Archive for August, 2009

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Relief

Posted in review, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2009 by tymora42
you cannot tell from the pic, but it has a red stem

you cannot tell from the pic, but it has a red stem

This is a Public Service announcement blog concerning the dreaded poisonous ivy, oak, and sumac affliction. I am severely allergic to all three and have been plagued with them since I was very young, living in the Louisiana swamplands. I have had the rash on every square inch of my body. Yes, including there. It has been so rampant that it has sealed my eyes shut, caused hallucinatory fever dreams, and soaked so deep into my joints that I could not move. Without a medical or botany doctorate I can safely say that I am still an authority on the subject and how to get rid of it. Fortunately, I only think about it if someone mentions it, the reality of it is nearby, or I have contracted a case of it. Unfortunately, I have it right now.

You might have wandered to this site because you or someone you know is currently down with the sickness. How do they make it go away? Short of going to the nearest emergency room and getting a steroid booster shot, which I highly recommend if it is a full body epidemic, find the nearest Walgreens. I specifically mention Walgreens because they are the only place I have ever been able to find the right soap, Tecnu. Screw Calamine and Ivarest and the Benadryl ant-itch spray. The Benadryl antihistamine tablets are great, but not the salve. All that does is curb the interest to scratch it until it bleeds. It has no medicinal alleviation other than that as far as I can tell. It is solely for people whose natural metabolism will eventually meter out the poison on its own. Tecnu is the way to go.

not this stuff - it is too coarse

this is the stuff you want

When you are out shopping for the soap be aware that there are multiple kinds of Tecnu for various purposes. The Tecnu Extreme is bunk for guys like me who break out instantly into welt sized sores. It is mainly a preventative for the freckle kind when it just starts. Why? Because it has coarse granules in it like facial scrubs that abrade the dead skin. You do not want to break the bubbles.I should say that again in all caps with an exclamation mark. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BREAK THE BUBBLES!!! Three should do it. Leaking is only one way it spreads. Getting into the blood stream is the other. That is what the Benadryl tablets prevent and take care of. The Tecnu you want comes in a bottle (as opposed to a squeeze tube). The packaging is usually a large box. Open it in the store to make sure it is the one you want.

it will probably look like this in the store
it will probably look like this in the store

Now, throw away the instructions. Actually they are written on the bottle so do not really throw them away. What I mean is to just disregard them. Do this instead: Take a shower in luke warm water. Rinse your entire body. While still in the shower apply the soap to your entire body, paying special attention to the obviously infected areas. Leave the soap on you while you cover every limb, appendage, back and hair. Start with your hair and work down. This is all preliminary. Rinse. Return to the places where you itch even a little, but do not have sores yet. Apply the Tecnu and leave it while you attend to the other spots. Make sure to rinse your hands before every new application. Go to the messy spots. Here is where you follow the actual instructions. Apply and wash soothingly over and around the sores for 2 minutes being careful not to break the skin. It will not feel like you have much soap left on your hands. This is okay because it is penetrating deep within the affliction to neutralize the poisons. Rinse. Towel dry. Use a separate washcloth to dab at the sores last. If you use the same towel or do it first, you might be helping spread the rash. When you are completely dry apply the Tecnu to all problem spots like a salve. Do not rinse it or wash it off. Do not rub it in for the 2 minutes like before. Put it on and leave it. I recommend showering 3 times a day until it is cured, repeating the same process I have detailed.

Suppose you have no Walgreens or cannot find the Tecnu. I will not boast about any other relief products, but I will tell you how to maximize their capabilities. A common misconception is to apply a new coat on top of the old one. This is wrong. Rinse the old one before applying the new. It contains all the seeping poisons from the last batch. Get rid of it. Stay clean and remember to always wash your hands.

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Home on Vacation – the rest

Posted in blog, colorado, houston, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2009 by tymora42

Day 6 and 7 –

We took it easy. That much adventure left us exhausted for a while. We drank margaritas and mojitos in town after Tara took us to the souvenir shops her and mom scouted. Robert was looking for a cowboy hat to mark his Colorado debut. They also wanted to get steaks to treat my family to dinner as a way of thanks. They even left a card that made my mom tear up a little. Robert found his hat on the last day. He wanted to be sure it was the right one so he checked out the non-tourist places also.

We were supposed to go to the Piedra Hot Springs along the Sheep Creek Trail on Day 6, but a photo slideshow kept us a little too late for hiking. Again, we were late on Day 7 with dinner and all. I was hell bent on going, though, so we made the twilight trek. The wild animal fear gripped us once more on the path down the mountainside lit only by small flashlights and the moon. When we got there it was worth it. We almost turned around once or twice. Little did we know it was literally right around the next bend. There was a single car in the parking lot at the trail head and a single tent in a campground at the bottom. We knock knocked for permission to travel through, a courtesy campers use to let the sleepers know it is harmless humans lurking about their tents.

