What Altitude Sickness Looks Like.


We had set out to do a 3 day 2 night loop in the Rahwah Wilderness of North-Central Colorado. And it started out like things of this nature typically do. Josh came over the night before and we did a quick bag check, I laughed at the weight of his kit, he scoffed at the weight of mine, and then we hit the sack. We woke up around 7, right when we were supposed to be leaving. This is not unusual. I woke Josh up, and we got our stuff together I kissed my girls and we took off. We stopped at Sonic for a breakfast that never really sat well.

Here begins our bad hike. We drove in Josh’s nice Jeep up to the Rahwah, it’s between Fort Collins and Walden, near the Long Draw reservoir if you’re familiar. It starts at 9000 feet and climbs all the way past tree line topping out around 13000 feet. So not super rough. And we weren’t planning on doing a lot of hiking as we wanted to just take it easy on this trip, hence the 10 miles a day pace. Also this pace would allow us to have the time to do some great reviews for all you lucky readers. However things didn’t work out.

I should have known when we started to have issues with our ability to use our gear. This is weird because I take it with me on EVERY trip. Anyone that has hiked with me knows that it can fill a 3 ounce bladder in a flash.

Later, just before the rain and hail started, we tried to make a video of Josh using his Katydin Hiker Pro, but we just couldn’t get it to work. And mind you, this isn’t hard stuff. It’s just an in line filter. To make things worse, Josh started to get kinda stumbly, and then he dropped his pack, and the mouthpiece fell in the dirt. He sprayed it out and sanitized it with hand sanitizer. This will be funny later.

As the storm was hitting neither of us felt great, so we found a spot and setup camp thinking that tomorrow would just be a long day, as we were setting up Josh started to get faint when he stood up, which you do a lot of when putting up a tent.

This was the temp fix. It’s all the video I have retained, but it puts a pretty good indicator on our frame of mind. We went to bed after, it was 3 pm. Once around 9 pm rolled around we woke up and hiked back down the mountain. We are both from Northern Colorado, and we are both in good shape. I work out 5 days a week. It sucked and it was only after we woke up and were headed down that we realized what was really happening and how dangerous this really was.

We later learned that a severe low pressure system that went right over us. I don’t know if that could be the cause, but it probably didn’t help.

Nine Line Charity Hike Pt. 2

It has been a few days since my last post, and I think I may have started out wrong. In remedy to that, here is our cast of characters:

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Penny, our trail mom, was the most experienced of all of us. She was un-endingly upbeat, even though she had a rough couple of days.
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Kevin, our resident Cajun and fellow DIY-er.
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Jason, our guide, not only had a voice like Jesus combined with Fergie, but had an incredibly grateful spirit. Amanda, our linguist, was understanding and patient with all of our jibes. She also slept with Emma a lot.
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Emma “Space Pants” is our group Photographer and Instagrammer (is that a word?) she also had the coolest hair and attitude. She would consistently advocate for Darth Vader and his many glories as our Dark Ruler. Vader 2016.
Tappy "Yes that's my real name" was our on trail source of cheer. If you were bored you could just go and listen to her and Tiffany have a conversation, they were always interesting.
Tappy “Yes that’s my real name” was our on trail source of cheer. If you were bored you could just go and listen to her and Tiffany have a conversation, they were always interesting.
The Creeg. He was our pack mule, and a fellow space geek.
Shown here in their natural habitat, are Tiffany and Tappy. This is how you would find them on early mornings, cuddling together for warmth.

 

cloudless sky on 2The start of section 2 was HOT and STEEP if you don’t believe me look at the profile. 2,604 feet of incline in the first 5 miles. I don’t know if many of you have been to section 2 but it is the one part of this trail I don’t like. First off, it is 12.3 miles of 90+ degrees, mosquitos, and NO WATER. after you leave the verdant majesty that is section 1, you cross over the South Platte river, and fill up all of your water. I mean all of it. This was my 3rd time on this section, and I have found that I need at least 4 liters of water to make it and retain any kind of functionality after. From there you hike up a pretty steep, but thankfully short set of switchbacks and climb on to what I call the junkyard. The following photos are from my first trip, we didn’t have time to look on the Nine Line trip.

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From the junkyard it is a dry and hot trek. See my earlier post on how I stay cool(er) on trail for ways to combat this.

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This is a huge panorama, open it to see the view of the first few miles of Section 2.

These next ones are from the trip, you can see the changes in growth in the 3 years since I did this section last.

start of section 2

more section 2It’s a kind of barren beauty. The Buffalo Creek fire came through the area in May of 1996 and pretty much wiped out all but a few miles of the trail.

Fortunately the Nine Line guys got the local fire department to allow them to travel up the fire road the is located around halfway through the trail and resupply us with water. It was super nice, and we camped out for lunch right there.

We just kept plodding on, until we reached the trail head for section three. And, sorry but I didn’t get any pics from that night, but it’s where we really formed as a team.
We had decided on a whim that we would stay in the same camp site together. While we meet with resistance at first, it only seemed to liven up our resistance. I get the feeling a few of us can be pretty stubborn when someone says we can’t have something we want *cough* Tiffany *cough*. So we won out eventually. That night there was a small problem with food. I was up first for some food, and was told that there would plenty for everyone, take what you want. I did. Tiffany, was closer to the end of the line and she didn’t get as much as me. To be specific, a 2 cubic inch chicken sandwich. I’m serious about the dimensions. Luckily she had brought a box of couscous, and after cooking it on the alcohol stove we were provided with she ate. Then we talked and laughed, definitely didn’t drink a little, and settled down to sleep through a rain storm. I love rainstorms in my hammock.

