Published internationally in Fido Friendly Magazine.
The Appalachian Trail:
A Spiritual Path
published in: Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine
story and photographs:
Bruce Andrew Peters
REI's wide-eyed Joe Rhoten, 28 (trail name: Backpacking Fool) describes a run-in with a mountain lion as sunset turned to dark. “We knew that he was following us along the trail - I could see the reflection of his eyes from my light and I thought I had seen another one behind us.” With no feline-free way to the next shelter, Rhoten and his friend flagged down a motorist and rode back to town, to start the hike anew. Despite lingering thoughts of mountain lions and “seeing tons of bear” Rhoten speaks with compassion about nature. “Rattlesnakes are gentlemen snakes; they give you a warning and leave you alone if you leave them alone. If you got bit by a rattlesnake, you must have really deserved it.”
Meeting with REI's sober-sided Outreach Coordinator Mark Nelson, 53, and mellow equipment guru Joe Rhoten in Arlington, Virginia gave a new perspective to a mountaintop adventure. Rhoten hiked the 2,160 mile trail while taking six months off in 1998 from a Bachelor’s degree in Recreational Adventure.
Nelson adds a camping conundrum: “Humans attract mice, mice attract snakes. It’s just knowing that snakes are out there - or having a mouse run across your face at two in the morning - that can keep you from having a good night’s sleep.”
According to Nelson and Rhoten, black bear blues, venomous bites or parasite-infected waters are the least of my worries. Human factors are often overlooked.
“People’s perception of where adventure ends and anxiety begins is this far apart,” Nelson gestures with his hands 12 inches away. “The fact is, most people develop anxiety the second they set foot outside of their house,” as Nelson narrows the gap to about an inch for emphasis. “You really need to be a creature of habit, think about what you are doing and eliminate distractions to keep focused on where you are going,” dispatches Nelson, like a concerned drill instructor preparing troops for combat.
Conversely, Rhoten is almost giddy. He describes how the Appalachian Trail transformed him from an introvert to embracing the company of other through-hikers. “It’s all about meeting people. People are amazing. The Appalachian Trail restored my faith in humanity.” Rhoten cites “Trail Magic” - the kindness encountered from others - whether a hot meal, ride into town or sandwiches and drinks left for hikers by complete strangers.
Historians tell us of Blue Ridge pioneer Daniel Boone running 60 miles in a day, with 35-pound rifle in tow. Thanks to lightweight, modern equipment and a well-defined trail, Rhoten managed a 19 hour, 40 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail, fighting: rain, fatigue-induced hallucinations and cold.
Nelson and Rhoten kept stressing minimizing the weight of my pack and strategic placement of gear to maximize: speed, the perception parameter and agility - all important safety considerations, especially when eight hours of each day is consumed by walking along a mountain ridge shouldering a pack growing heavier by the minute.
Shelters dot the trail every ten miles or so in the Shenandoah National Park - an easy day hike, for most. While many hikers speak wistfully of modern conveniences and prepared meals, they also report peak fitness and dramatic weight loss. For a week I could forfeit showers, air-conditioning and my wife‘s gourmet cooking.
Undermining Rhoten’s infectious exuberance was a nonchalant comment from my wife. “Be sure to give me your friend’s names and numbers (for funeral notices?) in case anything happens on the trail.” Gulp!
To make sure that the AT experience was for me, I took a hike in the early spring, with a stop at the Bearfence Mountain shelter. The whistling, swaying trees danced with the wind. A symphony of birdsong choreographed to a vision of this site at full swing:
camaraderie amongst weary hikers, a boisterous fire crackling with sparks and the spontaneous combustion of laughter amongst kindred spirits. Trail-tired bones collapse in a heap, a good night’s rest guaranteed before setting out again. Of such dreams life is made.Visions for the future and memories of the past tell us who we are. At the end, life’s activities are but a fleeting shadow - perhaps just a conduit to dreams and memories. Could intangibles we hold dear - like yearning for time in the wilderness - be what define our spiritual existence?
That afternoon's epiphany steeled my desire to capture a glimpse of life on the Appalachian Trail.
On the AT
"Excuse me, I'm going crazy!" laughs Greg Towson, 50 a retired union carpenter from Kokomo, Indiana. I interrupted Towson chatting to himself early in the morning. As he broke down his camp, he spoke of the Appalachian Trail's significance: "My youngest daughter died three years ago. Being on the trail lets me talk to God and cry when I need to." Averaging 10-12 miles per day, often more, a fit and rugged Towson has 900 miles behind him. What keeps Towson going? "In a week I will hit my 1,200 mile mark in Harper's Ferry. I am going to take a day off there."
Many hikers diesel past us - like a big rig in the fast lane, with a long-overdue shipment. Burning up 20 miles daily for a week at a time, many through-hikers see little more than the finish line in Maine.
But such as hasty strategy leaves some unfulfilled. "I sold my house and belongings for a second attempt at completing the Appalachian Trail," mourns Vicki "Baby Steps" Jones, 37 of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Starting on April 2nd to avoid the bad luck of April Fool's Day, Jones found herself in a blizzard. "I don't think I am going to make it again this year. I like to listen to the sounds of the woods and look at things." Jones is torn between unfulfilled goals and wanting to learn more lessons of the trail. "I was a perfectionist and control freak. I had to do everything myself. The Appalachian Trail has taught me to slow down, let go, take a step back and give myself a break."
