TheBigOutside Blog

Michael Lanza, creator of TheBigOutside.com and Northwest Editor of Backpacker Magazine, writes about hiking, backpacking, climbing, backcountry skiing, paddling and other self-powered outdoor adventures

Zion, wildflowers, and life as the limping wounded

In a cool wind and warm sunshine in early October last year, we started backpacking from the Lee Pass Trailhead in the Kolob Canyons section of Utah’s Zion National Park. We spent four glorious days hiking below soaring red and orange cliffs, and along Zion’s West Rim Trail, overlooking an endless labyrinth of beehive formations and white-walled slot canyons, finishing with a downhill walk into Zion Canyon.

Zion can seem like a tourist zoo, it’s so hugely popular. But that traffic’s concentrated in Zion Canyon (and managed so much better since the park banned private cars from upper Zion Canyon and put its free shuttle-bus system in place several years ago). Get into the backcountry and, as in most parks, you lose the crowds. This is the prime time of year for hiking in the Southwest, and the north-south traverse of the Zion backcountry is one of the most spectacular multi-day hikes in the national park system. Check out the story, photo gallery, and video to see for yourself.

* * *

Nursing multiple recreational war wounds isn’t fun. But on a day-to-day basis, sometimes the hardest thing is figuring out what position to sleep in.

Last week I added a badly sprained ankle, suffered on a trail run, to my disturbingly full list of physical ailments. I’ve been actively working on making that list shorter, not longer; but as they say, life is what happens while you’re making other plans.

So after icing my right foot for a few hours post-sprain, which went far toward reducing the pain and the purple golf-ball-size lump on the side of my foot, I went to bed for the “rest” part of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). That’s when things got complicated.

I placed a pillow at my feet to keep the sprain elevated. But keeping my foot on that pillow wasn’t easy. I sleep on one side or the other because of ancient lower-back discomfort that prevents me lying comfortably for very long on my stomach or back. For that reason, and to avoid stiffness in my left iliotibial (I.T.) band, which has plagued me on and off for several years, I also sleep with a pillow between my knees. Lately, on the advice of a physical therapist I’m seeing for various tendon issues in my right elbow, I’ve been sleeping with that arm extended to prevent stiffness in the elbow when I wake up.

Between my multiple, strategically placed pillows and having to arrange my various injured parts just so, I’m feeling a little like a character in a bad sitcom, lying in a hospital bed with my busted limbs suspended above my body by cables and pulleys.

During the day, appointments crowd my schedule—getting my back adjusted by an osteopathic physician, seeing a physical therapist to receive ASTYM therapy for my elbow. At home, I’m hobbling to the freezer several times a day for a fresh ice pack for my ankle, keeping it either on ice and elevated or under compression and elevated for most of each day. I’m also eating ibuprofen the way my kids eat M&Ms, for both the ankle and the occasional post-ASTYM treatment achiness (which is normal; see my Sept. 23 blog for an explanation of ASTYM).

Managing injury is a part-time job that doesn’t pay well.

The good news is: My back felt really good after the first adjustment. I’m seeing great progress toward healing my three-year-old elbow injury. The all-day, alternating ice-and-compression strategy has worked great; I’m walking significantly better on my sprain every day.

The bad news: I’m also older every day. There’s still no physical therapy for that.

* * *

From a rainy spring in the Boise Foothills near my home, to the City of Rocks, the Presidential Range, Glacier Bay, Mt. Rainier, and Glacier National Park, 2010 was a great year for wildflowers. Check out two dozen of the best wildflower shots I got this year in this photo gallery, which includes the image below of prickly-pear cactus flowers in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, and my tips on taking better wildflower images.

 

 

Prickly-pear cactus flowers, City of Rocks, Idaho

 

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In a cool wind and warm sunshine in early October last year, we started backpacking from the Lee Pass Trailhead in the Kolob Canyons section of Utah’s Zion National Park. We spent four glorious days hiking below soaring red and orange cliffs, and along Zion’s West Rim Trail, overlooking an endless labyrinth of beehive formations and white-walled slot canyons, finishing with a downhill walk into Zion Canyon.

Text Box: La Verkin Creek, Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park Zion can seem like a tourist zoo, it’s so hugely popular. But that traffic’s concentrated in Zion Canyon (and managed so much better since the park banned private cars from upper Zion Canyon and put its free shuttle-bus system in place several years ago). Get into the backcountry and, as in most parks, you lose the crowds. This is the prime time of year for hiking in the Southwest, and the north-south traverse of the Zion backcountry is one of the most spectacular multi-day hikes in the national park system. Check out the story, photo gallery, and video to see for yourself.

 

* * *

 

Nursing multiple recreational war wounds isn’t fun. But on a day-to-day basis, sometimes the hardest thing is figuring out what position to sleep in.

Last week I added a badly sprained ankle, suffered on a trail run, to my disturbingly full list of physical ailments. I’ve been actively working on making that list shorter, not longer; but as they say, life is what happens while you’re making other plans.

So after icing my right foot for a few hours post-sprain, which went far toward reducing the pain and the purple golf-ball-size lump on the side of my foot, I went to bed for the “rest” part of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). That’s when things got complicated.

I placed a pillow at my feet to keep the sprain elevated. But keeping my foot on that pillow wasn’t easy. I sleep on one side or the other because of ancient lower-back discomfort that prevents me lying comfortably for very long on my stomach or back. For that reason, and to avoid stiffness in my left iliotibial (I.T.) band, which has plagued me on and off for several years, I also sleep with a pillow between my knees. Lately, on the advice of a physical therapist I’m seeing for various tendon issues in my right elbow, I’ve been sleeping with that arm extended to prevent stiffness in the elbow when I wake up.

Between my multiple, strategically placed pillows and having to arrange my various injured parts just so, I’m feeling a little like a character in a bad sitcom, lying in a hospital bed with my busted limbs suspended above my body by cables and pulleys.

During the day, appointments crowd my schedule—getting my back adjusted by an osteopathic physician, seeing a physical therapist to receive ASTYM therapy for my elbow. At home, I’m hobbling to the freezer several times a day for a fresh ice pack for my ankle, keeping it either on ice and elevated or under compression and elevated for most of each day. I’m also eating ibuprofen the way my kids eat M&Ms, for both the ankle and the occasional post-ASTYM treatment achiness (which is normal; see my Sept. 23 blog for an explanation of ASTYM).

Managing injury is a part-time job that doesn’t pay well.

The good news is: My back felt really good after the first adjustment. I’m seeing great progress toward healing my three-year-old elbow injury. The all-day, alternating ice-and-compression strategy has worked great; I’m walking significantly better on my sprain every day.

The bad news: I’m also older every day. There’s still no physical therapy for that.

 

* * *

 

From a rainy spring in the Boise Foothills near my home, to the City of Rocks, the Presidential Range, Glacier Bay, Mt. Rainier, and Glacier National Park, 2010 was a great year for wildflowers. Check out two dozen of the best wildflower shots I got this year in this photo gallery, which includes the image at left of prickly-pear cactus flowers in Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, and my tips on taking better wildflower images.

 

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1 Comment»

  Jo Ann wrote @

I feel your pain, Mike. Last month I was on a multi-day horse trek in Banff National Park when I sprained my ankle en route to the outhouse. You think elevating your ankle is difficult in bed? Try doing it on a horse! Plus, where do you get ice in the forest in September? Heavy doses of Naproxin along with hanging onto to the saddle horn for a couple of days got me through until I could put some weight on my foot in the stirrup. Just one more injury to add to a never-ending list.


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