Sunday, June 22, 2014

A New Challenge–Update June 22nd: 820-mile Arizona Trail

This is Part II of my posts about training for the Arizona Trail. Read Part I.

I have begun training to hike the Arizona National Scenic Trail


The Arizona Trail is an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah.

My challenge is to get my body fit and ready – all body parts must work.  This is a big challenge, since I have been mainly just sitting on a kayak for the past five years. 


Right: 2009, Left: 2014


1) Ball of left foot – RESOLVED:  callus was causing pinching and blister.  Thought it was a bone spur but and seems to have gone away with increased walking on the treadmill.  Good, since I need to be able to walk 15 miles or more on most days.

2) Left Buttocks - ON GOING Issue: gluteal maximus muscle sprain, or hamstring pull????   Physical Therapist says it is micro-tears in the ligament attaching the hamstring muscle to the butt bone.  I am working on resolving this by working the surrounding muscles more. Was told not to sit lopsided to get the pressure off the left side, but to keep my pelvis level and only tip it forward or backward to relieve the pressure.  May also try one of those butt donuts.  Have had x-ray, but of course that won’t show the soft tissues, and have not yet reviewed them with doctor.  Maybe NOT too Bad – as it doesn’t seem to bother me walking on the treadmill.  Still a concern.

3) Back Issues - RESOLVED:  I began training on 3/4/14 and on 3/11/14,  I ended up in the Emergency Room due to severe back pain.  My pain was so bad they gave me a shot in my spin and rushed me off to the MRI.  Images showed I had four severely budging disc in my back. Physical Therapy began me on core work and no longer have low back pain. Part of the problem could also have been that my bowels were impacted.  I didn’t realize this could happen and didn’t make a connection that such a thing could affect your back/spine. Between managing both of those things, the core muscles and the gut, problem is gone.  Spine doctor has released me from his care and says surgery is not needed. 

4) Food intake: The gut issues made me realize I had to pay more attention to what I was eating.  My new primary care doctor, Dr. Matthew Talarico, Templeton, CA, suggested I get off meat and cheese as they are “inflammatories” and get the book “Superfood Smoothies” by Julie Morris.   My goal is to get fit, any weight loss is just icing on the cake (pun intended), besides I have already lost about 60 pounds.  Eating the right foods is key to getting fit.  This is not something I can change overnight.. it is a lifestyle change. 

I will be hiking for over two months in the wilderness, and can’t do smoothies out there anyway.  My plan is to change slowly, use up foods I have on hand, and to slowly buy the ingredients with long shelf life that are mentioned in the book.  After the hike is completed, I hope to ease into near 100% “smoothie” lifestyle, though I don’t ever expect to hit it 100%.  Probably after the hike, later in 2015, I will buy a second refrigerator for the van, and will keep one as a freezer, allowing me to keep frozen fruits and vegetables on hand for smoothies.  Excellent, but a long term plan.  Short term, do my very best to make all my foods nutrient rich.

5) Right shoulder – ONGOING but improving:  I have had two surgeries on my right shoulder.  a) Rotator Cuff repair and b) cutting part of the clavicle off, that my bones were getting stuck on and popping across (I’ll look up the name later).  Doctor gave me Novocain and cortisone injections in the shoulder. June 30, I return to see if Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy is improving the pain and Range of Motion – and I believe it is.  May have an MRI at that time. Still concerned as this could be bad if I am hundreds of miles away from civilization and my right arm won’t move, or lift, or tolerate a 40 pound backpack.  Must resolve this issue.

6) Left knee: Status Unchanged.  In November 2005, I had a total knee replacement.  The day after surgery, I fell out of the hospital bed, and broke the prosthesis loose from the bone.  There is something in the left knee not right.  If a sit on a low toilet or low stool, there is a painful crunching and popping on the outside of the left knee.  I don’t know what that is, but I am going to have to address it soon.  Will make an appointment to discuss this with Dr. Sima as soon as possible.  Bad – I have to make sure it is not something that could fowl up walking 820 miles.

7) Medications:  My goal is to get off all prescription meds before hitting the trail.  I will of course carry some “as needed” meds as first aid.  Currently, I have two meds to wean myself off of (under doctor supervision).  Tried to get off Prilosec for the second time and lasted 3 days before I had to begin taking it again.  So, still two to go. I have reduced Ibuprofen 50%.   I will be listing my medicine kit as I prepare my gear.  Great – considering the side effects of many pharmaceuticals today.

8) Skin – progress continues:  The gym I joined has tanning rooms.  So, I decided I should try it one day. WELL, guess what folks… the tanning is changing my skin and it is smoothing out and changing and feels very nice, like silk.  Little bumps are going away.  I am no longer WHITE as a ghost but tan  for once in my life and my skin is now darker than my hair.  I feel this will help me for the time I am out in full sun all day long on the hike. Great, the point is, I didn’t realize that tanning could have a positive effect on my health, but it has.

