How to Avoid Getting Altitude Sickness

A step-by-step guide.

1. Don’t go to Denver, Colorado. Or, if you do go to Denver, Colorado, don’t ignore all of the websites advising you to “drink plenty of water,” because, after all, you’ve been to Quito, Ecuador, a city that is twice the altitude of Denver, Colorado, and you survived that (kind of).

2. Spend a few days recognizing that you get awfully sleepy around 8pm. This is not because of the time difference.

3. Don’t plan to go to a Colorado Rockies game the night it rains really, really hard despite the fact that your friend who’s lived in Colorado her entire life swears “it never rains here,” forcing you to spend the night drinking at two of the best brewpubs you’ve ever been to.

4. When you’re at Great Divide Brewing Company, try (though it may be quite difficult) to not lose your mind over the 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA, because not only is it a double IPA and you never knew such a miracle existed (though, let’s face it, you don’t really know that much about beer except a few key terms like “stout” and “hops” and that generally you just agree with Benjamin Franklin’s sentiment that beer is just proof that capital-G God exists and loves us) but that a pint is only $4, which is like half the amount a pint of comparable quality would cost on the East Coast.

5. Definitely follow-up your trip to Great Divide by going to Denver Beer Company (make sure you get there before the Graham Cracker Porter runs dry, because that’s the signature brew). Finish the night with a sampler, and listen to one of the bartenders talk about his philosophy on brewing/beer/life, which you honestly can’t remember as you type a blog post about it, and let it fill you with a feeling you can only describe as gratitude for having been born a human person who can enjoy the company of old friends over pints and pints of great beer, BUT, don’t let this feeling of love and gratitude carry you all the way to the guest bed at the end of the night without first guzzling one or two or three glasses of good old-fashioned H20.

6. Don’t wake up the next morning thinking to yourself “WOW, I’m not even hungover at all! That must have been some really high quality beer!”

7. Don’t skip water the next morning.

8. Don’t go to only the most amazing (what can only be described as a) Mexican diner, which serves only the most delectable smelling breakfast burritos known to man. Don’t then go to Starbucks and let the only beverage you consume that morning be a hot Venti coffee.

9. Don’t go to Red Rocks Ampitheatre and climb all of the steps, despite how gorgeous and utterly unbelievable the views may be. You’ve never been able to convince yourself that the West was more than a myth, and the view from the top of Red Rocks is certainly full of mythical people, running INSANE workouts in air that makes your lungs feel the size of peas and your brain feel like it’s starting to be squeezed into a vice. And you’ve only just walked up the steps. These people are running, jumping, doing push-ups! Watch them run and run and run and run. Lose your appetite for your breakfast burrito.

10. Don’t let another 2-3 hours of stunning scenery go by before you realize you probably need a bottle of water. And a Gatorade.

11. Don’t discover that there’s a trail called Dinosaur Ridge, which features a 1.5 mile hike full of dinosaur tracks and a quarry of dinosaur bones, which would only be the most awesome and mind-blowing adventure of your life, and drive all the way to it only to realize you’re too sick to go on. You feel dizzy. Your head continues to feel squeezed. You can’t breathe. It’s starting to snow and you only brought your spring jacket, because it’s April and you forgot about snow this winter. You also realize you’re wearing moccasins, not hiking sneakers, and think to yourself “Well, Native Americans wore moccasins and they kind of ruled the West, for a little bit at least.” But remind yourself that you’re not a Native American. You’re just the kind of weak white girl from the East who thought she could kind of just conquer her hangover and take on the Rockies without drinking any fucking water.

12. Spend the rest of the day until your flight lying down on the couch in your friend’s house. Have amazing conversations. Realize again how lucky you are to be an alive human being who knows some pretty great people. Be temporarily restored with a feeling of gratitude.

13. Arrive at the airport to fly home. Feel like you’re going to die again. Sleep on the airplane.

Dedicated to Danni Bosher. You know her as the snake-charmer girl in my Travel Portrait Post. She’s great. I’m glad we both decided to go on Semester at Sea in Spring 2007 and that she lives in Denver and showed me almost all of Colorado the weekend after my business trip until I became too weak to go on.

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