We also asked if they knew where the hot springs were. “Straight down the hill,” they answered. You follow the Sheep Creek Trail until you first hit water. Don’t go down to the bank just yet. Walk to the right and you will pass a single fire ring campsite. You are almost there. The trail looks overgrown here and you might not be sure it is the real trail or not. It is. The very next grove head down to the banks. You will see the pools. I am guessing they have black sand in them. It was dark. We could not be completely sure. Tara took some in a cigarette pack wrapper. I will have to ask her. The biggest clue you can have is the steam coming out of the water near the frigid river. Some are too hot like that Eddie Murphy/James Brown spoof on vintage Saturday Night Live. Find the one you like and lay down. They smell, but immerse yourself fully anyway. You will not regret it. I used a rock as a pillow to keep my head above. There is also a shovel left there to make them deeper or to blend the river with the spring.

We laid out soaking, reminiscing on the past week, and confirming our lifelong friendship. It was a nice end to the adventure. It was enough to make me remember why I moved here in the first place. I needed that shot of memory. I miss the people in Houston, but I do not miss not being able to walk out my backdoor for some wholesome outdoor activity. I can do the outdoor part in Houston, unfortunately it is never all that wholesome – skinny dipping in the fountains or climbing Miller Theatre after dark and running from the law. Yeah, I miss it a little.

Now that they are gone I am kind of bored. The past few weeks have been trying to solidify a place to live and a job. Neither seem ideal to me yet. The apartment is too expensive and too small. The job doe snot pay enough. This does not mean I cannot still look. The best part is I have a roommate I trust and some burgeoning friends to reacquaint ourselves.

Next Spring I will bring my canoe.

Home on Vacation d5

Posted in blog, colorado, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2009 by tymora42

Day 5 – The River of Lost Souls

We took our skills to the Animas River. The Spanish called it Rio de las Animas Perdidas. Animas means “breath” or “soul” in many cultures. To the Spanish it was the river of lost souls. We started at Baker’s Bridge – Class 1 for 16 miles, which means little or no rapids. The river oxbowed back and forth with and then against the wind. Shortly into the run we hit our first obstacle and failed it miserably even though we got out to look at it and figure the best route. We were still getting our river legs on. We bunched up against the rocks, missing the entry by at least a foot. We ended up getting out and walking the canoe through it without passenger. Robert took the front paner rope, I took the rear.

At this time I took a moment to reiterate, “If we flip, it is the person in the back’s fault. He has to watch how the person in the front is leaning and overcompensate for it. If we lose the canoe, it is the person in the front’s fault.”

We would eventually get a chance to prove this hours later.

Along the banks of the switchbacks are old rusty cars. Robert, who knows about those kind of things, says that the oldest he saw might have been from the early 70s. Most, however, were from the 50s and 60s. I fought the idea of the city using them for an erosion control solution. How could such a naturalist Colorado government approve something like that? In Texas it would make sense, but I guess I had higher expectations for an outdoor oriented society consistent with leftist hippies and go-green mentality. I thought maybe a flood pulled them in and the city dragged them out. Unfortunately, I could not find any online information about it, so the mystery remains. To support his case Robert pointed out that all of them were front end down and none of them had engines. He hypothesized that they all came from junk yards, having been long stripped of usable parts.

We could have taken his girlfriend and the dog on this section, but we did not. Two conflicting maps (or so we thought) made the trek from our put in to 32nd street uncertain. A river map drawn and produced by a local jumped from an unrated gorge with multiple danger signs, exclamation points, and the words “DO NOT ATTEMPT” to the class IIIs of 32nd street. The other book claimed that area to be what it was – class nothing. Rather than take the risk we sent them with my mother to do souvenir shopping, something Robert would not be that into anyway. They were supposed to pull us out in a neighborhood access point behind the Home Depot. We never made it there.

Less than a mile before 32nd street bridge the water started picking up. We had a good couple twists and turns around protruded rocks to practice on before we hit the public eye. Then, it was full on action. Robert shouted “Left. Right. More Right. Left. Left!. LEFT! Oh, wait. I meant RIGHT!!! RIGHT!!!” We pushed through, scraping over unavoidable rocks in the low spots. The rain that had been on our footheels from the moment they arrived in Colorado closed in. We had pushed well in front of it during the long stretch of open water, but now it was menacingly upon us.

