Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bokas Take on CA

If you've been following my Instagram (@kboka27), you will have seen lots of fun photos from our recent trip to California!!! Like I said in my previous post, my brother moved to the west coast last year, and we have been wanting to get out there to visit. A very generous Christmas gift from my in-laws allowed us to stay at a condo close to Yosemite for the week, so we were set!

Leni taking a snooze (with her head on Nick's foot) on our flight to San Francisco
We flew out a week ago Friday to spend the weekend with my brother in San Francisco before heading down to Yosemite on Sunday. Unfortunately, a *slight* miscommunication meant that my brother thought we were arriving at 11am on SATURDAY, not Friday...oops! Since we were locked out of my brother's house until about 4:30pm when his first roommate would get home from work, we decided to head to the Jelly Belly Factory!

Free tours! Then they get you with the jelly bean store...
I was not feeling good the day we flew out. I had had a rough week of anaphylaxis and Xolair plus I've been having some on-going GI issues...it was not a fun combination for flying and travel...thankfully, I handled the flights okay (other than needing the bathroom 4xs on a 45 minute flight...). The cool part about San Francisco is that the views are incredible. The tough part about San Francisco is that to get those views, it is VERY HILLY!! Combined with my already not feeling so good, I was exhausted and wiped out. Touring the Jelly Belly Factory was a great chance to take it easy on the drive over and during the air conditioned tour with many options to sit and rest. Plus, that meant jelly beans for the rest of our trip!! (Okay, really just the next few days =P)

We spent the rest of Friday, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning in the city with my brother. Nick got the chance to watch a Blue Angels airshow with my brother while I wasn't feeling good, and he got to try a bunch of local restaurants as we wandered around my brother's (VERY HILLY) neighborhood. His favorite was actually in a small town about 45 minutes from San Francisco near Muir Woods. It was an Indian-inspired burrito place that was AMAZING! They were allergy-friendly, so I was even able to try some!! It was so good, we went back at the end of the week, just to eat there again =P

Sunday morning we went to brunch with my brother, then headed out for a 3.5 hour drive to Yosemite! Thanks to my in-laws, we were staying at a condo about 30 minutes from the south entrance to Yosemite. It was right on the edge of Bass Lake, and we were able to see the lake from our condo.
Bass Lake, CA
Day 1 in Yosemite we decided to head to one of the Giant Sequoia groves in the northern part of the park. It took us way longer than the GPS said to get there because we stopped so. many. times. just to stand in awe of the incredible views (and take photos =P). When we finally got to the sequoia grove, we were not disappointed! These trees were MASSIVE! The only challenging part was that it was a 1.5 mile hike down to see the Giant Sequoias...which meant another 1.5 miles back up to our car...

Giant Sequoias!!
Going in to this trip, we were hoping that we would be able to do some actual hiking and get a bit off the drive-and-park touristy routes. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that after this first day, that wasn't going to be an option. Even this short hike down left me out of breath and exhausted...and going back up was even tougher. While we definitely agreed the effort to see these massive trees was worth it, we also knew there was no way I was going to be able to do that every day. But that was okay, we just adjusted our expectations and were good to go! We made a quick stop at Bridalveil Falls on our way back, which was impressive despite the lack of water this time of year.

Bridalveil Falls with a wisp of water
Day 2 we didn't make it to Yosemite. I had a very rough night and struggled to get up in the morning. I was really lightheaded and dizzy, my heart rate was all over the place, and I was getting out of breath from just standing up. We just hung out in the morning, then headed to a movie theater to watch Storks! If you haven't seen it, we definitely recommend it! =P It was really funny and we laughed through the whole movie.

Glacier Point - You can see Half Dome in the background
Day 3 we were able to get back into Yosemite. We went to Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome. Glacier Point was incredible because you could see almost half of Yosemite National Park from that one overlook. The photos just don't do it justice. Next we headed to Sentinel Dome. This day was challenging physically. Glacier Point was at about 8000 ft. and Sentinel Dome was about 9000 ft. I really struggled with the altitude. Just walking from the parking lot to the overlook at Glacier Point got me quite out of breath and dizzy. Despite that, I really wanted to try to get to Sentinel Dome which was just over a mile hike from the parking lot. What can I say, I'm a *bit* stubborn?? =P The hike ended up being way more challenging than we had anticipated...it was very rocky and had a thin, sandy layer on top of the rocks which made it feel slick. We almost made it to the dome when we decided to take a break for me to catch my breath. Leni alerted as we sat down, and when my sugar was okay, we knew we needed to head back to the parking lot. I took some benadryl and we headed back down the trail.
Such an incredible view! Half Dome is on the right, El Capitan is just out of view on the left.
I started having a good bit of trouble as we were heading back to our car. I was just getting more and more unsteady on my feet and slipping a bit on the rocks. Between Leni and Nick, I was able to stay mostly vertical, but I did fall a couple times. The first time, Nick broke my fall and kept me from really hitting the rocks hard, but the second time I broke my fall with my wrist. =\ A few days later when it wasn't getting better and the pain was keeping me up at night, we headed to a local urgent care. It was feeling like it had a few months ago when I broke 2 bones in my hand, so we got some x-rays to make sure. Thankfully, it is just sprained so hopefully it will be feeling better soon!

For our last full day in Yosemite, we started with a ride on the Sugar Pine Railroad. After the train ride, we drove back into the park to see one more area of the park. I was pretty much out of energy at this point after a busy (but very fun) week. We headed down to the Yosemite Valley to see the Lower Yosemite Falls. Most of the waterfalls in Yosemite are dry in the fall since they are mostly fueled by the snow run-off as it melts in the spring. This one was no different and was completely dry. There were even rock climbers climbing where the water typically runs! After seeing the lack-of-waterfall, we headed back through the park to the condo, taking in one last incredible view of the park. Friday we drove back to San Francisco (with detours to the Indian-inspired burrito restaurant and an urgent care) to spend the evening with my brother before flying home on Saturday.

El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the distance, Sentinel Dome on the right.
All in all, it was an incredible trip! I am still so thankful that this trip was even possible. A year ago, I could barely walk, couldn't eat, and was living from one EpiPen to the next...I am so thankful to be where I am now! Living with a rare disease means no one really knows if/when things will improve. Treatment is a game of trial and error, and we're left in this perpetual state of waiting and hoping. I know things could get bad again, but I am also living proof that things can improve, too. Was I completely healthy this entire trip and we did everything we wanted? No. But at the same time, my mast cell disease didn't win this time. I flew across the country, spent a week hiking some of it at altitude, was able to eat a good bit of solid food (even if I did throw up some, too...), and most importantly, had an incredible time on vacation.

I'll leave the rest of my reflection and deep thoughts for another post, and just finish with what is becoming my signature closing remark...THANK YOU!! For everyone praying for me and Nick, for everyone following my life with mast cell disease and helping to raise awareness, and all of us living this crazy life with mast cell disease and refusing to give up. During my roughest season of life, seeing others also fighting against mast cell disease (and having victories!) was encouragement and motivation for me to keep searching for answers. I hope that during this season of my own victories over my crazy mast cells, I can be an encouragement to others walking the same road I was on just a few months ago.

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