We normally reside at about 7500 feet, but even then, at above 10000 feet I notice the effects of the altitude. Cumbres Pass is over 10,000 feet in elevation. When we went on our hike, I noted several symptoms of altitude sickness in myself and immediately took steps to prevent it.
Drink lots of water
As we started out on our hike, I felt a dull headache. Dehydration happens fast at this elevation. I was not even thirsty, but with a simple pinch test (pinch the skin on the back of your hand. If it doesn’t immediately return to normal, you’re getting dehydrated.) I could tell I was definitely needing water.
Consume extra protien
I also indulged in the salty snacks and made sure I consumed some extra protein. Thus, I did not suffer any nausea or other symptoms of altitude sickness, as I did the last time we made a jaunt to the high country, in Leadville, CO.
One of the reasons for altitude sickness is the lower levels of oxygen present in the air at high elevations. Slow down and breathe deeply to help your body adjust.
Take a nap
While the guys were fishing, I drowsed in the sun, enjoying its warmth after too many months of winter.
Most people will adjust to a higher altitude within 2-3 days. When we went to Leadville, I didn’t realize I was suffering from altitude sickness until it was well underway. My headache persisted through the weekend, and nausea made me lose my appetite.
Move to a lower altitude
If all else fails, head back down to lower ground. As soon as we were back to the car and driving down the hill from Leadville, My headache began to subside. Once we got home, it was gone.
More info on moderate to severe altitude sickness see: http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm
A light, but well-stocked day pack is essential to an enjoyable hike. Snacks, first-aid supplies, water, camera, notebook, rain poncho – these are just the basics. Most supplies are small and light, so you don’t have to carry a heavy or bulky pack.
After hiking the Cumbres, my new plan is to walk or ride our bikes into town every day and go hiking at least once a week. Not sure how that will work out, because the forecast is for rain every day for the rest of the week. But that usually happens in the afternoon and evening, so maybe if we can get it done before 2p.m. we should be okay.
I have made a list of stuff I need to replenish, and in addition, we each definitely need a decent day pack. My tote bag straps and the boy’s string back pack straps cut into our shoulders and hence, are very uncomfortable. Not sure if I’ll make padded straps or just fork over the $60+- for a good day pack or two from Costco (if they still have them). I will check the local thrift stores in the meantime.
Some items I did not have with that I intend to put in my day pack kit:
hand sanitizer (left it in the car)
collapsible cup (for scooping water to drink with the life straw)
plastic bags and trash bags
sunscreen and bug lotion
life straw for the boy
small stool for sitting up off wet ground (must fit in daypack)
Items I did have that came in handy or would have:
hand lotion and lip balm
rain ponchos and emergency blanket
toilet paper and feminine products
umbrella (doubled as walking stick, very handy for sore knees)
scarf and fleece jacket (nice to sit on and wear on way out)
water bottle and extra water in car
insulated lunch bag with high protein snacks, fruit and ice pack
camera and gps
pen and paper
small sewing kit
Choose multi-purpose items wherever possible, not only to cut down on space but also weight. For instance, a large 30 gallon garbage bag can be used as a rain poncho, ground cover, and, well, a trash bag. An ice pack in a lunch bag can also be used to treat a sprain or bruise. Hand sanitizer can also clean a wound, if it contains alcohol.
My list varies with the season and location, but most of the basics are the same. Sometimes I put unneeded items in a ziplock, so I can quickly remove and replace them if I need the day pack for something else.
So what’s in your day pack?
One of the best portable water filters you can get is the Life Straw. We love ours. It does take a bit of practice to get used to. You could end up very thirsty before you figure it out.
Our hike in the Cumbres gave us the perfect opportunity to practice with the life straw some more. The boy’s had disappeared, but we shared mine. Of course, Life Straw says every one should have their own personal life straw. Unfortunately, we did not find a place to get one on the way there. I like to scoop water into a cup and then suck it through the straw. The guys prefer to lay on their bellies and put the straw directly into the stream.
The trick is to fill the body of the straw, which contains the filter. Then you can start drinking. For me, this means suck up a cup of water to fill the straw, then refill my cup and drink (through the straw). After each session, blow what remains out of the straw. Also, it is a good idea to let the straw sit out for a day or so, to let it dry out completely, before you pack it away. This avoids any junky stuff growing in it – mold and such.
At about $20 each, Life Straws may seem a bit pricey, but when you consider that one straw will filter approximately 264 gallons, one straw will last quite awhile. We even bring ours with us when we know we will be at the mercy of city water. Life straw filters out most of the bad stuff – bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses, chemicals or heavy metals. However, the company does offer the Life Straw Steel, for $55, which will filter those things as well. Click on the links to read all the technical mumbo jumbo.
We love our Life Straws and they suit our needs. We bought them directly from the company, but there are numerous places to get them, now. Nope, we didn’t get paid for this, and I don’t have my Amazon affiliate links live, but if you want, you can make a donation to our “Movie Night Fund” at right.
We left at 8:30am to go to Cumbres Pass, Colorado, just past Las Mangas Pass, at an elevation of 10,230 feet. A few miles up a dirt road is the Red Lake Trail. There is a good size parking area and a hitching rail. Yes, this is a popular horse trail. About 3 miles up is the lake. I did not use my fitbit to track it because it sucks up my battery and I wanted to take lots of pictures, but I did verify, on the Forest Service website, that the loop is 5.2 miles. The trail is fairly well marked, with cairns set up where it might get washed out. The ponds and streams were very low or dried up this trip. The trees seem to be suffering as well.
We only saw 2 other small families all day. One we kind of hiked up with, a mom, dad and teenage girl with their grandpa, and 2 scottie dogs. Grandpa had been up this trail 5 times in the last 2 weeks. At 73 years of age. They only stayed at the lake a couple hours then left, but must have been somewhere in the area, because their car was still at the parking area when we came down. The other family was a grandma, grandpa and grandson backpacking up to spend a couple of nights. We saw them on our way down.
The trail was actually moderate, but I took it very slow due to being out of shape. Just needed to stretch my lungs and my legs and boy, that felt good! Took a nap up at the lake while the guys fished. No catches today. Did not get my bug lotion made, so had to use some poison with DEET. Pretty much kept the mosquitoes away, however I did get a few bites. Because I did not give any thought to sunscreen, I am now paying the price. Face and neck very burned, insides of elbows burned, ouch! Good thing everything else was covered. Now slathering with aloe gel and lotion, after relieving the sting with apple cider vinegar.
On the way down, the man of the place took us through a marshy area with a bunch of sink holes. I did not much like that. Had to make sure the boy watched himself to not fall in. Even though we found the trail, still the man insisted on taking a different route. Got us pretty much lost, so I just headed toward the vicinity of the trail and kept downhill and we finally ended up back on trail. Never trust that guy and his shortcuts. My knees were pretty sore by the time we got back to the trail but I finally figured out to lock them so they would not be bearing my weight while bending. That is what stresses them. Ended up with no pain or swelling. The man was wearing new boots and his feet hurt like crazy by the time we got to the car. The boy was just plain worn out.
From Chama, NM travel about 24 miles north east on Highway 17, entering CO. Turn west on forest road 114, and continue approximately one mile to trailhead parking.