Getting Too High, Too Fast: Rocky Mountain "High" Includes Altitude Ailments

Today started out great and ended great. I saw parts of Colorado that made me want to go back home and pack a couple more bags, grab my husband and come to live here permanently!

The views were breathtaking — and not just because the air is so thin and I’m so out of shape. They are beautiful. I saw my first aspen groves, my first mountain streams, dozens of beaver dams, assorted wildlife and a dazzling array of wildflowers.

I also experienced altitude sickness.

[more]My son got sick some years back when he was out here, but he was young. It wasn’t something that worried me. I never imagined it would happen… to me.

We went for a light hike along a beautiful trail after driving up a good distance with the truck in 4WD. The sights were just amazing.

I must admit when I first came into Colorado, I was a bit disappointed. I expected blue spruce and lush mountain pastures. I got flat landscapes, desert and heat.

Today, I got the postcard views — the cloud-tipped mountains reflected in a high-elevation lake surrounded by lush, blooming vegetation and wildlife all about.

But, I also got suddenly tired, followed by a headache, cramps and waves of nausea. It was awful. I felt gross all over. And it happened so fast! I was fine, feeling fit and happy and hiking the trails and then we went up about 200 more feet to a lake view and “whoosh!” it hit me. It got worse the higher we went.

When we came off the mountain, I felt much better, the headache faded to a memory, cramps left and my nausea subsided — but I’ve been pretty tired ever since.

I’m going to try that trip again in a couple days, after I give myself a little more time to acclimate. I want to see the continental divide and not feel like hurling on it. I want to take some pictures and commit some views to memory.

On the upside, I’ve found the perfect camping spot for Wayne, Alex and me for a few weeks, or a few months, in one of the nearby national parks. It’s just sitting there, available and unused… screaming for us to buy an Airstream Bambi and a Jeep and call it home for awhile.

I wish I had more time here. If I did, I’d take a tent, a backpack with a few basics and a pen and paper and I’d go write. I’d stay there in that one spot and camp and write until my hand was too sore to continue or until was all “written out” and the view no longer made me starry eyed.

Today, I saw the Colorado that can only be described as my Zen — it’s what I imagine it would be when I closed my eyes and said “Rocky Mountains” to myself before ever coming here.

Illness aside, today was pretty incredible.

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