Friends and Falls

Technology is a wonderful thing. It lets us stay connected with friends and loved ones. It lets me share these rambling thoughts with my fellow pulmonary patients. But sometimes you need human interaction. Especially with those people who are special to you. Rarely does a day pass where I haven’t traded messages, in one digital format or another, with friends. Eventually that gets depressing though. And you simply have to make the time for real interaction.

One of the worst things a pulmonary fibrosis patient experiences isn’t a physical ailment. It isn’t measurable on a PFT or visible on a CT scan. It’s a feeling of disconnect that comes with the dwindling number of things they can participate in. The shrinking number of invitations from friends and family. Fewer acquaintances dropping by… et cetera.

Yes the inability to breath is physically worse. But solitude doesn’t help the overall situation one bit. And though it may sound cheesy. Proximity to those who can make us laugh and smile… is pretty powerful medicine. So don’t lock yourself away from the world if you’ve got PF. And don’t drift away or lose contact with loved ones. Who can’t do as much as they used to.

I’m very lucky to have a group of buddies, who’ve stuck with me through my pulmonary trials. And though the real world keeps us apart way to often… It was great to go on a waterfall road trip with a few of them recently. I already blogged about Anderson falls. But we managed to squeeze two more parks into our first day. The second stop being Muscatatuck Falls.

Visiting this park just for the waterfalls, while struggling with fibrosis. Would be… unproductive. Parking is at the top of a hill. Which might be fine going down… But I cringe at the thought of going up it with my old lungs. Plus the stairs to the actual river, while not very long, are rough, steep, and uneven. A rollator or wheelchair couldn’t make it. And taking an O2 cart down them would be quite a chore.

Once at the river, it is pretty. But there’s nary a waterfall in sight. You have to travel down stream to find one. With no actual trails to ease the way. Only a steep river bank to tread upon or the river bed to wade through. Which is okay when you’re healthy and feeling adventurous. But not so much when you’re carrying the added burden of an O2 tank.

After finding lots of rough terrain but no hint of a flowing waterfall. We decided to load up and drive to our next destination. Clifty falls State Park… Located just north of the Ohio river and according to the parks official website. Home to not one… not two… not three… But rather four total waterfalls. Keeping our hopes slightly elevated, despite the dry weather.

I could spend all day hiking through a state or national park. Trying my best to see every bit of trail. When I went to Big Bend in Texas, I pick up a disability Access Pass. Which has come in super handy. So even though its late in the season and the Indiana state parks pass is only good for a few more months. I went ahead and purchased one at Clifty Falls.

They’re available online if you’re willing to wait a week or two. Buuuuut… if you’re going to the park anyway? I found it super easy to buy mine at the gate. It only cost $25. (Thanks to my lungs.) Normally they’re $50 and the entry fee without one is usually $7. So with our loose itinerary including 5 state parks. Which would cost $35 total without one. It seemed worth it to me.

All the falls at Clifty Falls state park are relatively close to parking. Which is nice. But unfortunately they all have some pretty intense stairs too. Clifty Falls has a handicap area that should be easy for folks with wheelchairs, rollators and O2 carts to enjoy. With another viewing area directly below that you might be able to reach with a lightweight O2 cart…

Though I’d definitely want help if I gave ‘er a shot. Its down some wooden steps, along a short dirt path, and then around a curving stone staircase. It’d probably take the oxygen being cranked up and a few rest breaks to pull off. The view is pretty in both spot however, so it’s probably not worth the hassle. I understand if you want to try though. Just be sure you know your limits.

We found Clifty falls bone dry, but Little Clifty had a bit of water to see. The two falls aren’t far apart. Getting from one to the other involves a bumpy trail and even more stairs. If you’re strong enough to carry your own O2 around… and only require low liters per minute. Then you can probably handle it. But If your in need of anything with wheels to assist you… I wouldn’t bother.

The third waterfall, Tunnel falls, actually had falling water for us to enjoy. It wasn’t much and though I would loved to have seen torrents of cascading water. I was satisfied just being with friends. Tunnel falls is right next to parking… but the stairs involved are quite steep. They winded both my companions and neither of them are on O2. I wouldn’t suggest trying it if your oxygen requirements are high.

The final “water fall” of the day, Hoffman Falls, was pretty if lacking in water. I wouldn’t try getting to it using a wheel chair or rollator. There’s a few large steps along the path. Possibly with a small O2 cart… if I had someone in good shape to help lift and lower it a few times. If you get around okay carrying a smaller tank and use only a few liters per minute… you should be able to handle it with rest breaks.

I really wish I could recommend Clifty Falls state park to everyone, with a resounding, “Go for it!” I plan to go back and spend a full day hiking up and down the trails. And If you getting around fine without supplemental O2 or you are post transplant… then yes. “Go for it!”

But knowing how annoying it can be when you really want to do something. Then being unable to enjoy that something because of your lungs. I believe Clifty park would be a downer for most Pulmonary Fibrosis patents. There are just to many stairs.

However; my buddies and I swung into three more parks on our second day. And I promise two of them are much more suited for folks suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. I know pretty much nothing is easy when you’re struggling for breath all the time.

So find things within your abilities. Within your comfort zone. Then go and enjoy them. You may not be able to get out as often as you would like. But getting yourself into the world every once once in a while will do wonders for you peace of mind. And if you can manage it… go with friends. (To be continued)

Clifty Falls State Park, 2221 Clifty Drive Madison, IN 47250

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