Coast to Coast Adventure, days 54-61

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

We grudgingly left Moab, that little oasis that draws us back year after year, and started on the road for Colorado again. I wanted a little taste of the San Juans without having to drive too far south, so we settled first for a couple days into Ouray. Ouray bills itself as the Switzerland of the US, I guess since it’s in a lovey mountain valley and everything is super expensive? Anyway it is a cute town, and the cool thing is that it is literally tucked right into nature. There are miles of trails starting right from Main Street that go to waterfalls, creeks, up the mountains, and all around the town. It’s pretty cool how integrated it is into its surroundings. We hiked some of the perimeter trail, and there we great views of the mountains and valley. We had an awesome vrbo right on the river, and the sound of it rushing constantly was intoxicating.

We elected to go further out from Ouray to Ridgeway to hike the Blue Lakes Trail. This is a hard trail, 8.5 miles round trip just to the bottom lake, and it was steep and difficult going the first 1.5 miles. Really steep switchbacks that kill your knees and quads coming back down. Eventually we were rewarded when we got up to a waterfall and then the trees parted to reveal a gorgeous turquoise lake set in the basin of Mount Sneffels. I will never ever get over or stop loving alpine lakes. They are like magical little Narnias. We chilled out by the lake for awhile, it was too cold to swim, and then hiked back out. It was already starting to get dark, so we didn’t hike the upper lakes, but we definitely will need to if we get back here again.

From here we were on our way to Crested Butte, but first with a stop in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. My brother told me this was a must see stop, and he was right. It is such a rugged canyon. We hiked a bunch of the short rim trails, and the views were amazing. I can’t help myself for climbing and scrambling on the rocky cliff edge, luckily I didn’t plunge into the canyon and die.

We were taken aback just driving into Crested Butte. It is an absolute charmer. Elk (Main Street) is a string of beautiful colorful old buildings that house amazing shops and restaurants. We were a block off the main drag, in an adorable little cabin we got through vrbo. The town sits in a scenic valley, surrounded by mountains on all sides. We loved waking around the town with our dogs. I wish we could live here!!!

Our first hike was the absolute best wildflowers we have seen on this trip. Even the drive to the hike, was just fields and fields of flowers. It was an easy hike up through Washington Gulch to a view point that gives you 360 degree views. My legs were still spent from our tough hike to Blue Lakes, so I was grateful for the gently graded switchbacks that offered stunning views in every direction.

The next day we did what has become my very favorite hike. Scarp Ridge Trail to 421, which is above Irwin Lake about 3 minutes west of town. This is a fairly strenuous hike up to a 12,500 ridge-line. It is hard to fully describe how beautiful it was. It was a place that stunned me to silence and brought tears to my eyes. There are mountains everywhere you look. We had perfect clouds dotting the sky, making the whole thing look like a canyon. It was just a dream.

We are going to the Tetons today, our last stop before going to our new home in Oregon. I wish I could do this full time; I am going to miss this life so much.

Coast to Coast Adventure, days 44-53

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

This last section has been in one of our favorites- Utah. Utah is probably my favorite overall state. It has so many amazing parks. There is ample world class skiing. Even the areas that aren’t designated public lands or parks are beautiful. I could do without all the Mormons, as they do influence state policies, but thankfully in the modern age their significance in Utah seems to be dwindling.

We spent our time at a nice house we rented through VRBO just off highway 89 and 14. 45 minutes to Bryce and an hour to Zion, the perfect location!! Because we travel with our dogs, a lot of research goes into where we stay and how close it is to dog friendly hikes. We try everyday to either do one long hike that takes most of the day with the dogs, or do a morning hike with them and then go to a national park in the afternoon.

There are two gems for hiking with dogs both within 30 minutes drive from our house. The first is the Virgin River Rim Trail. It is a 30 mile long trail, but the best section is from mile 6.5 to 11.5, and we hiked this as two separate day hikes from the Cascade Falls trailhead. The views from the rim are amazing!!!! It is a bit of a workout to get up to the rim, it had me huffing wind, but once up there it meanders at elevation flat along the rim. A perfect hike with our babies.

The other amazing area for hiking with our dogs is at Red Canyon. Most people drive right through this on their way to Bryce or only stop for pictures on the side of the road. It isn’t a huge park, but there are miles of amazing trails. It was August so we had to go early in the day to make sure it didn’t get too hot. Plenty of water needed- for all these hikes, no water sources in most trails in Utah. Definitely hit this area up and don’t just drive through it!

