Friday, August 14, 2009

Quick Turnaround

Wow, did I get hammered! I was so sick for so long, the last thing I really remember was the weekend of July 25-26. My internist kept a close eye on me, especially since my potassium was low (which can wreak havoc with the heart). The steroid and antibiotic injections she gave me knocked the pleurisy feeling in my lungs right down, that's for sure! But breathing was still an issue. I choked so much, my body hurt something fierce and I felt like I should at least have abs of steel to show for it. I felt like I couldn't get oxygen when I breathed; mostly, I just choked and choked and choked and choked... I sadly gave up our plans to go to the annual Barcroft Research Station Open House the weekend of Aug 1, but I truly was too ill to consider going at all.

I saw the internist every couple of days (and thus avoided the hospital). By the time I saw my pulmonologist on Friday (Aug 7), I was finally starting to do a little better . Still, he told me I had one week for the cough to improve, or else he would put me in the hospital; give me "the Michael Jackson juice" (his words!); put "a little" water into my lungs; and then suction it out. What, controlled drowning?! No, thank you. And didn't all this start with the general anesthesia from the open heart surgery??? We'll just get these lungs better so a bronchoscopy won't be necessary! He did give me another steroid inhaler, as well as got me set up with a nebulizer to use four times a day. That took awhile to get, but I finally got treatment started yesterday (Aug 13).

And of course, I asked him if I could still do altitude. He told me the 8000' peaks in our backyard are fine. So I immediately was begging DH and my hiking buddy for us to at least spend the night in the mountains (and try out our new sleeping pads) THAT NIGHT. I get discouraged staring at the messy house and unpaid bills that I can't take care of when I'm sick, and I was deeply disappointed I'd had to give up my plans for the past two weekend! I pointed out that we had wanted to go back and sleep on Pacifico Mountain, and after all, we can drive right to the summit. So that evening, we threw everything into Big Blue and headed out into the setting sun.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Home to Pacifico Mountain
2,885' to 7,124' elevation

The last brilliant blast of light was hanging over the mountains to the west when we arrived at the peak. Although my favorite spot was taken, we quickly found another one darn near as good. We scrambled about, unpacking and making outhouse treks and checking out the view. My hiking buddy was deeply disappointed to find it was her turn to have no camera chip. With my camera out of commission after the waterfall trip, all we have is one really old one. Oh, well. We took a few pictures even though they won't turn out the greatest. The wind was blowing and it was quite cold already, so we wasted no time in getting a fire going.

Click on any picture to see larger version.

The last of the sunset looking past Mt. Gleason to the west.

Scarlet penstemmon still thriving at the higher elevation.

The lights of the AV come out.
(Littlerock Reservoir visible mid-right.)

Evesgird sacrificed a few trees for the woodpile.
Notice how close we are to the "edge of the world";
that's the distant Littlerock Reservoir at top right!


We set up our chairs by the fire behind the tallest rocks, trying to duck the wind. DH roasted beer brats in the basket over the fire for us while we all enjoyed a bit of the green fairy. By the time our glasses were empty, the brats were ready. I rolled my brat in some heated garlic naan and ate it just like that...simple food tastes so good in the outdoors, doesn't it? Some chips to go with it and some chocolate chip cookies for dessert, and we were comfortably sated.

After dinner, we set up another round of "la louche" while I got out the guitar. Surprisingly, she holds tuning very well, even in the cold. I'm not quite sure when it occurred, but we suddenly noticed the wind had almost completely died down and the night became quite pleasant by the fire. A light breeze blew, just enough torush through the pines and keep the bugs away. So we sat by the fire and sang songs for several hours, quieting down only as it approached 11 p.m. and other campers had already turned in. Life is good!

By that time, it was cold enough even by the fire that I was ready to crawl into my sleeping bag. The temperature was 35-40 deg that night, and I didn't bring heavy clothing. The wind was gusting and thus the wind chill factor was significant.

We got all our sleeping pads laid out. I've switched to a Big Agnes now in hopes of gaining more loft for less weight. I added a Thermarest crate pad at 9 oz to help protect the air mattress and to serve as backup in case of irreparable leaks on the trail. DH has switched to the Lite Core, and the heaviest self-inflating pad is now backup for friends, offspring, etc.