Section 3 is my favorite so far. Nice and flat, with lots of water and shade. At times I ah reminder of some of the more verdant scenes from LOTR. There was however one issue that plagued us all for the entire day. Penny, in an unfortunate incident with a tent stake, had thrown her back out. So she had to take the day off and we all missed her.

The girls posing with a symbolic space for our injured comrade.

As penny puts it, she loves pictures of big rocks and of lonely trees. We tried to oblige her and we wrote a message for her on a piece of Tyvek I had.
We walked for about 6 miles when started to hear the gunshots. Note that many of us on the were not only veterans but combat veterans. Random unexpected gunshots from unseen shooters tend to freak us out. We were told that there is a range near the trail, and I have walked it before, but it’s still surprising. So after 7 miles the call was made to cut off at Mile 8 and go to camp. Too many were uncomfortable with the firing range being so close, and the gunshots being so unexpected.

However camp was beautiful. We had a metric ton of pasta and meatballs, our support rocking out the food and everyone was in a great mood. From there we made our preparation to spend the night on the trail, our last night together. On an interesting and very poignant note, every night at around sundown, a bugler played Taps. It was the best close to days hiking I have ever had.

Nine Line Charity Hike PT.1

I recently went on a sponsored, partially supported charity hike for the Nine Line Foundation. If you haven’t heard of them, they are a charity that deals exclusively with severely  wounded Veterans. They have a unique perspective and business model for their charity, which is the sister company to Nine Line t shirts.

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We were supposed to do the Colorado Trail, sections 1,2,3, and 6. So all the sections that I had already done. Whatever, I loved most of those sections. In the picture above, two of our guides are sitting in front of donated gear in the REI Bags. There were a lot of donors, apart from the financial backers, there were a bunch of gear donors that I will list at the end of the post series.

the bagsHere you see all the packs we took. Mine is center, with the umbrella sticking out and no lid, leaning up against some boxes. Gregory sent us the Z65 for men and the J60 for the women. Everybody had all their stuff packed up and ready to go when we sat down for our briefing. We got a class on leave no trace, and then had a pre hike brief on what to expect while on the trail. There were a few people there that looked a little intimidated by the amount of distance and elevation that we would travel. I don’t know why though, we had all been thoroughly educated on the trails sections prior by the Facebook Group and Emails sent out by Nine Line. We then learned that we would be using Wag Bags. For those that don’t know what a Wag Bag is, it’s basically a bag that you poop into, and then seal against the smell and rain. I only had to use one all week due to our staying at campgrounds for most of the trail and I was thankful.

attendanceThe pre-brief crowd. The ladies in the foreground are from Gregory, they actually were with us the whole time, ensuring that there were no pack issues. Pretty great customer service. After the brief we got the departure schedule, and we started the longest part of the sections that we would be doing at 3:30 in the am. We were told to get our donated gear together and then eat and go to sleep. This is when I first met our guide, Jason. He was hired just a few days before, and arrived at the hotel literally just as we were breaking to get our gear checked and packed. It was great, he walked up to Penny and asked her if this was all of our group. Wrong person to ask that, her immediate response was “You’re the guide, don’t you know?”.  He then turned bright red and mumbled something about how she was right and he would find out. He turned out to be a great hire for the guide team and we all really liked him. In fact when we do this again next year we are keeping the same team.

We left in the morning as the third group to go, and we were to the trailhead by at around 0530. We set out, and immediately I realized I would have to slow down. Me and another team member Emma “Space Pants” had taken the lead with out meaning to and the lead was large. I am used to hiking on my own even with a friend I will usually out pace most of my hiking buddies, so I just wait at stops that look good.

It was at one of these stops that I experienced the first of a few gear issues that I would have. The hiking poles that we were given were not an issue for most of the people on the hike, but most of them are not nicknamed Sausage Fingers. I have seriously fat hands, and the retaining insert that you are supposed to insert when the straps are properly adjusted just would not go all the way in, and it was rubbing the area between my thumb and hand raw.

Cropped from http://mountainsmith.com/pinnacle.html
Cropped from http://mountainsmith.com/pinnacle.html

This part. So luckily I had my wife’s Leatherman Micra liberated from her purse, and I used the scissors to just cut that part off and then I re-ran it properly and tied it off. the handle gave me no more problems. But I am working with the RMA people to get these returned, or fixed since they have stopped extending. They just click whenever you twist them to extend the poles.

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first peak

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Tree Stars

it was greenIt was super green on this section. There was water everywhere, and the hiking was good. The temps got into the 90’s I’m sure but in the shade it felt fine. everyone pretty much just snacked all day and we eventually stopped for a quick lunch of bagged Progresso soup. The entire 40 oz. container was only like 400 calories, so no where near enough for me, but it tasted good once you put in some powered Tapatio and Cajun Sparkle.

It was here that we picked our group name. Jason asked us what we wanted to be called and without hesitation Justin said “Pretty Ricky and the Gang!” It was a perfect fit. I am pretty. So while I was sure I was being picked on, I was also sure it was good natured. It stuck.

camp for the first nightMy spot for the first night, I was sleeping on a hill because I was the only one on the trail of 75 people in a hammock. Later when I was eating in the fenced off area where all the ground dwellers were, I was told a mule deer was spotted going through my hammock. He must have been felted still as there were no holes in the tarp, but the corner you see here had popped off, and I lost the stake. I had some really nice titanium shepherd’s hooks that I had blued in coke. I’ll show you guys how to do that later. So I had to borrow a stake from a friend.

Next post will be sections 2 and 3, with 6 being the third. Thanks for reading and leave me any comments in the section below!