It has been a while since I last posted here. I took a break because I had gotten too wrapped up in the commercial side of things rather than enjoying the journey of discovery and sharing. Today is the beginning of a new journey for my son and me. A journey with a son who was a boy when I started this blog and is now an amazing young man.
Let me catch you all up on what has been happening since I last wrote anything. Since that time I officially retired from federal service and now do what I want, including working at my own business. Joseph and I started hiking during the pandemic and moved up to backpacking soon after. I'll share a bit about my experiences in these two for now.
Ah retirement, it seems like it should be a simple thing to accomplish. Work 20 or more years and then pull the plug. Well, at the federal level it takes on a whole new dimension of complexity. The entire process, in my case, took almost a year. It started when I filed my papers about 3 months before my official retirement date (July 31, 2021). During that time the retirement specialist reviewed all my paperwork (yes, there was a lot of it) and then sent it back for mistakes. One of the simplest to correct was my name, I had neglected to enter Junior (I had not used that in over 20 years), but that had to be corrected by me adding "Jr." to everything with my name on it. There were other issues that were more complex and would result in a significant delay in processing. That issue was my job-related injuries. My retirement was based on several factors including the highest 3 years of pay, time in service, and any worker's compensation cases. Once these have all been accounted for, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) then works its magic.
What should have happened and what I got were two different things. What should have happened was that around the two-month post-retirement mark I should have started getting an interim payment equal to 75% of what my estimated final amount would be. Well, that two-month mark was never hit and I spent the next 7 months wondering when I would finally get a payment. I did finally get a happy birthday surprise when on February 1st OPM finally deposited my first check. Phew, to say that was stressful is an understatement.
While that was going on my saving grace was my wife and son. They stayed positive and helped me weather the stress. Part of that help included the hiking I mentioned before. Since I had time on my hands I decided to get out and start enjoying nature. There were some exciting hikes, including one where we inadvertently (ok, it was my fault) chose the most difficult ascent on this trail. We did a 1700 elevation gain in just under 1 mile. It doesn't sound too bad, but when you're scrambling up boulders and silty, near-vertical, paths, it becomes something else entirely. We did have fun that day, but it almost defeated my will to go out again. The good news is that I did go back out and continued to enjoy nature in all its glory.
One interesting positive from this is that, on a five-mile hike, I noticed that the person I was with was wheezing as we gained elevation. This troubled me so we turned around and ended the hike early. They went and got a check-up and ended up getting s stent placed in an artery that was blocked. Had we not gone hiking that day I would never have noticed the wheezing. God is good folks, He puts us where we need to be, we may not understand why at the time, but there is a purpose.
Onward with my story. After this event, Ruby's Uncle Juan started hiking with me because Ruby and Joseph were at school throughout the week. He was the one that would go out with me on our first overnight backpacking trip. After researching everything I could about the trails near us, I chose one that seemed to be the easiest to get started on. We started our overnight at the Fish Creek Trailhead, which ended up being about an hour and a half drive to get there. We parked my car, grabbed our backpacks, and started off. Being our first time out in the San Gorgonio Wilderness we were only doing 2 miles to get our feet wet.
|With Juan at the end|
We made it to the Fish Creek Camp in just under one hour. We unpacked, set up camp, and settled in to make dinner. The trick to backpacking and keeping the weight down is dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. I had Next Mile Meals (not a sponsor, just really love their meals), which is a keto-friendly brand, and Juan had Ramen which is always a good choice. Dinner was delicious and filling. We did not need to get any extra water as we both brought plenty with us (although I think it was a mistake, as the added weight wasn't necessary).
My favorite activity car camping is the campfire in the evening. But, out in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, it's a big no-no, the risk of a wildfire is too great. So, we sat and shared some good conversation and hot coffee as night arrived. It is truly amazing how many stars you can see when there is no light pollution. The sky was so full of stars that it overwhelmed our senses. The quiet was almost deafening if that makes sense. We woke up early the next morning, had our breakfast (Next Mile Meals again for me), and packed up for the hike out. All in all the trip was a success. We enjoyed the time out in nature and looked forward to doing it again.
|Joseph and Me|
The following week it was my best Buddy and Me. We took the same trail and camped at the same place. There were a few differences. First, we had a big storm come in during the week and that resulted in snow along our route. The other was that hunting season had started and there were more folks camped at Fish Creek Camp than the week before. Everyone was quiet, doing their own thing, which was fine with me. Joseph and I had a great time and headed home the next morning.
This summer we will be doing several overnight trips and then before school starts for my buddy, a 4-day, 18-mile trip. I am so looking forward to that one. I've invited a few friends and Juan. Hopefully, everyone can make it, but if it's just me and Joseph that will be just as good.
|Joseph on Trail|
|Burn scar from a fire a few years ago|