Amidst a pack of "get-there-itis" hikers, Jones is on a path of her own. "The Appalachian Trail gets you right back to basics. When we go into a Wal-Mart to get supplies, I'm overwhelmed by the consumerism. I really don't need much. Being inside is over-rated," Jones laughs. "The AT gives you a good adjustment."
Others find the Appalachian Trail provides benefits beyond a clearer perspective. "As a mother, my family is constantly under threat of being pulled away," notes homemaker Jan Shaw, 55. Shaw's husband is a North Carolina lung specialist. Her three children enjoy varied academic pursuits, from music abroad to medical school. "Being on the Appalachian Trail brings us together at the same place at the same time - free of distractions." The Shaw family enjoys a lively discussion atop Hazeltop Mountain - providing one of the most panoramic views along the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoah National Park. Daughter Caroline, 22 cites recent Bush Administration policies she sees as detrimental to wildlife preservation and savors the moment. "I am glad the Shenandoah National Park is still here, and hope that it remains." To Robert Shaw, MD, 55 he's happy to hike and camp with his family, free from stress. "There's more to life than cell phones and traffic. The Appalachian Trail and backwoods camping gives us a touch of being self-sufficient. The AT makes us grateful for food and water."
Other trail hikers contemplate the big picture and capture clever insights. Job-less Mike Fagerstrom, 23 of New Jersey is taking graduate courses in history. He seized upon the freedom and relatively low cost of the AT experience. With 1,000 miles (roughly 5.3 million steps) behind him, Fagerstrom offers: "Hike your own hike. Too many people fixate on mileage, gear and calories. They think hiking the AT is a competition and move as part of a pack. It's important to not lose sight of why you started. For me, it was a love of nature. My role is to co-exist with nature and other through-hikers, meeting a variety of people and enjoying a lot of good relationships. Try to redefine why you are here every day."
If you go:
REI rents and sells exceptional hiking and camping gear. For more information, visit: www.REI.com
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy offers maps, networking opportunities and expert advice: www.AppalachianTrail.org
Hard Work in Paradise:
The Ultimate Summer Job
Published in: The Daily Times
Photos and Story by: Bruce Andrew Peters
Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies
Just a one hour flight south of Miami, Grand Cayman Island is a world of its own. Lying near
the equator, it's Summer here all year long. What could be better you ask? Getting paid to
SCUBA dive, relax in the sun, have a good time with new friends? This sure beats paying
countless thousands to be at this Caribbean Paradise as a guest. Sign me up!
"Not so fast!" say those in the know. High turn over is expected in the hospitality industry. Unfulfilled dreams result in abbreviated stays. Despite long hours and low pay, workers get
a chance to formulate a life plan in an idillic environment.
Tortuga Divers instructor Danny Jetmore, 44, quips "I came to Grand Cayman (four years ago)
when I heard they were going to build a bowling alley. I haven't seen any construction and the customs lady assured me I have the only bowling ball on the island!" What ever the reason for staying, few resort employees can boast of such longevity as Jetmore.
A nearly 40% annual turn over rate in hospitality jobs leaves resort management scrambling.
When asked of his biggest challenge, Westin Casuarina Resort General Manager Roger Weber replied: "Finding quality people." Compounding matters is the Westin's (Grand Cayman) annual growth of 2-3% to compliment the resort's 200,000 annual visitors.
Most island service industry employees cite a high cost of living due to imported consumer
goods and scarce housing, low pay and a lack of career goals as reasons for dissatisfaction.
"Ask what you can do to get ahead," suggests Weber. "Hard work and letting others know
of your goals are key."
Personal matters can interrupt the service of even dedicated employees. "I married the love
of my life, and moved back toTexas for about a year," reports dive instructor Patrick Tracy, 35, "before returning to Grand Cayman." As a chemist in Houston, Tracy kept getting restless.
Diving in the Middle East for six months in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf left him further
removed from mainstream America. "I couldn't get a decent job" (in the United States) he
lamented. While the prospect of a master's degree in aquaculture might get this SCUBA
pro back on terra firma, for now fun work in the tropics wins out.
A dynamic work force comprised of over 100 nationalities gives human resource management
an entirely new perspective in managing those seeking the ultimate "Summer job." With over
35,000 inhabitants, native Caymanians make up roughly one tenth the population. The balance
is comprised of over 100 foreign nationalities, from countries such as Africa, Canada, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Jamaica and the Unites States. Despite geographic and cultural differences,
ex-patriots all have one thing in common: few will remain for more than a few years. Just hired
as a SCUBA instructor, Chad Craig, 25, of Santa Barbara, California arrived sight-unseen.
"I don't like to stay anywhere too long. I feel like I am missing out on something somewhere
else." These restless sentiments are a recurrent theme among those in Cayman's hospitality industry.
