Rocky Mountains, sigh

Written by on June 20, 2012 in 30 Life Crisis, Americas, Blog, Colorado - 4 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round are road tripping and exploring America through June 27. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

The rustic smell of the wooden stairs hits me as soon as we walk in to Pine Ridge Condos in Breckenridge, tucked into the vast expanse of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

It smells spicy, like winter.

The view from Pine Ridge Condos in Breckenridge

I don’t think anything of it when Erica, Shaun and I begin our ascent up the six flights to our condo, carrying two suitcases (because you never know if the warm clothes are needed), my bag of toiletries, my bag with the hair straightener, and my bag with my electronics.

I take the first flight with ease. And the second, too.

Then, it hits me.

I can’t breathe very well. 

My legs turns stiff. My heart races. What would normally take a quick minute to climb the flights of stairs lapses into a story in and of itself. Pauses. Moments where I feel my pulse in my ears. Lots and lots of curse words and mumblings about why the hell the condos are missing an elevator.

I’m not in THIS bad of shape.

High up and feeling ... awful

I like to think I am exempt from all things that suck, like jet lag.

I learned my lesson about jet lag back in September when I crashed and burned hard after arriving to Las Vegas from Thailand (and a disgusting 14-hour time difference).

And, now, this.

I get altitude sickness.

Granted, Breckenridge, where our condo is located, is more than 9,000 feet above sea level.  But, I don’t expect to feel … so entirely shitty.

The three of us clamor up the stairs, heaving by the time we traverse the entirety of the building.

Later, we attend an event a top Keystone, some 11,000 feet above sea level.

“Be careful and drinks a lot of water,” warns our friend. “If you don’t drink water and drink a lot of booze, you could end up in the hospital.”

Gondola rides

I quickly recount the start of our evening, which included two gondola rides with my old friend Anna, Dave (who was my road trip partner from Vegas to Colorado), Erica, Shaun and me. On the second, we were handed champagne as we hovered a good distance above the life on the slope below.

As soon as our friend mentions getting sick so high up, I look down at my glass of wine. At the plate of food I have barely touched.

I don’t want to be that girl.

Even later in the evening, when our group heads down to River Run to drink at Kickapoo, her words repeat in my head.

The entire weekend, my body feels the effects of being in such thin air.

I can’t form sentences correctly. I know what I want to say, but the words just don’t come out right.

I can’t walk great distances without feeling winded.

Stairs? Forget about it. Instead of walking through the tunnel to cross the street safely from the Keystone Lodge to the Conference Center, I opt for risking it and hauling it across Route 6 instead of having to climb the little beastly stairs.

I moan. I complain. I feel like someone is punching me repeatedly in the stomach.

On our last night, as Erica and I discuss the merits of leaving the Rockies a few hours ahead of schedule, the final decision is made because both of us are not only excited to start our cross-country road trip, but to get the hell out of the high altitude and back down to some place where we can feel more normal.

As we crawl into bed, down in Denver, at 2 a.m., it feels incredible to take a big breath of air into my lungs.

Yes, the Rocky Mountains are gorgeous. And yes, by Day Three of being at such a high altitude, I was able to feel more like normal, but in order to get the most out of the region, more than three days are definitely needed.

When the two of us loaded into the car Monday morning, I gave the mountains one last glimpse in my rear view mirror, then smiled.

It’s time to go to Omaha, where we can breathe (a lot) easier.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

4 Comments on " Rocky Mountains, sigh "

  1. Gaelyn June 21, 2012 at 12:37 am · Reply

    I see the altitude sickness problem all the time at the only 8,250 feet on the North Rim. Sorry to hear it got you so bad.

    • Diana June 21, 2012 at 8:57 am · Reply

      By the last day, I felt pretty better. But, it would have been far more enjoyable if I didn’t get it at all!

  2. Lisa June 21, 2012 at 9:52 pm · Reply

    I am so glad you wrote this. I thought I was being a lightweight. I am normally an awesome traveller and can stay awake for days but the trip to Keystone killed me and I drank a ton of water.

    I had a headache all weekend and while it was beautiful, I was happy to get home.

    • Diana June 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm · Reply

      It was brutal!! By the last day I was finally starting to feel more like myself … but damn. I should have come in a few days early to prepare myself for the altitude!

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