Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.


YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.

Dan and Hannah Hike the McMenemy Trail in Montecito, California – February 2022

On a mid-February morning, Hannah and I return to the San Ysidro Trailhead just ten miles from the condo in Carpinteria where we escape the dark and cold of New England (2022).

Hannah at the trailhead. The turn for the McMenemy Trail is in a half mile.
We will go 0.5 of a mile on the San Ysidro Trail, turn left on the McMenemy Trail, a right onto the Girard Trail, return via the Catway to the San Ysidro Trail (partially obscured).
San Ysidro Trail through mansions of Montecito

For the first half mile, we hike along the San Ysidro Creek as if we were heading to the San Ysidro waterfalls.

But no! This morning we turn left crossing the creek to the clearly marked McMenemy Trail. 

The McMenemy Trail veers left off the fire road to the San Ysidro falls

The rocky, sandstone-y trail is a workout as we climb above the uber-wealthy village of Montecito (Oprah and Ellen wealthy).  Fortunately the trail builders have built switchbacks into the mountainside which makes for an enjoyable climb. 

The McMenemy Trail along an estate in Montecito
Parched trailed in drought-stricken Santa Barbara County (2022)
Ever-sunny Hannah on the ever-sunny trail

We soon have views into the San Ysidro Canyon, up to the towering Santa Ynez coastal mountains, and then out to the Channel Islands of the Pacific Ocean.  Strong winds are blowing out whatever smog has settled in after a winter weekend near 80F.

Looking out to the coastal low lands with the Pacific in the distance

One point four miles in (I can be so precise because our Strava app gives us mileage to the one hundredth of a mile), we have the Colonel Logan McMenemy Bench looking to the Pacific.

At this point, we climb single file further up a still rocky, gravelly, pebbly Girard Trail into the mountains.

Climbing further into the Front Range (coastal mountains)
Girard Trail to the Catway

At the two mile point in our hike (actually 1.99 by Strava), we meet the Edison Catway.  Catway?  I first think mountain cats (i.e. lions).  Then it dawns on me that the cat- of catamounts is a possibly origin of catway.  Whatever its origins, it’s a fire road that narrows to a single track.  Though there is nary a cat, we have a quite steep track of pebbly sandstone. It’s nothing as slippery as our recent hiking descent on the West Fork of the Cold Spring Trail from Gibraltar Road back down the mountain.  Click here for that blog with pictures of that descent.

The descent on the Catway

At 2.71 miles into our hike (gotta love our Strava hiking app), we have the steady downhill on the San Ysidro Trail that is just so suitable for easy walking and talking.

It’s an enjoyable hour and a half in the Front Country of Santa Barbara into our sixth week in California without a bit of rain. I mean zero. And that is not a good thing, even for us winter sunbirds. If I could, each week I’d give up a full day of sunshine for a day of rain to help out the locals. You gotta be thinking, he’s a helluva guy.

Ah, shucks.

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week – #90

Live in the present. Do things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold.

Peace Pilgrim, 1908-1981

born Mildred Lisette Norman, was an American spiritual teacher, mystic, pacifist, vegetarian activist and peace activist. In 1952, she became the first woman to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season. 

BTW – The Jimmy Fund Walk is in four days (October 2, 2022). It seems Hurricane Ian will not mess with the 10K walk I will do with our grandsons, Owen (10) and Max (8). Thanks to all who donated to my walk. I raised $5020!

Dan Writing a Letter to SOMETHING that he has lost– KGUA #99

For the September 26, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt:   

Write a letter to SOMETHING you have lost

Dear Titleist 3, an extraordinary golf ball,

I do apologize for you spending the coming winter, and possibly eternity, at the bottom of the pond guarding the sixth hole at the Amesbury Country Club (Massachusetts).  Honestly, you can’t be surprised that you ended up in the murky deep.  You’ve seen me play. 

Here are the facts.  Living in New England, I play sparingly and only in the summer.  I don’t practice at all so I have no grounds to complain about bad shots.  Fact is, I don’t have the time or the interest to practice.  To keep things enjoyable, I don’t keep score.  I want to hit a few good golf shots, enjoy time with our kids on the course.  As such, I take the good with the bad and the ugly.

So, what can I do about your situation?  Hear me out.  You may not know this, but our grandsons, Owen and Max, are handy with my telegraphing ball scooper.  They have walked the nine holes of the Amesbury course often during the Covid years.  Deftly, they have scooped out golf balls from various water hazards.  They will be your salvation.

