Let The Hospital Stay Begin…

…July 23, 2011… (Continued from Part .5)

When the sixty year old man had finished his story, the forty-ish balding nurse stood in silence for a few moments, gazing in admiration. Or was he staring at the clock wondering if the tale had finally ended, or if the sixty year old man was just taking a breath (his first in the telling of the saga) and would continue his story?

Who knows?  Whichever the case may be, he made sure the telling was over because he completed his “paperwork” and called for transportation to a treatment room. 

The journey from the “check-in” area to the treatment room was rather boring, so Man of Action started telling his tale, again, to the orderly pushing the gurney. He was interrupted about every fifth word by with word “Si” coming from the orderly. Apparently, the gentleman either didn’t speak English, or he was warned not to let me think he did, by the forty-ish balding nurse. 

So I just shut up for the balance of the trip.

Once in the treatment room, I was left alone for a few minutes to contemplate my situation. Actually, my condition didn’t seem so bad at the moment, in light of what I could see through the crack the door to the hallway…

There was a foot occupying the end of a gurney just outside the door. On the foot was a big toe. On the big toe was a big toe nail. The unfortunate part of that was that the nail was positioned at a ninety degree angle from the toe. 

Warning: This will make you say “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee“. If you are OK with saying “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee” , click here to see a pho-toe of a toe that looks very similar to the one I had to look at for thirty minutes before anybody came in and shut the door all the way.

Fortunately, when someone did come into the room, one of them was Judy. 

Unfortunately, the other one was a young nurse.

Normally, that wouldn’t bother me too much except that she had something  ominous looking with her. She called it a Foley Catheter. 

I knew what a Foley was – it was a guy with the first name of Terry with whom I graduated from high school. I had no problem with that. 

My problem was with the “Catheter” part of the equation. I also knew what that was…

Warning: This will make you say “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee“. If you are OK with saying “owee-ooh-ee-ooh-ooh-oweezowee” , click here to see a photo of what, if you are a guy, at least, you never want to tangle with. 

I couldn’t think of anything to say so I said, “what’s that for? “

She responded, “Well, we have to give you a way to eliminate waste from your body.”

I said, “Oh.”

Then, neither one of us said anything for a minute or so. We just looked at each other. Then I looked at Judy. Judy looked at me. The nurse looked at Judy. Judy looked at the nurse. A doctor came into the room. We all looked at the doctor. The doctor looked at the nurse. The doctor looked at Judy. The doctor looked at me.

The doctor said, “Excuse me. Wrong room,” and left.

I looked at Judy. Judy looked at the nurse. The nurse looked at me.

I looked at the nurse and said, “I don’t suppose that thing goes down my throat while I’m under anesthesia, does it?”

The nurse said, “No.”

I said, “Oh.”

The nurse said, “This is going to hurt a bit.”

I said, “How much is a bit?”

The nurse said, “It has been compared to what a woman feels during childbirth.” She continued, “if you are ready, I’ll start.”

Judy grabbed my hand and said , “Breathe.”

The nurse began the procedure. 

I said, in my most primal screaming voice, “COWABUNGAHHHHHHHHH!!*$#@!”, and turned to Judy, gritted my teeth, looked her straight in the eye and screeched, “YOU DID THIS TO ME!”

Then everybody started laughing. Like it was funny or something…

I, on the other hand, was just wondering if they could just tear my toenail back ninety degrees and call it a day…


Click here to go to the next installment, part .7

This is part .6. If you would like to catch up, I would suggest starting at part .5. From there you can come back here, or go to Part 1, which is the first of 8 parts relating to the actual trip up Half Dome and back…



Infamy  (Noun, Plural infamies)

The state of being known for some bad quality or deed: A day that will live in infamy

  • An evil or wicked act: one of history’s greatest infamies

Today, July 24, a day that will live, not in Infamy, but in Famy (I’m thinking that Famy would be the opposite of Infamy).

That being the case:

Famy (Noun, Plural Famies)

The state of being known for some perfectly excellent quality or deed: A day that will live in famy

  • A good or perfectly excellent act: One of history’s greatest famies 

(No, there is no actual English word, famy. Yes, I made up the definition.) See all the RED underlines?)

So, let’s look at some pretty impressive things that happened on this date, July 24, in history, shall we?


