By Steve White
contributing writer 

More tales with my pal

Life with Pepe


January 30, 2021

Jack Sann

Steve White and Pepe.

As Pepe and I adjusted early last summer to the challenge of improving our ability to go walkabout for more than just an around the block exercise, I began planning a PCT hike point-to-point on the two nearby PCT Trailheads: Willow Springs Road to Hwy 58 - a distance of about eight-trail miles. With elevation changes and uneven terrain that would require major adjustments to our everyday flatland walkabouts. We would make the hike being prepared for an overnight camp just in case. Then contacting Kern County Transit for a bus pickup at the Hwy 58 and Cameron Road exit, the northern end of our PCT hike, for transportation back to town.

The big pre-hike test would be to walk from our home to Old Town Tehachapi and return - a distance of about 10-miles round trip. The entire route is served by Kern County Dial-A-Ride. With their phone number programmed into my cell phone we headed out early on the morning of September 1.

With breaks for Pepe to check each fire hydrant for proper installation, stopping for a bite of GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts); and a few rest stops, our hiking pace averages about two mph. I packed a sack lunch for both of us and planned for an all day hike to Old Town Tehachapi and back.

Things went well from the start. However, after the first mile, I was breathing hard and very tired. We stopped to rest and, fearful of another Pulmonary Embolism flare up, I made the decision to return home. Something was wrong in my lungs. I was already breathing hard and had difficulty getting my breath.

After six-weeks of testing and special medications the doctors figured out it was the heavily polluted air from the wildfire smoke and ash that were impacting my lungs. I built three-hepa air filter systems for my home using inexpensive Walmart box fans. I removed the protective screens to promote better air flow. Then attached a pollutant removal furnace filter from Home Depot to the outlet side with duct tape. It worked! For less than $100 bucks I improved the air in my home enough that I could breathe easily and lead an almost normal life. I constantly monitored the local Air Quality Index on the internet. We would go outside only when the AQI was less than 50.

This year has started out okay for me health wise, now that the wildfire polluted air has cleared. Considering my compromised breathing system – and age – I've figure out how to live with the threat of COVID-19. I've also adjusted to the obvious fact that "this bug" is going to be around for a very long time.

The current thought seems to be that getting outside and exercising while maintaining social distancing is more beneficial to our society than forcing us to stay inside. How to do that, without contact with others?

With the quarantine measures that include not leaving the house for anything but exercise, walking the dog, emergencies, medical necessaries and special needs, several buzz words are common in our vocabulary: SIP, personal and social separation and isolation are a few. I have an obligation to abide by those measures.

Now that I'm stuck at home this winter, I'm doing some additional daydreaming about day hike planning for 2021. Including Pepe in those plans has been challenging. Especially since I'm considering our "adventures" will each include two or three overnights. The COVID-19 situation is changing too rapidly to justify planning a trip longer than two or three days.

I'm looking to the 2021 "hiking/walkabout" season with the thought that I've got a little extra time to build my strength. I can do that with local "flatland" hikes by planning nearby trips this winter that will not put me in a position to impact others.

Ultimately, what I'm planning is caution and unselfish behavior, balanced with the realization that "isolation" and "SIP" doesn't necessarily mean "indoors." A few days of backpacking will probably replenish and re-balance me in a way that's particularly important during this pandemic. I am hopeful that I can make that happen, in a way that doesn't endanger others.


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