Upbeat and optimistic, Red Sail Sports' Walter Findley, 42, left Scotland's cold and dark
waters to serve as Dive and Watersports Director. "Keeping a large staff with diversified backgrounds asa cohesive unit is my biggest challenge," Findley explains. Compounding
matters is the high turnover. "An average employee lasts six to 24 months. They come down
to live a dream; goofing off in the Caribbean." Understandably, this conflicts with Findley's management goal of "quality service, safety and customer satisfaction."
Long Hours, Low Pay
After five years of bobbing in the sea on dive boats, Kevin Kneafsey of Ireland needed a
break. Receiving just five bucks an hours for the safety and well-being of a boat load of
strangers got old. "Maybe I'll be a fireman" he mused wistfully, when forecasting his future.
But for now, it's time off from 14 hour days. A visit to Los Angeles for a month with family
and friends before returning to Ireland might help formulate a new plan. "Then again, I might
be back," he added. Antonie York, of South Africa cites "money issues" as his impediment
to his next destination: travel in Asia. York, 26, is ahead of his colleagues in that he holds a
plan for the future, no matter how difficult financially.
Happy Employees = Happy Clients
"When an employee is not happy, clients notice," points out Findley. To iron out any service discrepancies, Findley employs retraining, cultural sensitivity and empathic listening.
"Management needs to be easy going, enjoy working with people and possess a sense
of humor. Most important, continues Findley, Keep a close eye on personnel and lead by
example. If training, education and setting standards don't work, it's probably time to tell
that person that we won't renew his contract."
What the Future Holds
Globe trotting from job to job, hospitality vacancies are always being created. Therese
Islef, of Denmark described her one and one half years as "an eternity in Cayman years"
and suggested after another year "on the rock" she will be ready to move on. Where
and what to do are uncertain. Tortuga Diver's Jera Dickson, 23, of British Columbia,
Canada says she "will go to school when I figure out what I want to do." In the interim,
it's SCUBA instruction at Tortuga Divers and venturing where horizons glow brighter.
For more information:
To find out about employment on Grand Cayman Island, contact the Cayman Islands
Department of Tourism at 1-800-346-3313 to request Living in the Cayman Islands and
Immigration Controls Governing Work in the Cayman Islands. The Rates and Facts
Guide to The Cayman Islands provides tourist information on accomodations, resorts,
restaurants and recreation, which could help develop job leads.
published internationally in: Ultralight Flying Magazine
story and photos: Bruce Andrew Peters
Prior to September 11, flying in the Washington, D.C. area was a lot different. Seven years ago, getting a waiver to security regulations was as simple as a well-placed phone call. This is a story about one such flight – an aviation first – that will never be repeated.
“We don’t fly north of our airfield.That’s where the Andrews Air Force Base controlled airspace begins.”I told this to thousands of flight students from 1984 thru 1998 when I worked as a full time ultralight flight instructor in Fort Washington, Maryland. Thoughts of flying into such secure airspace – home of the president’s Air Force One and some pretty lethal “fighter” aircraft – conjured up visions of being shot down in flames for veering a few feet into Andrews’ airspace. In the Nation’s Capital, you do not think about even vaguely resembling a terrorist. A sense of humor is not a job requirement for those employed by the FAA, FBI, Secret Service, etc. When itcomes to work, they are all business. Period. And that was seven years ago when terrorists were only a theoretical possibility.
My friend Jerry Carlson and I were just minutes away from doing the impossible and forbidden: flying an ultralight aircraft into Andrews Air Force. We envisioned the display at the annual Open House - which attracts up to a million visitors – as an exciting opportunity to spread the word about open-cockpit flight.
We discussed communication procedures in the event they could not hear us over the engine and wind noise of our open-cockpit craft, or if radio contact was lost. All of the contingencies seemed to be covered.
Jerry sat in the front seat furthest from the engine and its noise, to handle radio communication. I sat in the back seat and flew the aircraft. A take off in an ultralight airplane is a 100-foot hop, skip and before you know it, you are airborne, angled back precariously - staring straight at the heavens. As we climbed to 500 feet, Andrews was in sight. This is not to say that our vision rivals that of an eagle, it’s just hard to miss an airfield that seemingly occupies half the state of Maryland. At 1,000 feet we leveled off, throttled back and contacted Andrews’ approach control.
Jerry: “Yellow ultralight”
Tower: “Yellow ultralight, say your heading and position.”
Jerry: “Andrews, Yellow ultralight 060 entering airspace over Route 301.”
Tower: “Yellow ultralight, approach downwind west of tower, then turn
At this point, the controller must have thought that we were flying a lot faster than say, 50 mile per hour. In an F-16 it takes just a few seconds to go around the traffic pattern at this monstrous airfield. In an ultralight aircraft, one must allow at least a half hour.
After a few minutes, we were now to the west of where our base leg would be.
Jerry: “Andrews Tower, Yellow ultralight requests authorization to turn base.”
Tower: “Yellow ultralight, turn base runway one left.”
My eyes caught sight of several F-16 aircraft on the runway about to take off, and to our amazement, Air Force One taxiing behind! “What a photo that will be!” I exclaimed, only to realize that I had forgotten my camera. To my surprise, Jerry unveiled a camera fromunderneath hisjacket and began clicking away.As we enjoyed this aerial view of the dozens of military aircraft on the flight line, I pointed out anything of interest.
