, and still, I failed!

She finally conceded that something more serious must wrong, and I thing against her better judgement, decided that further inquiry was needed before they let me go home. As a last test, she asked me to show how well I could stand with my eyes closed, and I tried to plead that I couldn't do it at all, but she thought I was just stressing out or something, so urged me to try anyway.

Well, I shut my eyes, and I'm pretty sure I toppled like a felled tree. I couldn't stand up for hardly a second without my eyes opened or else some other support. I fell over against the gurney, and that pretty well concluded the "stupid pet tricks" for that session.

At that point, there was continuing argument about the need for immediate admission, or whether I should come back for clinic exam by her referral in the next day or two. Of course, Ruth was arguing for immediate admission, but the doctor was sceptical. In an inspired idea, Ruth suggested that they ought to perform an immediate lumbar puncture, to examine cerebrospinal fluid pressure and content for abnormalities. In order to defend her great professional skill and proficiency, this neurologist agreed that it was an easy procedure, and that she could just go ahead and do it right there, as if she performs dozens of spinal taps every day. Anyway, whatever Ruth said somehow stroked her professional ego in just the right way to get her to go along. She arranged to perform the LP right away.

That is where complications started. I don't know what. It hurt me more than LP normally does, according to what I understand. It is normally a painful procedure, but this was PAIN to the MAX. I felt like I was having electricity connected to my body directly through my back. And supposedly this was while I was heavily sedated, and supposed to be aware of almost nothing. It was hurting me badly, and it went on for and inordinate length. Apparently, the neurologist had difficulty tapping a spot with enough pressure to provide sufficient flow to fill the test vials. And when she did finally settle upon a spot, the vials filled excruciatingly slowly. I surmise that the doctor was used to tapping patients with high cerebrospinal pressure, from whom the fluid literally squirts generously. Mine was a miserly sluggish slow drip, by comparison. I know not why, nor can I explain why mine would be different than any other. But I remember the pain.

After the LP, I understand I was admitted to the neurology ward at the U hospital. Ruth stayed in the room with me and slept on the foldout bed, while mom and dad went to camp out at Aaron and Michelle's place. I don't remember, but Ruth says one of the nurses was changing my gown or something, and I woke up enough to be convinced that it was the coroner, preparing me for the autopsy. I think she was doing something like shaving my chest, to place electrodes for the remote sensors of the cardiac telemetering device. Anyway, Ruth says I was trying to convince the nice hispanic-looking woman that I was not dead yet.

Thus started an interesting few weeks at the neurology ward.

Next instalment:  Friends, Doctors, and Sharks

Utah Places: Lake Fork

Lake Fork from Thistle Junction to Indianola is a hidden treasure. The area doesn't bear too much traffic -- just mostly from curious passer bys or those already in the know. But every once in a while, some less intrepid back roads explorer ends up coming across the old Thistle Junction and the Lake Fork that it hides, and they discover a new world of wonders.

At the bottom of the road is located the cause of a tremendous saga in Utah State history. The Thistle slide was a geological event on a global scale of unprecedented proportions. A largely forgotten event now, at the time, just the roadwork to relocate US89 above the flood was a heroic project, needed to restore interstate transport through the area that was interrupted for more that 18 months.

At Thistle Junction, there is a monument erected to commemorate the event that took place over 1981-1983. There are lots of good web resources, like this Wiki entry HERE.

At the west end of the old US89 remnant on the Thistle side, a Utah County Sheriffs facility has appropriated the slide to use for shooting practice. It is all fenced off with tall fences and barb wire. Don't try to go in there.

The ruins of the old Thistle school/common building is private property now, so please just look and admire. It is still a great photo op. Don't look for souvenirs or anything touristy like that, please. Definitely bad form. Photos only.

Across the highway and over the big culvert, the Lake Fork Road starts in earnest. Lots of off-road ATV and motocross enthusiasts never make it past this point at all. In fact, there is a sort of shirt-tail RV-park on private land just at the foothill of the mountain here, that offers access to the Forest Service property beneath the high-tension power lines that run across here and beyond. The foothills scrub and oakbrush area are criss-crossed with trails that lead everywhere and nowhere -- an off-road vehicles wet dream. I personally think they are ugly scars on the land, but if you like that sort of thing, this is the place to come. And ENJOY! That is the nice thing about this land, there is room enough for everyone to spread out without crowding, and do their own thing.