We had plenty of afternoon, evening time to hit up Bryce and Zion. At Bryce, we hiked down into the canyon near sunset. We were totally alone down there. It was silent. It was mystical and beautiful and special.

We did two hikes in Zion, one up to the canyon overlook and one in the canyon up to the Watchman. It was hot as balls! 100 degrees both days when we set out. We passed so many people without water, what idiots. Bring water people!!!! The bonus of hiking in the hot late afternoon early evening is that it’s always less crowded. We are always able to find many moments of quiet and solitude. That is soooo important to me. It’s why I won’t do hikes like Angels Landing- I do not want my experience with nature to be crowded, loud, and regulated. I want to be able to hear the silence and appreciate the sights without a gaggle of people around me. This is possible even in the most crowded parks, it just requires a little extra effort and planning.

Next we were off to Moab. I love Moab so much. We’ve been here 5 times in as many years. It is a little oasis. So much beauty to be found. The desert, canyons, red rocks, mountains, Moab has it all. Now it was August, and it was over 100 degrees everyday. To get around this, the first day we went up to the La Sal Mountains and hiked up to the top of one. The temp was max 75 degrees up there. It was a tough hike, up and up and up, but well worth the 360 degree views. There was also beautiful aspens and wildflowers everywhere!

We didn’t go up to our favorite park, Deadhorse State Park, this time. We elected to do some dawn hikes to arches in the canyon instead and then went into Arches in the evening. I love scrambling and climbing on slickrock. It’s so fun and makes me feel like a kid again.

The end of this trip is rapidly approaching. It makes me really sad. I often wonder if I would be better off in life if I never went to college and med school. Would I be happy living in a van, traveling the country with my dogs? I think I would be. In my reality though, I love being a doctor, and I have to continue being one- there are hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans to pay off after all.

Coast to Coast Adventure, days 29-43

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

California. We spent three days driving from Montana to the California Coast. We stopped in the middle of Washington state first- a bleak part of the country that looks like any of the states of the Great Plains of the Midwest. We made a pit stop in the lovely little town of Hood River for lunch from a charming bistro. It was nearly 100 degrees that afternoon, so we settled for a short stroll in town. From there our first stop on the coast, Florence Oregon. A charming old downtown area made this town stand out, and we spent an hour walking around and then picking up dinner. This was our first time anywhere on the coast in Oregon, and the dunes there were insane! They are huge, they go on for miles. There were a lot of ATV areas there, but we elected to stay far away from that.

We kept on driving down the coast, stopping at an Oregon state park- Cape Arago. This place was truly spectacular. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings. The rainforest comes right up to the shore. Like nothing we’ve ever seen. We spent a couple hours on trails on the coast, and really fell in love. This was also our first time seeing sea lions!

We really enjoyed watching these guys bark and roll around and slip into the sea. From here we drove to our next vrbo rental in Crescent City, California. We had a beautiful drive along the coast and stopped at a beach where we had the whole thing to ourselves. A lovely little treasure.

Our house was nice, just one house down from the Ocean. There was a great beach by the house where we watched sunsets and walked in the morning.

We spent a few days exploring the coastline. We wound up in a little beach town called Trinidad, and found the trails and scenery to be spectacular! You hiked up on the coastline and cliffs, then down to pristine coves, and then through rainforest. Truly an ecological treasure.

Unfortunately Crescent City itself and the areas around were not good. It was like we went back in time to the 80s. Run down, terrible restaurants, nothing cultural of note (Except racist restaurants with Indian statues out front). We went on one trail to the beach that was covered in disgusting horse shit everywhere. The saving grace was the beach itself. Seemingly untouched by man, without any other people for miles and miles. We spent a long time on the beach, watching a sea lion swim and bald eagles fly overhead. It was a spot where you just felt like could exist 100 years ago, when we hadn’t come in and ruined the environment yet.

Lastly, the main reason we came to this section was to see the redwoods. We drove through the parks and took a short hike (since dogs are banned ours stayed in the car, the weather was cold). The trees were incredible. They just make you understand what an ant must feel like in the world. Hopefully we humans don’t destroy them, and they live for many more years.

