Saturday, May 5, 2007

I haven't posted in a few days because I have hiked myself into exhaustion! A fellow WestFork Walker had invited me to join her for one of the groups, Montana Backwoods Women, hiking day. Of course I said YES! But because I am new here I hadn't stopped to ask "how far is it?", "how strenuous is it?" and "how long will the hike be?" No, I just packed my little day hike bag with water and a few crackers that I thought would keep me going.
Well, we had not hiked more than a hundred feet up the 'road' when I thought to myself.."girl, what is wrong with you?" My chest was tight and hurting, I could not catch my breath, and I realized both of my arm muscles were hurting quite a bit. I did happily note that the pain was not just in my left arm...the only good news I would find that day.

I have always thought of myself as a fairly active girl as I walk at least 3 miles each day and try to eat healthy. But this was not a contributing factor in my disastrous problem today. As I felt myself fall farther and farther behind the group of lady hikers I struggled to figure out what was happening to me. Another first time hiker started falling back to join me and asked if I was alright. As I gasped for air I told her that I think I just did figure out what was wrong. I had spent all of my life in Washington and where I lived our elevation was about 800 feet. And where we are living in Montana the elevation at our house is 4,200 feet. And where our hike had Started was 5,000 feet. I realized I was suffering from Altitude fatigue. My lungs actually felt like they were each the size of a silver dollar and I just couldn't get any air.

This wonderful fellow hiker said that she would stay with me and we could just take our time and rest as often as I needed. At first I could only make it a couple dozen feet at a time but because we rested often I began to feel a bit better each time. We both wanted to see just where these women were headed so we did our best to at least keep them in sight.

We did pretty well but when we approached mile 4 and I saw nothing but a very steep hill ahead I told my new friend that I just couldn't make it up the hill any further. We were now at 6200 feet and the air felt so very thin. We sat under a tree while a snow storm passed over us and drank water and I ate my few crackers I had packed.

The hiking group disappeared around a bend in the trail up the steep hill about the time we stopped to rest under the trees. We decided to just rest here for awhile then head back down this mountain to the cars and wait there.

We spent a hour and 15 minutes resting under the tree and when the weather cleared we started walking back down. This time it was a very enjoyable trip. I could actually take time to get some very beautiful pictures and see some wonderful sights and wild flowers. We strolled and stopped and looked at things and did a lot of visiting on our return trip. Our total mileage for this "hike" ended up being 8.4 miles...on continues steep terrain. Of course coming down was wonderful! The other part of the group hiked a total of 9.4 miles. And because we had taken our time and saw lot's of beautiful views, we were at the cars for only about 10 minutes when the rest of the hikers arrived. What a day!!!
The first photo is taken from the top of the first hill we climbed to. We had actually parked the cars down in the valley below so you can see what kind of elevation gain we encountered.
The second photo shows the spot where I said I couldn't go any further. We experienced sunshine, snow, hail and freezing cold winds on this 'adventure'. And at one point we actually walked in the same place that Lewis and Clarke and their expedition traveled. I wonder if the high altitude bother them too, way back then. And did they have any idea of what the effects were caused by?
Of course I learned several lessons that day....
1. Know where you are hiking...what type of terrain and weather you will experience.
2. Always pack plenty of power foods and liquids to keep up your energy and body heat.
3. Know the difficulty of each hike.
4. Always know the estimated time you will be hiking. This hike ended up being a 6 hour struggle for me. And of course JW was very worried. Sorry Dear!
Yes, I learned a lot from this hike and I will not make this mistake again. And I have also learned that when I hike I want to "stop and smell the roses". I was so surprised how much I had missed on the way up the hill because I was just focusing on getting up that darn hill!!!


gincoleaves said...

Wow Hostagirl, what an unpleasant experience your day hike turned out to be, thank goodness the trip going down the mountain was more enjoyable.
I've often seen people cry (on tv) while they trek up the Himalayas, and I think to myself "they must be crazy!" But it's as you say, one doesn't always check the obstacles. I am pleased to hear that you're OK again, but do take care next time !!!!

keewee said...

I agree with gincoleaves. I see bike riders struggling, ot runners beet red in the face, with a look of pain, and wonder WHY. Gosh if it is uncomfortable why do it? I do not understand.

hostagirl said...

ginco and keewee,,,Yes, I to now look at those people in a different way and with a bit more compassion too!

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