Further along the road, there are several places that are private lands along both sides of the road. Please respect ranchers signs and fences and do not disturb historic artifacts or grazing livestock. None of these things are there for your amusement or entertainment. Someone else went to the expense and the bother to fence their land and raised the stock and built the buildings. Leave them as you find them. If gates are locked, assume that someone intended them that way for a purpose, and either take the time to inquire, or leave them alone.

You may not find any signs quite like this one, but if you do find plain old "no trespassing" notices, please respect them. They're serious, and so am I.

Further along, you will finally come to some nicer signs informing you that you are welcomed to Forest Service boundaries, in the Manti La-Sal Division. This is good news, that you have made it this far. You might have encountered a few minor obstacles along the way -- downed logs across, flooded, boggy areas, mud holes, rocks, etc. All just part of the fun. Don't worry, it will get worse. If that worries you a lot, better turn around now. If you think we're just getting warmed up, drive on.

The road follows Lake Fork and continues to climb alongside it's course. This is the most remarkable thing to note about this drive. It starts in sagebrush scrub, progresses higher to pinion/juniper, through Doug fir and on up to White fir and Engleman spruce and limber pines, at the very peaks. The progression of ecosystems is very orderly according to exposure and elevation. Remarkable and very instructive to see.

Just past the first signs, there are organized camp sites here and there along the creek. I have never taken much note or interest in any of them. If you are particularly in need of such a facility, please consult the Forest Service for more info. Or follow this link.

I have seen many groups, some appear to be camping, fishing, or ATV riding, or family gatherings, or what have you, camped in more informal areas under the trees along the creek. I assume this is absolutely okay too -- I have never seen rangers rousting anyone minding their own business. So if you have a mind, feel free to set up a camp where ever strikes your fancy. Keep in mind that space is more at a premium generally, as you progress to higher elevations. So as a rule of thumb, big flat shady spots are best found nearer the Thistle end of the road. Not too low down -- get far enough up the creek to beat the heat -- but not so far up the mountain that there's no flat level spots left to park your rigs.

That said, I have to say, one of my favorite picnic spots is pretty high up the canyon, beneath a stand of very old tall Doug firs with thier feet speed out broad. There's enough space underneath to spread out a few picnic lunches on blankets on the ground, and the creek meanders by to the east for the children to paddle and play in. A side-canyon adjoins and beckons the boot-leather anxious adventurer, and I have hiked it for many miles, but I will not spoil the suspense, for any who wish to try it themselves. Look for some interesting fossil specimens, if you're into that sort of thing. I found some in a ridge on the north shoulder, in rocky outcropping.

For that matter, if you don't want to walk so far, just look carefully in the creek.

Higher up, there is a big switchback. and very steep bit of climbing as the creek tops out. Note that along the way a couple of miles back, you passed by the fork to the west leading to Smith's Reservoir. It qualifies as more of a big pond, in my book. Some people swear the fishing is phenomenal -- I have never tried. It is a nice short strenuous hike, or a very hairy 4wd trail, or an easy short ATV adventure -- take your pick. I have only hiked, cross-country from the southern approach. It makes an interesting trek from the Buggy Wheel Springs area.

Also, west of the road and south of the little reservoir is the summit area of the Lake Fork. It consists of a series of rock pinnacles and rocky ledges, with White fir and Limber pines all around the shoulders. These rocks host some fun scramblin on bouldering and mixed talus and steep gravel slopes. It is a big reward to top out on one of those little peaks, and just look around. I once carried a directional 2 meter radio rig with me, but was unable to make a contact. Sanpete County is pretty dead in the middle of the day.

Another fascinating feature of the middle elevations in this particular area is that it hosts a lot of the species Cercocarpus ledifolius. For those of you in Rio Linda, this is the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany, and the reason it is very interesting to people who love the mountains, big-game hunters in particular, is because Curl-leaf is one of the primary winter forages of the species Cervis canadensis, the Rocky Mountain Elk. One of the most prized of big-game animals in this area. Very few hunters come seeking this animal here, and they seek these rocky pinnacles, perhaps as a refuge.

My neighbor bags his regularly in a small valley just to the south on the Indianola side. But perhaps I am giving away too many secrets.