  • 1132 Battle of Nocera between Ranulf II of Alife and Roger II of Sicily 
  • 1411 Battle of Harlaw, one of the bloodiest battles in Scotland, takes place
  • 1487 Citizens of Leeuwarden, Nethernakds, rebel against ban on foreign beer
  • 1534 Jacques Cartier lands in Canada, claims it for France
  • 1567 Mary Queen of Scots is forced to abdicate; her 1-year-old son becomes King James VI of Scots
  • 1577 Spanish army/German mercenaries conquer Namur
  • 1577 Treason of Don Juan in Brussels
  • 1581 States of Holland/Zealand recognized by Wiliam of Orange
  • 1701 Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founds trading post at Ft Pontchartrain, which later becomes the city of Detroit
  • 1824 Harrisburg Pennsylvanian newspaper publishes results of 1st public opinion poll, with a clear lead for Andrew Jackson
  • 1832 Benjamin Bonneville leads the first wagon train across the Rocky Mountains by Wyoming’s South Pass
  • 1833 HMS Beagle departs Maldonado Uruguay
  • 1847 Rotary-type printing press patents by Richard March Hoe, NYC 
  • 1851 Window tax abolished in Britain
  • 1866 Tennessee becomes 1st Confederate state readmitted to Union
  • 1870 1st trans-US rail service begins
  • 1911 Cleve’s League Park hosts 1st unofficial ML All Star game (benefit game for Addie Joss’ family). Cleveland Naps lose to All Stars 5-3
  • 1911 American explorer Hiram Bingham discovers Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas
  •  1915 Excursion ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan, 852 die
  • 1929 NY to SF foot race ends (2½ months) winner is 60 year old Monteverde
  • 1936 118°F (48°C), Minden, Nebraska (state record)
  • 1941 Red Sox Lefty Grove, 41, wins his 300th game
  • 1949 Indian pitcher Bob Lemon hits 2 HRs to beat Senators, 7-5
  • 1953 KEYT TV channel 3 in Santa Barbara, CA (ABC) begins broadcasting
  • 1959 500,000th Dutch TV set registered
  • 1961 Beginning of a trend, a US commercial plane is hijacked to Cuba
  • 1961 Roger Maris hits 4 home runs, in a doubleheader
  • 1965 Bob Dylan release “Like a Rolling Stone”
  • 1967 The Beatles sign a petition in Times to legalize marijuana
  • 1968 Hoyt Wilhelm’s 907th breaks Cy Young’s record for pitching appearances
  • 1969 Apollo 11 returns to Earth
  • 1972 Jigme Singye Wangchuk becomes king of Bhutan at 16

There are too many events to list everything, but I think you get the picture. 

There is, however, one event that happened on this date in 1971 which, to my mind anyway, blows past all of these events combined. And it is the one thing that qualifies for the description of “Famy (as defined above). 

July 24, 1971 Judith Joy French becomes Judith Joy Kammerer.

Happy Anniversary to you, my loving, beautiful, amazing, spectacular, awesome, groovy wife…

wedding party


Time, once again, for me to put something other than something I did myself up here. Love this…

Continued from part 7

Or click here to go back to the beginning…

“I’ll go as far as I can go and this ain’t it…”

After a couple of whiles, I was having to stop every few hundred feet of downhill progress and get the pressure off my legs and toes. Shawn stuck with me initially, but we finally reached a point where he decided that I needed the motivation to keep going, so when I sat down on a rock, he just Kept going. 

I called after him.

He stopped and turned around.

I asked him if he had a knife.

He said “yes”.  

I asked him to “please cut off my toes”.

He said “no”.

I explained that I was referring to the tips of my boots, thinking that it might relieve the pressure.

He came back, took out his knife and said, “How about if I just slit the toe of one boot to separate it from the sole and we’ll see how that goes?”

That sounded good to me, so he hacked away. We then proceeded to the next switchback to see how it worked out. It was actually much better, so we stopped and did the other boot. 

This really helped a lot, for a couple of whiles. My legs were still a bit stiff, but the toes were better so I just ignored the legs.

Going downhill is actually tougher than going uphill, so in addition to my downhill boots, I always bring a pair of downhill knees in the form of braces. I don’t usually put them on until I am fairly well into the downward trek because the knees don’t bother me initially. This day was no exception.