From here we drove to Tahoe City. Lake Tahoe is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. The fact that you have the lake, many other alpine lakes, the mountains for hiking and skiing all right there- one of a kind. With that being said, I’d never been there in the summer. The traffic and tourists were awful!!! We had to change our plans quite a few times to try to avoid the people and get the solitude we desired.we were able to do a few good hikes, but we will definitely need to come back when it is not so crowded.

From Tahoe, we drove just a few hours to Mammoth Lakes. I have been waiting my whole life to see the high Sierras, and this area did not disappoint! The only downside is, we are still not in good enough shape to do a lot of the harder trails up into the remote mountains. So we had to settle for those in our wheelhouse closer to town. We WILL be back here again and do a backpacking trip!!!

We hiked to many spectacular alpine lakes. It was hard to choose a favorite. The only downside is that due to the high snowpack year, the bugs were awful!!! There was still snow on a few of the trails we did as well. We also stumbled unexpectedly into what has now become my favorite hike we’ve ever done. We went into the hike without expectations of how it would be. The hike is at saddlebag lake and twenty lakes basin. Well. What we found was incredible. Mountain views everywhere. Snow still on the trail, requiring kicking steps and route finding. So many beautiful lakes, everywhere.

I think I loved this hike even more because I wasn’t expecting it. The first lake you see is saddlebag, which is perfectly fine and scenic, but once you get into the lake basin, it is spectacular. It was a dream. We will definitely hike this again, I will remember it forever.

The other hikes we did we to some crystal clear lakes around Mammoth. I continued to swim in them, and it is now somewhat of an addiction I think! They are sooooo cold, but it is exhilarating!!!

Mammoth was a lovely town. We will definitely be back here.

Our new home in Oregon will be within a days drive of all these wonders. I cannot wait to come back. Thanks, California.

Coast to Coast Adventure, Days 19-28

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

Whooooo… a lot went on this last week or so. We’ve been in Montana the entire time, and I have to say that the wilderness of Montana is continuing to be my favorite place. We barely even scratched the surface, and I plan on coming back again and again. The Beartooths and Red Lodge continue to have my heart. When we were looking for a new place to live, I explored all options in Montana, but unfortunately couldn’t find the type of job I was looking for. My new job in Medford is still at a tertiary care hospital, that’s fairly big, especially for being in a smaller town- so I think it will be the best of both worlds: good job, good location.

Back to our time in Montana.

The next day we drove to my FAVORITE, The Beaten Path. I had aspirations of backpacking this trail for a night or two, but I’ve got to get over my fear of sleeping in the wild first. So we will put a pin in that, but I am GOING to hike this whole trail one day.

For now, we settled on the easiest, but still ridiculously scenic hike to Elk Lake. It’s 7 miles roundtrip, but for Montana it truly is an easy hike, with only a couple steep areas. Otherwise a nice, winding grade takes you through the valley to the lake. The sound of the water rushing through the canyon and cascades really adds to the whole ambiance.

We shared our time at the lake with a nice guy from Pennsylvania. I wish I had captured the beauty of the lake and the area itself better, but being in a valley on a cloudless, hot day, the light just wasn’t conducive to it. In a way I think that’s better, that the real thing is so much more magical and enchanting than the pictures– it truly has to be experienced firsthand to appreciate it.

The worst part of this hike is East Rosebud Lake. All the shore of the lake is privately owned. The people who own the houses are all huge dicks. They are the definition of white privilege. Nearly all of them had the houses handed down to them, and they feel they own the right to dictate who can enjoy the lake. We have never had a pleasant experience with any of the people there.

Our last day in Red Lodge we drove back up the pass. We were plagued with hordes of mosquitos and biting flies in the lake area at the other side of the pass, so our hike was pretty short. The ground everywhere was so soggy from the huge snowpack, it was just a breeding ground for every bug imaginable. Yuck.

We left the Absaroka area and headed upwards towards Glacier. We stayed at a rustic little cabin for a couple nights in the Flathead National Forest area. The hike we did while there was easily one of my favorites. Ten miles, and two gorgeous alpine lakes. I CANNOT get over these lakes in Montana. They are SOOOO clear. Alpine Lakes are my new favorite part of hiking out west, for sure!