A few years ago, when I was more able, I was hiking cross-country from the US89 side out across the pinnacles area, through the Buggy Wheel Springs access. See the Birdseye comment for more detail about that area. Anyway, as I approached the pinnacles from the west, I was watching the elk. I stayed far enough away that I did not think I would spook the herd, but they obviously spotted me moving in  the scrub, and started browsing away. Suddenly I noticed a WHITE animal, far on the outskirts of the herd. It was a very large herd at the time, several hundred animals, more than I could reliably count heads with my field glasses, because they were moving. But the one animal was so obviously WHITE from top to bottom that he stood out starkly in contrast to the others.

Apparently, he was albino. I watched until they browsed across the ridge and I could no longer see them.

One of the most remarkable things I noted while watching the herd was that they seemed to shun the albino member. He stayed on the outskirts of the grazing area, and the other animals shoved him or shouldered him away when he attempted to graze into the area where they were browsing. I didn't watch long enough to make any real conclusions or studies other than casual observation, but if I was making a guess, I would say that the other animals of the herd discriminated against this white colored animal because he was superficially different from them.

Draw your own conclusions.

One of the chief among reasons I go back to the Lake Fork again and again is for spring wildflowers. Let me show some specifics, just to tantalize the few sceptics.

One of my big favorites is the Aquilegia canadensis, the wild columbine flower. Colorado thinks it is their state flower, so we will just keep the Utah specimens our little secret -- lots of them grow here, too.

In the higher, wetter areas of Lake Fork, look for them blooming in late spring on stream banks in the shade. They are the crowning beauties of the forest.

You will also find, in almost opposite circumstances, two species that I also love to find that represent the freedom of the hills.

The Gilia aggregata is an example of a wildflower nature has adapted for the worst conditions. Scarlet gilia thrives in rocky dry waste places where little else can grow.

It often flowers on rocky steep hillsides and roadcuts. Watch for sprigs of bright scarlet colors where they almost cannot be, it will probably be scarlet gilia.

In a properly shared ecosystem, the hot dry sandy west-facing hillsides heat up too fast for almost everything except that intrepid species Oenothera ceaspitosa, the evening blooming desert pale primrose.

It roots deep in sandy hillsides and displays its showy blooms against the dull backdrop canvas of plain hot sands. It is a good showing, and a fragrant one.

There are many other wildflowers to be found and marvelled in, in the Lake Fork area and throughout the Wasatch. Look for them. Stop and smell the flowers. It will bring everlasting joy to a dreary world, and enliven your heart, as it has mine, I promise you.

One last species, to make good on this special promise, that holds a special place for every true Utahn. Calochortus nuttalii, the Sego Lily, is the Utah State flower, and for good reason. This stalwart gem is a practical and beautiful little blossom that blooms on highlands and high desert lands throughout the west.

It is truly a shining picture of practical persistence and splendor amid harsh conditions everywhere -- a good example and uplifting inspiration to us all.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Utah Places: Diamond Fork

Diamond Fork is another one of the unique beautiful places that belongs on the list even though it is close. People love it to death, and many areas are endangered because of this.

One of the most infamous is the hot springs in Fifth Water Canyon. (The cowboy settlers apparently were lazy about assigning names to the side tributaries in the Diamond Fork Canyon, so they are named appropriately First, Second, Third, and so on...) Many college coeds have visited the "hot pots" built at the springs for "skinny dipping" and other things of reputedly more illicit nature, over the years. As a result, the "hot pots" in Fifth Water carry a "hot" reputation, although they are just very hot springs, I assure you. The last time I visited the locale there were prudent signs posted about the site, warning that "naked people might be bathing here" and one was to be appropriately forewarned, or look out in eager anticipation, as the case might be. I don't know -- both time I arrived, the place was abandoned, failing to live up to it's reputation. I was not particularly disappointed, one way or the other, since nudity has long since ceased to titillate or embarrass. But I try to respect the sensibilities of others, so I was just hiking through, and did not stop for the skinny dipping.

Another of the infamous stories -- one that may have some substance to it -- has to do with Rhoades hidden gold and the indian legends deal with Spanish gold mines.

There is this inscription to be found still unexplained in the canyon, as well as many other mysteries.