9) Lungs/COPD – CONTROLLED:  Back in 2007 or so I was diagnosed with COPD.  I carry no COPD meds and consider it a non-issue now.  Just have to be careful to get away from any airborne allergens, so I don’t have a flare-up. I tried a couple days in Fresno, June 20-21, and air quality was too poor to stay, and my throat began to burn.  Great change and a non-issue today.

10) Psychology of solo hiking – I am certain there are things to consider, but I won’t address them at this time, because I don’t think it is possible to anticipate what they might be.

That’s it.  Those are the changes in my physical issues.  Three months ago it took me 1 hr. to walk on the treadmill for 1/4 mile.  Yesterday I did 1.4 miles in 30 minutes, without any discomfort, but still can not reach my training heart rate(THR) of 124-137.  I can only get up to 120… so I am pushing this next week to get to THR and hold it for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  The more I push myself, the healthier I become so long as I make sure my body has the proper fuel and plenty of water.


Live life to the fullest… that can only happen if your body is the best you can make it.


June 21, 2014 – my great niece, Charlie looking at that photo of me in 2002 in the red shirt… and she was shocked at the changes.  It’s all good folks.

I will keep this format for future posts, to record changes and discoveries between now and the beginning of the hike.  My goal again, is to get as fit as possible before the hike begins.  When the hike ends, I expect to be the most fit I have been in my life… at age 71.

Adding swimming to the mix this week, now that my shoulder is improving.

Never give up.


  1. You inspire me and give me hope that there are still adventures awaiting me. Yours is the first rving/vanning blog I found about 2 years ago. I have found and read many blogs since then but you inspire me above all the others. Thanks for taking the time to share. Nora

    1. Nora, thank you very much, that was sweet of you to say. Thank you for following along. Maybe one day we can share a campfire.

  2. Thanks you so much for the updates. You always amaze me and are so uplifting. While I lead a very different life than you, your posts are an inspiration to me in my daily challenges. Often I refer people to read your posts. Keep up the work on your latest challenge as I am sure you are going to achieve this!!!

    1. Got a little wrinkle in my plans... as my son is scheduled for a second hip surgery in two years, first one failing, and my granddaughter, his daughter was hospitalized this week with a heart infection and may need surgery. Though I didn't have any money for the trip (and groceries too), I could not deal with this from 1,000 miles away so drove to Seattle this week so I could help if needed and be close... but I am continuing to trail for the AZ Trail as time permits. Thank you for following me... and telling others. As I watch those around me having health issues and others aging or passing on, I feel blessed to have the fitness level I have right now, at age 70. I will continue to urge others to NEVER give up. I remain amazed at how much my body has changed this year alone. Thank you again.

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  5. Way to go! Have been following your blog for a while and I'm impressed with your drive and your progress. May I recommend that you consider also body weight exercises in your fitness plans? Research shows that older people become frail because they lose muscle mass. Asa result, they become more prone to falling and injury. Many doctors are now recommending that one of the best things an older person can do is lift weights. Since that is not a choice for you, you may consider modified push ups, sit ups, and squats.


    1. I am actually not the least bit frail... and in fact have increased bone density since I began kayaking... and my was already pretty darned dense. I have a good fitness plan worked out and am supervised by professional sports fitness therapist and trainers. Thank you for your suggestions and concern. Due to knee replacements I am not allowed to do squats.

  6. Hi Swanky, I came across your blog while searching for info on camper van living. My heart goes out to your son and granddaughter. I hope they are getting stronger and healthier every day. I am a Nurse Practitioner and when I read about your son's symptoms, "... he was walking with a cane and in excoriating pain from his hip and had a badly inflamed varicose vein in the same leg"... My first thought was that the "varicose vein" was probably draining the terrible infection from his artificial hip joint, and that he had probably had the infection for quite awhile at that point, possibly since the initial hip replacement surgery. My mother was infected with sepsis in her groin by her cardiac surgeon when he inserted a catheter in order to place a heart stent. The infection brewed inside her for weeks, her only symptom being swelling and purple discoloration in her lower leg and veins while outwardly her groin incision looked fine. The infection went into her bloodstream and she suffered horribly, requiring surgery to clean out the infection, then the surgical wound had to be left open to heal while she was on antibiotics for weeks. I also have a worn out hip (worn out at age 55), and I also suspect that since birth I also had a mild form of hip dysplasia that contributed to it wearing out early. I am now 58 and retired and before I can live my dream of traveling in a camper van to see all the National Parks, I will also need a hip replacement. I'd like to know what type of artificial hip your son had placed and if you or he would have any advice for me before having the joint replacement surgery. I also live in Seattle for many years and I am curious to know who the surgeon was and if you would recommend avoiding that surgeon, since it is a probability they gave him the infection during the initial surgery. I'm not on Facebook, but I would love to hear from you by email. I don't know if I put my e-mail address here if you will get it, but I'll try. Thanks ever so much. I am wishing the very best of health to you and your son and granddaughter. You have all been through so much. Kris.

  7. Well, finances, employment, health all delayed my plans for the Arizona Trail hike, but now, May 31, 2017... I am prepping seriously and hope to do the thru-hike in the Fall (Sept, Oct, Nov.???). Stay tuned.


Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.