The Crowbar

We all know what a crowbar is. It is the tool that is used to pry open a door or a trunk and see what is inside. It is a rough way to open something. Just use that crowbar to get something out. You can just hear the nails squeaking and that groaning of the wood under pressure. That is what Janet and I say when I get her out of the house to do something active. It’s not that she doesn’t want to do it, and once she is out, she has a good time. It is just getting her out of the comfort zone of our house and out and about. I say- ” I just crowbarred you out of the house.” The groaning and squeaking seem to stop once the door is opened.

As with an actual crowbar, there is always the initial resistance. Take this weekend for instance. We have a lot of snow on the ground and I always say take advantage of the weather when you can. Jan likes to snowshoe but when it is 20 degrees and the wind is howling on the golf course near our house, it can become a real sales job on my part to crowbar Janet away from the fireplace. We set up the camp chairs, strap on the shoes, and then trudge off into the north wind. She is bundled up and moaning a bit but then the sun shines and we move towards the valley to shield us a little from the relentless biting wind. Things get better. The hands warm up a little bit and the conversation between the two of us distracts her from the bitter temperatures and wind. Clothing helps too in that she has a nice Patagonia Gore Tex shell and pants.

No such thing as bad weather.

I try to pick the good days to make the crowbar a little easier. When the sun shines, I have a better chance and nice groomed conditions doesn’t hurt either when we venture to the slopes.

Nice weather out west.

But sometimes, we get caught in nasty weather which makes the crowbar situation a little more resistant. Like when we get caught in a freezing rain situation.

Thanks Pat- freezing rain.

But for the most part, Gore Tex always does the trick especially when you can successfully get out of the house. And Janet always admits when we return home, she was glad she went and feels good that she got another day outside. Whether it is hiking, cycling, skiing, snowshoeing or just a plain walk in the neighborhood, once she is crowbarred out, things seem generally to go well. Some initial complaints wane as the outing progresses. Jan is a good sport and I have put her in some pretty nasty weather situations which never seem to be daunting to me. But I am a different type of person. Janet would prefer warm weather but she will take the good with the bad here in Western Pa.

The Hiker

Jan and I are empty nesters now. And with the pandemic, there is a lot of time spent in the house together. Not that we don’t like that, but it is important for us to be active outside. Jan loves her home and takes pride in having it well kept despite having to live with a guy who is a little less neat. She enjoys the comforts of home especially in the inclement weather. But when the crowbar comes out, deep down she knows that she will have a good time despite the feeling that she is being forced out into the frozen tundra. Or a rainstorm. Or blazing heat. That perfect day with sunshine and pleasant temperatures is the Holy Grail that we seem to rarely grasp. I am a ” stick your face in the wind and let it rattle your teeth” kind of guy and Jan bundles up and pulls her facemask tight. But that is ok. She allows me to crowbar her out and I do things for her at home. Together we are making the best of the pandemic, and also enjoying more time together. We are getting used to this empty nest thing and haven’t killed each other yet. My type A personality is motivating her and her common sense is teaching me – daily. After 33 years together, we have used the crowbar analogy to our advantage. You can’t buy much in the way of sports equipment today- all sold out. Lift lines are longer, and in general it seems like most people are trying to be more active outdoors. Maybe somebody is crowbarring them all out too. Enjoy the winter and thanks for reading

A Walk in the Woods

I have to say that this time of year is my favorite among the seasons. The temps are changing and the leaves are turning colors- somewhat blazing this year. I love to hike at this time and my interest in that pursuit all started when I was a kid. I loved being in the woods. The first five human beings I knew outside my parents, were my five backyard neighbors- Richard, John, Ron, Glen and Cliffy. We lived in the woods – playing Army, catching crawfish and salamanders, and basically being there until my dad rang the dinner bell from our back patio. My parents didn’t worry about us much in those days. We were gone all day and would come running in for lunch, dinner and stay out as long as possible. We even drank from garden hoses and nothing ever happened to us. Imagine that? Slept out under the stars. We loved the woods and I still do today. This is a picture of Richard, John and me at Arapahoe Basin a couple of years ago. They both live in Colorado now. Even with the fact that we had not seen each other in a while, it seemed as if we left off right where we were the last time we were together. Isn’t that the way it usually is with good friends?

Fast forward from childhood, I hiked and back packed a lot in the fall right after college. The woods in the mountains seemed like a good place to reflect and try to figure out what the heck I was going to do with my life at the time.

I would either set up my tent or make arrangements to sleep in a ” lean to” shelter provided by the state. I would look up at the stars in the middle of the night while stoking the fire and try to figure out a path forward – like many of us at the time. Hiking was a relaxing way to reflect, take in the change of seasons, and breathe in fresh air. A walk in the woods was always therapeutic and still is today.