Wanna go looking for gold? Maybe this is the spot!

While we are speaking of well-deserved reputations, the area also has a well-known and earned rep for fine trout fishing! If you are after year-round fishing access, Diamond Fork!

Not too many giant trophy monsters will fill your creel, but enough moderate sized fighters to give you a great time and a good dinner that night, nothing any fisherman could be ashamed of.
And so easy to get to. Most of the roads are even paved now.

This map is not too current, but the river has not moved much.

More info HERE.
Good Fishing!

While you're exploring the Diamond Fork area, range out to the areas beyond. Side canyon beckon to the unintrepid with many secret allures. Some may lead west toward a huge private reserve on the backs slope of Spanish Fork Peak, but there are many dirt roads and trails to explore before you come to that locked gate and the forbidding sign. To the northwest and over the shoulder of the mountain leads a fairly tame road into Hobble Creek Canyon, which can be a beautiful adventure in ecosystems just in itself.  Quite a climb, make sure your radiator is up to par if you attempt this route on a hot summer afternoon, and carry some water.

Directly north is a road that leads of into the Wasatch somewhere, I have never explored far. Try it some time and let me know. I assume it connects to the Provo River drainage in the area of Deer Creek Reservoir and Wellsville.

North of the Sixth Water is a jeep trail that joins Sheep Canyon trail to Strawberry Reservoir overland. It is a spectacular wildflower route before the sheep herds start grazing, but you have to travel it pretty early, which means there are lots of flooded spots and mudholes to cross. If you are brave enough, one of the big rewards you will find is enough Sambucus to make preserves to last you and all you friends for years.

For the uninitiated, Sambucus is the genus of Elderberry, and if that and the image of hot biscuits with butter and preserves slathered and dripping down the sides and over your fist, you have never lived. It makes my mouth water just to think!

Utah Places: Bennie Creek

Bennie Creek is not particularly noteworthy or grand. It does not stand out above all other places in any particular way except that it is very close, and nobody goes there. That makes it really spectacular, in my book. You can spend the day alone, and if you're lucky, only share the whole area with some local golden eagles.

The area starts off with access from U89 at the Birdseye LDS Chapel, and the access road is basically threaded through the front yards of local farms and ranches for the first few miles. This is why the trail is so well protected. When it looks like the road is ended, it really makes an abrubt turn to the left in some ranch front driveway, and there is a very unfriendly looking sign posted there that is worth reading once. Drive down a steep grade, where the road turns abruptly back to the west and continues up the mountain. It soon turns to dirt and gravel and then quickly to mostly dirt only. At the Forest Service boundary, it is a very narrow dirt trail. You can drive a short distance further to the trialhead, where oaks and scrub begin to give way aspens and Englemans. Along the way, on the north, you passed a notable junction of "Deer Canyon trail" or some such, that used to fork off to Forest Service treking toward the summit of Loafer Mountain, but it is overgrown and not officially mantained any longer. It is used heavily by the hunting crowd, and incidentally, by great herds of the critters they hunt, both deer and elk, but many great numbers of elk that winter in this area. Many times, I have snowshoed in this canyon, and could not even count the hundreds of head of elk that gather here.

Anyway, the Bennie Creek canyon is fun because many springs feed the creek further up, and lush green carpets the floor of the canyon. In fact it is so lush and wet that the trail skirts off to the north side in many places to avoid wet seeps and pools. But these are beautiful areas to explore and splash around, if you don't mind getting your socks wet.

The trail ends at the top of a ridge joining with another trail that leads either south toward the highway to Payson lakes, or north to the summit trail complex to Santaquin Peak and Loafer Mountain. You can have a ride pick you up on the road, or turn around here and go back, or hike further to your heart's content.

(Important to note for area fishing enthusiasts: If you are rained out, snowed out, skunked out, run off by angry farmers, car broke down, run out of gas and groceries AND powerbait, try drowning some nightcrawlers around the confluence of Thistle and Bennie Creek. The trout are not large, but always hungry.

It has never failed.)

Utah Places: Mount Nebo

Nebo is seen from the freeway by travellers and is probably the most prominent landmark on the Wasatch Front that may get the least credit as a spectacular place to visit.

There are so many good things to list, I hardly know where to start.

