Days 22, 23, 24, 25: Altitude, Longetitude, Attitude, Gratitude

THURSDAY I found my way over to Rocky Mountain National Park for the day.  I wandered around and spent some time watching and photographing the elk.  About a half hour before I was set to depart for Boulder, I ran into my pal, Johnny, who has been organizing the photo meet-up for the two weekends I’m in Colorado.  An hour later, with assurances that I’d see him in the morning, I headed for Boulder.

I love Boulder.  I love it with a sort of confused, irrational affection.  Generally, I am not a city person.  I don’t particularly enjoy crowds, traffic is annoying and cities tend to be dirty and easy to get lost in when I don’t have the time for it.  I never seem to mind the traffic in Boulder.  The people there are interesting and, in my limited experience, very friendly.  The city doesn’t seem dirty and even if I were to get lost, I feel like it would be more a chance to discover new locations and people than an inconvenience.   If I could afford to, I’d have a secondary home in this trendy, oddly endearing city.

So, the fact that my friend Graham (for whom I have a more understandable affection towards), has recently moved to Boulder, was gleeful news to me.  Spending an evening trying out the local brewery, exploring his amazing organic vegetable garden and playing with his dogs left me vowing to kidnap his dogs and trespass to work in his garden.  Being an affable sort, he objected to the kidnapping of the super mutts, but allowed that he would not overly object to a bit of breaking and gardening.

I wonder if he realizes I wasnt kidding…

FRIDAY morning I was back in Rocky Mountain National Park.  This time to meet back up with John (The Man With The Futon), Johnny (The Organizer) and Becky (of the Midwest and Newly Met).  We photographed the sunrise over Estes Lake while Johnny made us feel much jealousy over his exploits the day before when he and Becky photographed bull elk swimming across the lake in the fog.  We then went to stalk some elk in Moraine Valley.  Lots of luck there, with the elk being up close and personal.

During our time in Moraine Valley, John snagged the two of us a campsite (though when I asked the day before the campground ranger said they wouldn’t have any…sheesh).  After that we headed for the Alluvial Fan, a series of beautiful, cascading waterfalls through a mountain of boulders.

When I was in Colorado for a week over New Years, we visited the Alluvial Fan.  It was completely frozen over, but the waterfalls swept by underneath the ice.  It was cold as heck and the boulders were slick with ice, so I didn’t get very far up.  This time I scrambled over quite a few boulders (even a few I didn’t think my 5’2 self would be able to manage).  I also slipped my way back down a few, but more or less on purpose.  The sky was a deep blue over green pines, light boulders and waterfalls.

Then it was on down the road to the Old Fall River Road, a one-way 11-mile dirt road that travels from the Alluvial Fan area to Fall River Pass and an elevation of 11,796.  It’s a gorgeous drive and we stopped several times along the way to hike along mountain creeks and waterfalls.  The only time I’ve been so comfortable with heights is standing on the edge of a giant boulder next to a long narrow waterfall that lead down to a creek that goes down and down, with pine and aspen covered mountains rising up around me.  I suppose there is just too much beauty surrounding me for my usual silly fears to surface.

Near Fall River Pass we stopped again and hiked a very short (but oxygen stealing) ways up to a hilltop collection of boulders to look for ptarmigan.  Instead we found a handful of elk resting in the alpine.  To my understanding they are not normally up there that late in the season, but I suppose the weather has stayed warm longer than anticipated.

I only just reached the car when I noticed a large marmot a ways away and I was off to stalk him for a bit.  I do believe my photos of this marmot are my favorite of the trip so far.  They tend to be quite the characters, almost mugging for the camera.

When we finally made it to Fall River Pass and the Alpine Visitor Center, we were famished.  We grabbed lunch in the Visitor Center (which has a delicious vegetarian sandwich consisting of hearty bread, hummus and vegetables).

After lunch we took Trail Ridge Road over to the Beaver Meadows area, hoping to spot some moose along the way.  We didn’t have any luck finding moose, but did find some beautiful landscapes.

Back up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine and back down to the Moraine area, we split up and John and I went to set up camp and venture into Estes Park for dinner.  Poppy’s Pizza is a favorite of ours and I ordered myself up a Thai Pizza (hold the cheese and chicken, add some veg pepperoni– yum!) and an Ommegang beer.  Both were satisfying, but I downed an extra couple glasses of water after realizing that the beer had 9.8% alcohol.

We returned to Moraine Valley and had another hour or so of good light to photograph the elk before returning to camp.  In camp John built up a campfire while I brought some order to my Element.  I complained (a lot) over how steep the climb was back up from the restrooms…nothing like feeling like an asthmatic to remind you of the elevation.  I filled up my water at the camp potable water spigot, then promptly dumped the nasty tasting stuff in favor of the jug of water John had brought from home.

We roasted a couple of vegan marshmallows, played some tunes, each had a beer (followed by more water), agreed that the hill back from the restrooms was evil and then headed off to sleep.  I was in bed only a few minutes when I realized I just wasnt sleepy enough…and I was feeling a tad ill.  I got up, grabbed my camera and tripod and proceeded to shoot some star trails.  After a while I found myself getting sleepier and called it a night.

