Huts for Vets: Counting Down the Days

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New shoes for my hiking adventure.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Things are going well on my end. I received my Huts for Vets reading packet maybe two weeks ago or so and with my readings complete, I am one step closer to this new adventure.

I was asked recently, why participate now?

I learned of Huts for Vets last year and as intriguing as it sounded, I knew 2017 wasn’t the right opportunity for me. There were some planned and unexpected events in my life going on around that time and I wasn’t sure the timing was right. This year, I had less obstacles in my way and I realized I didn’t want to say ‘no’ this time and come to regret it.

I follow Kirstie Ennis on Instagram and through watching her journey (She is a Marine OEF veteran with an above the knee amputation whose recovery has entailed numerous surgeries and setbacks.) I’ve been struck by the way I embrace challenges with a lot more hesitation. While I don’t desire to climb mountains (literally) the way she does, she inspires me to question my hesitation to step outside my comfort zone.

I love writing and there is a certain freedom to throw my heart and emotions out there behind the scenes, but I have a hard time in-person being the center of attention, even in group settings. I often feel challenged with the fact I don’t have a more substantial amount of time to pull together my thoughts in front of others. I don’t want my words taken out of context or to feel like I don’t hold my own in the group. Public speaking is not my forte; thankfully though, any discussions we have during the Huts for Vets are to be kept private. For this reason, I am more willing to go out there and take up this new challenge.

Although I’ve done hikes with my units in the Marine Corps, I haven’t hiked at elevation or combined a hiking experience with a literature discussion. 

For me, there are two big pieces worth talking about prior to this journey: physical preparation and packing.

On September 24th, 2016, my family and I were involved in a five car pile up here in Arizona. I am grateful we were the fourth of the five vehicles, but this incident is a good reminder of why my service trauma is something to work on.

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My view after we moved off to the shoulder and waited for assistance.
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The vehicle on the far left of the photo is the one we hit.
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The object on the ground used to be the rear windshield of the first vehicle hit.
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Close-up of the driver’s vehicle that started the pile up

I heard the sudden impact and tensed up prior to our car being hit by the vehicle behind us. My husband and daughter were more relaxed so thankfully they did not have any lasting issues from the car accident. I’m not surprised I tensed up; after dealing with mortar attacks on deployment, I find myself still unsettled by sudden unexpected noises.

My response during the impact has left with my back pain that continues to this day. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a pity me post.) It is improving, but it’s been a bit of a journey to get to where I am today. I had a lot of soreness the first week and fire-like pain throughout my back. The issue was made worse when I tried to carry my daypack with my laptop from the parking garage at ASU just south of my old office. Sitting or standing for long hours drove me nuts because it would exacerbate the back pain.

While I looked to resolve the issue without medical assistance, I started physical therapy November 2016 and it continued into December. January 2017 I started working out again but I lost of a lot of strength I had prior to the accident since I wasn’t working out. I was happy I could resume working out but it has been a process to monitor my actions. I still dealt with back pain every day and I was pretty concerned it might be something I was left with for the rest of my life (not so sound dramatic).

Earlier this year, I spoke to my nurse practioner about how a lot of the things I do to cope with my deployment-related anxiety are helping, but my back pain wasn’t resolving on its own. She recommended a chiropractor to me and I discussed with him my goal of completing this hiking trip with Huts for Vets. I knew it might not be realistic for it to be gone prior to the trip, but I was willing to try chiropractic visits to see if it helped.

I’m at the point now where I only go in once every two weeks. The back pain is no longer throughout my whole back and easily over the last month it has gone down from every other day to every few days. Today’s a bit of an exception since I started carrying boots and a 2.5 lb. weight in my pack to test out carrying some gear. I took some Tylenol earlier today and it brought the pain back down, so I added 9 assisted pull-ups into my “workout routine” across my 15 minute morning and afternoon breaks during my work shift.

Aside from getting my back pain under control for the trip, I also had the necessary task of acquiring hiking gear.

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My new hiking boots were the single most expensive item. I picked up a pair of Oboz waterproof boots for $150 at REI. (NOTE: This post is not sponsored by anyone; I just thought others might inquire so I decided to share some details of what I purchased.) My husband thought with my ankle issues a mid-height shoe would work better and since the packing discusses it being a wet area, we opted to spend more for a waterproof shoe.

Most of my wardrobe is cotton-based fabrics so I picked up some performance fabric shirts on sale from Eddie Bauer and some items from REI. In particular, I love that REI has convertible pants in petite sizes. My main objective with the purchases was to find things good enough for hiking that I could incorporate into my everyday wardrobe as well so they didn’t sit in my closet like unused ball gowns.

I was most set with socks. My husband and I are part of Nocking Point’s Wine Club and thankfully some of the boxes come with great Strideline socks. I had hopes I would still have some Smartwool mid crew hiking socks from my two deployments, but I didn’t. I think I may have given them away to family members that live in Wyoming because those socks really hold up.

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Anyways, aside from my love of the Strideline socks, there are a few other practical things I am bringing with me. I like that these items are a bit better for the environment and should make TSA checks easier at the airport. (I’m all for easier times flying.)

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I’ll get you all updated as we get closer to the trip. My goal is to fit everything between an Osprey hydration pack and a small Osprey carry-on. I will not be bringing along a personal tent as I’m sure at the end of the day my back will feel better if I sleep in a real bed.

If you want to learn more about Huts for Vets, check them out here.

 

 

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