Altitude

I was gone last week, here:

tuolumne

My plans were last minute and impulsive. I discovered that if I stalked the Yosemite website, reservations would open up as people cancelled and I could get a room or tent cabin at the last minute. I wanted to go to Tuolumne Meadows. I had not been in many many years – over twenty. I have wonderful memories of hiking there.

I read some websites, pulled my stuff together, loaded up the car and headed out. I took the first couple of days pretty easy, giving myself time to adjust to the altitude. The third day, I went on a longer hike, but felt weak and shaky after awhile. I stopped, rested, ate, drank some water. I felt better, so continued on, but the feeling came back. I stopped again, and decided to head back. I walked and rested, walked and rested. Forced myself to eat a good dinner that evening, even though I didn’t really want it. I went to bed early, even earlier than I had been. I would get a good night’s sleep, that would help.

The next morning I woke up at 4:30 and decided to get up and take sunrise pictures. I headed out and took photos, cooked breakfast after the sun came up. Headed back to change and go hiking, and felt shaky and weak again. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was I not eating enough protein? Eating too much sugar? I decided to lie down, take a nap, see if that would help. It did, but then the weakness returned quickly.

I was so frustrated. Was it that I was just out of shape? Not drinking enough water? Should I cut my trip short? Or should I persist, hope that I felt better? I waffled, went back and forth, over and over. I finally stopped, took a deep breath, and asked myself what I should do. And the answer came back: go home. I was disappointed and relieved, both at the same time. It was late in the day, though, so I decided to stay one more night.

I had no appetite. I forced myself to eat some trail mix and drink some water. As I lay down for the night, I thought, I’ll go to breakfast at the lodge dining tent, eat a good breakfast. Maybe I’ll feel well enough after that to stay. Maybe that’s the problem – I just need to eat better.

In the morning, I woke up refreshed and feeling better. I went for breakfast, chatted to the others at my table about different trails. Afterwards, I headed back to my tent, planning to shower, dress, have a snack, and head out for a hike, when the weakness and shakiness returned. I stopped, and sighed. Okay, I get the message. Home.

I packed up and headed home, let some friends know I was back early, and why. One suggested that I might have altitude sickness, sent me a link. There it was – and the antidote was to head to lower ground.

It’s so hard for me to listen to myself, to heed that voice from within that tells me what I need. But over and over, I see that when I listen, things go well, and when I don’t listen – not so well. But we’re not taught to listen to that voice. We’re taught to listen to everything and everyone but that voice.

That voice gets buried, gets drowned out, by the incessant noise of our modern life and of our mind, the voices in our head that argue back and forth like law students showing off – defend, prosecute, render judgment, taking any perspective and building a case for it.

I went to Tuolumne to find some silence, to find some peace, but that noise, those voices, went with me. So now I am focusing my attention on finding silence and peace anywhere.

Wish me luck.

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