But we finally got to the point where the knees started giving me problems, and I went ahead and installed the braces. They helped for awhile (which is, actually, just a bit less than “a while”). 

By the time we had gone another while, the legs, toes and knees were giving me issues again and I was utilizing two hiking sticks for support and balance. (I cannot tell you how many times my hiking stick has saved my life over the decades. Literally.)

At this point, I had run out of remedies and the only things that were keeping me going were my mantra, “I will go as far as I can and this ain’t it” and Shawn coaxing me on.

My legs hurt. My knees hurt, My toes hurt. My back hurt. My upper torso looked like the spillway of the Hoover Dam because I was sweating as much as ever, and replacing the perspiration with more and more water.

And then Shawn reminded me that I needed electrolytes.

Fortunately, he brought several packets of electrolytes to add to the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t add them to the water, I simply threw them directly into my mouth as he tried to warn me not to do that.

Are you familiar with “Pop Rocks”? Well, that’s what these were like. If you just throw them into your mouth, they start exploding. This causes one’s mouth to foam over rather quickly. It’s kinda like popping an Alka-Seltzer into your mouth.

The problem with doing that is that you cannot swallow the foam fast enough to get it out of your mouth, and if you try to close your mouth to prevent it from escaping and embarrassing you, you will choke to death on the foam being forced down your throat and up into your sinus cavities and out of your nose.

I lovingly refer to this as the “mad dog effect.”

Believe it or not, there are actually benefits to being in such awful physical misery (I’m always looking for the bright side).

One of those benefits manifests itself in one’s ability to completely not give a rip about the multi-colored stains appearing as approximately three and a half gallons of  Pop-Rockian/Alka-Seltzerian foam slithers its way out of your gaping mouth, down your chin, traversing the front of your shirt, across your beltline and and taking up permanent residence in the crotch of your favorite hiking shorts. 

The chagrin comes later when you discover that the stain doesn’t come out in the wash, but at the time of the event, you’re just happy not to be drowning or, maybe worse, happy that you didn’t just swallow them whole the instant you threw them into your mouth. That would be really bad, I think…

As the day went on, so did we. Shawn be-bopping down the trail and me doing my best “ET” gait imitation. 

By the time we finally reached the top of Vernal Falls and approached the Mist Trail, I had lost enough weight that my shorts were slipping badly. And I was out of notches on my belt. The only thing that was keeping them up was my rump, and that was about to give way. This is when I started hearing comments from strangers about a man my age dressing like that… 

Luckily, the mist was extremely heavy, and I put on my rain poncho to 1) keep me dry (there’s some sort of irony in there, somewhere) and 2) hide the fact that my pants were about 50% of their way down to my ankles. .  

It was extremely slow going down the steps on the trail, but I thought I was doing well enough until, about halfway down, I heard a woman’s voice behind me say, in heavily accented English, “Excuse me prease.” I moved as far as I could to the side and watched – I’m not kidding – a little tiny Japanese lady, who appeared to be in her 80’s, USING A WALKER, glide effortlessly past me. 

It was at this point that it began to dawn on me that I might be in trouble…

After slowly making our way downward for what seemed to be an inordinately long period of time (probably because it was), we finally got down to the footbridge:

View of Vernal Falls from the footbridge – This was actually taken a couple of months prior to the hike, but I couldn’t make myself get a shot while I was there on this occasion (except the night shot)

We decided that I would wait at the footbridge and Shawn would go the rest of the way to the valley (just under a mile further down the trail) and get help. He was gone for some time, and I decided that I would start my way down myself. 

A few minutes along the trail, I met Judy coming up the other way. She had met Shawn on the trail (she was coming to see if she could find us – it was getting late) and he told her where I was waiting. 

She helped me down the rest of the way to the trail head where we met Shawn – walking a couple of bikes. 

He had gone back to camp and got his and Megan’s bikes so that I could ride back to camp and relive the pressure on my body. AWESOME!! (I mean, GROOVY!!!)

It took a minute to get me up on the bike, but when I got on, it was an amazing relief. I was able to pedal back without any problem, and Judy stopped to get me a 50 gallon drum of ice cold root beer and brought it to the camp site.