In the meantime, enjoy the peace and quiet down in the muck.  Relax, enjoy the occasional frog and minnow that you see.  Get your rest.  On the plus side, you’ll have a break from being smacked around by my wildly unpredictable golf swing.

Begging your forgiveness, your golfing pal,   Dan

Words – 238

Dan and Hannah Hike Romero Canyon in Montecito, California – February 2022

Though Carpinteria has but one trail into the mountains (the popular Franklin Trail. click here for that 2022 blog), nearby Montecito has many.  This morning we drive ten miles from our condo, and eventually up Romero Canyon Road to “Road Closed” signs.  We are not surprised as the bridge at the trailhead has been washed out regularly since we began coming here in 2017.  Heavy rains and debris flows are the culprits.

That’s a strong “no” to vehicles but not to hikers looking for the Romero Canyon trailhead.

Walking closer to the trailhead of Romero Canyon (February 2022)

This morning the Santa Barbara Highway Department is not making it easy for us to get to the trailhead.

Where there is a will there’s a way and we found the way up the side of the mountain to the left around the chain link fence

We cross a little dry creek bed crossing around the massive culvert

Undeterred, we make it the trailhead for our two-mile hike up the canyon itself and then switchbacking up the mountainside to Old Romero Road.

The “trail” begins on a wide fire road of gravelly and pebbly rocks amid larger angular ones.  In fact, it’s charmless.  But wait, it gets better.  After a half mile of the fire road, we cross the creek and take the trail left into the mountains, not the fire road up to the right towards the ocean views.

The single file trail left into the Santa Ynez Mountains of Montecito

The dirt, sharp rock trail follows above the Romero Creek.  At times, we are thirty feet above the creek bed, hiking within feet of the steep cliffs  but never do we feel in peril.  Well, never do I feel in peril. Hannah? On such trails, Hannah walks close to the mountainside, memories of her fall down such a cliff five years at the next canyon over. (Click here for that fateful San Ysidro blog.)

The trail is mostly shaded and for a mile we follow the creek easily fording it as we steadily climb.  It’s a good workout with nearly 1400’ of elevation gain to the Old Romero Road.

The size of rock that tumbled down this canyon in January 2018 when 23 Montecito residents died

After a mile and a half on the trail, we cross the Romero Creek for the last time and head into the mountains towards the Old Romero Road.  The trail is more dirt than rocks and switchbacks make the climb enjoyable.

Creek crossing
Precious water in an area that has not got close to its 16″ average annual rainfall in years!
Our turn around point but the trails into the mountains continue

All of sudden, we are at junction of the Old Romero Road, our turn around point after an hour of hiking.  Lunching on pbj and pb for Hannah, we cool our jets trailside pleased with an hour of California coastal hiking.

Looking back towards the Pacific Ocean

On the way down, we come to a creek crossing as another couple approaches from the opposite side.  The husband calls out “Go ahead.”   I smile and say, “You must be Canadians!”  That gets just the reaction I want (i.e. laughter, but laughter of truth!) and sets us four up for a moment on the trail.

Descending the Romero Canyon Trail

We learn that they are, in fact, from Kentucky.  We talk about trails that they have hiked and learn that finding housing for two months in the Santa Barbara area has been a challenge for them.  It seems people are coming to California in the winter of 2022 to work remotely. 

Unprompted, she brings up that they are from the “blue” city of Lexington, Kentucky.  I quickly let them know that we are from the blue coastal part of Maine and come to California to be with kindred spirits for two months in the winter.

We smile all the way back to the trailhead.  Kentucky? Who knew? Blue!

Dan and What Story Do You Want to Write? – KGUA #98

For the September 19, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt:   

What Story Do You Want to Write?

It’s a mind-blowing story about an old dog learning new tricks.  And that old dog would be me!

I am in the process of making two companion changes of perspective that will bring new joy to my life by making a 180 degree turn for the good. They may just blow your mind as they do mine!

The first is, out of the blue our pickleball with Fran and Steve gets cancelled.  Not a big deal, but our weekly pickleball, then beers is something that I enjoy immensely.  Rather than bemoaning that we won’t be playing, I quickly pivot to wondering what good thing will take its place. As you can imagine, it will blow my mind.

Two, our local friends, Tree and Scott, are moving back to California.  While they have been here this summer, we’ve had regular coffee at McDonald’s and a celebratory dinner before they left.  I’ll miss them, but in no time soon I won’t.  I’ll focus on the good times and our conversations as old friends.  I look forward to their return but won’t focus on missing with them.  Another 180 degree switcheroo.  By focusing on the abundance of our relationship not the lack at this particular time, I’ll blow my mind again!

