August 21, 2009

Experience the freedom
of real health

Each year, I do a strenuous trek with my friend, ophthalmologist Ed Kondrot of Phoenix. Last year, we did the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim (roundtrip) with fully loaded packs. And we were brilliant enough to do it on June 20, right at summer solstice. The inner gorge whipped winds that felt like we were in a blast furnace (115 degrees F in the shade). You wouldn't want to dare touch the sun-scorched rocks. You'd want to fry your eggs on them.

However, the trip was so awesome, and we were so proud of our accomplishment, that we decided to revisit the canyon again this year. But we decided to have the brains not to do it in the summer. This time, we did it in April. The trip was planned and guided by Ed's patient, Bob Green of Colorado, a canyon veteran, who brought along his friend Mike Harr. We needed a guide for this one. We were promised a wilderness back country experience complete with rappelling. What we didn't expect, though, were paths so poorly marked that we had to backtrack for miles. And scarcity of water that compelled us to drink from potholes in the rocks for much of the trek.

Though not the longest backpack adventure, nor the greatest in elevation gain and loss, this was perhaps my hardest trip. I am not fond of near vertical descents. (Watch the video!) I'd rather ascend, despite the work out. Bellying around ledges is fine, except when the drop is 100 feet and you have to hold on to eroded limestone with edges similar to an onion grater (and you weren't warned to bring leather gloves).

I'm used to drinking and bathing in running water or lakes, like in the Sierras or Alaska. Here, we had to drink out of water remaining in potholes in the rocks. A few weeks or even days later and there would have been none. There was not a real trail, but what I would call a camouflaged path. And the path was covered with desert plants and cactus that pocked your skin on contact. We had to travel 40 miles from the park entrance just to get to the starting point. This was rugged wilderness. We were on our own. And, I loved it.

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As a vegetarian, I ate organic dried raw food the whole trip, as trips before. Ed and I were totally impressed with our guide, Mike. He, at age 70, showed us what we are capable of if we keep "young" and active. He could keep well ahead of us for much of the journey.

Oh, my 86-year-old mom was upset that I didn't tell her that I would be away and that I didn't call her. When I told her about the trip, she admitted that it would have caused her too much worry and anguish, me on ropes and ledges, and sliced up by desert rocks and plants. She eased up on me when I told her about it. "It was better that you didn't tell me," she said. She just hopes that I got it out of my system. Sorry, mom, no way.

Ed made a photo journey of our adventure. After cutting some scenes (like us frolicking in pools skinny dipping), he posted it online at YouTube. You can enjoy a spectacular movie shoot of the Grand Canyon, and me rappelling for the first time (at age 59) online at

Please check out the video. It's magnificent. Ed did a great job. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!ÿ You'll see why health, fitness, and prevention are so important to us, and what a lifestyle that emphasizes these can bring to us all. You don't need to do a trip like this to prove yourself. The idea is to get out and do what you are able to do for as long as you can do it!

Yours for better health and medical freedom,

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