Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dogs, hawks, coyotes, and my spine

Yesterday, I had packed my favorite snow bike trails to perfection. I could hammer along the hard snow, riding almost like I do on dirt. Then, the wind swept in from the west, hurling the fine dry powder into the air. For some reason, powder tends to settle in the trail depressions. Then, the top layer becomes an almost impenetrable layer of windpacked crust. As I tried to ride the same trails that were so perfect yesterday, the snow crust shattered into pieces, like a glass breaking, leaving behind scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces. After shattering the crust, I foundered in the fine powder below it. It was tough riding to say the least.
K didn't mind in the least. She zipped around like a wild animal, left ear wildly flying into the air.
We stopped and enjoyed the crystal clear view of the Divide. The cloudless blue sky felt endless. If I gaze at it for long enough, I feel like the world is limitless.
After K and I slipped and slid around our trail network, I dropped her off at home and switched bikes to my winter bike with studded tires so that I could ride on our dirt roads. Sometimes, riding becomes like meditation for me. Today, I found myself mind completely absorbed in pedaling and breathing - with no other thoughts - for miles. It was a wonderful escape.

Then, nature caught my attention. A hawk soared low over my head and alighted on atop a pine tree. At first, he turned his back and ignored me. Notice the fiery red tail hiding under the black tips of his folded wings. The light streaks higher on his wings provided another clue.
Then, he warily watched me but let me take more photos. His chest feathers were a streaked light color.
His face was dark and his beak tips hooked downward.
All of these features told me that he was a Red-Tailed Hawk. I'd never seen one perched so close. He was perched over a small meadow, likely watching for rodents or small birds to snag for breakfast.

A little later in my ride, I passed a frozen lake that almost melds with the snowy meadow in mid-winter. I spotted three coyotes crossing the lake. A friend recently saw a trio of coyotes frolicking like puppies on a frozen lake. Today's coyotes didn't play. My presence seemed to alarm them. It's funny that animals seem more afraid of a person on foot or on a bike than in a vehicle.
Interestingly, we had a trio of coyotes visit the area under our birdfeeder last night. The lake was about 6 miles from here so I doubt that both trios were the same coyotes.
Later in the same evening, a buck visited. Over the 7 months with our wildlife camera outside the house, this was only the second deer visitor.
More storms will hit in the coming days with temperatures plummeting below zero. Over the course of my ride, thin clouds formed over the Divide, portending the coming storms.
The upcoming week holds some scary steps for me. To make a very long story short, I have 5 very bad discs in my neck, some of which are deforming my spinal cord as it travels towards my trunk and legs. They also are pinching the spinal nerves that go to my arms. I also have a huge disc herniation in my lower back. Surprise, surprise, it's the disc directly above the fused part of my lower back. It's a classic long term complication of spinal fusion. For now, the docs suggest that I 'try to ignore the lower back disc herniation' because the neck situation is much more dire. Thus, on Monday, I'm having an epidural steroid injection around the spinal cord in the worst section of my neck. The hope is that it will reduce my symptoms - at least until I've made a decision about whether to get my neck fused. I also have an appointment with an awesome surgeon but not until the new year, unless I can pull some strings.

I'm curious if anyone has experience with having neck fusion at 4 or 5 levels (i.e., 4 or 5 discs removed and replaced with bone). Do you know anyone with such a massive fusion? If you do, I'd love to hear about how well they've been able to function with so little neck mobility.

After looking at my MRIs, the doc asked me "how do you do it?". I had to ask him to clarify because I had no idea what he was asking. He explained that he wanted to know how someone functions with the level of pain that I must experience on a daily basis. He knows that I don't take many drugs for it. I explained about daily exercise and meditation being my holistic methods to cope with pain. He asked lots of questions - saying that he hoped to pass along advice to other patients. I felt vindicated. I always wonder if I overdramatize the pain in my mind. I guess not.


  1. Not sure which aspect of this post had the most WOW factor!

    Sibe Vibes
    Golden Vibes
    Brother Paul Vibes

    Along with my vibes all being sent your way for Monday -

  2. Some of us pray, and some of us don't. I am a prayer and I will pray for the very best outcome for you Monday,and for an earlier meet with the big surgeon. Tell us what you are hoping for.


