Friday, September 14, 2012

Expedition Colorado: The Hike In

The trip actually started a day before we did any hiking.  I was up by four, the morning prior, to begin my trip out west.  I had an early flight out of Gulfport with a connection in Atlanta before finally meeting up with Brandon in El Paso.  We pointed the car north and began our road trip up to Colorado.  There is really not much to say about this trip.  One can imagine what goes on for ten hours of driving.  There was some general catching up and scanning through the radio until our late arrival at the trailhead around 12:30.

Brandon was up long before me that first morning.  He was stirring before daylight.  I didn't have that problem.  I've slept in my truck numerous times on road/camping trips, so I was quite content with catching up on a little rest before our hike in.  

I finally got up around 7:30 and started thinking about breakfast.  When I finally got out of the car I was, for the first time, able to take in my surroundings.  It was dark during our journey in, so the shadows were the only thing hinting to what was around us.  Looking up at the mountain range, we were about to hike into, was awe inspiring.  To a boy from the gulf coast of Mississippi, this is a huge change of scenery.  I've never seen mountains like this first hand.  The anticipation of what was about to come was at its peak at this moment.

The view from the car.

I signed my name into the registry at 8:30 that morning before beginning the hike up to the lowest of the lakes.  I did my fair share of training to prepare for this hike.  The only problem is, there is not any way to account for the altitude change that one will experience when coming from sea level.  That was the most intimidating factor for me when starting out.

3.3 miles to the lower blue lake.  That can't be too bad right?  Right???

Almost immediately, beyond the trailhead, the trail takes the turn up.  There are very few level or downhill sections on the way to the lower blue lake.  We kept mentioning the fact that when we are headed back out it will be all down hill.  About 15 minutes into the hike we both had to shed our jackets because we were quickly becoming sweaty.  We pressed on and continued going up and up.

The short hand of our climb:  We had to break at nearly every switchback to catch our breath.  I noticed that my respiratory and heart rates would elevate quickly, but at rest would also come down very quickly.  I started coughing somewhere around halfway up and then noticed an occasional wheeze when I was near 3/4 of the way to the lake.  It took us over four hours to climb the 3.3 miles to the spot where we planned to camp.  I know that is a crawling pace, but trying to adjust to the altitude was murder.

I didn't initially feel bad while we were setting up camp.  I was just hanging out eating a little lunch when the headache started to set in.  Before too long my head was throbbing, I was feeling a little nauseated, and I was overwhelmingly exhausted.  I did a bit of research on altitude sickness before I left, because I knew that this would be a real potential for me.  The best advice was to get rest, drink plenty of water, and pop a few Tylenol.  I did just that and sacked out for a few hours.  

I woke up feeling like a new man.  I was seeing the area through a whole new set of eyes.  The beauty was outstanding.  Just looking up at the mammoth mountains surrounding us was quite exciting.  This was the first time my eyes have gazed upon something this amazing.  I've seen plenty of pictures of the area around the lower blue lake, but like everything else the pictures don't do justice to seeing the area with one's own eyes.  The lake was ultimately clear and blue.  The blue was so vivid that it drew my attention away from everything else.  I didn't want to leave the banks of that lake, so I sat down and took it in for a while. 

Brandon and myself next to the lake

Brandon taking in the clear blue water.

Following my nap, I was finally game for getting out and checking out the area a little bit.

Home for the next few nights.

The stream where we filtered our water from.

I took it easy for the rest of the day after that nap.  I walked around the area for a little bit and did all the level area exploring I could.  I refilled my water bottles and cooked dinner.  That water was ice cold and so tasty, but i've never been one to risk drinking it untreated or unfiltered.  Following dinner I headed back down to the shore to chill out and write for a little bit before calling it a day, but I didn't last very long.  The exhaustion was just too much and I was out before dark.

to be continued...

Until Next Time,

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