Inching along, we neared our 90-degree left turn for final approach. I was somewhat perplexed, however, as two F-16s had just departed, and two more were waiting at the end of runway one left behind Air Force One. As I became convinced that we would spend eternity circling waiting for clearance to turn to our final approach, the traffic controller’s voice came over the radio.
Tower:“Yellow ultralight, would you land runway one right? Please be advised that the last 2,500 are not useable. The runway length is 10,000 feet. Will this present a problem?”
Since ultralight aircraft take about three hundred feet to land, Jerry and I agreed that with an incredible sense of the elements and superior airmanship, we could avoid overshooting the limited runway.
Jerry: “Ultralight turning final. One right.”
We held cruise power to fly the ultralight over one-half mile to the taxiway turn off. Meandering through the grass, I imagined the Tower Manager looking at us through binoculars, observing our scenic route to the display area. “Can’t those stupid ultralight pilots keep on the centerline of the taxiway?” she must be wondering. Nonetheless, the tower got us across runway one left – where seconds ago an F-16 thundered by at a few hundred miles per hour before rocketing straight up and out of sight. I can only imagine she let out a huge sigh of relief as she turned us over to ground control.
After two days of sharing flying stories with the new friends we had made, it was time to go home. The Ground Control personnel advised us on the radio to trail behind the FOLLOW ME truck. Itsoon becameobvious that this driver leads aircraft that travel a lot faster. Racing toward the runway at about 50 miles per hour, we were fighting to stay on the ground. At the runway, the truck peeled off abruptly 180 degrees to the left, as we comically banked in our right turn onto the runway.
A green light from the tower gave us the all clear. Checking high and low in both directions revealed no other aircraft. Good to go!
Departing the field we saluted the accommodating tower personnel and the audience with a rock of the wings, and we were on our way.
Thirty years ago, my family’s hiking adventure in the Swiss Alps was featured in the National Geographic’s School Bulletin Magazine. I dreamed as a child that someday I might return to experience the magnificent views above the clouds, where mountains put our place in the world in perspective.
BRINGING THE PAST FULL CIRCLE
Switzerland offers things that are uniquely Swiss: the sounds of a yodeler’s voice echoing in the mountains, alphorns blaring like bulls and Moto-Guzzi motorcycles whipping through precarious turns. Mountains pierce the clouds - just a breath away from heaven. Higher and more remote, the Swiss Alps only give you your thoughts for company. All that we needed was an excuse.
“A friend from Ireland is getting married in Monaco,” announced my girlfriend, Trish.
A few days later we were packing our bags.
“PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER”
These words of perseverance from my father – an Army Green Beret and avid mountaineer - echoed in my mind as we set off for St. Agnes, a tiny mountaintop village just outside of Monaco. Strenuous hiking is great for one’s outlook. You feel too tired and relaxed to let little things bother you. Basic comforts like food and warm, dry clothing become all the more satisfying.
The near-vertical trail meandered through farm fields, overlapped mountain roads and blazed through forests. Two hours afoot brought agricultural aromas, panoramic mountain views on one side, and spectacular blue ocean views on the other. Looking for our elusive destination gave us sore necks.
To test our will, a cold front ushered in piercing cold wind, dark skies, lightning, and heavy rain. Wistful, mirage-like visions of gaudy tourist traps selling warm shirts lingered in our thoughts, no matter how unlikely. We had been lulled by the warm ocean air at the start of our journey, and were now experiencing that deep chill that only a cold, windy day in wet clothes can bring.
As if by divine intervention, St. Agnes – an ancient church village outcropping of stone buildings converted to pubs, restaurants and gift shops loomed within reach. Navigating through narrow, cobblestone corridors between buildings, we discovered the wedding party inside a cozy restaurant. Contentedly fed and warm, we savored the moment.
Rain and golf ball sized-sleet drummed on the roof like a marching band. A patron’s black Labrador Retriever and black Scottish Terrier quietly curled by our feet. Unlike many Americans, Europeans are happy to dine with dogs, which gave the restaurant an old-world charm.
ALEX AND GISELA PERREN: Strength, Work Ethic and Passion
“I am waiting a few years to climb the Matterhorn – definitely by the time I am 90.” This aspiration is not to be taken lightly, considering the accomplishments of Alex Perren, 68, of Zermatt, Switzerland. Perren grew up on his mother’s farm in the Swiss mountains often working 15 hours each day. “We worked just to survive,” reflects Perren, whose great, great grandfather was the first to climb the Matterhorn in 1865. Perren became a mountain guide in 1954. “I climbed 23 peaks in 18 days and all peaks in Europe above 14,000 feet.” The mountains gave Perren a spiritual side. “I lived almost the full year with God, one wrong step in the mountains and you are dead. You need luck – somebody above you.” Perren’s point is reinforced by an event during his fifth season as a guide, on July 29, 1959, while climbing the south face of the Oberjabelhorn. Looking to the floor, Perren’s voice lowers. “The rope pulled me off balance and I fell.” Landing on his feet, his boots transferred the shock from his ankles to his knees. Perren’s kneecap blew out leaving him with exposed bone and unable to walk. Other climbers answered his cries for help. “Take my tourist to safety and leave me to die,” Perren his rescuers. The next 38 hours were spent with cold, snow and severe frostbite. “I was happy, I had such a good life – living in the mountains – I was at peace with myself and felt God with me. People get strange when they get away from nature in the cities. I was apart of nature all of the time.”Perren’s leg was amputated. A climbing career no longer on the horizon, Perren opened Hotel Alex from scratch in 1960 to create a four star Zermatt landmark.