One of the most interesting for boot-leather enthusiasts is that Nebo is a great place to hike. My favorite is starting from the Bear Canyon area, climbing up one of the many shoulder ridge trails to the summit ridge, and along to one of Nebo's summits. Nebo is actually a rather long, narrow north-south ridge with several "summits" of substantial height. They're all kind of crumbly talus decomposing sedimentary rock, loose and sliding, so the trails are pretty informally defined. If you actually find yourself so high, look west and find Nephi and Mona down below your feet, and Utah lake stretching out further to the west and north, with Payson/Santaquin just below to the right, Spanish Fork further, and Provo/Orem sprawling offinto the far distance on the north, Santaqin Peak and Loafer Mountain northeast, and west the other of side the Lake Mountains, out into parts of the West Desert, south to the mountains down the Wasatch chain in the Red Cliffs area and further, and east across to Baldy and the Skyline on the Wasatch Plateau. Nebo also has a good summit trail coming fairly straight up from the Nephi/Mona side, but I have never hiked it.

On the scenic menu, Mount Nebo shelters a Bryce-Canyon-like formation called Devil's Kitchen.

Okay, it's not Bryce Canyon, but it is beautiful, and worth the time to look.

Also on the regular drive across Nebo that is billed as the "Nebo Loop" is Payson Lakes, which is a marvellous place for a Sunday afternoon picnic or a short holiday drive in the mountains, or to come to see the autumn leaves, or whatever.

Payson Lakes is one area that has become popular enough to assume Disneyland proportions, so there is a blacktop track paved around the main lake for the benefit of joggers, bikers, walkers, stroller, what have you. Don't let it bother you, its overall a good thing.

If you just love camping with you family in campgrounds, there are some of the best around on or around the slopes of Nebo. I personally love Blackhawk. My preference. There is also Bear Canyon, if you love big cottonwoods and tall evergreens. It's on the south side, Blackhawk is northeast, so they give different perspectives at different times of year.

There are other campgrounds further off the beaten path that you can search out. I'm not going to name any here, because the people that use them think they own them. Maybe they do.

Personally, I would prefer to depart from the road by a wide margin and camp somewhere in the tall weeds. But I know this is not for everyone. I like hearing coyotes howl at the moon on the ridge after midnight, and owl hoots early in the morning before sunup. I want to find the snake trail across my path and the spider web in my boot. Ants in my granola are okay, I'm just more careful to keep the package closed next time.

Using a tree for bathroom needs has turned into a major problem for me. My last outing on our Milford Flats project, I had several accidents, and only an understanding and patient partner (with a not too sensitive nose) kept me from big-time breaking down out of just plain humiliation. Dealing with this kind of thing is a regular fact of life issue for families with babies and young children, and to a lesser degree, some adults are simply less comfortable or less adept. Using public facilities has always been emotionally uncomfortable for me, and now there is the hazard of unknown communicable germs ever present. It is a difficult problem, made worse by circumstances some of us cannot help. Under my present handicap, I found that under urgent need, I just could not physically get out of the tent, unencumbered from sleeping bag and other paraphernalia in time, and as a result, was unable to stop myself from peeing all over my person and my bedclothes. I do not know what exactly to recommend, and am hoping for some good suggestions. Other than carrying a shovel and a good supply of wet-wipes, I am a beginner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Miracles VII: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

One November afternoon I decided I was going to hook the little utility trailer to my ATV. It is a fairly simple operation using a sort of pin-type hitch. I anticipated no problems. Except the trailer was buried deep in snow. That wasn't a problem in itself either -- the ATV was fully capable of plowing through the deep snow and extricating the buried trailer. The problem was, I would have to flounder through the knee-deep snow to perform the hitching up, which normally I could do almost without thinking about it, but just out from rehab after Thanksgiving, and starting over again at PT, I wasn't feeling especially confident.

I remember hitching up the trailer okay, but something happened after that that I cannot remember at all, and I just remember laying alongside the ATV on the snow, seems like a long time later, listening to the exhaust of the ATV motor. I don't remember why I was laying on the snow, or how long I was there. It could have been as much as an hour. People in the house could not see me in the position I was in. They did not know I was running the ATV or hitching the trailer, and had no reason to be looking. But I knew something was wrong, and I tried getting up. I had a pretty hard time, because I felt sick and weak, but I got on the ATV and drove it with trailer near my bedroom and went to bed. Note that my private bedroom is in the garage separate from the house, so I still talked to no one, asked no one for help, just went in to my bed and started the nightmare of lone, private suffering.