It was a little after 8:00 PM. Everybody else had made it back by about noon…

I was helped off the bike, carried to a picnic table, sat down and froze in that position for a short time. Donna sat across from me, told me to raise my right hand and swear to never do Half Dome again in my lifetime. At that point, I had no problem doing that (although I kinda regret it, now).

After eating some dinner, Judy and Shawn helped me to the tent and into my sleeping bag. I didn’t even undress, though Judy took my boots and socks off.

And that, dear friends, was as far as I could bloody go.

Saturday morning, July 16, 2011…

I woke up and couldn’t move much. Judy had to help me change my clothes and helped me get out of the tent. We walked around for a few minutes until I got loosened up a bit and was able to hobble around. 

We ate breakfast, and I was able to get around a lot better, so we packed up and drove home.

And that is when the real adventure started…


Continued from Part 6

Or click here to go back to the beginning…

July 13, 2017

Tomorrow, July 14, 2017, is the sixth anniversary of the beginning of my final trip up Half Dome.

Today, July 13th, 2017 is the sixth anniversary of the day before my final trip up Half Dome. It was more comfortable. In fact, here’s a picture of six years ago today:

Mirror Lake, July 13, 2011. Left to Right: Shawn, Man Of Action, Billy. And that’s the base of Half Dome in the background on the right.

Picking up where we left off…

…Then we all took off back to camp. After a few miles, I, as is typical for me, fell a bit behind. Fortunately Shawn stayed with me. I say fortunately because I would still be up there somewhere if he hadn’t.


Shawn and I  were moving along reasonably well for an hour or so before we started the real down-hill part of the slog. It was getting hot and I was going through a lot of water – or rather, a lot of water was going through me. From inside my body, out through my skin, through my clothes and back out into nature. Some serious perspiration going on there. The more I sweat, the more I drank and the more I drank, the more I sweat. It became a vicious cycle of drink and sweat, drink and sweat, drink and sweat. I was sweating so much that I didn’t think I would have to urinate for a month. (As it turned out, that was about a week short of the actual time. Not a bad guess on my part, don’t you think?)

  • It’s time to interrupt my story and provide a conversion table, of sorts. In this case, we will be utilizing actual scientific and mathematical calculations to convert ‘Whiles’ to ‘Miles’. For example if I was to say, “I had made sure to cut my toenails before the trip in hopes of them not ramming into the forward facing end of my boots, and that seemed to help…for a ‘while‘”, you would have no idea how far I had progressed during that ‘while‘. 


  • Additionally, even if I made it clear that I had progressed ‘x’ number of miles during that ‘while’, you would have no idea how much actual time had passed while accomplishing that feat (or ‘feet’, as you will see later), so it becomes necessary to provide a second table – that table being a conversion of ‘Miles’ to ‘Hours’

Before we begin, it is necessary that I provide accurate data regarding the distance, altitude gain, total altitude and the typical time required for the completion of the trip. Now, I realize that this information is readily available through an internet search, and I know that such sources are “touted” as always being “accurate”, but I have decided that the most reliable source for this information is actually the front of the shirt that I got after my first trip up the rock in 2005 (one of the ones that didn’t nearly kill me the most.).

Don’t get me wrong – I trust some of the information found on the internet. I really do. But I have known this shirt for twelve years and it has never once failed to provide me with good data.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for the World Wide Web…

I have complete faith in my shirt.


Pay no attention to the apparent Hobbit seen at the bottom of this photograph.

As you can see, the total miles in the round trip is 17 miles from the trail head. To this could be added the distance to and from the camp site – figure about 2 miles. This would give us a total of about 19 miles, give or take a few centimeters if we were going to use those figures. But we’re not, so 17 miles it is. 

Now, on with the calculations:

Total distance:  17 miles / Total time:  20 hours  =  .85 MPH average

1 ‘While’ converts to 2 hours or 1.7 miles, based on the average speed of the legs attached to the lower half of my body. 

*However: The rate of speed achieved during the uphill portion of the hike was substantially less than the rate of speed achieved during the return trip. 

*This is completely counter-intuitive, I know. Things normally go faster downhill than they go uphill. But I am not a normal thing…

It took approximately 8 hours going up. We were on top for about 45 minutes, so subtract that from the total time. That leaves about 11 hours and 15 minutes for me to get back down.