“We put everything we made back into the hotel,” says Alex’s wife Gisela Perren, the creative force behind the hotel’s distinctive décor and amenities. Spiritual wood ceiling carvings, stained glass throughout and an alfresco by the indoor pool are worth seeing no matter where you stay.
A PROMISE TO RETURN
After successfully climbing the Riffelhorn in 1973, my father’s attempt at the Matterhorn was cancelled half way due to bad weather. He often told me that when he died, I should sprinkle his ashes from the mountains. My return to the Swiss Alps 13 years after his death united me with my father’s passion for these magnificent peaks. The perfect resting place for his memory is here. I looked to the Matterhorn summit and saw myself completing my Dad’s climb. Closer to the heavens I will look up and my Dad will be proud. Matterhorn, ich kommen zuruck- Matterhorn, I will be back.
Published in:The Journal Newspapers, Washington, D.C.
Story and Photos by:
Bruce Andrew Peters
Waves crash, breezes caress your skin and amidst the ocean, our place is in perspective. The Norwegian Sun, so incomprehensibly huge in port, is now but a pinpoint – a miniature model of the world. She carries 2,200 passengers and 960 staff from over 58 nations. We burn 200 tons of fuel a day for over 70,000 horsepower of propulsion and electrical generation. “We get about 12 feet to the gallon,” says Paul Baya, Cruise Director for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Hungry appetites devour 20,000 pounds of fresh fruit and 35,000 pounds of vegetables each week.
Cruise ships are like all-inclusive resorts with changing scenery. Typical shore visits give you a taste of each port. From Jamaicans hawking their wares to Grand Cayman’s elegance to Cozumel’s stunning reefs - all guests are assured water views and countless activities.
Measuring nearly 900 feet in length and thirteen decks high, you navigate your new world as the captain navigates the globe. Journey to the spa, five Jacuzzis, two pools, the basketball court, theatre, nightclubs, casino, thirteen restaurants, jogging track, fitness center, shuffleboard and library. You can do your own thing or join others in yoga to volleyball or dancing. Out of cell phone range and too busy for e-mail, you live for the moment and anticipate yet another exciting port.
A common sea tale is that you will gain weight on a cruise. It’s true: the food is tasty, all you can eat and available twenty-four hours a day. The dessert options are endless. A quick call to room service yields anything from brownies to breakfast to bananas.
Instead, we chose to sprint the stairs whenever possible, dined on delicious vegetarian entrees and fulfilled a New Year’s resolution to visit the gym. The result? Fitter, trimmer and feeling rejuvenated in just one week.
Thousands throng to Jamaica’s 600-foot Dunn’s River Falls each day. A cascade of refreshing freshwater invigorates as you venture from the ocean to the summit.
For Norwegian Cruise Line Passenger Scott Blatt, 48, the climb is an extraordinary feat.
An amputee, Blatt tossed his crutches aside for an unassisted ascent - to the cheers of onlookers. Blatt’s climb is a first in Jamaican history. Regardless of your skill or experience level, there are shore activities for everyone. While some marvel at stunning fish of every color while diving the reefs, others snorkel or tour Mayan ruins.
“Over 1500 divers explore Cozumel’s waters daily,” says Gustavo Costa, 35. Costa, an attorney from Buenos Aires, Argentina, now teaches diving. He sets the dive’s tone with the persuasiveness and knowledge you’d expect from an attorney. “Strict laws protect marine life from humans. Harming or killing is prohibited, ensuring our enjoyment of these beautiful creatures. Do not wear a knife or gloves, harm or chase after the wildlife – fines exceed $5,000.” Costa’s conservation efforts were rewarded. The reef, vibrant and flourishing, passed by like a movie. Floating effortlessly with the current, adult Angel Fish danced about, Puffer Fish looked back with their big, helpless eyes, lobster loitered, a nurse shark nervously darted off, a Manta Ray flapped massive wings in slow motion - like a hawk soaring a ridge.When it was time to go home, it was far too soon.
Several cruise lines offer journeys from nearby ports. Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York are a quick train ride away. “If you do travel by air to Miami, it is advisable to arrive a day early, so you don’t miss your ship in case of weather delays,” suggests Jerry Carlson of Delta Airlines. Art deco hotels in Miami’s South Beach provide colorful, dynamic architecture. The ocean and people on parade are an extra bonus.
As published by: The Los Angeles Times - Syndicate
Climbing to the top of Argentina’s Aconcagua - the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere - is no ordinary feat. It can take even the most experienced climbers three weeks to reach the 22,835-foot snow-capped summit.