At Smelter rapids, the 3 mile marker from 32nd, we got tumped. We even pulled out to look at it. That seems to be bad luck for Robert and I. He said, “Get your ass back in the boat.” I said, “Wait a minute. I want to look at this. Give me a cigarette.” I had pulled us out because we were definitely not going in it at the right angle. We saw 3 major rapids back to back forcing us to zig zag slightly but quickly along a path of white. I did not see the 4th or 5th. That was the one that would catch us.

“You can have a cigarette after we conquer this.”

“Fine.” We backed up about 20 feet to get a good straight shot into the trail. He called his directions around the first 3 precise. We hit them perfect. I also told him earlier that if we get into the shit, get on your good side. One thing that made Robert and I such a good team is that he was a lefty and I a right. On that 4th Class III we were a bit crooked. He shouted, “HARD RIGHT!” and I dug in to swing the bow. He happened to be leaning on the right also. I did not notice until it was too late. I watched a small wave lap over the side of the canoe. It filled it and threw us out.

There are 3 things I could not believe when we were finally secure enough to process. 1. I kept my hat on my head 2. and the paddle in my hand. 3. Robert left the ziploc with the cigarettes and lighter open.

He caught the canoe, which weighed over a ton, from the back paner and drug it to shore. I had no way to even think about grabbing it. By the time I was out of the boat, it was 10ft ahead of me. After we flipped and bailed the water out of it and readied ourselves to rock and roll on the last couple miles, the rain came in fierce and hard. We were going to do it anyway. Lightning struck to advise us against that.

Smelter has park access. We were on the other side of the bank for that. The 5th rapid looked at us from a short distance. Just ahead of that was the exit. I figured we could make it across without problems. I forgot this was a lake canoe and not a white water. The major difference is a rudder that runs down the center of the boat for straight lake travels. A whitewater does not need that because it has the current to propel them along. It also does not want it because it needs to be versatile enough to pull out of rapids or skit across at an angle to them. For instance pretend you need to get across the flow to a bank on the other side. That rudder will get grabbed and straightened into the mix. Into the mix we went. It was good that we did. Both of us would have hated to end on a bail out.

Home on Vacation 3

Posted in blog, colorado, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by tymora42

Day 3 – Engineer Pass

We researched the San Juan trails using Latitude 40 maps. They really are the best for this area. They include all trailheads in easy to spot yellow Ts, they are topographic with easily discernible elevations in feet, they are waterproof for the mid afternoon Colorado rainstorms, and they have all of the current trails listed with difficulty ratings. I love them. Thank you Latitude 40. We geared up and got out late as per norm. When we got to Pinkerton Springs, I let the couple go walk the dog while I divvied up the food between us. Each got a can good (I know, a terrible weight for the overnight and all day backpacking trip), each got a bag of trail snacks (cranberry granola, nuts and chocolates, and dried apples), Robert took the Pastrami and cheese, I took the tortillas, Tara took the drink mixes and excess sundries (dogfood, TP, extra ziplocs), and everyone got two emergency energy bars. The dog, Scottie, was the only one who got off Scottie-Free with the weight. He made up for it by running ahead and back to the group and in circles and all over the place. That dog was downright loopy. He must have climbed the mountain 3 times more than all of us together. And he still had energy.

We went straight up about 11,000 feet to Engineer Pass. We stood marveling at the height and magnanimity of it all. We ate Lunch/Dinner and kept going. At the mesa past Coal Creek Pass Trail going toward Jura Knob we settled in for the night. We still had almost an hour left of light, but we were not sure how long we would be on the ridge and Robert could not take another step. He was experiencing the first signs of Altitude Sickness. We did not know this yet. When the temperature dropped steadily at 11,600 feet after sunset, we all realized we should have brought the warmer sleeping bags. It probably would not have been so bad if the weather was not as rainy all day. Nobody got much sleep that night. Everytime the wind blew the grass ruffled against my tent fly, making me think some predatory wild animal was rummaging around outside. We hung the food 10 ft high on a 3ft branch extension 50 ft from camp and downwind to deter bears from entering our sleeping quarters. This still did not prevent me from seeing the need to gather thick long sticks and things to throw. That might have been more for the sake of coyotes that howled until dawn. The only worry that we had little on our person to prevent was the lightning and thunder. It looked as beautiful as dangerous from our vantage.

Before morning Robert puked, Tara cried, and I paced the meadow wondering what we were going to do tomorrow. Earlier in the day Robert talked about never turning back. I was of the same opinion, however, argued the point of it being necessary not to limit your options. Robert was hard headed and stated his case. It was valid, but immediate experience would persuade him otherwise.

Day 4 – Coal Creek and Silverton

We turned our train around and dropped down about a hundred feet. Robert sucked Propel packages dry for the electrolytes and pumped himself full of vitamin C tablets we thankfully had the foresight enough to bring. He was feeling much better. Coal Creek made a nice loop back to the trailhead, so we took it. It was a partial compromise. We turned back, but we still got to see new things.

