Well, that did not go entirely as planned, but what did go as planned was fun.
A fellow Altoiste was on her way home to Southern CA after her grand maiden voyage from Quebec, and several of us west coast people arranged to meet her in Tahoe. In all, there were four Altos at Sugar Pine Point State Park and the ranger checking us in asked if there was “some kind of convention” going on. The campground is really nice. The sites are large and private and there are paved bike paths going all through. My main focus was delivering washers to the intrepid Altoiste because she was having problems with her shelves falling down and washers could fix it. My other focus was checking out the Perseids meteor shower because this was the weekend for it and all reports indicated it was supposed to be a good year.
All was well on the first day. We got there after an uneventful four hour drive and enjoyed some margaritas before getting together and making a communal taco dinner. That was great fun. Lissa (of Alto number etching fame) brought a handy screen tent and that proved to be a perfect way to take shelter from the yellow jackets. We sat around and chatted for a while after dinner and saw a few impressive meteors, but we were all too tired to stay up super late. We turned in around ten and I experienced what can only be described as a cold flash. Richard assures me it was not that chilly, but I was freezing and put on extra layers for bed. That was probably a bad sign right there.
The next morning we were treated to Lissa’s grilled banana and blueberry pancakes, which were simply delicious. After that, we dilly dallied a bit and then decided to go biking with Bruce, our resident astronomer. We went only a couple of flat and easy miles up to a pizzeria and stopped for lunch. It was at that point I started feeling really un-well. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but I was feeling like I couldn’t breathe properly. Everything from “Am I having a panic attack?” to “Am I having a heart attack?” crossed my mind. It was not fun and it did not really go away for the rest of the afternoon. We ended up going back to the campground after lunch and I just tried to rest and maybe take a nap. Sleep was definitely not going to happen, so I mostly just tried not to panic more. Eventually, Lissa brought over her zero gravity padded (blue!) chair and lying back in that did in fact help me feel better. So that was where I stayed pretty much the rest of the afternoon, evening, and up until midnight (because we did manage to stay up to watch the meteor show).
From talking with the others, it became pretty clear that what I was experiencing was actually altitude sickness. I had this once as a kid, but it was up at around ten thousand feet. I have never heard of having altitude problems as low as six thousand. But others had experiences that supported the theory and in some ways it was a huge relief to put a cause around the symptoms. The diagnosis explained the chills the night before, especially if I was becoming dehydrated (remember, margaritas). Maybe had I not gone biking, I would have acclimated. But at least I stopped there and it did not progress to a serious level.
Plus, I was well enough to be able to enjoy some serious astronoming. Bruce brought some impressive equipment to the party and we got to see an amazing view of Saturn, rings and all! We also got to see the craters of the moon in exquisite definition. Before dark, we got to bird watch with some really nice binoculars, which we both wish we’d had for the whale weekend. I predict new binoculars will be in our future. Later, we moved to a dark parking lot from ten to midnight to get a better view of the sky. Yes, we saw some meteors, but mostly it was cold and we are not night owls on that level. I felt a little bad having highjacked Lissa’s awesome chair for the entirety of the evening, but also, I was unwell and it was super comfy. Yes, one has already been ordered, should be delivered tomorrow.
The next day we were supposed to move on to Yosemite. I’d already pretty much decided that this was unlikely, unless I felt completely great. Waking up, I felt ok, not great, and mostly just really wanted to descend and go home. Richard did all the packing up. I still did the driving but we’ve both decided it would be a good idea for him to start practicing that. But man, as soon as we started dropping down lower than six thousand, I really did start feeling better. It was like I could feel the oxygenation improving throughout my whole body. My mind started functioning normally again, and by the time we got home, I was 100%.
I guess that was a lesson learned about altitude, but I can’t say that part was fun. I think if we’d ascended more gradually, perhaps staying the night a little lower, it would have been ok. But it’s something we now need to pay attention to in our campsite booking. All in all, it was better to have cut our losses than to have pushed on. We didn’t get to try out our backup battery solution, but there was some solar anyway, so we may not have needed it. Wasn’t what we expected, but could have been worse.
Total miles: 195.9, 17.3 mpg, 4 hours, 19 minutes. Site: 109 – very nice site. No hookups, ok cell service for both ATT and Verizon.