David Panofsky, 35 of Madison, Wis.; Doug Bursnall, 31, of Wales; and Katherine Bradt-Wells, 30, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, climbed to the summit of Aconcagua last year. And they have a lot more in common than mountain climbing. They all have Type I, or insulin-dependant diabetes, and they are all vegetarians. In fact, everyone on the 26-member Team International Diabetes Expedition Aconcagua 2000 (IDEA 2000) has Type I diabetes.
For people with this disease, the pancreas does not release sufficient amounts of insulin, a protein hormone necessary for the body to regulate the metabolism of sugar and certain carbohydrates. Diabetics may require insulin injections and blood testing -- as often as eight times a day. Untreated, the disease can cause blindness, nerve damage, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.
Panofsky, Burnsall and Bradt-Wells are also members of the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (DESA), an international organization made up of amateur and professional athletes whose mission is to help people with diabetes achieve their athletic goals. The team’s success at Aconcagua served as a statement against the stereotypes that tend to define diabetics: that their activities must be restricted because they can become quickly incapacitated. And for Panofsky, Burnsall and Bradt-Wells, the trek to the summit was also a way of dismantling one of the myths about nutrition, meat and muscle power. A vegetarian diet, says Brandt-Wells, “Is much easier to digest to get important nutrients and vitamins – especially at high altitudes like 20,000 feet, where the altitude interferes with digestion.”Food poisoning is also avoided, points out Brandt-Wells, because vegetarian fare is much less likely to spoil than meat.
Most diabetics suffer from Type II diabetes, a non-insulin-dependent disorder that tends to develop in overweight adults and is often preventable. Type II diabetes can be caused by poor diet, excessive weight and a sedentary lifestyle. It is more easily treated than Type I diabetes, according to Stephen Clement, M.D., director of the Georgetown University Diabetes Center in Washington, D.C., mostly through oral medication or insulin injections, diet and exercise.
To reduce weight and increase insulin sensitivity -- making insulin work better and thus reducing dosages -- ‘‘eat less, exercise more,’’ said Marion Franz, a registered dietician and former director of Nutrition and Professional Education at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minn. Reducing food intake, being selective about what they eat and exercising help keep diabetics in fit condition.
Speaking at the DESA annual conference held this month in Washington, D.C., Franz emphasized the benefit of eating smaller portions of lean meat -- or replacing meat altogether with peas, beans, lentils, soy protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Last year, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a health-advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., and Georgetown University Medical Center Department of Endocrinology published the results of a study on the effectiveness of a vegetarian diet for diabetics. In conjunction with the Diabetes Action and Education Foundation in Arlington, Va., the Physicians Committee compared ‘‘fasting’’ glucose levels -- the blood-sugar levels that result in the absence of food for 12 hours -- and weight loss of Type II diabetics, using two types of diets for a period of three months. The pilot study had 13 participants; a follow-up study begins this year at The George Washington University Medical Center with 60 participants.
‘‘We compared two different diets,’’ said Mark Sklar, M.D., an associate professor at Georgetown University Hospital’s Department of Endocrinology, ‘‘one, a high-fiber, low-fat, vegetarian diet that contains no animal products; and the other, a more common American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet, which contains meat and dairy products.’’
‘‘The vegan meals were made from unrefined vegetables, grains, beans, and fruits, with no refined ingredients, such as vegetable oil, white flour, or white pasta,’’ said Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee. ‘‘These meals averaged just 10 percent fat (as a percentage of calories), 80 percent complex carbohydrate and 10 percent protein. They also offered 60-70 grams of fiber per day and had no cholesterol at all.’’
The comparison (ADA) diet contained more plant-based ingredients than the average American diet but still relied on the conventional chicken and fish recipes. This diet was 30 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrate. It provided about 30 grams of fiber and 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
REDUCED INSULIN DOSAGES AND BETTER CONTROL
The fasting blood sugars in the vegetarian group decreased 28 percent, whereas the ADA group’s blood sugars dropped only 12 percent. The vegetarians needed less medication to control their blood sugars, whereas the ADA group needed just as much medicine as before.
While the ADA dieters lost an impressive 8 pounds on average, the vegetarians lost nearly 16 pounds. Cholesterol levels also dropped more in the vegetarian group, compared to the ADA group.
Study vegetarian dieters said they were pleased with the weight loss and the reduction or elimination of insulin injections or oral medication. ‘‘Being able to take control of my diabetes has been a wonderful thing,’’ said Scott Johnston, 34, a business consultant from Arlington, Va. ‘‘Had I known that this diet would have such a powerful effect, I would have adopted it years ago.’’
‘‘In the beginning, it’s not an easy diet,’’ said Sheldon Berman, 62, of Washington, D.C. ‘‘But I managed to lose 17 pounds. I’m no longer on medication for diabetes, and I am no longer on medication for blood pressure. ... The overall mental outlook on how I feel about myself as a diabetic is much more hopeful now, as I am self-sufficient with a diet that makes sense for me.’’
Worldwide, more than 125 million people have either insulin-dependent or non-insulin dependent diabetes, according to Stuart Sundem, a senior community health specialist at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minn. And that number is expected to skyrocket to more than 300 million by 2025, as Asian countries adopt Westernized lifestyle patterns of high consumption and sedentary activity, he said.
