|Posted on September 11, 2020 at 9:45 AM|
It feels good to be back home, although we miss our family out west very much. Thank you for your kind patience while I was away. I usually share a bit about some of our vacations that pertain to health, fitness, and Christian wellness. I thought I would do this again about Colorado, even though I've been to this beautiful state several times before. There are different angles and perspectives I believe might interest you on your journey to total health.
Wildfires Cause Air Index Quality Issues
As we drove from my daughter's home toward Denver, a haze hovered over the horizon, causing the mountains to disappear in areas. The closer we approached the city, as we looked toward the mountains, smoke particles in the air began to bother my throat and lungs, and make our eyes itchy. Denver health officials recommended in a news article to turn the recirculate button on in vehicles to filter out as much of the smoke as possible. It wasn't until almost Colorado Springs before the air cleared. Being outdoors with a low air index quality can cause breathing problems for anyone. Some of the hazards of breathing these particles can lead to asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes, according to the American Lung Association. People with asthma and COPD are especially at risk, as are those who have diabetes, heart disease, and bronchitis. The other hazard is carbon monoxide that makes it hard for your body to take oxygen into your organs and cells. The health of so many people is affected. Not only is horrible damage caused to the ecosystems of the mountains, the careless acts of individuals who caused these wildfires is mindboggling. What a tragedy in so many ways.
Exercise in places with smoke particles can be strenuous. The air must be filtered indoors to protect the lungs of those exercising in gyms or at home. If you visit an area with poor air quality from any wildfires, learn how you can protect your lungs from damage before engaging in any physically demanding activity.
Rocky Mountain High= Less Oxygen per Breath!
Ever since we arrived, I've felt a bit "off." So has my Boaz. "Hon, I feel like I'm on a Tilt-a-Whirl, and my brain feels foggy," I told him the first morning in this high elevation state. At first, I thought it was the camper being slightly unlevel, but that wasn't it. We left home at 342' elevation traveling to around 6,000' elevation. The oxygen levels are less dense, meaning you breathe in less oxygen than usual. According to the Rocky Mountain National Park Guide, altitude sickness can quickly occur around 8,000' elevation. We haven't had altitude sickness at 6,000', just a bit of adjusting to do. Since he has a hereditary heart condition and Mixed Collagen Vascular Disease affects my heart and blood vessels, we felt the effects more so than in the past.
Since we discovered this effect more distinctly this year, we needed to consider what we do. When we bought our camper, there was a bonus bike rack with it. Yay, bonus! We considered packing our bikes to take along. Then I thought about it and stated, "Wait. We shouldn't ride our bikes at that altitude. Walking would be way more than enough for us." It certainly was! Our hearts could feel our walks around the campgrounds and attractions because they have to pump harder to get enough oxygen. At least we gradually increased the elevation by driving rather than flying into Denver's airport. However, we decided to see the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, which took us higher, to around 6500'. Add the COVID-19 mask requirements, and suddenly, only climbing steps at this tourist attraction was strenuous. So, if you get the grand idea of doing your regular exercise or new physical activity in high elevation places like this, think again. Walk around at a higher altitude and sleep at a lower elevation. Gradually, acclimate yourself to the higher altitude with a leisurely stride, then go back lower to exercise. Depending on your physical condition, you will likely pick up your exercise at a higher altitude after a few days. At midlife, and with health conditions, check with your doctor about safely enjoying all those places like Colorado offer.
We drove up to around 9494' elevation to visit Cripple Creek. The elevation change was indeed noticeable. Walking was definitely quite a workout compared to home. At the Historical Museum near the gold mines, I felt more breathless. We were still wearing our masks while climbing stairs, which took on a whole new oxygen demand. I had to stand still at the top of the steps for a while because I actually felt like I would pass out. I also discovered a headache building up at the back of my skull. Altitude sickness, although mild, was noteworthy. We checked with each other to make sure we would be okay to continue. By the time we had toured the museum and town, we were ready to go back to lower elevation with more oxygen. I have to say that we were both exhausted by the time we visited with family. We felt as if we had been on a long bike trip on the trails at home! So, the whole elevation difference is a big deal for anyone. Due to these issues, we opted to walk for our exercise instead of a bike. It is always best to be safe, not sorry.
