Visiting Wisconsin.

We recently took a trip to Wisconsin to visit Amanda’s family. The first stop of the whirlwind tour was out to eat. We love cheese, and I love fried food, so I was in heaven eating fried cheese curds. These Wisconsinites take their cheese very seriously. Almost as serious as they take their beer consumption.

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That night we walked along the water of downtown Milwaukee and it was beautiful. The air was warm and the sky was dark. After our first summer in Alaska, I was surprised by how much I missed the dark skies. I will probably be eating my words this winter, but the dark sky was beautiful at night. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.36.18 PMMy father in law likes to ride motorcycles more than I do. He offered me one of his bikes one afternoon and I couldn’t say no. It was hot out and beautiful to ride by miles and miles of fields. Blue skies with green fields and an orange bike. I couldn’t stop smiling or sweating.Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.36.36 PMWe never stopped moving on this trip. I was introduced to the Bugline Trail. It is a fully paved trail that passes by homes, limestone quarries, and railroad tracks. It was a lot of fun on a bicycle built for two.Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.37.22 PMEvery ride needs a destination. This ride happened to turn around at a pub that has been around since 1862. We stopped inside for a quick blast of air conditioning. And maybe a beer or two. We definitely had a weasel peter sausage. Thank you Hanson Brothers Pub.

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Hike 1/52 – Hidden Lake.

Starting off this hiking thing. Trying to nail 52 hikes in a year. There are so many hikes near us that I wanted to find a way to keep track of all of them. For Hidden Lake we started at the Glen Alps Trailhead. It was a Sunday and the parking lot had the most people we have ever seen. It was about half full. We left the parking lot at about 1 pm. There was a mixture of snow and mud for most of the trail along the powerline. It was also the busiest here. It was relatively uneventful. We have hiked and ran along the powerline trail a few times. It is the busiest hiking area close to Anchorage. Sometimes there are moose hanging out, but the sheer number of dogs and people usually makes them a bit skittish. About 2 miles into the hike, we veered left. Crossing over the south fork of Campbell Creek, we stopped for our first photo. Lando loved looking in the snow. Obi was off chasing birds.Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.32.10 PM.pngThe lower elevations did not have as much snow. The south facing slopes were pretty snow free. There are fantastic boardwalks on the popular trails that help mitigate damage to flora. It also helps keep us a little less muddy.

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As we increased in elevation, the snow became a bit more prevalent. Being Alaska, one we left the parking lot, there were no signs. I feel like every trail in the lower 48 has  at least a half dozen signs. Here, not so much. Maybe that is why this place is called Hidden Lake. There was worn in trail which made it easier to head the correct direction.

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This is a warm spring. There is no snow at our house, but this trail starts at about 2200′ above sea level. Once we got off the busy Powerline Trail, the ptarmigan were everywhere. The dogs loved it. Here is Obi pointing to a well hidden ptarmigan in a tree while Lando looks for something hidden in the snow. Can’t see Obi?Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.23.54 PM.pngLet me zoom in for you. Does this make it easier?Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.24.25 PM.pngEventually, there was lots of snow and the occasional postholing. Sometimes lots of postholing. The weather stayed nice and a sunburn at the end of the day was mildly surprising.Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.43.38 PM.pngAbout 4 1/2 miles in, we made it to Hidden Lake. It looks like it will remain hidden a little while longer. We ended at about 3700′ above sea level.Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.44.32 PM.pngIt is an interesting time of year. Too much snow down low to ride bicycles on the trail, but not quite enough snow to make it worth dragging skis up to the top. It is also nice enough to hike without snowshoes and only deal with a bit of mud and wet ankles at the end of the day. We were lucky enough to see some mountain goats as we ate our lunch at the lake. This place is amazing. Until the next adventure!

Yorkshire Pudding.

Rudolph is delicious.

Reindeer are caribou that have been domesticated. I have been told stories of people separating a few caribou from the wild herd and starting their own reindeer herd. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as the caribou sometimes come and steal their herd members back. Thus turning the reindeer back into caribou.

Reindeer is often available in grocery stores, restaurants, and meat stores. Indian Valley Meats is our local meat store. Maybe most rural areas have a place that will process your meat for you, but it is not something that I have experienced until moving to Alaska.

There are some laws about selling wild game. From ADF&G, “It is illegal to buy, sell or barter game meat. Unprocessed meat and other game parts may be transferred to others permanently (given as a gift) or may be transferred temporarily for the purpose of transport…  Any meat you plan to give away must be in the same or better condition as meat you would keep for yourself”.