Francine Kaufman, M.D., president-elect of the American Diabetes Association and chairman of Children’s Hospital Endocrinology Division in Los Angeles, cites ‘‘fast food laden with fat and lower levels of activity’’ as the culprits for approximately 25 million cases of undiagnosed diabetes worldwide.
This month, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases released the results of their own Diabetes Prevention Program study, showing that Type II diabetes can be prevented.
The study maintains that two different approaches -- diet and exercise therapy, and the administration of a diabetes medication, metformin -- were both effective. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise coupled with a low-fat diet increases insulin sensitivity and reduces weight, possibly eliminating the need for insulin injections altogether, according to the report.
Christopher D. Saudek, M.D., president of the American Diabetes Association and a principal investigator says ‘‘the Diabetes Prevention Program conclusively proves that Type II diabetes is not inevitable for people at high risk of developing it.’’
The DPP is the first study to demonstrate that prevention strategies can work across the broad spectrum of racial and ethnic diversity. Both lifestyle and medication interventions worked with those of Caucasian, African, Latino, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander origin.
Judith Ambrosini, another DESA member, has lived with diabetes for more than 40 years. Currently a food columnist and caterer in Boston, Massachusetts, she became a vegetarian 20 years ago while living in Italy. ‘‘I would go into town to the butcher shop,’’ she said, ‘‘but by the time I got there, all that was left were brains, intestines and hearts.’’
She opted for the traditional Italian fare of pasta and vegetables when she realized that she had better ‘‘make friends with this thing (diabetes) -- it will be with me for the rest of my life.’’
Mothers worldwide tell their children to eat their vegetables. This advice may very well hold the answer to combating diabetes.
Each New Year millions resolve to get in shape. But keeping an exercise commitment is not always easy. The benefits from exercise abound: relieving stress, looking fit, improving health and the opportunity to “clear your head” from the winter blahs. But everyday responsibilities make time and self-discipline scarce commodities.
Fitness for Life
Look at fitness instructor Stephanie Tortorella, 38. Her trim physique and brilliant smile radiate healthiness. You would never guess that she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 10. This autoimmune condition caused her colon to rupture. She had major surgery to remove most of her large intestine and now awaits yet more surgery.
Last July, she underwent 16 chemotherapy treatments and a mastectomy for breast cancer.Tortorella attributes the spring in her step and her speedy recovery to regular exercise and a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. Today, she serves as a glowing role model for those who feel defeated by poor health or a lack of confidence.
Just ask Lisette Legrain, 48, who after three years of inactivity due to sports injuries, is training under Tortorella. “You need somebody giving you that boost,” says Legrain. Tortorella’s extensive teaching experience, a master’s degree in education and her enthusiasm for health keeps Legrain on target.
Here are some exercise endeavors that keep the fun in getting (and staying) in shape.
Thoughts of ice-skating conjure visions of unwittingly playing a part in a Three Stooges movie. Falling hard on one’s tailbone is the grand finale. Barb Tanner, 36, a skating pro at Ashburn Ice House recognized that this is bad for business. She now helps others gain the confidence they need to flourish on the ice. Lessons help everyone from the uninitiated to aspiring Olympians reach their goal. While the focus of figure skaters is leaping, spinning and pirouetting like a ballerina, others are content to simply get around the rink with an air of composure and confidence.
“I like personal challenges and new things to learn” says figure skater Kathleen Yoshida, 28, of Ashburn. That’s what sets Ms. Yoshida spinning every Wednesday night for exercise, stress relief and the chance to meet other skating enthusiasts. What keeps her passion for skating strong after almost two years? “I always stay the full session and when things are going bad, I think about when I skated well.” Her positive outlook keeps frustration in perspective, when the precision of skating seems elusive.
Slip sliding into a state of self-humiliation may seem daunting. Seasoned skater Amy Yaeger, 28 of Ashburn suggests that group lesson makes comedic endeavors easier on the ego. Participants provide common experiences and camaraderie at all levels. “When it gets too difficult, I go down a step to easier things. Try to think about your good days when you are having difficulty,” says Yaeger.
Hooked on Hockey
Kim Chase, 37, does not resemble your average hockey player. She’s soft spoken and easy going. Yet Chase cannot hide her passion for the passing, stick handling and shooting that make ice hockey an exhilarating sport.
Chase participates in the Wednesday night clinics and scrimmages led by Kelly Leroux, 29, of collegiate and pro hockey fame. Three years with the Johnstown Chiefs in New York taught Leroux a side of hockey you don’t see from the seats. “I lived the movie “Slap Shot, ” laughs Leroux. Starring Paul Newman, Slap Shot revealed the toughness and competitiveness of minor league hockey. Broken hands “from fighting,” false teeth “got hit by a puck,” and too many bumps and bruises helped Leroux appreciate the injury free and relatively painless occupation of coaching. Now clinic particpants benefit from Leroux’s leadership and hockey smarts.
At Ashburn they learn skating and playing fundamentals before moving on to scrimmages and league play. “Most of our skaters start later in life. We don’t do anything too fancy. We try to keep the drills simple,” Says Leroux. When these hockey nuts hit the ice, they whiz around like the pros of their dreams.
