It had been close to 20 years since last hiking into Shelving Rock and its marvelous lookouts of Lake George. Molsem and I were due for an easy, simple hike with minimal solitude as the trail is wide, relatively smooth, and the grade is pleasant making the hike a nice cross country style run for some. I used Tim Starmer’s book, “Five Star Trails of the Adirondacks” as a guide due to its clear and accurate directions, and trail descriptions.
I selected this jaunt for the fond memories I hold of hiking it with my two sons when they were young boys. My “Night and Day Boys” with temperaments as opposite may not hold the memories as I! I didn’t go there for nostalgic reasons. I wanted to walk and sweat just a tad.
The trail is quite wide with terracing switchbacks reminiscent of Alpine roadways of similar width. When I was last there it was late fall, cold and my oldest son, the researcher, always ran ahead. My youngest son, the philosopher, always lagged behind. I became the ballast, the in between, requiring both to remain in sight and sound. I would sing Traditional Native songs and they would repeat them like a call and response. These are things you do when your kids are young.
I went to each of the look outs, now mostly blocked by the phenomenal growth of Red Oak, Scrub Oak, Black Walnut with low bush Blueberries creeping around worn trails and scorched fire pits. No Uva Ursa though. That was gone. The hike provided just enough physical exertion to ease my agitation, that edginess that happens when one sits too long usually accompanied by jumping knees, repeated sighs, and pacing, if you have the room.
Because I still run a Dojo, am Native American, and a Military Veteran, I’m often exploring the roots from which I have grown from and how they intersect in this Natural World. What is the common bond? Life can be full of traumatic scarring which pharmaceutical companies and various organizations squeeze every penny of profit from they can. But before there were anti-depressants, Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, anti anxiety, Viagra, Cialis and on and on and on, what did veterans, warriors do to reintegrate?
I found myself recalling conversations with Dojo mates about the Yamabushi which literally means “the warrior that sleeps in the mountains.” Although too many people without experience prefer to cultivate the fantasy of mystical mountain warrior monks as opposed to understanding that Warriors of Indigenous people globally sought refuge in isolated nature. “Many warriors and nobles retreated to the monasteries to train or collect their thoughts in the serene surroundings of the mountaintops.” Shinto, the spirituality of the original people of Japan, is comparable to the spirituality of Indigenous Native American people. Shinto literally translated, means the Way of the Gods. Too many Dojos only focus on the physical and the egotistical and completely ignore the breath, Ki, spiritual aspect that is absolutely essential in bringing the Warrior’s mind back home from war trauma.
Without writing a dissertation, I would like to just mention: Cortisol, Testosterone, HSD, and its significance in PTSd survivors and treatment. Cortisol is a “steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress.” The longer, more chronic, the periods of elevated blood, saliva, urine, and most significantly, CELLULAR, Cortisol levels one experiences due to excessive stress, the lower the Testosterone, and the greater the damage done to one’s body. (Females are not exempt from this chemical phenomenon.) Although blood, saliva, and urine levels of Cortisol may return to normal after extended (chronic) stress, the Testosterone does not. Why? Because of 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 (11 beta-HSD or simply, HSD.) This incredibly complex metabolism involves fat, proteins, enzymes, neurotransmitters and “cytokine cascades” that present in mood swings, irreversible and irreparable brain damage, compromised immune systems, loss of bone density, muscle atrophy and more. By requesting a blood test to measure HSD blood levels one can better determine cellular Cortisol levels. (And you all thought cortisol only had to do with belly fat! WRONG.)
Intense, high demand workouts can worsen the cortisol/HSD/Testosterone balance and rhythms. Sort of like quick burn, high demand exercise does not burn fat but instead activates the ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) metabolic cycle which burns carbs. WALKING, HIKING, on the other hand, are low to moderate aerobic activities that activate fat burning metabolism which in this case also begins to reestablish the natural, normal cortisol rhythms.
Walk more for longer periods of time. Hike more in the mountains or wherever you find peace. Slow, mindless, deliberate movement. In the Dojo Iaido offers the opportunity to come back to center. Mountain altitudes have higher negative ions for improved brain function and health. Find what works for you.
The Cortisol Connection, Shawn Talbott, PH.D., FACSM
The Natural Testosterone Plan, Stephen Harrod Buhner
Aikido – Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- A Holistic Approach, Thomas D. Osborn