Saturday, May 30, 2009

Straight Up

Mt. Lewis, 8,396'; and Dawson Saddle, 7,901'.
Click on any photograph to see larger version.

Dawson Saddle to the Summit of Mt. Lewis
7,901' - 8,396' (500' elevation change)
1 mi round-trip
(avg 19% grade)
"I'd rather be AMA than MIA." ---hfh
This trek is dedicated to my ET brothers.

I felt so good after I got my infusion Tuesday! And by Thursday, I could take a deep breath with -- for the first time in a long time -- NO PAIN. Still, just watering the plants was wearing me out.

But I was really bummed to wake up Friday hurting again. Inhaling deeply hurt, and my shoulders and neck ached fiercely. My friend from Germany asked if we were going to climb Mt. Lewis like I wanted on Saturday. "Just come over," I told her. "We'll do something."

I wore myself out Friday just watering the plants and fetching fresh water from the creek for the tadpoles we rescued. I slept for several hours in the afternoon and early evening. I didn't feel much better for it, either.

So I still felt cruddy when I woke up Saturday, but I just couldn't stand it. Either I'm better and I need to rebuild my strength VERY QUICKLY before I have to do toxic chemotherapies again; or I'm not over the pneumonia yet (which the altitude will reveal) and I need more antibiotics. So I am going to find out!

I packed my backpack and weighed it -- 10 pounds. If I'm going to get stronger quickly, this is how to do it---carry weight at the higher altitudes. I pointed out proudly that I was within my weight limitations. DH responded by pointing out I'm within the weight limitations but going AMA --- against medical advice.

We headed up for the 2. We were still on Big Pines Hwy when I started feeling very nauseated. Don't tell me I'm having trouble when we're still below 6000'! I looked at the clock. It'd been just long enough since I'd had my morning medication that I could bet that was what was causing the problem. I drove on.

We cheered when we drove past Vincent Gap; the road has been closed there for entirely too long (4.5 years!). It was wonderful to finally see all the work that's been done. And those views!

Five miles of twisting turns past Vincent Gap, we reached the highest point of Hwy 2 -- Dawson Saddle. We parked by the maintenance shed, adjacent to Mt. Lewis.

Mt. Lewis offers the perfect trail on which to start rebuilding: it's only 1 mile roundtrip. Oh yeah, but it's got that 500' elevation gain over only half a mile. Since it's flat on top, that 19% avg grade is deceptive -- try more like 35% on much of the trail! A great trail to try out my new trekking poles (the purple stick just can't do ALL of it). I honestly don't know how my friend did it without any walking stick.

We set off, virtually straight up the mountain, from the west side of Dawson Saddle (elevation 7901'). The leg muscles were protesting they had atrophied, but at least that awful BURN from the lack of oxygen was no longer a problem for me. My lungs, however, were protesting; and it wasn't long before I was feeling nauseated again. We stopped for water and to catch our breath. But I noticed the burn was going away; my lungs were getting the workout I desired.

Straight up.

Snow flower...on the mountainside.

Weathered stump.

We each sat down once on the trail on the way up; it could be that slippery and steep! We also had to stop to rest more often than I'd like; oxygen debt plagued me every so many yards. We took a bit of an extended break at one semi-flat spot not far from the top.

After that, it wasn't long before we reached the rounded top of the mountain, and headed up the ridge to the highest point. No cairn or summit register, but thanks to whoever put the flag up at the summit!

Summit of Mt. Lewis, 8,396'.

We explored the different points at the top, then settled in for our picnic lunch. Soon, a glider from nearby Crystalaire was swooping by, wagging its wing at us as we enjoyed the whoosh of the air rushing over it.

Sentry over our picnic spot at the top.

A wing wave from the glider pilot.

Mts. Baden-Powell and Burnham from Mt. Lewis.

Throop Peak from Mt. Lewis.

Looking toward Mts. Hawkins and Islip from Mt. Lewis.

Mt. Williamson from Mt. Lewis.

The entire way up, we'd enjoyed the unusual cloud cover and milder temperatures. I'd only felt one raindrop. But now I felt about a half dozen. Time to pack up the picnic! We were all packed and ready to descend by 2:36 pm.

The rain came down in fat splats as we headed down the mountain. It was still not raining enough to make the ground wet, but enough we were no longer staying completely dry. We hit the steepest part of the trail, and the rock and dirt were so loose that we each ended up sitting down hard in the same exact spot. But with no further mishaps after that, we quickly reached the bottom of the trail and the warmth of BB.

By 3:06 pm, we were driving the rest of the newly opened road down to Islip Saddle. We turned around there and drove -- moseyed -- back toward home, stopping to take pictures. We found a waterfall and climbed it, which further worked my legs. Rain fell on us off and on, usually not enough to matter.

If it helps you with perspective, my friend (by the greenery) is 6'4".

By the time we hit Big Pines Highway, though, the rain was really starting to fall. The wildflowers we were so enjoying photographing were closing up. So we finished up the last of our "want" pictures just as the rain really started soaking us and the temperatures were getting downright cold.

The sun illuminates the distant El Mirage dry lakebed.

Definitely snapdragon family; probably a monkeyflower. But I can't find the exact one.

A yellow/cream lupine.

Golden yarrow.

Lupine growing out of the rocks in the highway cut.

Western wallflower.

Rattlesnake weed.

Mojave thistle.

Prickly poppy.

Beavertail cactus.

We headed north on Largo Vista toward the 138. Right then, a huge flash of bright blue-white lightning snaked down and hit a pole ahead of us. I cringed as the expected LOUD crack of thunder followed a split second later. I slowed, but luckily the lightning did not bring down the pole or the wires.

Thirty minutes later, I was safely home and my friend was headed on her way. And boy, did I enjoy that good long soak in my garden tub!

Life is good; we'll see how I hold up. But honestly, I feel stronger for having done it.

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