Why get bacon in your breakfast bagel sandwich when you can get reindeer sausage

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I am very lucky.

After a soccer accident, I had a sore neck. I thought that it was seriously strained. I went to an urgent care facility and was given some pain killers, muscle relaxers, and steroids. The usual to conservatively treat a strain. I did not think that X-rays were necessary. A couple of weeks went by and every morning I would wake up feeling a little bit better. The end of the day was tough, but I have been injured enough to know that these things take time to heal. I was feeling a bit nervous as we were studying muscles and bones in class and I had a nagging feeling that I had done more damage than I would have liked to admit. I went in for X-rays. The PA (physicians assistant) checked my X-rays and wanted a radiologist to look at them. The next day, I got a phone call saying that I had done some serious damage and I should get myself to the hospital as soon as possible. This sort of news is difficult to take in. They tried to explain things on the phone, but I had stopped listening.

I went to the Swedish First Hill Emergency Room and was well taken care of. They took more X-rays and didn’t like what they saw. My C6 vertebrae was not aligned with the others. Most notably, the C7 below it. If the C6 fell off the C7 I could be paralyzed or dead. For two weeks, I was walking around, working, digging in the garden, and had no idea how seriously injured I was.

I was transferred (my first time in an ambulance) from First Hill to Cherry Hill and put on the neurosciences floor. The memories of my brother being on a neuro floor came flooding back. I kept telling myself how lucky I was to catch this before I was seriously injured. My brother is also lucky to walking and alive.

So I arrived at 1am and was put into a bed. I was told to keep my big collar on, not get up, and pee in the urinal. It took a couple of hours for the doctors orders to arrive. I was given a saline IV with 20 mEq/L of potassium. Apparently, my potassium levels were 3.3 mEq/L (normal is 3.5-5). Here is where my nursing friends and I start to geek out. My nurses and NACs that I met were all great. They treated me well and kept me updated before my surgery. One of the surgeons came in at about 3am to tell me that the team would be meeting in the morning and would get me into surgery the next day.

The next morning (really just a few hours later) I met with the surgeon and I immediately liked him. He showed me his scar where he has a similar surgery. It was nice to be able to ask real world questions like, “What will my range of motion be after the surgery?” and get a true answer. Instead of a textbook answer, he would move his head around. I was nervous most of the day just waiting for the operating room to be ready, but I had some great friends keep me company. My crew of support has been fantastic. I cannot thank Derek, Casey, Stefanie, Ed, Patty, Jenn, Adam, and of course Amanda enough.

I was eventually led into surgery and the staff was all great. They calmed my nerves and we made small talk until I slid onto the operating table. My neck was still in a collar, but I couldn’t bring myself to look around too much. The cold sterility of the room made me more nervous than I would like to admit. Surgery was apparently a success. I didn’t do much for the 45 minutes that it took, but I woke up glad that it was now time to start recovering. I was up walking around later that day. I am able to drink fluids and eat soft foods. They discharged me the day after surgery. Now I am at home recovering.

Standard ambulance selfie.

It is nice to sit by the fire sometimes. Before surgery.

Happy after surgery.

In summary, I had an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

ACDF

3D medical animation, not the real thing, can be seen here.

Damsels in Distress

I am sorry if you have seen this already, but every time I watch it, it blows my mind. Maybe it is the fond memories of New Zealand, maybe it is that damselfly nymphs are my go to fly in still water, most likely, it is the orca like action of the trout. Enjoy:

Damsels in Distress from Sharptail Media on Vimeo.

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Bertha in Seattle.

Boston had its “Big Dig”. Cost were overrun by 190% and it took 15 years to complete. It included a 3.5 mile tunnel. Here in Seattle, we are digging a small 1.9 mile tunnel. We have purchased the world’s largest boring (bore means making a hole) machine. It has a name (Bertha) and its own Twitter account. Here is her official website. I am a huge fan of this engineering feat. I am not a fan of the tunnel itself. I think that it is a waste of money and resources. I would rather see the money spent on buses, rail, and bike infrastructure.

When this project is complete, I may never drive on the completed road as it will be tolled and I try my hardest not to pay tolls. I would rather have the gas tax increased to pay for roads.

We started digging this summer and we are 5 months into construction. Unfortunately, we are now 3 months behind schedule. Something has been blocking the world’s largest tunneling machine and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) couldn’t figure out what it was. Turns out, it was a metal pipe that WSDOT left in the ground in 2002.

This might be a long project.