Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ra-Ra for Ramen in the Rockies Day 1

       July 27, 2011
     My last night in society ended perfectly after a spectacular day in Denver. Once the phone’s clock hit midnight, my luck came to a sudden end. I woke up abruptly like I had many times on the plane. I couldn’t really tell if I was fully awake or in a daze. But this morning, I remained awake thanks to my horrendous tummy ache. It still was nagging me for three days now.
Yesterday, we actually consumed the toxin-filled water from the Platte River. I was giving Will a demo on how to filter water with the Platypus Gravity Filter. This morning, at the crack of dawn, I realized the filtration had no impact on that filthy, flowing water. I only drank two or three sips because my stomach ached from thirst.

I’m unbelievably picky when it comes to water and its tastes. Typically, I have found taste is affected by temperature. The Platte River was lukewarm. So I gave up trying to drink poisonous water and faced being thirsty. When Will dozed off on this patio in Common Park by the river, I tried a second water fountain that also didn’t work. Pushed by thirst, I compromised my water standards. Yes, I filled the water bottle from a park bathroom sink that stank from the shit smeared all over the stall. The whole quest for water put me in a crappy mood.
Anyways, the river water didn’t have any immediate influence on my stomach pains. So by 1 a.m. the next day, I woke up to the sound of Katy Perry playing in my head. Fireworks and the thought of diarrhea infested my brain to the point where all I could do was doze off for a few minutes and wake up to the same verse in her songs. I hate playing mind games. I try so desperately to convince myself that my stomach’s hurt will exit my body by taking a number two rather than coming back up the top hatch.
By dawn, the pain had made its way low enough for me to be convinced I could rid myself of the pain by taking a number two. (I have a mental line drawn on my tummy that, when pain crosses below it, I wait patiently for my intestines to kick in.) When I had waited long enough for daylight to peep through the curtains, I braved the eight-step trip to the bathroom.
Platte River
Diarrhea didn’t resolve anything. In fact, it opened up more space in my belly for me to feel the pain lurch around even more. I called it quits after sitting patiently on the toilet for fifteen minutes as Lisa’s cat ponderously stared at me. (The kitten was kept in the bathroom so he would not disturb Will and me as we slept. Poor guy.)
So after locking the kitty back in his lair, I tried to fall asleep. Successful until Will’s obnoxious alarm went off, I had my eyes closed for about a complete hour. The alarm somehow restarted and worsened the pain. I mumbled to Will, asking for the garbage can, which was thankfully brought to me in the nick of time.
I dry heaved twice. Nothing came but an upward-yank feeling on my groin with each heave. I changed my position from a shoulder-holding-my-weight stance to a cross-legged yoga position. The Whole Foods paper bag, which served as a garbage can, was fitted between my legs as I heaved a third time. Finally something came up. The lights were off so I couldn’t tell what meal the chunks came from. My eyes were watering by the fourth heave. Subsequently, my nose began to drip; an uncontrollable side effect from putting contacts in daily and having my eyes run with the saline solution. I was ergo, unable to smell the typically nose piercing smell that puke emits.
This untimely fiasco forced me to forfeit my eggs and bacon that we excitedly bought the night before, anticipating our final meal in society. Will, along with Lisa’s dog, Colby, shared my serving as I drank a stomach-soothing tea prescribed by our hostess. It worked. But the reality of the day ahead loomed over me; hiking in the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains.
Once in Denver, we were on Lisa’s time. We eventually got to the trailhead after driving through the luxurious city of Boulder. Adorned by Colorado University’s red terracotta, Boulder was quite the launch pad for our adventure. Lisa brought Colby, the best-behaved Border collie I have met. He endured the windy 10,000 foot ascent next to me in the back seat. On any other day, my stomach would have been fine. But shortly after recuperating from this morning’s surprise, the poor thing (my stomach) was viciously attacked by altitude sickness. In addition to stomach mayhem, I became dizzy. But once inside the gates of Indian Peaks Backcountry, we pulled over for a much needed bathroom break.
The ride into the mountains made me feel like I was five years old. You can fight altitude sickness, so I am told, with water. Let me point out that my three piece dilemma that I face while trying to feel better. First off, my stomach was a mess and was not in the mood for any (liquid) medicine to take up space in its region in my body. Second, I played some more mind games and drank a water bottle flavored with a spoonful of pomegranate tea. Third, the combination of the two prior components made me pee for a minute and fifteen seconds straight once we finally got 18 year old Jacky-baby to a latrine. My, oh my how nice that latrine was (especially compared to some of the latrines back home in the Blue Ridge Parkway…)
Lisa offered me some alternative, hands-on remedy for my remaining, but subtle pains. Her practice was an interesting amalgamation of tapping different body parts that possessed high concentrates of energy. Apparently these areas had nerve endings that sent messages, like all other nerves, more effectively to my brain.
         Lisa happens to be the managing editor for Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal (as well as senior editor, two separate executive editor positions, and associate editor for four other periodicals.) She started tapping my Crown Chakra (which, interestingly enough, in this line of work, she did not refer to it is as such.) Still, she moved from tapping the center of my head to a second point located below my eye, next to where my nose meets the rest of my face; that little crevice there where sleep catches. There were an additional six places, one of which possessed a lot of energy in my instance; the collarbone. I repeated some lines while she tapped: “I fully accept and love my body, even though my tummy hurts me.” Lisa explained that using positive statements surpassed using negative ones (which, she elaborated, were initially used in this line of work before a modern shift to positive optimism.) The tapping of the nerve endings would stop my mind from thinking that my stomach was sick-or, at least, that was my understanding of her practice. On a scale of 1-10, my pain dropped from a six to a two after three separate rounds of tapping. Talk about mind games!