Forget the Charles Atlas course. Forget fighting off bullies kicking sand in your face at the beach.Today’s weight training is for everyday folks like super moms, college students and busy executives who want to stay in shape. Workouts focus on getting the most exercise in the shortest period of time, says Dennis Rogers, 46, a chiseled example of fitness. Rogers has over 25 years experience in the business and is now the general manager at Olympus Gym in Sterling, Virginia.
Using the “circuit room,” members can alternate between exercises designed to strengthen specific parts of their body and stationary cycling for cardiovascular conditioning. “Duration and intensity are relative. The greater the intensity, the shorter the duration,” says Rogers, who guides patrons to an optimal balance for best results.
“By not overusing any one part of your body, you can stimulate your body to produce more muscle. Each workout tells your body to get ready for a similar future event, so when it heals, you grow stronger. Say you were a millionaire and had unlimited free time to exercise. You would actually get smaller results exercising every day than doing circuit training for a half hour, three times per week,” Rogers continues.
Informing enthusiasts about the dangers of over-training presents a challenge to Olympus staff. Rogers condemns weight-training magazines and fitness centers that promote too many repetitive exercises. “They provide variety to keep your workout interesting. Then they profit by getting you to buy supplements when your body burns out and you feel weak.” Glossy magazine ads are hard for Rogers to dispel, but his clients speak volumes. Keith Groves, 52 of Round Hill exercises regularly. His bulging muscles and youthful appearance lend credibility to Olympus Gym’s philosophy of working smart, not hard.
Stick with the Program
“Find something you enjoy doing to keep yourself interested in exercise,” suggests ice-hockey coach and inspirational inner-city youth leader, Neil Henderson. “Isn’t it funny how hockey players can skate for hours after a puck, yet become bored after a few minutes of running?”
Fitness instructor Stephanie Tortorella runs Fit by Design - a fitness consulting company that serves members of area gyms. What does she do to get positive results that keep her clients motivated?“Keep a balance between cardiovascular exercises and weight training. Running will help you slim down, but more muscle mass helps firm up the areas previously occupied by fat that would otherwise be flabby.” Tortorella identifies dietary change as the single most important thing you can do. Dietary improvement includes avoiding alcohol “it slows your metabolism, makes you hungry and is a form of empty calories.” Ensure you get a lot of vegetables - which are high in antioxidants known to reduce the risk of heart disease - as a part of a high-fiber diet, says Tortorella.
“Most important, be patient with yourself. Plan to lose weight gradually.” Tortorella sees weight loss as a process of lifestyle and physiological change. “The enzymes that trigger your body to burn calories become dormant when you adopt a sedentary lifestyle and need time to return to their normal level.”
Go Ride a Bike
Go as far as you like - the Washington and Old Dominion Trail takes you from Alexandria to Purcellville. On the bike trail, the wind is in your face, hawks overhead keep you company, catfish lazily hover in the streams below and a occasional snake suns himself on the pavement - with complete indifference - as you roll by. Rarely are there a sign of automobiles and the stress of traffic congestion. Let yourself return to the natural world. That’s the beauty of bike riding.
Rick and Terry Landers of Reston discovered these benefits nine years ago when Rick, 50, learned he had diabetes. Keeping in shape makes it easier to control this condition. Husband and wife ride on the bike trail three times weekly for outings of 20 to 30 miles. “It’s safe because there are no cars, convenient and it is scenic. We’ve seen deer, turkeys and snakes. I think this is one of the best maintained paths in the country,” says Rick. “Just this morning we saw a groundhog!” exclaimed Terry who rides on the back seat of their tandem bike. She likes riding out in the country where she can daydream.
Rick Landers defies stereotypes about diabetics being limited in what they can do.He recently completed the Seagull Century, a 100-mile jaunt from Salisbury, Maryland to Assateague and back.
Another day another pound
“Eat less, exercise more,” says Marion Franz, a registered dietician and former director of Nutrition and Professional Education at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reducing food intake, being selective about what you eat and exercising helps one keep fit. Reduced cholesterol is an added benefit.
Speaking recently at the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association annual conference in Washington, D.C., Franz emphasized the benefit of eating smaller portions of lean meat -- or replacing meat altogether with peas, beans, lentils, soy protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
More than 125 million people in the United States have insulin-dependent or non-insulin dependent diabetes, according to Stuart Sundem, a senior community health specialist at the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sundem says that number is increasing astronomically, due to high fat diets and inactivity. Weight loss and regular exercise can help prevent non-insulin dependent diabetes and bring insulin dependent diabetes under better control, say many experts.
Judith Ambrosini, another DESA member, has lived with diabetes for more than 40 years. Currently a food columnist and caterer, she became a vegetarian 20 years ago while living in Italy. ‘‘I would go into town to the butcher shop,’’ she said, ‘‘but by the time I got there, all that was left were brains, intestines and hearts.’’
She opted for the traditional Italian fare of pasta and vegetables when she realized that she had better ‘‘make friends with this thing (diabetes) -- it will be with me for the rest of my life.’’
Mothers worldwide tell their children to eat their vegetables. This advice may very well hold the answer to ensuring good health.