Allen Hogan uses a vacation day almost every other Friday during hiking season. The mountains call and he must go.
Allen grew up in Northern California in the San Jose area. Now at age 55, the Sierra Nevadas are his favorite place to be.
He’s backpacked his whole life. First with his Boy Scout troop in 1969, around the time that he was diagnosed with diabetes. Now, with friends who can also get off work early on Fridays.
He’s summited Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States, six times. Three of those times he did the trip in a day, the other three were multi-day trips with a backpack. Both strategies have their pros and cons. When you go up in a single day you don’t have to carry as much gear, but you gain elevation quickly. When you take a few days to get up, you need to bring a lot more gear and supplies.
“I have more stuff than most people,” Allen says, comparing himself to other hikers. He packs extra supplies for his t:slim Pump and continuous glucose monitor. “I have to bring a portable USB battery to charge my pump and CGM, an extra meter to test and calibrate the CGM.” But beyond make sure he has adequate supplies, he doesn’t spend much time thinking about the challenges that diabetes brings to his adventures. “It’s all I’ve known my whole life and all that I’ll ever know.”
Altitude doesn’t affect his blood sugars much, but the exercise does. “Insulin is way more efficient when you’re doing this,” he says. “I often reduce my boluses by 40%.”
He’s extra careful of his infusion site when he’s on the trail. “I’m usually sticky and sweaty, so I’m careful about cleaning. I change my shirt often and wash-up in the river with a handkerchief, finishing off with alcohol or iodine prep.” With limited capacity to carry supplies, he places his infusion site and CGM sensor strategically. “I’ve never had problems with them sticking.” he says, “As long as the backpack doesn’t hit it, you’re okay.”
When the sun is beating down on his pack, he finds alternative storage places for his pump and extra insulin to prevent potential degradation from temperatures outside the safe range. “I put it in my pants pocket, and at night, I sleep with it. Doing this, I have never had a problem with temperature.”
Once he was four miles east of Yosemite National Park and it started to hail. He pulled on his waterproof outer layers and a cover for his backpack, and put his t:slim Pump in the pocket of his rain pants. Allen explains: “When you get cold – you hike.”
“You only live once so don’t waste it,” he advises. “Nobody is normal. I can live a ‘normal’ life, I just play with different constraints than others, and often, I’m healthier than they are. I don’t know if I’m so active because I have diabetes, and it helps, or if I was born that way.”
Either way, with backpacking season in full swing, he’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.
Interview by Blair Ryan.