At this point, I started having a series of "shark attacks", pretty much alone, and convinced that they were going to kill me.  After a few of them, I honestly wanted to die, and I prayed between attacks that I would die. I implored Heavenly Father to release me from this anguish, because I feared the attacks and the pain, and could not stand another minute of hurting so badly. I just wanted it to end.  But it continued.  My body was racked with spasms. I cried out, and I think I fainted many times because I could not tolerate such agony. Passing out was surcease and relief. I hoped I would never wake up. But each time, eventually, the gray would begin to clear a bit, and I would begin to realize the pain anew.

I vaguely remember trying to talk to my dad Friday night. We had a discussion about hospitals. I resisted. I implored him to let me wait until after the weekend, convinced that I would die before then, and that it would spare me the indignity of doctors again telling me there was nothing wrong with me, or that I am too young to be having strokes, or something equally useless and offensive to me. I ended up convincing my dad, and I turned my face to the wall, and again made my most honest effort to make my life stop. I willed my breath to stop, my heart to stop beating, and my lungs to stop taking breath, but beneath it all, my God-given will to live continued to burn, in spite of the agony of the attacks of pain that continued to rack my body with uncontrollable spasms, leading to blackouts and blissful unconsciousness, and long periods of unawareness. Every time, lucid thought would come floating back, with the miserable realization that I was still alive.

I whimpered. I panted. I moaned. I groaned. I breathed heavy, and light. I held my breath. I screamed and shouted. I whispered prayers. I demanded from nobody. I implored. I surrendered. I made bargains. I tried rationales. I tried everything.

Nothing helped. The attacks continued, seemingly without mercy,through Wednesday, into Thursday and Friday and Saturday, and I was exhausted.

Finally, Sunday.

The attacks mostly stopped. A few occasionally, but not fast and furious like through Wednesday and Thursday.

People were scheming secret things. I lay in my bed, none the wiser. I thought we were going back to UVMC on Monday. My sister Ruth and her family were coming for Sunday dinner. I should have been suspicious then, but was too tired.

Ruth and Darrin arrived, Ruth cooked a great meal for all of us, and all had lots of fun.

Then they started springing the conspiracy.

Darrin and dad administered a priesthood blessing. In his blessing, Darrin stated clearly, and by the authority of Jesus Christ, that I would live for a number of YEARS to complete my mission here on earth. This was significant because it was rather a dramatic contrast to what I had been asking for from similar sources. I think the latter answer has proven to be more definitive, given other compelling evidence.

The next development of the secret conspiracy was Ruth's announcement that I was accompanying her to the U of U hospital NOW, so go pack a suitcase. It was not presented as an arguable option. I packed a suitcase, and we prepared to drive away.

Thus began Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Snail Hollow, where I reside, is on US 89 south of the junction with U6. We travelled north toward the junction of US 89 with US 6, but unbeknownst to us, there had been a serious traffic accident at the bottom of Spanish Fork Canyon, where the highway runs down out of the mountains, and traffic had been backing up in the canyon for more than two hours.

We got to the junction prepared to make the westward turn, and found a solid line of cars, lined up all the way down the canyon, as far as you could see, over five miles long. And not moving an inch.

I wanted to just turn around and go home, but Ruth had other notions. She drove up next to a big rig truck driver and climbed out to talk to him. I heard none of the conversation, but when she got back in the car, she had a look of steel determination. She said the truck driver told her there was a fatal accident blocking traffic at the mouth of the canyon, but if she needed to get her brother with a stroke to the hospital right away, just drive down the wrong side lanes, and get through any way she could.

She took him at his word, and started down the wrong side of US 89. I wanted to crawl under the seat. People were screaming obscenities and trying to step in front of the car as we weaved through the obstacle course on that wild ride down the canyon. They waved at us, they yelled, they made every rude and obscene gesture. Mind, most of them had been waiting for hours for the line of cars to start moving, and many of them were growing furiously angry. They took license to express every frustration at us.