At the intersection of trails, looking back towards Boulder
Lisa and Colby came about a quarter to a half mile into the trail with Will and me. The late-July snow forbid her leather, work sandals to go no further. My same hiking tee shirt and zip off pants I used in the Virginia Appalachia fared just as well in this thick, avalanche-prone snow! The temperature must have been the always-perfect-72 degrees with a crisp breeze. Yet, the snow didn’t look like it was going anywhere any time soon.
We departed from Lisa and Colby after a few Alp-like background photographs were snapped. Will and I made our way to the intersection of Mt. Audubon trailhead and our path. Mt. Audubon somehow loomed over us in the northwest even though we started at the parking lot at roughly 10,000 feet. To say the height of these mountains was daunting would be to discredit their awe-inspiring presence; imminent and inescapable.
I fell immediately back into the same dull, divided mindset I had on the Appalachian Trail back home in Virginia. Up until we started a slight descent, I didn’t feel much at all. Because ascents have me looking at my feet, my physical and mental energies were channeled elsewhere. Out of nowhere came a wave full of emotions with the breeze. It touched my body, heart, and soul in one swift gust of God’s breath. I almost cried. Multiple aspects of my surroundings, feelings, future, and family formulated this abrupt mood swing.
Sawtooth Mountain
To explain, here’s the origin of the effects on my body. I was undergoing a delayed reaction to the altitude. When the fact of the matter of trekking at 10,000 feet hit my lungs, I felt an inverted high from the lightheadedness. On top of my bodily reaction was my heart’s. Switching from burning to aching in an instant as any young heart might, I missed my family. It was only the second day from home, or technically, the first full day. Even though I was hiking with my best friend and role model, I felt the distance between the rocky peak I was walking beneath and the rolling Blue Ridge at home. For the first time ever, I experienced a realer, more forceful sense of independence and solitude.
The vast mountains, not hills, stretched high into the clouds forcing me to feel almost abandoned; I could not physically have what my heart yearned, whereas home fenced everyone and everything within a reasonable distance. It’s undoubtedly indicative (as the feeling still weighs my heart even now as I write this) of my departure for college. With that concept identified, the distance grew even farther as its inevitable reality is now only 23 days away. In this quick sense of desperation, I listened to God’s voice in the over-used “Be not afraid, for I am with you” quote. Being this high in the sky, I am almost certain one of the archangels whispered the same words Gabriel whispered to Mary into my soul.
While my Senior Project on the AT was titled “Spirituality in the Mountains,” I must confess that the spirits here are incredibly different from the inhabitants of the Blue Ridge. Appalachia emanates an innate sense of ancient and tribal spirituality. The Rockies, from what I can tell from Day 1, maintain an intimidating, but strikingly beautiful, emotion-stirring animus, prana.
Different sects of Christianity describe a similar, but virtually nonexistent-in-today’s-world term of “fear and awe of the Lord.” And in the Rockies this first night, I immediately thought of some Augustinian, if not Aquinas’ reasoning paraphrased as “the Lord God created the heavens, and the earth, and the race of Man. Because God created us, we are inherently and consequently made with some sort of essence of God.”[1] I have no doubt that I feel God’s presence within His creation of both me and the mountains and to feel that clear unity shared between both of us was primordial.
These first-time-felt feelings left me as we continued descending. My body was running on a cup of tea as we eventually stopped to snack. The photos we’ve taken can say more than the thousands of words I’d struggle to find in order to describe the scenery here. We, or rather I alone, continued to struggle adjusting to the altitude while Will checked the map at the many stops my shallow breathing necessitated throughout the day.
The combination of both his and my wrongs had us thinking we were much further along than we really were. My fault was obvious; out of shape (or just poorly adjusting to the new climate.) His was the repeated checking of the map (which was directly my fault for having us stop frequently.) Still, the frequent map checking is a disease. Sometimes short-term, hikers face it when they start out on a trail for the first time. It’s a very cruel and unusual disease since we could cure it if we just put the map away….
So with both faults being committed incessantly and more frequently as we passed our predestine 12 o’clock finish, we stopped for a two-thirty Ramen lunch. We were caught in a cold drizzle. Very interesting to note: Will said the rains come consecutively at noon every day, but we lucked out and got it two and half hours later. It’s probably five-thirty as I finish writing this after two, if not three hours since we stopped here; two, if not three miles short of the lake Will initially planned for us to stop at for the day. There’s some river passing nearby, and we’re almost in the shadow of a couple mountains. The one huge comfort that consoles me is my book: The Game of Thrones! I look forward to reading it after I get out of this tent to pee! The rains left, came again, and now left us with puffy white clouds. Though, those seem to be leaving. The blue sky fills in the cracks between the puzzle-pieced clouds as the sun begins to set.
I lied. It’s actually 6:40! Gotta pee!

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[1] Now back among resources, I was able to do some “lite research” to figure out what I was trying to say. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church I found the same idea I was trying to convey in several areas. Firstly, “‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.’ (Genesis 1:27.) Man occupies a unique place in creation: he is “in the image of God”; in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; he is created “male and female”; God established him in his friendship.” (CCC, 355.) Secondly, “But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God” (Gaudium et Spes, 19, 1.) can be forgotten…”(CCC, 29.) That bond is described as such: “From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by Gods love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator.” (GS 19, 1.)