This is an area we’d definitely like to come back to. As well as the “Bob,” or Bob Marshall Wilderness. Montana truly has the most wild land left in the lower 48, and we have so much more we want to explore. Wouldn’t it be cool to be the type of person who gets dropped off in the wilderness by helicopter and then makes their own way out? Yeah, it would!

We went to the Jewel Basin area next. This is a great area for hiking and camping only. We were again, unfortunately besieged by bugs. They were so bad we barely took any pictures. The trail we took was the wrong one, it was a loop that didn’t go to any lakes or peaks. It was a lot of work and effort for not much payoff. I would love to go hike that basin again, but for the time being we had to move on.

Up around East Glacier for a few days, we took one day to hike by ourselves in the park. The dogs did NOT take kindly to this and were wailing and clawing at the door of our tiny house by the time we got back. We did an awesome 12 mile loop hike of Two Medicine Lake, with an offshoot to Upper Two Medicine Lake. The upper lake was spectacular. Another turquoise, clear lake. We hoped that by hiking around the lake (instead of being boring tourists and taking a ferry) that we would see some wildlife- moose or brown bears. We did not. Not a one! Real bummer.

We felt very proud of ourselves after this hike. It’s the longest single hike we’ve done. It was moderate in difficulty, and we got it done. Being that I am so overweight right now, it made the accomplishment that much sweeter. I am feeling stronger everyday!

We spent the next couple days and nights around the Glacier area. We drove the famous Going to the Sun road, but were not blown away. Soon after we were there a young girl was killed by falling rock in the road. What a sad thing. Her poor family.

The Beartooth Highway has spoiled us for life, it’s just so much more scenic. Once again I was reminded why I hate the national parks, as we encountered loads of awful tourists. We hiked everyday in the Great Bear Wilderness or National Forest, with the dogs. On one particularly hot hike (it’s been 90 degrees here every afternoon), I decided I was going to swim.

For years we have been going on hiking trips, and I have always wanted to swim in one of the beautiful alpine lakes that we hike to.

Yet I’d never done it.

I was too scared of people seeing me, being offended by my fat, pale body, thinking I was gross or weird. Worried that my actions might somehow worsen their day or make them uncomfortable.

That ended today.

It was so hot out as we started hiking, and the trail was awful and steep and bugs were everywhere. When we got to the lake, I knew it was finally time.

I stripped off my top and pants and dove into the icy cold water.

It felt amazing.

It felt like rebirth.

It felt like it was about fucking time.

It was such a freeing and amazing experience, I can’t wait to do it again. Now if only I can convince Rob to swim next time…

Our last hike was 11 miles down a dirt forest road. It is in fact an “off road” drive, and we saw a bunch of jeeps and buggies who were there just for the drive. At the end of the road is a trailhead up to some lakes and up to a peak. We opted to just go to the lakes, which was hard enough in and of itself!

On our way out of Kalispell, we stopped for a closer look at the Flathead Lake. It is so clear! It’s like Lake Tahoe in that way, and so gorgeous. We also saw a little baby bear on the riverside. It was unfortunately, the only wildlife we saw in Montana. No grizzlies. Just another reason to come back again!

We are headed for California now. In a couple days we will hit the coast and have driven across the entire US! We are now as we speak in Washington! We drove though Idaho today as well, which makes 2 new states for Rob and I . Let’s see what adventures Cali has in store for us!

Coast To Coast Adventure, days 15-18

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

We arrived into Red Lodge,Montana, and right into our adorable vrbo rental. It was a cute little house right off Main Street. We only stayed there 2 days, I’m wishing it could have been longer! It even had a yard with a hot tub and fire pit, and fresh strawberries to pick.

After getting settled in, we hiked out on the West Fork Trail the next morning. This trail was a little rough. It was through a burn area for nearly two miles. The burn zone was super harsh and the sun was beating down on us the entire time. To make it worse, it was slightly uphill the whole way, and you could see the creek the entire time, but the trail never got close to it. There were a lot of wildflowers, but that’s the only good thing about the beginning of this trail.

Finally, the trail entered forest and abutted the creek. The dogs and I got right into the creek, and it was amazing! So cold and the water was beautiful and clear. I wish I could have gone swimming!

We then hiked onward till we got to a lovely waterfall, and then into the forest some more. If we kept going on the trail, eventually it reached some meadows, but the dogs and we were tired and hot, so we turned back. On the return trip we saw a huge multigenerational family with 29 people!!! Seniors and infants alike. They were only 1.5 miles in, and they were really struggling with the heat. I hope they ended up making it to the falls, the poor kids all looked so miserable. Heat exhaustion just waiting to happen!

