Take a Hike
Bringing diabetes into the wilds of the woods!
By Kerri Sparling
February 2010 — I'll admit it: I'm not much for dirt. I don't like bugs, I get achy just thinking about sleeping on the ground, and I'm not a big fan of smelling like bug spray. So when my husband told me he wanted to go up to Bar Harbor, Maine and explore Acadia National Park, it was all I could do to keep from collapsing into a fit of giggles.
"Sure, honey, I'll go camping. We can bring the air conditioner, right?"
After a long drive from Connecticut to almost-Canada, I found myself immersed in the gorgeous views and untouched natural landscape. I didn't miss the internet one bit, and I barely thought about my to do lists. Instead, I was climbing mountains, walking for miles around ponds, and enjoying the scenery.
The challenge of bringing diabetes into the wilderness is something I'm not often faced with, and I don't tend to pack lightly. Last year, when I went white-water rafting with my now-husband, I tried to foresee as many diabetes emergencies as possible, preparing for everything from a misplaced meter to a midnight hypo. Vacationing more than a few hours from my home forces me to think about all the what-ifs and how to handle every variable while away from the comforts of my medically stocked apartment.
Our plan was to camp one night outside of Acadia Park, then rough it a bit less in a bed and breakfast for the second night. I decided to keep my pump connected for this vacation instead of taking the wireless route, so I needed to bring enough pump supplies for four days, in addition to all the other stuff. I also brought a glucagon kit to thwart any middle of the night emergencies, and we had more juice boxes packed into our Jetta than seemed possible.
One of the best things I brought with me, though, was my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. I put the sensor on before we left for Maine and by the time we had arrived at Acadia, the sensor was reading almost spot on. While climbing up Gorham Mountain (525 feet of rocky incline), it was so comforting to take a peek at the Dexcom trends and know whether or not I was dropping or rising. Keeping tabs on my blood sugar trends kept me from over-treating when it wasn't necessary.
It was strange to see how smoothly we are able to integrate diabetes into "life." Even though we had a whole extra bag in the car stashed with diabetes supplies and most of our pre-camping grocery trip involved fast-acting glucose items, it wasn't this big fat effort. We threw the stuff we needed into the car and moved towards our weekend with excitement. Diabetes was accommodated, but it wasn't a big kink in our plans. In fact, it barely got any of our attention at all. It's pretty ironic that my blood sugars were completely stable the entire time we were gone, instead of the tangled web of highs and lows I tend to hit.
With the Dexcom on my arm, the pump clipped to my shorts, and our backpack housing a few tubes of glucose gel, I was free to explore nature. And even with bits of diabetes management here and there, I did everything my non-diabetic husband did. I climbed to the top of Gorham Mountain. I saw the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. I hiked for miles around Jordan Pond and I drank blueberry tea and ate popovers at the tea house at the end of the trail. I camped out in a tent and slept under the stars. I toasted marshmallows and ate s'mores at midnight (and yes, I bolused like mad for these treats and tracked the numbers with my Dexcom). I even hung out in the dirt.
And don't tell my husband, but I think I liked it.
Visit Kerri's website.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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