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Friday, September 5, 2008

Nebraska Vacation (part 2 of 4)

[Insert photo here as soon as our mac is fixed which has our iPhone hiking photos]

After spending 3 days with Ryan's folks, Ryan and I headed off to Colorado for some hiking and camping. It was a 5 hour drive to our campsite 45 minutes outside of Denver. Ryan had prepared us well for our hike. We were to be doing a bit of wilderness hiking and camping so we needed to be pretty self-sufficient. We wouldn't even have potable water available necessarily, so we needed to account for everything. Ryan bought a camping stove and water filter in preparation for the trip, but we had to hold off on buying the gas until we were in NE because obviously we couldn't bring that on the plane. When we finally made it to Denver we thought we would stop at a town to buy some gas and groceries before hitting our initial campsite. Turns out, every town west of Denver on the highway is tiny. We kept thinking we would hit "the" big town near our campsite but we never did. Finally we arrived in Grant, our campsite town, which literally consists of a General Store and a Motel. I asked if there was a restaurant in town and the woman at the General Store said she would really like it if they did have one. It would be better for the Motel business.

Turn out the General Store did not have the gas we needed, nor did several neighboring towns so we had to do without. We bought a couple candle like "emergency" fuel thingies and loaded up on the minimal amount of food necessary.

We attempted to start a fire at our initial campsite but that was a no go because it started to rain and apparently the wood was already previously soaked. So to begin our big hiking/camping trip, we ate at a nearby bar.

The next day we set out on our hike to Abyss Lake: Abyss Lake Trail

The hike is described as a "strenuous one day hike". Ryan and I, being seasoned Patagonia hikers thought this would be no problem for us. We planned to hike it in one day and camp at Lake Abyss. We were wrong. So very wrong. The trail kicked my ass about 1/2 way in. I started getting really exhausted after brief stretches. It was basically all uphill on the 2nd half and I completely forgot that I am pretty sensitive to elevation sickness. In the past I've gotten uncomfortably "sick" at Breckenridge which is around 9000 feet. For the Abyss hike, we started around 9400 feet and went to 12,600 feet. Ryan started getting affected about the last hour of the hike. He was short on breath and said that normally trivial tasks seems exhausting -- like moving around rocks to secure the tent.

The hike was 7 hours in length. We originally thought we'd do it in 5 max. By the time we got the the lake I was so miserable all I could do was climb into the tent. I had a headache and my fingers were numbing at the tips. I was also nauseated. Ryan didn't feel terrific either but he took care of me. He went on ahead to put up the tent -- fearful of nightfall. And he cooked our little Chunky Soup cans over the gas candles. (Thanks for those!). Neither of us really felt like eating, but we chowed down in the tent, in our sleeping bags. After dinner we both crashed. It was probably 7 o'clock. I think I slept a little out of pure exhaustion. But not long into the night I was tossing and turning and could not sleep. My muscles ached. Its hard to describe what I was feeling -- every time I tried to bend my knees and turn on my side, I got this extremely uncomfortable feeling. So I had lie on my back and keep my arms and legs straight out. Finally after hours of torture, I whispered to Ryan, "Are you awake?". He was experiencing his own version of torture -- he felt like he was suffocating. He said it felt like someone had a pillow over his head.

Ryan got the idea to open up the tent rain tarp completely, so more air could circulate. That did something good. We were both able to sleep after that. But when we woke up at dawn, my first words were. "Forget breakfast, lets get the hell out of here." All I could think about is the further we got from that campsite, the more oxygen there would be in the air. Unfortunately, I had a headache most of the hike down. But fortunately, the hike was DOWN the entire way! :)

On a positive note, the trail was BEAUTIFUL. As the difficulty of the hike surpassed our expectations, so did the beauty. I've never hiked in Colorado before and I really didn't know how breathtaking it could be. We saw natural waterfalls, several beaver dams, beaver gnawed trees (cute!) and tons of mountain-scapes and babbling brooks. I don't think I would do that particular trail again for the altitude problems, but I will return to Colorado.

Next up....a much deserved Ritz Carlton Spa mini-vacation.

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