Why elevation and pregnant women from sea level don’t mix
That pregnant hiker is yours truly. On my family’s trip to Denver in September to see my cousin, hiking was definitely on the list of things to do. I mean, how could you not trailblaze in the Rockies? We drove through beautiful Glenwood Canyon to get to our destination. The plan was to hike up to Hanging Lake, known for its crystal clear water and flowing waterfalls.
Let’s set the stage here. On the hike you had: two pregnant women (just starting our second trimesters), two kids (Big Roo and pregnant lady #2’s 21-month-old daughter), two HOPLs (Hubbies of Pregnant Ladies- yeah, I just made that up) and my cousin who’s lived in Colorado for about 11 years. And did I mention she’s a marathon runner?
My cousin, being the ultra in-shape-marathon-runner-acclimated-to-altitude cousin that she is, proclaimed the hike was easy. I used to be an avid hiker but let me just say this: the hike was about as easy as keeping a two-year-old seated for a four hour flight (insert your motherly head nod here).
Although I’m not as in as great of shape as I was in previous years (read: before finger food, potty training and The Wiggles entered my life) I still like to think of myself as in better-than-average shape, pregnant or not.
So traveling in two cars, we met at the trail rest area to suit up. Sunscreen. Check. Floppy hats. Check. Kid carriers. Check. Diapers & wipes (sound of Daddy Roo running back to the car and cursing me under his breath).
The fact that the sign ominously said “CAUTION: Trail is difficult” should have been foreboding enough but:
1. Like I said, I’m in pretty good shape.
2. I trusted that if my cousin said it was easy then it was.
3. If all the uber-tourist people with Old Navy flip flops and no water were hiking up then so could I.
The hike started off just going up a relatively steep slope. I figured it would level off a bit… and it did for maybe 1-2 minutes. We’d cross a small bridge, take in a view and then off we went again huffing and puffing.
Our friends’ daughter started crying to get out of the carrier and so she hiked part of the way. A 21-month-old hiking up a steep incline made things slow going but I secretly welcomed the breaks where we stopped so they could catch up. While it was harder than anticipated, we stopped frequently and my heart rate was in check.
As for Noah, he was the same as he always is during hikes—entranced. He calmly rode in the carrier looking at the coniferous trees, the mini-waterfalls and the crowds of people making their way down the trail.
After reaching the halfway point, my friend’s daughter had enough of the walking. She wanted nothing to do with walking OR her daddy carrying her. So, her mama – pregnant hiker #2 – strapped on the gear and carrier her on her pregnant back, proclaiming to her hubby with the camera “You’d better get this Mother of the Year shot!”
Despite the dirty looks we got as people wondered why the pregnant lady was carrying the daughter and her dad just followed behind with a measly backpack, she was faring better than me. Not even two minutes later, I was the one holding us up.
Suddenly I felt weak and my heart was pounding.
At first I thought it was asthma but I wasn’t wheezing at all. I wasn’t shaking but after sitting down on a rock I knew I would probably get dizzy if I stood up. I needed more food, more water and began to wonder if I was going to make it to the top to see the gorgeous lake—the prize at the end of the journey. I felt so weak all I wanted to do was lay down smack in the middle of the trail and let people step over me. At that moment it would have been as cozy as laying on a soft bed underneath a mound of covers.
My cousin suggested it was probably altitude sickness as she peeled me a tangerine. Then Daddy Roo remembered the Clif Shot Bloks- electrolyte chews we purchased at REI two days before. I noshed on one of those and wondered what my cousin was thinking when she suggested two pregnant hikers and two kids under 3 should do this insane, high-altitude hike. At one point I silently panicked – what if I can’t make it down? – but the electrolyte chew sorted my brain out and I calmly regained my strength as my heart rate slowed down.
This up and down altitude-induced craziness happened in a span of just 5 minutes but I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone- yuck! The other family and my cousin decided to continue up (with the girl riding on my cousin’s back now) and we decided to descend so I could get some rest.
I tell you what- I was a different person on the way down. I was the sure-footed, fast hiker I was three years ago. I’d like to think it was those electrolyte chews. Well, that and the fact we were descending in altitude. But sheesh I felt GOOD. Almost good enough to turn back. However, this pregnant lady takes no chances.
We got to the bottom and broke out our lunch while we waited for everyone else to rejoin us. While I didn’t have to worry about altitude any more, little did I know what was coming next. Let’s just say Big Roo’s had an “explosion” of the brown not-so-solid kind. And so this was the scene walking to the car, which we actually thought was pretty hilarious.
Unfortunately for us, this was what we missed. Stunning.
(Photo from eadmund42 on Flickr)
And man, it stings that I didn’t get pics of my own, that I didn’t see to see such an amazing sliver of nature with my own two eyes. But I’m smart enough to know my limits. Something the guy with the beer gut, flip-flops and no water bottle probably will find out sooner or later.