I’m lying in bed propped up under too many pillows. I am coughing up my lungs, alternating hot cold flashes, parts of my hips, shoulders and back throb with enough pain I’m considering having all of those parts removed.
I’ve been home from Colorado for less than 24 hours. While there I eagerly wandered/hiked my way up to 7000 or so feet above sea level to take in the views. Mother Nature however made sure to make it very clear to me that if I had any intentions of continuing my trek up any higher without the proper time to acclimate she was going to make my lungs explode.
Now don’t start picturing me out there all alone. I was driven out to this beautiful area and guided through this new experience by two extremely capable 20 year CO residents. Lifelong friends I adopted as family in jr.high, their abilities far exceed mine in that terrain or otherwise. I was in good hands.
I have also made sure to not shut up for most of the hike because
A. I am truly excited to be there with Laura
B. I talk a lot normally and…
C. I am losing oxygen and don’t know it yet.
One of my all-time favorite books is “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer about the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster where 8 climbers were killed. It is written so fantastically well that you take the amazing journey with him to the top of the world then watch in horror as Mother Nature reminds us all her power we cannot equal and that we are tiny specks in comparison easily blown off the side of a Mt.
Born in Las Vegas and raised in the deserts of Southern California, I am fascinated reading about the effects of altitude and the incredible elite athletes who can now summit Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen. You truly have no idea how your body will react to altitude change or at what point. It can make you very sick and can be deadly. This is not something to ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist or is fake news. Our bodies need oxygen.
I know I will never summit Mt. Everest or any of the world’s highest peaks, but I would love to get to explore beautiful parts of the country above sea level and want to spend more time closer to the Rocky Mountains. They are spectacular to behold. Much like the Superstition Mountains, the Rockies command your attention and send off an energy that can be life changing. Add in the flowers and wildlife and it’s almost too much for this lizard’s heart and lungs to take. Todays hike was local to Loveland CO. Arthurs Rock.
We began the hike at a slow pace allowing me to take in the scenery. The first noticeable reaction to the altitude change was a yawn. I’m awake and my body feels good as we hike on through a meadow but I’m yawning as I’m happily goofing off trying to twirl and sing the Sound of Music. We stop to let me get my bearings and some water. It’s not much longer before my head is in a fish bowl and my ears are plugged and popping.
I did not feel dizzy until we reached the top. The view is awesome and I was proud to have done it but I was also now starting to get my first taste of what an extreme altitude change can do physically and knew that an hour plus hiking up means at least an hour of hiking back down, unless you take a good toe kick to a rock and gravity takes you down faster and I was not hoping for that type of assistance.
Round trip our hike was roughly 5 miles in about 3 hours. On paper, just an average hike.
I had spent the past 4 days at least at a mile-high elevation flying into Denver and made one trip up to around 7000 elevation driving to Estes Park. But quite obviously that was not enough time for my dusty dried desert lungs to handle slight humidity and what felt like half the normal amount of oxygen I require to not flop over.
Within a few hours of returning from our hike and showering my right eye puffed up as if I had an allergic reaction and it is still possible that’s all that was. I have a couple of small sores in my mouth and now I’m coughing consistently and can’t drink enough water to stop the dehydration. I’m slightly achey all over.
My body 48 year old body was drained already from the normal travel stress I go through. But then I go and carry a far too heavy of an overstuffed back pack because I don’t want to check anything in. One shoulder strap breaks forcing me to tie it and lug this beast as awkwardly as possible through two major airports destroying my back and right shoulder in the process.
So here I am in bed reliving magic memories of a trip that went by too fast. I had briefly escaped the Arizona heat and rattlesnakes only to meet another one of natures beasts… altitude sickness.
Believe it or not with as miserable as I feel right now, I am excited to go again. I now have the reality of what it will take for my body to do this safely. I am thankful I was with people who didn’t push me, keeping me safe the entire time and carrying extra water for me. I am grateful to be more aware than ever to remind my Superstition Mt. Museum guests traveling from all over the world to be careful out in our desert. Dehydration is as deadly as altitude sickness.
Listen to your body. Know your limitations. When traveling, respect locals who have the experience that can save your life and scoot your ego aside because maybe…just maybe… you don’t know everything even though you think you do to get back home safely.