Thursday, August 04, 2011

Code 4 on the Colorado

It was a typical June day in the lazy little town of Williams, Arizona...& at the unearthly hour of 5 am,there were very few of its inhabitants up yet. Except us,because we were going to go white-water rafting on the mighty Colorado River (ok,white water rafting is a stretch...more like smooth water drifting) and had to meet the tour bus by 6:15 AM. (right outside the Grand Canyon park entrance) As it takes an hour to get there,we had to leave by 5. Met the bus, treated a 69,drove into the Park, picked up more people..and took off for the town of Page, AZ. (some 2.5 hours away) Scrub pine soon gave way to desert & rock formations and it stayed that way. Drove onto the Navaho reservation (huge, spanning several states)
and you could tell it was hot outside.(up by the Park entrance, it was in the 50's & everyone still had their coats on from that). On the reservation, they go by Daylight Savings Time so that put the actual timing of the trip back an hour. (the rest of Arizona does not go by that) They also put on a mandatory "Canyon" movie (which after 2.5 hours got extremily dull, I reckon I know more about every single person who has ever rafted the Colorado then I ever wanted to) but we finally arrived at the agency headquarters, where we got off, stretched legs, perused the gift shop,and sprayed liberal applications of SPF50 from head to toe. It was just 9 AM and 85 degrees. An hour later, another group of river goer's joined us, we all signed release forms, and this Marine-looking type gave us a briefing on what to expect. Boarded buses, took off for the "secured area" which is at the bottom of a dam. To get there, we passed through a two mile tunnel in utter pitch
blackness. (claustrophobic, much? You would be by mile 1.5, our bus seemed to be moving at about 20 mph) came out at the bottom, donned hard hats, (because we were at the bottom of a dam/bridge) and all trotted off towards the river,(provided)lunch boxes in hand.

At the river, we tossed all the hats in a bin & boarded boats. It became very obvious that when they said that it would be hot, they did indeed mean, hot. A blast of 105 degree heat greeted us the instant we stepped off the bus. I wasn't thinking it would be quite that hot... but I was grateful for one thing,that I hadn't brought any back-up vials of insulin with me. (I'm not sure even the Frio would have done any good in that heat) Of course,if my pod would have gone bad I would have been up the Colorado without a paddle(figuratively), and a 4 hour drive to the nearest pharmacy.(not really a good thing,but I was lucky,nothing happened)

There were 17 of us on that boat. Our tour guide was a young Navajo Native American named Ritchie. I was most immeadietly concerned with my blood was already trending low & in the insane heat, there's no telling what it would do.But there was lots of sugar on board(both in the form of the lunch boxes,glucose tablets,and the "net" of MinuteMaid Lemonades being drug in the water so I felt safe, in that regard.Checked my blood sugar every hour (during the 4 hour trip),& it held pretty steady. My meter, however, went completely off the deep end & started issuing random Error Codes like crazy.

I had no clue what an error 3, or error 4, was initially pretty freaky & I envisioned my Omnipod/meter dying right there,it's electronics fried by the Arizona sun.But I could still test(didn't give any sort of "device outside temperature range" messages, and those blood sugars correlated well with what my Dexcom was telling me so I just trusted that whatever was going on,it wasn't screwing with the trusty-ness of those readings. It continued to self generate Error Messages (about 20, over the course of an hour and a half) & then stopped. I bolused once(for lunch),& the function of that also seemed to be working just fine, so I stopped worrying about it.

We made two stops during the stretch legs,etc. The French Europeans on board took those oppurtunities to strip off as much clothing as humanly possible & go swimming/skinny dipping in the river.(why they bothered wearing anything is beyond me,since you could see more then you ever wanted/needed to) Fortuantly, they made a bit more of an effort to cover up
on the rest of the journey.

The river was as ice cold as the sun was hot...compliments of the mountain run-off.
After three seconds,you couldn't feel your feet anymore.(45-50 degrees) It certainly helped prevent heatstroke. (those are my frozen toes,FTR)

We had a cooler of water on board,& were encouraged to keep up the H20 intake (as well as wear protective gear,sunscreen) & that got everyone through the 4 hour trip. There was no shade on the Colorado though. (other then when we stopped a couple of times. More then once doubted the wisdom of taking such a trip (despite the guide's reassurances that this "was the best time of year to go"-he may be used to the heat,I was not) but things did work out & it was pretty much fun.

The sun was so hot that I didn't take that many pictures...much less videos (I couldn't see the screen, (hence the upside-downness of any videos,& I am currently tearing my hair out as how to insert those videos...may take a day or two,check back)

It takes between 10-14 days to fully "raft" the Colorado...& its all regulated by private industry, so you just can't go out there and do it on your own. The discoverer/conquoror of the Colorado (one John Wesley Powell) did it in a rowboat, and he only had one arm (they had to tie him to the boat during the really bad rapids...if the boat went down, he would have too. As with the Grand Canyon, alot of people have died (on this great national wonder) & it commands an awesome power.

(Obligatory stop at a reservation store on the way back,& the resulting "Oohhh I really need/want this!" gush (that is,until one viewed the five digit price tag. Probably not as comfortable as a Baby Bjorn,either)

Boarded the bus again,drove the 3 hours back to the car/hotel...and then my blood sugars crashed hard for the next 13 hours.(effects of the heat, perhaps,I certainly didn't do anything that might be considered "physical exercise"-much of that day was spent sitting) The SPF 50 was more then effective in preventing the dreaded "day after" sunburn,although since I reserved my left hand to be SPF free(in order to not mess up blood sugar results) that hand/arm did burn some. The next 24 hours were spent recooperating from the day/hypo night from heck. Despite not being white water rafting,it was still pretty grueling. (I am most definetly not the "diabetic adventurer" type..once in a while is ok,but being away from civilization for an extended period of time is nerve wracking stuff,and the blood sugars were every bit as crazy as I thought they'd be,although mostly after(not during) the trip.

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Colleen said...

I'm so impressed that you did this.
Gorgeous photos!

Scott K. Johnson said...

Wow indeed! What beautiful pictures!