Let the Sunshine On
This sun-sensitive girl was reminded of how intense the sun is at a higher elevation. We took my daughter and her three children—aka. My grandkiddos— to Dinosaur Ridge Park. The temperature topped 100 degrees with a high to extreme UV Index, so I decked myself out with my UV50+ clothing and SPF 50+ sunscreen, topped off with a hat and polarized sunglasses. We had no idea how little indoor space there was until we had to wait an hour for the tour bus with three rambunctious kids. In no time at all, we had perused the gift shop and the tiny exhibit hall, so we had drinks and snacks from the cooler in the back of our van. I lost track of time as we took photos by the decorative dinosaur statues outside. Finally, our bus arrived! It had air conditioning, but each stop caused it to heat up again. I enjoyed watching my grandkids' faces light up as they listened to the tour guide and touched footprints, dinosaur bones, and other prehistoric clues left behind for us. Little did I know, the sun's effect on my health at that altitude would catch up with me the next morning when I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a truck with blurry eyes and thick fog in my brain. I strained the limits of my sun protection, as good as it was.
High altitudes take you closer to the sun. Fewer clouds block these rays, too. This meant skin cancer might be more prevalent in places like this, according to the Boulder Medical Center. Protecting yourself from harmful UV rays is imperative.
Keeping up Christian Wellness on Vacation
You would think a vacation would fill up the wellness cup, but it invariably does not. The whole getting ready to go "thing" put stress on vacation. I had to rell my squirrely hubby that all the tasks he wanted to do needed to be put in priority order. My focus was packing to go and making sure dishes and laundry were clean, trash was taken out, and the mail put on hold. "Everything else has to wait," I stated firmly. I needed sanity and sleep to function on vacation.
While we enjoyed Colorado, I also had to protect writing and studying time. Every time I posted the Bible Verse of the Day, I read it prayerfully. My Boaz and I discussed some of these passages togehter. Since it wasn't necessary to spend every waking moment with family members, I wedged in some of my own tasks. I also slept. It is amazing how much better I felt when I got enough sleep. I am a more planned, structured person, not the spontaneous person my hubby is. I set to work to keep some semblance of sanity in our vacation.
The morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck, after the Dinosaur Park trip, I slept in. My hubby, wanting to make sure I got my fill-up of family, "Are you ready to head over to your daughter's house?" he queried.
"No," I answered as I sipped my coffee, "I plan to get there around noon. I want to be the Grandma my grandkids want to see, not the one they wished would go home." It made a tremendous difference in my energy levels and attitude when we arrived at their home. I could be more composed, ready for their energy and antics. I could appreciate my daughter and each child with a clearer brain.
Before heading home, we made sure my daughter had a plan to evacuate if the air quality index took a drastic turn. I heard three possible options that made sense. I could conjure up several horrific scenarios, or I could trust God to take her through her plan to safety, if necessary. Trusting God with adult kids and grandkids took the stress off our shoulders, but we would still pray and keep track of the updates from the Denver Post.
We made some scenic stops to check out historic sites like the Pony Express Post in Nebraska. We love checking out different places on the way home. Vacation visiting family is good, but adding in tourist time helped us relax more.
When we were able to sleep in our bed at home, I slept like a rock! Ten hours worth with over 4 hours of deep sleep. That never usually happens! Whew. Now we can rest up for the next visit with our kids.
I hope you can see by my example that vacation is important. I know some of you dislike it when my posts aren't regular when we hit the road, but I don't automate all of them. I struggle to work ahead most days. This is life for me with chronic illness as a writer and fitness pro. If anything, may you find encouragement to take time out of this Cornovirus- Catastrophy riddled time to connect deeply with family while giving God praise for the goodness He has shown you. Also, I hope you've found some valuable helps from this post that you can put into practice. You are welcome to read the post at www.charlainemartin.com on this trip from a different perspective. Many blessings to you!
"Altitude Sickness" by Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails
Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
"How Wildfire Affect Health" American Lung Association
Dinosaur Ridge Park
"Sun Protection at Higher Altitudes" Boulder Medical Center