Canyon Convenience

There is a certain amount of convenience that comes with living in or near a larger city. Zoos, museums, sports, endless food choices… more specialized healthcare. That last one being of particular importance to those among us suffering from a serious illness. With my own issues for example. Not all pulmonologist specialize in Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILDs). And not all that do, are lung transplant doctors. But where those specialist tend to be… is in larger hospitals, and located in cities.

Meaning my new lungs will always have me anchored to one metropolis or another. Which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. I do I enjoy the convenience, but it can come with a sense of claustrophobia. Everyone and everything feeling on-top of one other.

Which is one of the reasons I bought and converted Midna into a skoolie. Not just to see sights I’ve not seen before, but to enjoy unchaining the anchor for a bit now and again.

We tend to learn all the neat hidden gems in our own neighborhoods. A local Japanese restaurant with the best ramen. The little brewpub with amazing craft beers. That stretch along the jogging path that feels a million miles from everything. And as much as we love our comfort zone. There is joy in discovering new gems in new locations. Some of our best memories can be made, simply turning a corner and stumbling upon something new.

On the recent road trip to see waterfalls, for example. My compatriots and I discovered Butt Drugs and Rubbin’ Butts BBQ. Why did fate toss these similarly themed locals in our path? Who knows. But our inner 10 year olds found them hilarious. Would a local have circled the block for pictures? Probably not. But I wouldn’t stop to take a picture of Dong’s, a Chinese restaurant in my home town, either. Though I’ve had to take several friends there, once they learned of it’s existence.

Exploring a new city can be awesome. But I’ve found that unless your able to get into the nooks and crannies were the hidden gems reside. Then once you’ve seen the big tourist draws. 90 plus percent of cities and urban areas are alike. The same fast food joints, interchangeable coffee franchises, identical big box stores… Driving down the highway in Dallas feels eerily similar to driving through Indy. But the farther away you can get, the better your odds of finding something new.

For my friends and I, day two of our waterfall quest delivered us to Hemlock Cliffs first. Now I’m sure there are folks that feel the same way about the outdoors as I’ve described cities above. “If you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all. Why hit all these parks looking for falling water?” A fair question… I do enjoy new cities. But nature seems to have more variety and less noise. Cities can feel hectic, while the pace of the outdoors feels more natural.

So even though we failed, once again, to find any waterfalls. I didn’t feel disappointed walking around the looping trail of a box canyon. There was still some gorgeous sights to be seen as we hiked. Views I wish all my fellow Pulmonary Fibrosis patients could enjoy. But if you are on anything more than perhaps a few liters of 02 per minute… I think It would be to much for you. And there is a few rough patches that’ll stop any wheelchair or rollator in it’s tracks.

Ninety eight percent of the trail could probably be done with an O2 cart. The problem being that the 1%… is stairs made out of randomly shaped stones. Awkwardly placed in a narrow crevice. Plus the entire trail is within the small canyon. So once your in, there is no way out except by trekking up hill. And hills are simply one of the worst things in the world when your on supplemental oxygen.

If you decide to give Hemlock Cliffs a try, I suggest following the arrows. Going this way will provide a long drawn out decline. Followed by level terrain. And then a steep but short climb up some rocks back to the parking lot. Where hopefully you’ll have a fresh O2 tank waiting. We went the opposite way. Meaning a long trek up a gradual incline that was nearly to much for one of my friends.

If you simply wish to see the water fall nearest were you’ll be parking. Take the steep stones stairs down and back. (Opposite the direction the arrows are pointing.) Skipping the looped trail. You’ll probably have to crank your O2 liters up as you go. But it will be easier then climbing them after hiking the full loop. Which is probably what we should have done. Not for lack of oxygen… but time.

Our plans for the rest of the day included Spring Mill State Park, McCormicks Creek State Park, and Cataract falls. However; it looked like one of them was going to have to be cut from the itinerary. One of the down sides to truly seeing the beauty in God’s creation. Is the desire to see all of it. While knowing there will never be enough time to do so.

Having an illness such as pulmonary fibrosis limits that time even more. Whether you enjoy the city life, conveniently located nearby. The wilderness a road-trip away. Or a mixture of both… Doctors visits, rehab, evaluations, exams eventually start to intrude.

But you are more than your illness. So keep living life as more than just an ill person. And make time to do the things you love, for as long as you can. Near or far. Convenient or not.

Hemlock Cliffs National Forest Rd, English, IN 47118

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