I am a work-in-progress as I…blow…my…mind. Care to join me?

Words – 185

You might enjoy this legendary story from the Land of Tao.

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for what they called his “misfortune.”

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Dan and Hannah Scale the Beehive Trail Cliffs at Acadia National Park (2022)

What were we thinking?  We’ve lived in Maine for forty years for goodness sakes. We know that the summer season is wall to wall tourists. Still, we are surprised by all the post-Labor Day traffic and people in Acadia National Park this Monday in September.  Let me explain. 

212 miles in 3.5 hours

Up before dawn, Hannah and I travel north on the Maine Turnpike by six AM planning a coffee stop at the McDonald’s in Ellsworth three hours away.  Once properly caffeinated, we take the Park Loop Road towards the trailhead of the Beehive Trail.  That’s not so simple as this is also the parking area for uber-popular Sand Beach and Thunder Hole.  Houston, we have a parking problem at 10:30 AM. 

Parking in one lane of the two-lane, one way Park Loop Road. The Ocean Path for pedestrians is to the right.

Fortunately, the park is ready for crowds.  We eventually find a spot 0.3 of a mile from the trailhead, actually in one of the two lanes of this one-way road.  Simply walking down the Ocean Path that parallels the Park Loop Road, we see where many are massing at the trailhead to for Beehive Trail

Non-descript trailhead marker for the Beehive Trail

We follow the crowd, at times scooting past the “old folks,” and by that I mean people slightly younger than our 74 years.  

The Beehive Trail begins; it is exposed bedrock most of the way

Then very shortly there’s the trail junction.  For senior travel groups, such as Roads Scholars, and families with kids there’s a side trail left around the mountain.  And then there’s the cliffs of the mountainside for the Big Boys and Girls.

Fair warning at the Beehive Trail junction

Though I have scaled this mountain before with my friend, the Canadian Bill Buggie, this is Hannah’s first assault.  Since she has hiked the Precipice Trail here in Acadia, and by the way an even more challenging scaling of a mountain cliff, Hannah is good to go.  Click here for the thrilling Precipice Trail that we climbed three years ago.

Part of the well-marked, vertical blue blaze Beehive Trail

Never fear, the metal rungs are securely placed in the rock mountainside on the Beehive Trail.  It seems that any time we need a rung, there is one. 

Spectacular views to Sand Beach and the Great Head peninsula from the Beehive Trail

And we climb on.

Without these rungs the Beehive Trail is unclimbable
There seems to always be a rung when you need it
Hannah on the ledge with Sand Beach in the distance
Hannah taking to one of the many helpful rungs to the top

And all of a sudden there are no more rungs and we are on terra firma.  

We never saw anyone climb back down the rungs of the Beehive Cliffs and I wouldn’t recommend it.  If you are afraid of heights or out of shape, this is not the trail for you. 

Once at the top, I immediately think that our agile and motivated ten-year old grandson Owen could scale this mountainside, possibly his athletic eight-year old brother Max, if he were so inclined.  It is far easier than the Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park that the boys and their parents will encounter next April 2023 with us.  Stay tuned.

On the mountaintop

Once at the top, we take the mountaintop  trail to the Bowl, a mountain tarn.

The Bowl where I show my loyalty to St Joe’s College of Maine athletics and the Jimmy Fund.

Later we climb towards Gorham Mountain to complete our four-mile hiking loop,

As we approach Gorham Mountain, we look back on the Beehive Trail cliff
A mellow walk in the woods to Gorham Mountain
The Ocean Path paralleling the Park Loop Road back to our 2016 Prius

We cross over the Park Loop Road back to the Ocean Path to our parked car 0.7 of a mile away after two and a half hours hiking in paradise.

Leaving Bar Harbor, we see this sign on Route 3 near Ellsworth

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week – #88 – RLS!

Sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 – 1894,

a Scottish novelist, essayist, poet and travel writer. He is best known for works such as Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped. He died a kid just after his 44th birthday!

My two cents about the quote and why I picked it: I think RLS meant that in the end we will all have to deal with the consequences of our actions. I liked the word “banquet.” What do you think?

Dan and What’s Next? – KGUA #97

For the September 12, 2022 KGUA Radio Writer’s Hour hosted by Peggy Berryhill and Mark Gross, we are asked to freewrite to the following prompt:   

What’s Next?