My hiking buddy settled for the Lafuma rectangular 800XL down bag to avoid the claustrophobic feelings induced by the mummy bag. This would be her first time trying it out, along with her new Thermarest self-inflating 1.5 pad. She also had gifted us each with custom-made down pillows and stuff sacks (and mine even has a silk cover). Too cool!

I saw one falling star but faintly; it was midnight now and the nearly full moon was rising above the pine trees to the east of us. I fell asleep listening to DH and my hiking buddy talking and drinking shots of Jaegermeister...

By midnight, the nearly full moon was rising high above.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pacifico Mountain to Big Rock Creek (via home, driving)
7,124' elevation to ~5000' elevation

I slept quite well, and fully awoke for the first time only when the sun first was fully up. Still tired, I easily went back to sleep. I awoke again only when I was roasting in my bag and needed to peel it back RIGHT NOW. This Phantom 15 has made my "sleeping cold" a thing of the past -- I sleep snugly now until the sun makes it too hot (between 7 and 8 a.m, which is perfect for me). I LOVE it! And at 2 lb, it absolutely meets my ultralightweight backpacking needs. Life is really good!

The morning view of the desert from our campsite on the edge of the world.

I took a stroll to the outhouses, then made the loop and looked out at the world to the north and east before returning to camp. DH was making coffee, so I took a stroll on a stretch of the PCT till I could see the southern view (including Mt. Wilson).

Looking south; Mt. Wilson in the distance.
(I could see the antennae easily, but the camera isn't as good as the eye.)

Panorama of the southern view.

When I returned to camp, it was time to start packing it all up to head out. "I really don't feel like doing any hiking today," I said, even though I had brought my trusty maps and had at least two peaks in mind that were possibilities to climb. Although my lungs felt better for sleeping in the night pine air (and we all noticed I was hacking less), I still felt that overwhelming fatigue. Hiking in the heat didn't sound like the best idea for me.

Everyone agreed that hiking was not in the plan for the day. My hiking buddy and I decided to just go lie around Big Rock Creek. So we got everything quickly loaded into BB and headed down the mountain (and back to the heat).

Packing up. Desert vista in background.

As we were coming down Pacifico Mountain toward the 3N17, I saw a flash of gray-brown behind the trees. "Coyote," I incorrectly called. I looked for it as we passed the trees; there was not one, but two deer! Surprise, surprise!

"Deer!" my companions corrected me. We stopped to watch. The deer stopped to watch us. I kept fumbling for my camera, finally found it and got off a shot the moment before they started on their way again up the mountain. Click on the picture to see the bigger version, and see if your eyes can spot them!

The deer are above the log mid-picture, watching us watch them.

What a nice way to end our little campout on Pacifico Mountain!

Soon we were pulling into the driveway. We immediately started unloading. "Want to go to Big Rock Creek?" I asked my son. "Get ready if you do!"

In less than 20 minutes, we had the van unloaded from our mountain campout, and were repacked and dressed for lying in the sun up at Big Rock Creek! Now that's a fast turnaround!

As we headed through Crystalaire, we had a head-on shot to the east of a tow plane taking up a sailplane. Wish I'd had the camera ready! Crystalaire is world-famous among glider pilots for the awesome thermals where the mountains meet the desert they create.

A small plane tows a sailplane.

We were blessed with getting my regular spot at the creek. The water was not too cold, especially where the sun had warmed it up. I had fun chasing all the little trout in the pool.

My German hiking buddy relaxing by the creek pool.

My son swimming in the creek pool.

Playing with the little trout, a.k.a. swimming with the fishes!

Making the pool deeper by adding to the dam.

We had a great picnic lunch and alternately sunbathed or dipped in the creek. It was peaceful and very refreshing! As it was the last weekend before school starts, we stayed until late in the day so my son could swim as long as he liked. Not that that works, because he NEVER wants to leave! But when the shade was long on the creek, it was time to pack up and go. "How do you feel?" I was asked. "Tired, but refreshed!" Life is good. Now let's hope I have a quick turnaround and my lungs heal quickly!

My favorite little fish.

Life is good!

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