  3. We are with Stella on this one. Our deepest prayers will be said for you. We are always amazed at how some people can tolerate pain so well and live life to the fullest possible. We admire you greatly and we wish you great success with the procedures you face.

    Hugs, the OP Pack's Mom

  4. That's tough news. My cousin's husband had surgery on his neck. I'll try and find out what exactly he had done. I know it was something that was pinching his nerve and his arm was visibly beginning to atrophy.

  5. Wow tough road ahead. Hopefully you will get some relief. My friend has had back fusions but not neck, i can put you in touch with him, when my back looked like it would take surgery we talked ( hot-shot doc) about replacing my damaged discs with a hard rubber compound. I'm not sure if this is a procedure, or just something he was bouncing around .I have managed to stay surgery free, but am told I will need it at some point....
    Your doctors' surprise doesn't surprise me in the least, you have taken your health into your hands, you are tough and smart and I know you will find your way thru this.

  6. i'm part of the WOW fan club and continue to be in awe of your positive attitude and how you always seem to find that other trail less traveled. you *should* be the example that ortho surgeons use-you are living proof that making your health a priority and committing to that can make a huge difference. that being said-you have my endless admiration for how you continue to fight to stay active and full of fire. i am sure there are days when you must want to scream in frustration and instead you embrace the mountains with your chocolate bunny hopping alongside you :)

    sending a monster hug your way,

  7. A spectacular view! Love those clear sky pictures.

    No advice on the neck. My issues are all much more classic lower back herniated discs. My sciatica had reached the point that I lost all reflex in my right ankle and I went from my GP, to MRI, to neurosurgeon to operating table in less than a week (I can only guess how bad the pictures scared them).

    Like you, I refuse the medications. I did not take a drop of morphine during post my surgery and have never taken the muscle relaxants they prescribed for me. I would rather fight through it. I really think that is best in the long run.

    I did just remember hearing of a country singer who just had the neck fusion, but can not remember the name. Will send it to you if I do.

  8. You can be sure that there will be two folks here in France thinking of you and willing you strength and calm on Monday.

  9. Hey there, KB
    Our thoughts and prayers will also be with you on Monday!
    You are truly an amazing person, blessed with incredible strength and positive world view. It must be so hard to face this thing.
    Unfortunately I have no medical advice.
    I have an idea...Perhaps you might like to pop by 'Tessa's blog', leave her a note - she might take a while to respond as she is normally in constant pain. I have a 'feeling' that you will have quite a bit in common.
    Tessa's mom has incredible strength too!
    Will be thinking of you - a lot!
    Caryl in SA

  10. Hi KB, I'm catching up with you - I've been in the city for several days. My D-i-L has had several of these steroid injections over the past couple years at the 5th neck vertebrae. She is in constant pain and is trying to avoid surgery, though she has recently decided that if the pain does not subside by spring, she will consider that as an option. (She spoke with a surgeon at the outset but wanted to have it done as a last resort.) All of us were hoping that some other treatment could provide permanent relief, but so far that hasn't happened. She is losing feeling in her hands/fingers as a result of nerve damage. Since they have 3 young children, it is very difficult for her - she is forced to lift/carry far more than she should. At any rate, the injections do seem to provide a measure of relief when she gets them - good luck to you - I'll be thinking of you tomorrow.

  11. Hey again,
    Thanks for stopping by. Sardine Lake is near Sierra City, off GOld Lakes Road..near Downieville, and the Sierra Buttes. About 3.5 hours from us, but we love it up there.
    Best wishes for Monday.

    Sierra Rose and mom

  12. Wow. Well your coming week won't be dull, that's for sure. Hope everything goes smoothly Monday; I'll keep my fingers X'd.

    As you learn more, I'd be interested to know the pros/cons of the fusion surgery. Obviously there's the risk and recovery issues, but I'm wondering, when everything goes "perfectly", are there any downsides? Loss of mobility, etc.?


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!