Moving on, to today’s world, hiking is a great activity for my wife and me to enjoy. As empty nesters, we love to get our gear together, strap on our boots and packs, and take that proverbial walk in the woods.
We either go to the Laurel Mountains east of here, or locally to one of our favorite routes in Sewickley. We often remark in our local hike that we could easily be anywhere with the scenic forest and well built trails .

It looks a lot like Vermont or New Hampshire with the rocky trails and hardwood forest, but it is only a 15 minute drive from our house. We don’t have the dramatic backdrops of the Green Mountains or the Whites of New Hampshire, but for a local hike, the scenery is pretty good here in Pa. A nice way for my wife and I to connect without any pressure of keeping up with anyone or keeping some sort of time schedule. Time moves slowly when you take a walk in the woods.

My folks never understood my need to be out in the wilderness, either locally or when I traveled near and far to basically camp, hike, climb, ski, and otherwise enjoy what is out there. Their idea of camping was sleeping at a Holiday Inn with the windows open. Me? I like that tent where I can see and smell the night. The stars, the planets, and the general feeling that the woods are embracing me. I feel like I belong there. That is why it irks me to no end when I see people deface rocks and overlooks with graffiti. All of us who love the outdoors need to protect what we all enjoy. Public lands, trails, National Parks, are all part of our heritage and if we want to leave ” a walk in the woods” for our kids and grandchildren, we always must pay attention to protecting our outdoor places of recreation.

A final suggestion, if you are looking for an activity this fall, maybe try hiking? There are so many places to go and aside from a rucksack filled with water and snacks, and some good sturdy hiking shoes or boots, the investment is minimal and the rewards are great. My love for the woods and the outdoors stems all the way back 55 years with my old buddies playing Army in the woods behind the Zankey’s house. For all we knew, we were in the Rocky Mountains or as far as our imagination led us at the time. Take that walk in the woods. It will restore you and give you needed perspective in our world today. Thanks for reading.

Nothing Wrong with New Kicks.

So, I know that I have posted several times about my 46 year old Vasque Hiker IIs shown here on the right. These hiking boots are absolutely bomb proof and have their original laces and Vibram soles. Amazing! They have been everywhere and could really write a blog or a book themselves. But recently my toes have been hurting when I have been hiking and I realized that as I have aged, my feet have actually grown. I believe it is because the arch collapses and your foot gets longer. Oh well. But it has been causing an issue with my feet in my favorite boots. I would have used these until I died because there is absolutely nothing wrong with them and I even reported that to Vasque. They gave me a very nice response.

Fast forward- my lovely wife purchased a new pair of Vasque hiking boots for me for my birthday( shown on the left) which are great. In fact yesterday during our regular Sunday afternoon hike, I remarked how much I liked them and how comfortable they are. Janet and I like hiking and we have a lot of local options. But Janet’s response was not what I expected. In her quiet, unassuming way, she said that retiring the old boots and putting on the new ones is very much like what happens in life. Sometimes you need new things……like relationships, hobbies, food choices, even some friends. I was taken back on the friends and relationship part but she went on to explain. She quoted Dr. Henry Cloud when he said that some relationships are “unsafe.” Dr. Cloud says that sometimes relationships or friendships become strained and they can become toxic or “unsafe” and we need to be willing to acknowledge that and make a change and perhaps retire those people who are causing us pain and making us uncomfortable. Like an old pair of boots that now don’t fit too well. Sometimes you need to be willing to make a change for the better.

Relationships and friendships are not the only ones that need scrutiny. Perhaps when we are doing some self examining and want to make some lifestyle changes, we need to look at the balance sheet of those things and determine if making a change will help us grow and move forward. Maybe it is time to start eating more healthy? Maybe we need to change our lifestyle and incorporate another kind of outside activity or any kind of activity that may change an unhealthy existence.

Recently I made such a decision and decided after riding a road bike for 40 years, I was going to sell my current ride and stick to mountain bike riding. That was a drastic change for me because I liked riding the road. But lately, my old routes through apple orchards and farms have now been transformed into routes through newly constructed subdivisions. Traffic is worse and people are texting, not paying attention, talking on the cell phone, changing channels on the XM Radio and all in all becoming a hazard to those riding a road bike. There have been several fatalities around here and I did not want to take the chance on trusting someone coming up behind me and not paying attention. Like putting the old hiking boots aside, I committed to my other ride( the mountain bike) and hiking with my wife. A lifestyle change for sure seeing that I have ridden/raced my road bike for years in many places. It was time for a change. Lots of good memories on the road bike but like the old boots, time to go.

The new boots are comfortable ( I am also an easy fit) and like any new experience, if you make the commitment and take a chance to improve your situation( relationships, friendships, lifestyle changes) the results can become surprisingly pleasant. To hike now without pain is a real pleasure. Off with the old and in with the new is a good plan for someone like me who wants to keep active and lead a healthy existence for the rest of my life. So as we get older, maybe we take a look at what has become routine and maybe be willing to reexamine what is really important,or what is hurting us, and make the necessary changes. Nothing like a new pair of kicks. Thanks for reading.

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