Once settled into my sleeping bag I waited for my heart rate to slow down. I’m used to it taking a bit since up here since it tends to take a bit more exertion to do normal tasks.  After a while I realized that not only was my heart rate not slowing, but it was beating really, really hard and sort of…off kilter I guess.  I lay there for an hour and a half, willing it to slow down and relax.  It didn’t seem to want to slow to under 98/100, and that crazy-hard beat was flippin me out just a little.  I thought it was probably a bit of dehydration, despite how much water I thought I’d taken in all day.

Eventually I decided it was better to get myself checked out before my heart beat its way right out of my chest.  I got up and woke John to see if he knew if there was an urgent care facility in Estes Park.  He assumed there was and though I assured him I was fine to get myself on down there and get myself checked out, he insisted on driving me.

So, I got myself checked out, had my blood pressure taken and saw the doc.  The doc was a dismissive, snarky jerk and I wanted to smack him.  The nurses, on the other hand, were all really sweet.  The doc thought we might as well get me an EKG and some blood work done to make sure there was nothing else going on besides a bit of altitude sickness and perhaps dehydration.  I sort of got the impression that the doc was zeroing in on anemia brought on by vegan diet as part of his reasoning for ordering the blood tests.  I thought he seemed surprised when all the bloodwork came back fine.  (neener, neener)

I do want to give some major props to the nurse who took my blood.  I am NOT an easy stick.  I’ve got itty bitty veins.  Likely, if my friends and I were attacked by a bear while camping, I would be the lone survivor due to my veins not allowing me to bleed out.  Slightly morbid, yes, but also likely true assuming a non-extreme bear mauling.  ANYWAYS…the lab tech was wonderful.  She DID try five times before finally going for the underside of my wrist (HOLY COW! OWWW!), but she was so good that the wrist was the only one that hurt.  She was also very funny and John helped out by distracting me with extreme silliness til the bloodletting was over. heh  And then she gave me a teddy bear.

End result: I had palpitations likely from altitude sickness and dehydration.  Which means I’m now drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day.  Cripes.

Back to camp, grab some sleep, though only about 2.5 hours before we got up to go catch the sunrise with the photo meetup group at Lily Lake.  I shot a few frames of the alpen-glow reflecting off the lake, met a few new people, but didn’t have much energy to do more than stand around.

We returned to the Moraine Valley to find more elk.  John and I left the group for a bit to break down our campsite and get my car.  Didnt take long and we rejoined the others to photograph the elk for a while before heading down to Estes Park for a late breakfast.

I was still feeling pretty horrible and the lack of sleep was catching up with me quickly.  I thought to crash out in my Element for an hour or two and reevaluate the day after.  An hour of semi-sleep later and I was ready to throw in the towel.  I headed back to John’s apartment and the rest of the day was a wash.  I slept for a few hours, got up for a few hours to down water and watch tv, then went back to sleep.

THIS morning we were out the door by 5:30 am to meet up with the group for the sunrise shoot at Brainard Lake.  I was feeling so much better, though I still had a lingering headache.  Thankfully, it passed eventually and I was able to enjoy the morning photography and meeting a few more photographers from the area.

After Brainard Lake, several of us took the jeep trail up to Left Hand Reservoir.  I flippin’ love jeepin’.  I went for the first time with John and several other local photographers last year.  It was one of those things I expected to be unimpressed with, but ended up thinking it was one of the best things since lemon pickles (lemon pickles are like…classy pickles…amazing little bites of pickled sunshine).  I think it should be a goal of  mine to find some jeepin’ pals back in Maryland.

The Aspens up near Brainard are gorgeous right now and we finished up our morning by photographing them.

John had family obligations today and I’d ridden with him to shoot, so we both headed back to Denver.  After he’d dropped me off he called to tell me that the farmer’s market was still going on nearby so I went to check it out.

I don’t know what the Northglenn Farmer’s Market is like normally, but today it was rather small.  I’d guess 20 vendors, tops.  BUT, there were still good finds to be had there.  One woman was selling Allegro Organic Teas for next to nothing.

I had a nice chat with Sharon Grobe from S. G. Jewelry Design.  She lived in Maryland for a year back in the day, which was kind of a neat connection.  She also makes fun jewelry.  I’m especially enamored with her tree design pendants, which, sadly, I couldnt find on her web site.  But her online store is full of other beautiful designs.

I also discovered Gabys Soups.  I almost walked right by the booth since normally I don’t find vegan soups at the farmers market, but the booth had a sign right up front stating they had vegetarian and vegan soups.  They offered up free samples and I ended up buying two containers of Watermelon Gazpacho and Strawberry Soup.  SOOOO good.  I have a feeling I’m going to be very sad not to have access to them in Maryland.

The rest of the day has been fairly uneventful and since I’ve been slacking on updating over the weekend due to the business and lack of cell reception or wifi, this update has taken quite a while  to type up.  Hopefully I didnt forget anything important.  I’m sure someone will tell me if I did.

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3 thoughts on “Days 22, 23, 24, 25: Altitude, Longetitude, Attitude, Gratitude

  1. “John (The Man With The Futon), Johnny (The Organizer)” I loved that LOL
    Sounds like a great time (minus the altitude sickness) with lots of good photo ops. And those soups sound amazing!

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