Return distance: 8.5 miles/ Return trip: 11.25 hours = .75555555555555 MPH average

1 ‘While’ converts to 2 hours or 1.51111111111111 miles, based on the average speed of my descent. 

Back to the story…

In the first couple of hours, my legs started to cramp up a bit – not charley-horse bad, but enough to slow me down a some. But I was still limber enough to keep moving somewhat steadily.

And this is where I really started missing my “downhill boots”

I had made sure to cut my toenails before the trip in hopes of them not ramming into the forward facing end of the boots on the way down, and that seemed to help…for a while. But a ‘while’ is not enough to get me back down to the flat land on the valley floor. In fact, in this case, a ‘while’ converted into ‘miles’ becomes about 1.51111111111111 miles over a period of 2 hours – not that far when you consider we needed to go 8.5 miles. 

But I digress (again). 

Now, where was I? Oh yes – my toes. There is not a lot that is more irritating than to take a step and have the toes on that foot slam into the front of the boot you are wearing. It’s OK on a temporary basis, I guess, but after a while it really starts to hurt.

Imagine the nail of your big toe being slowly lifted and separated from the flesh with every step you take. Then imagine the same thing on the other foot with every other step you take. That’s about what it feels like.

And that’s what was happening with my feet with each step. And that was after only 1.51111111111111 miles of the downhill return out of the way. 

Oh! Look at the time! I have to get to bed.  Grand Hike Finally on the 15th… 

Click here to get to part 8…

Continued from part 5…

Or click here to go back to the beginning…

And then…

We emerged to this…

The last four hundred feet of the hike up Half Dome is pretty much vertical. You pull yourself up using cables. Unfortunately, those cables are not visible in this shot because, at that time, the rock was situated inside a cloud. 


View from the bottom of the cables. This is what it looked like at 7:38 AM, July 15, 2011 when we arrived at this point…


If you look closely you can see the cables as a dark smudge looking thing running up the center of the rock.


Here we are getting ready to go up the cables. Donna has a better camera than I do…


Preparing to make the ascent up the cables…

Once we were all gathered at the base, we were ready to go up. (By the way, the reason I did this hike the first time is that I hate heights. I don’t like high places. I figure if God wanted me to like high places, He would have made me an eagle or a mountain goat. But He made me another kind of animal. He made me a chicken. I did it to conquer my fear of heights. I still hate high places, but I did get over the cables on Half Dome.)  

The trek up was uneventful. I didn’t faint, fall or throw up. Once we got to the top, we could relax. Here are some photos…


Shawn letting everybody else know that he made it to the top.


Somebody else let everybody else know that they made it to the top.

me halfdome 1

Man of Action letting everybody else know that he made it to the top.


Every body letting everybody else know that we made it to the top. L to R: Nicole, Shawn, Man of Action, Megan, Brian, Lauren.


Everybody else letting everybody else know that they are either very brave or very stupid.


Shawn convinces Man of Action that he should let everybody else know that he is either very brave or very stupid.

At one point, the cloud began to dissipate and some pretty spectacular scenery began to poke through. Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t begin to capture the power of the moment, but here it is anyway…


View of peaks across the way through the cloud.

Then the cloud dissipated rather quickly…

2011-07-15_10-02-47_742 2

It was right about here that the first indication that something was wrong with me made its appearance in the form of three major charley horses in my legs… 


Breakfast time!

I managed to get the pain to settle down and go away. Walked it off. 

And then it was time to start back… 


Headed back down the cables. This is the relatively flat part at the top.

The trip down the cables was also pretty uneventful, other than two people who had started up when we were almost down at the bottom who turned around and decided that the climb was not for them…

We reached the bottom and headed back down the way we came, passing a couple of rangers who were asking for ID and checking us off the list of permitted hikers. (In order to do the hike, the National Park Service has instituted the requirement that you register several months ahead of time and reserve the date(s). They want to limit the impact of too many hikers – not a bad thing, I think, and they want to know who’s body they are looking for if you fall.)

We all stayed together until we came to a stream. Shawn had a filter system, and we all filled our water bags. This is a good thing.

Then we all took off back to camp. After a few miles, I, as is typical for me, fell a bit behind. Fortunately Shawn stayed with me. I say fortunately because I would still be up there somewhere if he hadn’t.


And that’s where we’ll pick up next time…