The next day, we packed up out of the house and drove up my favorite road ever, the Beartooth Highway. If you ever have the chance to do this, please do it. It’s amazing. Words and pictures hardy even do it justice.

It puts the road through Rocky Mountain Park to shame. I’ll have to weigh it against Going to the Sun road when we go to glacier next week. The most wonderful part is that it isn’t even very crowded. We had plenty of space to ourselves. We roamed on the tundra quite a bit and scrambled up a couple of big boulder piles as well.

The dogs loved seeing the snow. They played and rolled around on it, until Moose decided he needed to throw up all over. Partly my fault on this one, I fed him part of my breakfast bagel sandwich. 😬

We drove down to the Island Lakes Campground, intent to camp for the night. The. The mosquitos swarmed us. I mean swarmed. It was awful. Moose was still acting sick, and very lethargic, so we drove back to Red Lodge and stayed in the Yodeler Motel for the night. Besides the creepy bathroom it was actually pretty nice and a big room.

The next morning, we got going relatively early. It always takes forever to reload the car, get the dogs fed and situated, and honestly- for Rob to poop 1-3 times. That man’s IBS drives me crazy, I swear. We then drove out to West Rosebud Road. Unfortunately we had to take a long detour because a bridge was out, so it took a couple hours.

The dirt roads in Montana all go through ranches. So the roads are public but all the surrounding land is private. We drove up to the Mystic Lake trailhead. Lake is actually a misnomer, since it’s a reservoir. It is both very cool and also a little jarring to see all the power generated from the dam and the whole system for how the water is collected. There were a bunch of men up there working, and honestly, that has to be an amazing job. Can’t beat the location!

The hike up to the lake was BRUTAL. The first mile is totes relaxed with a mild incline and some woods. The creek that is from the dam is amazing, and filled with huge rocks and rapids.

After the first easy part, the hike gets real real quick. Up rocky switchbacks and boulder fields, the terrain is both steep and unstable. Careful footing is absolutely necessary, as some areas right off the trail have a drop of several hundred feet. Add to that a dog pulling you and generally behaving like an asshole at baseline, and it adds some tension to the hike.

The way up we had a gorgeous view of the valley. I was on the struggle bus for this hike. If this hike was in Ohio it would have signs every ten feet saying “Extreme Danger” and “Hike at Your Own Risk” but here in Montana it’s no big deal. We passed by several families with young kids, all just out for a walk in the park. I was passed by an older guy in his 60s who carried no more than a walking stick and his bear spray. He wore jeans, as did a woman and her daughter who were toting Subway to the top. All that’s to say is that these peeps were keeping it super casual, and I was literally dying. I actually cried tears of joy when I finally reached the top.

Compounding the physical difficulty, I got one of my lovely exercise induced migraine about 2 miles into this 6+ mile round trip. After many years of analyzing their pattern, unfortunately the last few years I have come to see that strenuous exercise is an almost guarantee for a migraine. So here I am, super obese again and trying to hike myself back to good health again, and BLAM! Migraine comes calling. So then not only am I huffing and puffing and resting every 100 feet, I’m buckled over with pain, blurry vision, and nausea. Just trying to hold my water down, so I don’t get dehydrated and die of heat stroke.

Super fun time.

Migraine troubles aside, this was a very rewarding hike. I mean, that view. It’s like rounding the corner and coming into an enchanted world right out of Lord of the Rings or something. (Yes I’ve seen those movies, I’m a nerd.) As soon as you see the lake, the wind just pounds into you. Sustained winds of 60+ miles an hour were nearly knocking us off our feet.

At this point I had taken 2 excedrin, a flubiprofen, and a zofran. My head was still pounding, but thankfully started to ease up a little when the meds kicked in. And bonus, I didn’t puke. Of course going back down is always so much easier. In this case until we got past the boulder fields, I couldn’t relax. The footing was so uneasy, and rocks rolled right out from under me way too often.

Now as I sit here in my post migraine haze of lightheadedness, photophobia, and nausea, I am grateful for the Quality Inn where I can relax in tub and let my head settle down. Looking forward to chowing down on some Mexican food very shortly. Yum.