My dad was following us in his truck, but he soon abandoned the wild ride and ducked back into the lanes of marginally sane traffic, to wait for the accident to clear. But not intrepid Ruth. She forged ahead, ignoring insults and dodging the attempted roadblocks.

Finally we reached an impenetrable Jam of emergency engines and police vehicles, all obviously responding to the wreck. Ruth pulled up just short, and with firm resolve, and baring plenty of cleavage, she climbed up onto the step of the nearest engine to beg for mercy from one of the heroic firefighters. It was an inspired approach. The emergency crew was galvanized into action, engines and rigs were moved, and within minutes we were following a police escort out of the canyon toward the I 15 freeway. I still wanted to climb under the seat, but I was very proud of Ruth, and glad to be riding with someone so bold.

A short time later, we arrived at the ER at the U of U hospital.

Next instalment:  Doctors Let Me In The Door

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Utah Places: Albion Basin

Should I put this one on the list?

Albion is by far one of the favorite spots in Utah. In fact, we love it to death. I am afraid too many people go there when the flowers are blooming, and the Forest Service encourages them.

There is a long dirt grade climbing up the hill to Albion from the Alta parking area, and sometimes it is choked with cars and dust.

Of course, the destination from Albion was always the Cecret Lake Trail. The lake is an alpine gem a short hike above the parking area at Albion.

 Cecret Lake

It is beautiful beyond compare. Like all alpine lakes, the water is cold and crystal clear. The air is crisp and clean, even in mid-summer. Crowds of people don't seem such a bother. But the area is generally crowded all the time now, to the point that it is difficult to find a parking place in Albion anymore during weekend hours.

I fear for tomorrow.

For me, at least, that spoils some of the enjoyment of what wilderness should be. What can we do? I don't know? It worries me. Someday I think it will become more like Disneyland.

I will never go there again.

That will be a sad day.

Utah Places: Wasatch Mountain State Park

You can make a free and beautiful traverse between Salt Lake Valley, Heber, the ski resorts, and Park City. All summer long. Not many use this road, and its a good thing. It summits over Guardsman’s pass, and there are trails connecting in every direction, including connections from American Fork Canyon, Heber Valley, Cascade Springs, and other locations along the Wasatch. The roads are only good enough for light traffic, but ideally suited for vehicles like the 4runner. A more spectacular vista of the skyline all around cannot be found anywhere. Be sure to wear cold weather gear -- its always cold and windy up here.

Good place for a Sunday afternoon drive to look at wildflowers. All the side canyons along the way compete for the best.

More info here.

Utah Places: Forest City

A ghost story. In Utah. This one is sadly all true.

Read r the Wikipedia entry about the mining town of Forest City, Utah.

It makes good reading, especially for those not well informed about infuenza epidemics and what effect that had before widespread public immunization.

If you're really going to go to all that trouble, find out about some of the serious 4wd trails around Mineral Basin and Pittsburgh Lake. There are a few that are real challenges! They are all good fun, and most of the Utah 4 wheelers are a bunch of wussies who cry if they see a scratch in their paint. But if you can get past that, and are not above stacking a few rocks to compensate for not having lockers you can crawl with the best of them!

The guys in the YouTube video make a big deal about a few rocks, but it's really not that bad of a trail, especially travelling in such a big convoy.  I've always gone by myself, of course.  Lots of fun.

The paint and the rockers on the 4runner have no reason to save anything anymore. And Ruth, you would not believe what kind of punishment I have put those tires through. Don't worry about flat tires.

You should see some of the places I have driven at Topaz Mountain. You would not want your boots on that kind of terrain! The 4runner cruised over it at 5mph, with no problem.

Pshrinking, Pshrinking!!

I hope you don't mind.

My head seems to be a bit too large at the moment, so I'm having it refitted. Let me reassure you, it seems painless so far, and is only a temporary inconvenience. I hope to have all operations back to normal and working on all cylinders in very short order.

In the mean time, please return tray tables to their stored position, and return your seats to their full upright and locked position. Please keep heads and arms inside the ride at all times.

Thank you for your cooperation.

(BTW, my new friends from Ephraim said they might join. I meant this picture as a facsimile of how I see MYSELF, no reflection on anyone else. Hope I did not give that impression. Don't want to offend anyone, certainly not people who were so kind and delightful to talk to and so HELPFUL.)