In reverse order:

When I transition from this world to the Great Beyond, it will be by green burial.  You know, not using any chemicals as is done with embalming or add to pollution with cremation.  Just a wooden box in a quiet piece of Maine ruralness.  Or I’ll donate my body to the University of New England Med School for use by the next generation of doctors.

I’m thinking/hoping/begging that I’ll make it healthy into my 90s. I got a shot since both my parents lived into their 90s.  I also am reasonably active, talk to strangers when we hike, spend money on experiences, make relationships a priority, don’t weigh myself, say no a little more often, and spend winters in the Land of Eternal Youth – California.

Prior to my graceful exit, I will fight by tooth and nail, with hammer and claw, with every fiber of my being to stay in our home of 40+ years on Chases Pond Road during our sunset years.  Whether this is a prudent choice remains to be seen.  I’m not claiming it is.  Not that there is anything wrong with elderly communal living.  My parents had ten of the best years of their lives at the Cedar Crest Senior Living Community in northern New Jersey.  It’s just not for me.

As for between now and then, it’s travel.  Since I just don’t know how long I’ll be healthy enough to travel, it’s no time like the present.   My parents traveled the world until they couldn’t.  I mean Indonesia, the Middle East, Peru, Russia, China.  The world!  My travel will be United States-centric, notably California and the Mountain States.  I am fortunate that I currently have three things going for me: enough resources, continued good health, and the love of a good woman.

Words – 290

Dan and Hannah Hike to the Meadow Rock of the Rattlesnake Trail in Santa Barbara – January 2022

Driving north from Carpinteria on The 101, we exit at Salinas Road in Santa Barbara and weave our among the seven- and eight-figure homes into the hills.  Returning to a favorite hike of ours, Hannah and I have a rare overcast day for our trail hiking. You see, we are ending our first winter month in California and have had, to paraphrase Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, sun, sun, sun… but alas we have no T-Bird.

On the last Monday in January 2022 we park at Skofield Park with a few others.

Two hundred yards to the trailhead on what passes for a chilly winter morning in Santa Barbara
The trailhead begins with the creek to the right
Thanks to December rains there is some flowing water.
Hannah leads as we head to the distant mountains
The sandstone trail is easy on our feet
Hannah is as much fun on the trail as this picture suggests.

Hiking along the Rattlesnake Creek with its boulders and rock strewn sandstone trail, we very quickly passed by an athletic twenty-something woman who smiles our way.  I ask Hannah what is the first thing you think of when you see her?  Ever the wit, Hannah says, Where is her dog?  OMG, there are dogs everywhere in our part of California.

I think, Great parenting.  Let me explain. Here is a young woman hiking on her own on this challenging trail.  It’s not a stretch to think that her parents let her know that there are many things that she can do with her life.  That she is much more than a pretty face.  She’s out her proving that!  Job well done, mom and dad, wherever you are.

Rattlesnake Creek

At the half mile point of the trail, watch out.  There is a seductive spur trail to our right.  Don’t take it unless you like high-wire hiking and gravelly trails on steep cliffs.  Two years ago, Hannah and I hiked to the Rattlesnake Meadow with Molly’s family, including then five-year-old Max and seven-year-old Owen.  Inadvertently, I took them up this sometimes, harrowing cliff hanging trail.  Click here for that February 2020 adventure.

The shady, well-maintained, relatively easy, gentle trail that we take is why the Rattlesnake Trail has the reputation as the most popular trail in Santa Barbara.

Doesn’t this trail look like it makes for happy feet!
Joy on the trail

Bear left, for a steady climb along the creek bed along trails of green grasses and verdant bushes thanks to December’s rain.  We pass three fit women about our age coming down from the meadow joyful in their hiking success and long-term friendships.  Yes, I’m just guessing, but I have a sense about people of a certain age. They mentioned they touched the meadow rock before descending.  We have a new goal!

After two miles we come to the meadow!

Thanks to the December rains our meadow is lush

Nearly two miles into our hike, we arrive at the meadow to celebrate our hour on the trail with peanut butter and jam sandwiches (no jam for Hannah) on a cool winter day in the upper fifties on the central coast of California.

The aforementioned meadow rock

On the way down the hill I guip to hikers, No rattlesnakes today.  It gets just the reaction I am hoping for – laughter.  Could it be that the rattlers in winter are sleeping off all the mice and chipmunks they’ve eaten in the past year and only in the warmth of the summer sun will they return to the trail?

Two hours after first leaving the trailhead we are strolling to our rental Nissan Sentra, pleased with another “excellent”  hike in the Front Country of Santa Barbara.  

We turn left to head for home.