Coast to Coast Adventure, Days 10-14

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September.

We started this stretch of days waking up exhausted and sore. The previous day’s attempted overnight left us all tired and sore. We took the dogs for a short walk and had a leisurely morning. One thing about our dogs, they will never miss an opportunity to sleep in. They are pretty lazy at their core, and will snuggle with us under the covers until one of us has to get up to pee. My favorite time of day is getting BOOPs from Sky in bed and spooning with my large adult son Moose.

Rob and I then drove up to RMNP and hiked up to Big Meadows. My legs were dying and physically rebelling against anymore uphill at that point, so it was a bit of a slog even though it was an easy trail. The reveal at the end was worth it, though.

We spent some time sitting in the shade, just savoring our surroundings. For a good 20 minutes, we didn’t see any other people, and had the whole meadow to ourselves. The creek bubbling and the wind whipping through the tall grasses was hypnotic.

We looked up from taking our picture to see we had been joined by some company. A momma and baby moose. They were about 50 feet away, grazing and meandering along. We hid behind the trees to watch them as they sauntered across the meadow. The baby would run ahead and then back to mom, so cute and fluffy with its long spindly legs.

We went back to the condo we were renting for a drama filled scene. Moose was howling and wailing and carrying on. Unfortunately this scene was doomed to repeat itself the next day. The condos had too much activity going on and too many dogs and people making noises, and it riled the dogs right up. The next day we had again driven up to RMNP for a hike, but our dog-cam showed Moose being hysterical, so instead we hopped right back in the car and drove the hour home.

I love my two dogs very much, but they do not make traveling easy. Sky is incredibly reactive and will bark her head off anytime she sees another dog. It creates a huge problem on the trails, especially narrow ones high up the mountains. The worst part is that now Moose acts this way, too. He used to be our chillaxed friendly guy, wanting to say hi to everyone… now he starts barking and pulling on his leash. I fear this is only going to get worse until we get settled in Oregon and can work with a trainer.

That afternoon, we attempted another overnight trip. The campsite was less than one mile from the car, on the edge of a large beautiful meadow.

We set up camp, and another Moose came out to join us in the meadow. He kept his distance across the fields, and we set out to hike a little of the CDT. The portion we hiked was wooded and beautiful. There was no one else out there.

That feeling of isolation ultimately led me to decide not to spend the night yet again. I don’t even know what I’m worried about? The absence of sound, the absence of people. These things make me so happy during the day, but at night seem sinister. I yearn to be comfortable enough with myself in nature to spend the night in a beautiful place with no one but my little family around. I hope I’m able to do this by the time this trip is over in September.

Saturday morning came in on a wave of grumpiness. Rob hadn’t slept because he has “altitude included sleep apnea”. So he wakes up gasping in the night. Of course, he has sleep apnea ALL the time, he’s only waking up with it now because there is less oxygen at 9,000 feet. Will he go on a sleep study? No. Will he take his BP medicine? No. Being a doctor means fuck all to anyone in my family, they follow my recommendations 0% of the time. This is a perfect example of what patients do with our recommendations: they either follow them or not. Every person has to make their own decisions, and all I can do is make the best recommendation for them with the knowledge I have.

After getting out of the house too late, after 10, we drove up to Monarch Lake in Granby. We had planned on hiking past the lake on the cascade creek trail. Well every person up for the weekend from Denver had the same idea, and there was nowhere to park within a mile of the trailhead. Completely pissed off at this point, I turned the car around and we went back to hike a much less scenic hike, Doe Creek. Well this hike was in a meadow and forest affected by beetle kill so there was no shade and it was 85 degrees, the dogs lasted a mile, and then we had to turn around to avoid heat exhaustion.

We got back to the condo, and I continued to just be in bad mood. The last 2 days we had done none of the hikes we planned, and the hikes we did do were fairly boring. I did not even take a single picture, feeling the bland scenery didn’t merit it. Rob went in the house with the dogs and I set off on a walk into town. The Jazz Fest was in Winter Park this weekend, so I got to people watch and listen to (terrible) jazz as I walked. Getting in that extra exercise and time to myself helped me clear my head and get out of my bad mood. That night Rob and I were both tired, and settled in to start a new show on Netflix (Lucifer, which so far seems pretty good).

The next morning we packed up and are now on the road to Montana.

