Friday, January 20, 2017

Day 4: The Day I Broke Karolina

We didn't have to wake up at an ungodly hour this morning. It was our first morning that we didn't have to wake up before dawn, but we didn't sleep in especially late either because today, Karolina and I would be carrying our full packs into the wilderness. We'd finally be cutting ourselves off from all civilization, and the earlier we got started, the more miles we'd get in.


Amanda packed up camp quickly and efficiently. Karolina and I took a bit longer because we not only had to pack up camp, but also pack up our backpacks. While we were working on that, Amanda started chatting with a Serbian guy on a motorcycle looking for a place to camp. He had been traveling all over the United States and Amanda saw him at the entrance confused about how to get a campsite. She explained that it was a first-come, first-serve thing, so he could grab the first campsite that opened up. Or, at it turned out, he could just wait around until we left and grab our spot. We wouldn't be using it again once we left.

So he waited around in our camp while we packed up, chatting and telling us stories of his travels.

With everything packed up and ready to go, the three of us (not the Serbian!) got in the car and drove the short way to Tuolumne Lodge where Karolina and I would pick up the trail. On the drive over, I realized that my wallet was still in my duffel bag! The one Amanda would be taking home with her. I quickly looked through it and pulled my wallet out. I'd be needing that further down the trail! Money, credit cards, REI card.... Can't believe I almost had Amanda drive off with it! That would have been a disaster!

Amanda took a photo of Karolina and I with our full packs. It wasn't the start of the trail, but it had that sort of feel to it since it was the first time we'd be carrying our full packs. We were loaded down with four days of food and planned our next resupply stop at Mammoth Lakes. I also carried my laptop. I didn't expect to use the laptop while on the trail, but I wasn't sure if it would make it to the post office in Mammoth Lakes in time for us, or that the post office would still be open by the time we arrived. I really needed to use it in town and the best way to make sure it would be readily available was to carry it with me. With only four days of food, I figured I could carry the extra weight of the laptop without much trouble. Before I left Mammoth Lakes, I'd send it ahead to the next trail town.

Amanda drove off, and Karolina and I hiked on.

Most of the day's hike followed alongside Lyell Creek up Lyell Canyon--an almost entirely flat section of trail. Not the most dramatic scenery on the trail, but pleasant.

A couple of hours into it, we took a break by the creek where Karolina took off her shoes and socks and waded into the water declaring it so cold, that it actually hurt her feet.


We continued onward and near the end of the day, at the end of Lyell Canyon, the trail finally started climbing upwards towards Upper Lyell Base Camp, which was our minimum goal for the day. For planning purposes, we set minimum goals to ensure that we wouldn't run out of food along the route. We could go beyond our minimum goals if we wanted to, but we had to keep to our minimums to make sure we didn't run out of food before our next resupply point.

And the campsite at Upper Lyell Base Camp looked beautiful! It would have been a tempting place to stop except that half a dozen other people had already set up camp with more arriving by the minute. It seemed a bit crowded, and Karolina seemed to be doing well and was up for pushing on a bit further to another campsite shown on our maps.

So we continued on, climbing steadily towards Donahue Pass. We wouldn't go to the top of the pass, though. The campsite we now had set our sights on was about midway between the pass and the base camp we had just passed.

At this point, Karolina started deteriorating rapidly. She slowed down considerably and needed to stop several times for a quick rest.

It was definitely time to find a place to camp, although the steep hillside we were climbing wasn't a good place to stop. Near the top of the steep hillside, Karolina stopped to rest again. At this point, there was space to set up camp, but it was somewhat claustrophobic and lacked the views we'd been hoping for, so I wanted to take a look further up the trail to see if anything better was around.

At about which point, Karolina started throwing up, spewing her stomach contents over the side of a large boulder. She got some great coverage over that rock, and was trying to hold her long hair back so it wouldn't dip into the vomit.


I felt bad her for. I was sure she was suffering from altitude sickness. We had started the trail at around 9,000 feet above sea level and had only gone up from there. I assumed at this point, we were close to 10,000 feet. (Later, I'd learn we were closer to 10,500 feet above sea level.) Jet lag probably didn't help matters either.

But, as bad as I felt for her, I kind of wanted to take photos of her vomiting as a record of her diminished condition. She probably wouldn't like it at the moment, but later, she might find it amusing after the fact. I held off, though. Live for the present! And she might want to beat me up if I tried to take photos of her vomiting. So I sat nearby patiently, offering my sympathies and not sure what else I could do.