This was the first time my pack was the exact right weight ever. Maybe my concern for the other two overshadowed my own discomfort. I don’t know. The second day I took a load off Robert on account of his sickness. It still did not feel to shabby. It must be the new tent weighing in at just over a pound and a half total. Surprisingly, Tara still had a full skin of water. I halved it with her when we got under the timberline.

Coal Creek loses a cut trail for a quarter mile. People put up rock markers to tell you where to go. Figuring that out was fun. Trying to figure out if they hike chainsaws up the hill for trail maintenance or whether they helicopter them to the top and hike down was fun also.

We hit the road after a short drizzle of rain. I hitchhiked back to the car from a guy with a back brace. Enviously, he listened to our adventure. When I told him Robert had Altitude Sickness he goes, “Oh really? Where is he from?” “Houston.” We both laughed. I guess coming from sea level to close to 12g in less than a week would do it. The rest of our planned route would have taken him higher. We were going to walk along the ridge of the Colorado trail and then down to Molas Lake.

I picked them up and suggested we go to Silverton. We were right next to it anyway. We got some BBQ, did a little shopping, Scottie bit a kid, and we left. He was a little grumpy. It was time for all of us to go home.

next – the river!

Home on Vacation (con’t)

Posted in blog, travel with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by tymora42

(con’t)

Day 2 – Preparing for the Animas

To keep to our regiment of hiking then paddling we hit town for much needed supplies. We got life jackets from Big 5 yesterday, but all they had were chincy kid paddles and Four Corners River Outfitters closed early. I would like to say we hopped in the car moments after waking at the break of dawn to get started, but this is not the way when on vacation. Taking the crew to Vallecita Reservoir was as much needed for my piece of mind as it was to get the proper equipment. I needed a lake to show him the strokes he would need to handle rapids. We even got a chance to shoot the slow moving section of the Pinos that empties into it. I let him go by hisself while the girl, the dog, and I watched from shore. Too bad we forgot a camera that day. Serene mountains overlooked our late afternoon lap. Alright, we only made the northern half of the lap in the canoe. The other half was done by car. Although we finally got started about 4pm, it was enough to get our arms loosened, the Indian J stroke learned, and our pace established for a current with rocks.

Home on Vacation

Posted in blog, travel with tags , , , , , , , on August 4, 2009 by tymora42

A couple Houston friends blew into town carrying a canoe on the top of a small sized SUV RAV4. It was quite a sight. What could I do, but neglect my blog to take them outdoors to play, and their little dog too. Now that they have gone as quick as they came, we all have headfulls of memories and adventures. Every day was nonstop action, so much that any moment could be a commercial clip for the latest Jason Statham movie. Alright, maybe not quite that much. Maybe a Nicholas Cage adventure romp. Maybe a National Treasure 3 subtitled the Secrets of Geronimo and filmed in Colorado. Since you missed most of it, I will give brief details by day here:

Day 1: Lost Leash

Hiked to the top of Lost Leash Mountain, not a very high altitude of about 9,000 feet. We started on the trail, but the peak loomed over us with a beckoning. Soon enough we were off trail blazing a path to the top. Every piece of the drastic scenery became overwhelming just in time for us to accomplish it. Even the dog had to be careful across the rock flow. It was supposed to be a short morning hike before breakfast, but it ended up being a day’s worth with a steady supply of granola bars and the promise of lunch when we got back. The last portion of the climb included a 50-60 degree incline straight up through the brush. The view from about a hundred feet from the apex made it all worth it. Unfortunately, the tippity was obscured by trees. Neither the mountain or the trail had a name. Seeing as which we were one of the few humans who had ever crested it, we named it by forgetting Scottie’s leash on an overlook during a bag change. Water was running low and the sky threatened rain with an inappropriate amount of thunder and lightning. Using guesswork we bushwacked it down the other side hoping to come across the actual trail. Again, that almost overwhelming sense prodded us forth toward accomplishment. At times in the wilderness there was a bit of bear fear. We scuffled around thick aspen groves and brush hoping not to stumble into predatory wildlife. The coyotes were getting braver and hungrier and abducting medium sized dogs straight from their owner’s backyards. What would stop them from taking us out of the forest? Finally, we made the civilized route down the hill. Just when we ran out of water and hit the road, the sky opened up onto us. Even the electricity failed for a minute while sitting in the garage drying off. That was when we realized we had left the leash.

The rain cleared to sun with enough daylight left over to check out town. I had errands. With a new canoe to the property I needed lifejackets and paddles. They needed backpacks and sleeping bags.

(con’t later)