The drive is all two lane highways through remote parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. It’s big ranch country, and it’s beautiful. There’s just so much open land. It’s the kind of sparseness that makes you dream of owning a big piece of land…. but then you drive through the little “towns”. These towns are usually no more than a gas station and some trailers, a family dollar if you’re lucky. How far must the people who live there drive to go to a “real” grocery store? It seems there are only two income levels: super rich owners of the ranches, and the poor ranch hands that work for them.

All that being said. Wyoming has some of the most unexpected, beautiful places we’ve been through.

We’ll get into Red Lodge tonight, and hopefully our week there will include some more successful days of hiking and exploring.

Coast to Coast Adventure, Day 9

My husband Rob and I have quit our jobs and are moving from Dayton, OH to Medford, OR with our two dogs Moose and Schuyler. Before we settle there, we are embarking on a 2.5 month adventure across the US. I’ll be working as a hospitalist when we get to Oregon in September. 

Day 9: Winter Park and Fraser Colorado. Hike Columbine Lake. Max elevation 11,146 feet.

Whelp. I failed super hard last night. It was supposed to be our first backpacking overnight, and this should have been my view all night. It was not to be, as I sabotaged it.

I chose a trail and place we had been before, Columbine Lake. We started the 4 mile hike in a 5 o clock, a little later than we wanted as it had been raining off and on all day before clearing up.

When we got started the weather was absolutely beautiful. The trail was quiet and secluded at that time of day. We had on our backpacking packs- mine was roughly 25 pounds and Rob’s was roughly 50. His pack was ridiculously big and heavy, and I worried about him. I tried to buy lighter weight gear, but I don’t think I was picky enough, and it added up quickly.

The first 3 miles of the trail weren’t that bad at all. Lovely trail up through a forest and by meadows and streams, graded no more than 15%. I knew the last mile was hard, I remembered from before. It is steeply graded at 25 % or more, and has lots of rocks which make for treacherous footing. It parallels a stream and cascades, and is absolutely gorgeous, but took a lot more effort. Our packs on the rough terrain and 11,000 feet altitude made it excruciating, and I stopped so much that it took us 45 minutes just to do this stretch. Rob was concerned and told me my lips were blue, he said we should turn around, but I said no, we were too close.

Finally, we arrived at the lake. It’s a beautiful alpine lake, nestled in a little valley between high peaks. There was one other person camping there, and he had a fire going. We walked around the lake, searching for tent sites. It was not easy to find somewhere, as the lake was overflowing and there were many pools surrounding it from snow melt. Flat ground was non-existent and mosquitoes swarmed us. At this point from the strenuous exertion and the altitude, I was feeling terribly. I had a headache and felt dizzy and orthostatic. It was one hour or less to sunset.

Rob had said before that we ought to turn back since I was feeling badly, but I wanted to push on. I wanted to do this so badly. As soon as I stopped at the lake and sat down, I started to panic. I’ve had terrible altitude headaches before, and with my head pounding more by the second I went into panic attack mode. Rob looked at my face and said, “we need to go down; we need to go quickly before it is totally dark.”

There was no time to debate. No time to get more water (we’d had only a liter between the two of us this far, not wanting to stop since we were racing the sun.) We quickly put back on our heavy packs and set off down the mountainside. It was a race against the darkness. We yelled out loudly every few seconds, as the twilight hours and location made this territory ripe for bears and moose. Thankfully our antics must have kept them away and mercifully we didn’t fall on our rapid descent. We finally pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead as darkness enveloped the mountains.

We still had an hour drive down a remote, rough road to town. We collapsed into our condo (which we thankfully still had rented, in case something like this happened). I took some medication for my headache and my screaming neck pain and we went to bed.

It feels terrible to have failed at this. Why could I not overcome my fear and panic? I let them get the better of me. In the moment, dehydrated and exhausted, I wasn’t thinking rationally. I worried my headache would envelope me and then the panic just rose and rose in my throat until I felt like I was choking.

The entire time, Rob was my rock. He didn’t get angry when I said I couldn’t stay up there. Despite knowing we had a long and dangerous way down, and needing to go as fast as possible with his whole body aching from his heavy pack, he stoically made sure we all got back down to civilization.

Epic fail overall, but I am proud of us for doing that very hard 8 mile hike with our heavy packs.

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