Inspiration

Inspiration

Why I Trek

As we begin the countdown to our fifth European trekking adventure, I felt it was time to share my story of just why I’ve become so obsessed with walking. I feel extremely fortunate to have recognized the proper trail that would lead me through troubled times.

You never know who you’ll meet walking along the trail!

The door opened and he extended his hand, introducing himself. “Hello, I’m Dr. J. I can’t believe you are still walking!” I shook his hand and glanced over at Reg in stunned silence.

As Reg shook the hand of the neurosurgeon who would ultimately save my life, I tried to prepare myself for what was to come. Six months earlier, I had noticed numbness in the ends of two fingers on my left hand, and I soon found myself shuffled between a series of appointments and doctors. Days earlier I’d had an MRI of my cervical spine and had been told it revealed a tumor. I was about to learn just exactly what that meant. I suspected the news would not be good.

It was November of 2011. Reg and I studied my MRI on Dr. J.’s computer while he explained that my tumor, a fairly rare intramedullary ependymoma we would eventually learn, was located within my spinal cord and had grown large enough to begin restricting the flow of spinal fluid. That was causing the numbness and tingling, along with a host of other symptoms that I would eventually piece together.

“You will need surgery, he said. “It is not without risk. We will take every precaution, but there is a chance you will be left quadriplegic. It is also possible that you will not survive the surgery…but if we do nothing, the tumor will kill you.”

Three and a half weeks later, two weeks before Christmas, I was prepped for surgery. There was really no other choice. Ratcheting up my powers of positive thinking, I put my life in Dr. J.’s hands. I did tell him, in all honesty, that if I couldn’t walk out of the hospital, not to bother waking me up. The next thing I remember, I was in a hospital room bed with Reg by my side.

As I slowly became aware of my surroundings, Dr. J. hurried in and began touching my fingers. “Move this one, now this one.” When I wiggled each finger, as ordered, he turned to Reg and announced, “She will be fine.” And off he went.

While the diagnosis was devastating, the recovery was absolutely traumatizing. Surgery had been pretty much a complete success, but I hurt every time I moved. Two days later, I was sent home. I could walk but I couldn’t feel my feet. Sheets and pants felt like sandpaper dragged across my bare legs. My rib cage felt as though it had been wrapped with an elastic band, and both hands were numb and tingling. I felt as though a spike had been pounded down alongside my neck, a neck that sported an angry, red six-inch scar. All part of the recovery process I was told. My nerves had been traumatized and needed time to recover…and so did I!

A year and a half later, in 2013, Reg and I trekked Spain’s Camino de Santiago together. It was a walk of discovery and gratitude for us both. We had our individual reasons for tackling such a challenging feat. For me, walking is something I will never again take for granted. Reg and I have continued to trek the trails of Europe where we find both a sense of adventure and contentment.

While I’m left with a few lingering side effects from the surgery, I’ve learned not to complain. Some (most) days are better than others. When so much could have gone wrong, I will forever be in debt to, and in awe of Dr. J.’s skills. To keep trekking is the best way I know of acknowledging how incredibly thankful I am that he was able to save my life.

And that is why I trek.

Categories: Inspiration, South West Coast Path | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

We Have a Winner!

By just one vote, the evening view of Italy’s Poggio Bustone took the #1 spot in our 2018 Readers Choice awards.

Runner-up

The misty path leading to the Italian mountaintop borough of Monteluco was a close second.

A big Thank You to all of you who took the time to cast your vote and, in some cases, explain your choice. We always love your comments.

Surprisingly, nearly all our Top 10 picks received at least one vote. Our shot of the Coquille River Lighthouse, #9, remained a lonely outpost without so much as a mention.

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Readers Choice: There’s Still Time…

…to cast a vote for your favorite photo from our Top 10 list.

If you need to take another peek before deciding, click the link below and add your choice in the comments section. We’ll tally the votes and announce our Readers Choice winner Friday, December 21.

Vote now for the best photo.

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Cast Your Vote…

We want to hear from you.  Which of our top 10 photos is your favorite from 2018?  To cast your vote, choose your top pick from the photos below and enter the number in the comment section below.  

Deadline: Thursday, December 20.  We’ll publish results Friday.

Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

#1 – Favorite Photo Countdown 2018

An evening shot of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican easily took our favored number one spot.  It so perfectly reflects the sense of awe we felt upon completion of our 23-day, 258-mile walk through history along The Way of St. Francis.

Runner-up

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi stands out against dramatic skies.
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#2 – Favorite Photo Countdown 2018

The Italian village of Poggio Bustone spills down the mountainside, even more charming in the evening light.

Runner-up

A modern underground escalator carries visitors uphill to a variety of ancient sites and endless views in Spoleto, Italy.  
Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

#3 – Favorite Photo Countdown 2018

A mystical, magical scene greeted us as we approached Monteluco.  Perched high above the Italian city of Spoleto, the climb was just the beginning of our longest and most challenging day of walking The Way of St. Francis.

Runner-up

Our morning continued through the misty Sacred Woods of Monteluco, eventually climbing up and out of the cloud cover…only to face 2,200 feet of treacherous descent.
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#4 – Favorite Photo Countdown 2018

This scene, from Italy’s The Way of St. Francis, depicts an irresistible example of the simplicity and beauty we find when distance hiking.

Runner-up

This scene from Bandon, Oregon was a close second because…who doesn’t love a stroll on the beach under a clear blue sky?
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#5 – Favorite Photo Countdown 2018

An evening walk from our campsite at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park revealed a colorful view of this hardworking sliver of Oregon history.

Runner-up

 From atop the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, and after a 231-step climb, sightseers are rewarded with a birdseye view of Vatican City and Rome, Italy.
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#6 – Favorite Photo Countdown 2018

The colors splashed across Oregon’s Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument took our breath away.

Runner-up

A contrasting landscape of color and vegetation greeted us from an Italian mountaintop.
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