"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'll Huff, and I'll Puff, and I'll. . .

On Saturday, I picked Shelley up from her conference in Denver.  We sat on the floor of her hotel room with the atlas, both of our laptops, and several sheets of scrap paper scrawled with possible plans on the floor in front of us.  We discussed various routes and adventures, finally settling on Glenwood Springs as a start.  We had read about a great bike and several beautiful hikes in that area.

Shelley quickly called our mutual friend, Tania, who had backpacked with us back when she lived in D.C., before she moved to Denver.  Tania agreed to join us for a weekend in Glenwood Springs, despite the fact that she had just returned from Iceland only the day before!  To finish off the party, Shelley also called her friend, Ed, who was in town traveling at the same time.  Ed also agreed to join us, as well as bring his friend, Theresa, who was traveling with him.  It was a party!

We rolled in to town after dark, not sure where we would stay.  Since it had worked out so well for me in Moab, I suggested we look for an outfitters store and ask them where we could camp for free.  Just like last time, the woman was quite helpful; she pointed us in the right direction, we met up with Ed and Theresa while in the store, and the four of us caravanned to the mountains - Tania promising to meet us there shortly.

The steep mountain road turned to a sheet of ice, and the forest around us became blanketed with snow the higher we climbed.  I had never camped in snow before.  At 9000 feet, this "fun" camping trip was no joke.  Even the Jack Daniels with honey I had bought in town wasn't enough to warm me up, and the snow-covered kindling wasn't able to catch fire before my toes started going numb.

I spent a very cold, very uncomfortable night, despite the fact that I moved to my car to sleep!  I ended up in my 20 degree bag (with the fleece liner that was supposed to add another 10-15 degrees), wearing my entire merino wool base layer, two layers on top of that, gloves, a hat, a scarf, and hand warmers on each buttcheek (strangely, my butt was the coldest thing).  Curled in the fetal position, I chattered and shivered myself into a fitful sleep.  In the morning, I told Shelley that we may want to rethink our Colorado backpacking plans - at least the sleeping outside part!

After a delicious breakfast, we said goodbye to Ed and Theresa, who were heading west into Utah.  Tania, Shelley, and I hopped on our bikes and pedaled the gorgeous, 10 mile path to the trailhead of Hanging Lake.

Shelly and Tania on the bike path
The hike up to Hanging Lake was excellent for three reasons.
  1. The company.  I always enjoy hiking with women.  The way we seamlessly hike, talk, laugh, and enjoy both the wilderness and each others' company just doesn't happen as easily with men - at least for me.  We touched on all the normal womenfolk topics - men, career, food, the race/class/gender divide, money, being a single adventure-seeking woman, etc.  It was lovely.
  2. The scenery.  Holy cow.  Hanging Lake was stunning - worth every labored, uphill step it took to get there.
Hanging Lake
Falls from the side

The ladies - me, Shelley, Tania, and Nyla

Shelley building her cairn at Spouting Rock, above the lake
The third and final reason that this particular hiking trip was excellent was the important realization I came to -

I have asthma!

Yes.  That was the best part of the trip for me!  I always thought I just huffed and puffed my way up every trail (on foot or bike, on the east coast or west, with fit or unfit companions - doesn't matter) and lagged behind everyone on the uphills because I was out of shape.  I was starting to become quite discouraged that no matter how much hiking, biking, and backpacking I did, the breathlessness didn't ever abate.

Then, at the beginning of yesterday's hike, Tania noticed the way I was breathing and asked me about asthma.  She said that she has exercised-induced asthma, which means that when she exerts herself, her lungs constrict rather than expand.  I remembered being diagnosed with the same thing when I was a kid, but had stopped using an inhaler or thinking about it when I went to college.

Tania gave me a few puffs of her inhaler, and after about 20 minutes, the rest of the hike was gloriously different than any I've taken in years.  I still felt my heart beating and I could obviously feel that I was exerting myself, but I was no longer gasping desperately to fill my lungs with each breath.  

Hooray!  I have asthma!  I'm not just out of shape and overweight!

To confirm, I went to a local clinic the next day.  As expected, I was not able to fill the flow meter breath test thingy they used on me.  I was prescribed an inhaler, and now I'm ready to climb all the mountains!

P.S. I'm holding all of you east-coasters in the light during Sandy craziness!  Don't you kind of secretly love how storms bring everyone together, because so many people are experiencing the same thing?  Like the blizzard of '94 when my dad had to get out for a surgery and the plow still hadn't come to our street so all of our neighbors worked together to shovel out the entire street so my dad could go to the hospital.  I'm praying y'all are safe, but even more, I'm praying that you're reminded of community during this time, and grateful for all the other days when you are safe and warm and you may have forgotten to be thankful for it!  I'm reminded of that now. :)

P.P.S.  What better thing to do during the storm than become a follower of my blog??  You just click the blue "join this site" button on the right.  You'll get emails each time I write a new post, and it helps me build my writing career!

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