Eventually, she stopped vomiting and it was clearly time for us to stop and set up camp. While Karolina sat and rested, I ran ahead on the trail to see if there were any nearby campsites. Around the turn, the trail dipped slightly to a small creek where barren ground showed the impact of previous campers. It was a gorgeous location, although perhaps a little closer to the water than Leave No Trace ethics allowed. I liked it better than other locations, though, because it was already impacted. We could have camped further away from the water, but then we'd be impacting otherwise thriving vegetation. I also liked the fact that the trail dipped a bit. It was slightly lower than our current location, and since Karolina was suffering from altitude sickness, lower was better. It probably wasn't enough to make much of a difference, but I'd take it anyhow!

I left my pack on the trail near our campsite. I normally don't like leaving my pack unattended, and I didn't like it now but I considered it a necessity at the moment. Although it seemed unlikely that bears would be located at this elevation, and my pack would only be unattended for a very short while--who knows what sort of chipmunks or squirrels might try getting into it. The reason I left it behind was so I could carry Karolina's pack the rest of the way. She was having a hard time of it and could probably use the extra help. But I certainly couldn't carry both of our packs at the same time, so mine would have to be left unattended for at least a few minutes.

I returned to Karolina and told her to hang in there--that there was a great campsite maybe five minutes up the trail. Before we left, she had an urgent need for a poop and scrambled a short way off trail to do her thing. I was itching to get going, uncomfortable with my pack being unattended down the trail. When Karolina returned, she made some uncomfortable comments about her stool being a bit loose. Vomiting and diarrhea. Great....

Once Karolina was settled, I picked up her pack and we walked down the trail to our campsite. My pack, I was happy to see, was still sitting there undisturbed.

Next to the creek was a small patch of snow which perked Karolina up. Snow! In August! She still had enough energy to cross the creek and touch the snow, make a couple of snowballs, and it was tinged pink which puzzled her. Pink snow? What was that? Yellow snow she understood, but pink?

Welcome to America! Land of the pink snow!

We wound up cowboy camping for the night. We were the first people to set up camp at this location, and a few other people showed up later in the afternoon and set up camp nearby. Karolina seemed to feel better once we had stopped. I don't think she ever felt at 100%, but she didn't suffer from anymore bouts of vomiting or diarrhea and was able to keep her dinner down. I might have broken Karolina, but things were looking up! =)

Most of the day's hike was on largely flat terrain up Lyell Canyon.

Karolina said that the water was so cold, it was actually painful to stand in. It wasn't going to stop her from wading into the water, though!
Karolina's freshly painted toenails wouldn't look quite as pretty by the end of the this hike!
Donahue Pass is up ahead, but we didn't expect to reach it until tomorrow.
Karolina frolics among the flowers. (Don't worry, she's actually ON the trail and not really tromping around crushing flowers.)
Lyell Creek, heading up Lyell Canyon.
Karolina takes time to do some stretches during one of our snack breaks.
Near the end of the day, the trail started its steady climb upwards as it approaches Donahue Pass.

A lot of people were already setting up camp near this location when we arrived. It was a beautiful location, but we kept going anyhow, much to Karolina's later regret....


Karolina crosses a creek! But will she fall?

Looking back down into Lyell Canyon.

A tragic scene of vomiting took place here. I didn't take photos of Karolina while she was vomiting, but I did take pictures of the vomit when she wasn't looking. =)
Karolina checks out a patch of snow. In August! And some of it is pink!
Karolina and I start setting up camp for the night.

3 comments:

Bon Echo said...

You had your laptop on the C&O / GAP now again on this hike....wouldn't a tablet be a lighter option?

Ryan said...

A tablet doesn't do everything I need it to do. Have you ever tried to write or edit code on a tablet?! But I pushed it in a stroller on the C&O/GAP, so I didn't have to carry it then. =)

Lou Catozzi said...

I remember the first time I had a run in with altitude. I could walk downhill and level with no problem but the minute I exerted myself even the slightest amount going uphill it was like a gorilla was sitting on my chest. I could not breathe! I was sucking in air but not (enough) oxygen! I had to slow down to almost a crawl to make any forward progress at all.

PI Joe