Cytomax…my new best summer walking buddy

Well, the blogging world came a bit close to loosing one of its bloggers earlier this week.

On Tuesday I set out with the a local walking group for the 12.5 mile Black Canyon Trail in Yellowstone.  I’d walked with this group the previous week (I’ll add a bit about this earlier walk, which was lovely, at the end of this post) and had a great time…a good workout, beautiful scenery…a great trip in general.  This week’s trek was another story.

We planned to leave town earlier than usual as we had a long drive to the park.  We were delayed a bit, arriving in Gartner in mid-morning.  We all met up and then split into two groups so cars would be available at each end of the trail and time slipped by, with us setting out from the trailhead at 10:45am.

Our walk began innocently enough, with the trail running through a meadow and leading to the canyon…

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…and sunny skies.  We walked through an elk wintering ground, with lots of such evidence left behind…

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This particular group of ladies is made up of strong, fast walkers.  I’m more of a steady ambler and as such, I was working a bit to keep up with the group.  The sun was hot, the walk was fast and within two hours I was feeling the effect of strenuous exercise.  This was a five to six hour walk we were on.  A couple of rangers on horses passed us and I have to say that the thought of hitching a ride out with them crossed my mind.  However, if you walk you know that walkers reeeeally want to keep going, so I stifled those thoughts and turned forward.

You may know that a huge fire passed through Yellowstone in the late 80s and evidence of this was still abundant on our trail…

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The first third or so of the Black Canyon trail, in the direction that our group was walking, is primarily slightly downhill, as we were getting down to the bottom of the canyon…

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Pretty typical scenery of the trail…

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…this is the Yellowstone River.  After a couple of hours I was red, red, red and hot, hot, hot.  Actually, something felt a bit off…I just didn’t feel strong and steady.  I stopped and ate a bit, which helped.  We stopped briefly at a low-lying waterfall and the suggestion was made that I soak my shirt in the cold water and put it on, to cool off and…That. Felt. Wonderful…and probably prevented a touch of heatstroke.

We met a couple at this point and again, the thought crossed my mind that I could trek back out with them, as they were going the way we’d come, which was still much shorter than the way we were headed, but…well…I didn’t.  By this time the sun had been shaded for a bit and a couple of the walkers had noticed my slower pace and had slowed down to keep with me. We were in bear country after all (not to mention the presence of rattlers) and I have yet to commit to bear spray.  The shade and slower pace were of huge help.

We eventually stopped for lunch amid a rock slide, which provided lots of perfect sit-upons…

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…and I dug into…well, I didn’t feel like eating, so I started with tea.  I love a thermos of tea when I walk and that seemed a good place to begin.  I forced myself to eat some of my lunch…a wrap, half an apple and a bit of chocolate.  Then, it was back to the trail which immediately began a climb up and over a substantial rock slide.

By now, the clouds had drifted off and we were walking under pure, brilliant sunshine.  I don’t know what the temperature was, but I’d say at least the mid- to high eighties.  It was hot.  It was dry.  And we were again walking fast.

We spotted a female big-horned sheep and we all stopped for a look.  Here, she’s in the middle of the photo…IMG_1475

…which perhaps you can pick out.  And, turning downriver, this was our view…

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…which is classic Yellowstone scenery.

From this point onward our trek was in the open, under unabated sunshine.  We had a breeze, but it was a hot, dry breeze and didn’t bring any comfort. I had plenty of water along and I’d been drinking lots, but I was loosing strength.  The dismaying realization was that this is truly wilderness country.  Unprepared peeps shouldn’t be here.  The countryside, with its dangers, is unforgiving.  This was not a good situation for me.

Trudge, trudge, trudge.  Crawling uphill at a snail’s pace.  Sitting down to rest, and getting  up, but not feeling rested.

We finally came to a turn in the trail from where we were starting up the side of the canyon to the parking lot.  This was the final big push and I tried to treat it as such, but, well, there was just not much left to push with.  I finally decided to sit down, eat something again and have a good rest, which helped, but not for long.  At this point I was about half-way up the side of the canyon.

I trudged on again and shortly after this one of the walkers in the group came down to meet me.  She’s trained as an EMT and decided that I needed help.  She took my backpack, which I really didn’t want to give up, but didn’t have the strength to argue about, and she also mixed Cytomax in my thermos.  I’m a water gal…I don’t typically drink energy drinks, but let me say that this was a life-changing experience!  I gulped down a fair bit of this cocktail and let it work its magic as we sat and joked about various silly things.  After less than 10 minutes we decided to give it a try and…I felt as if the day had just begun!  Well…maybe not quite, but I suddenly had energy.  We just put it in gear all the way up and out of the canyon!

Our cocktail-mixing locale…halfway up the canyon…you can see the Yellowstone River below and parts of the trail switchbacking up the side…

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So, what happened?  Turns out the problem was physiological…lost electrolytes.  It was hot and dry and I was working hard and had simply sweated away my electrolyte balance and my normally reliable leg muscles were fairly incapacitated.  I’d felt one leg cramp which should have alerted me to the problem, but I just didn’t understand what was happening until I got home and read some on what’d happened.  I thought drinking enough water was always the answer…but it isn’t.  Electrolytes have to be restored. The drink had hastily restored what I’d lost.  A ziplock of Cytomax and an extra thermos of water now have a permanent place in my backpack for summer walks, along with Compeed and Advil.  Hey, this post could be a product endorsement commercial!

So…all ended well and I post this recount here for any readers who have yet to experience this…buy a little energy booster and tuck it in your backpack 🙂

Back to last week’s walk…it was the Sypes Canyon to The M walk that I’d been wanting to do.  It was lovely…beautiful wildflowers – here’s calypso lily…

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…beautiful scenery…

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…and even a high-point marker for posing by (my hiking poles)…

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The seven-mile walk was a nice day’s outing and ended with a splendid display of balsam arrowroot…

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Just looking at the pictures between the two walks reminds me of the difference in temperatures between the two outings.    Great days…lots of learning…and soon on to the next adventure 🙂

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About walksandrambles

My love of walking began in 2005, when, travelling with my Girl Scout troop to Switzerland, I joined a group of Norwegians for a day, to walk up Elsignenalp. I wasn't at all sure I could make it, but the guide was kind and through her encouragement, started out. It was an all-day affair for me and I was always the last one, but this didn't matter a bit...I'd found my new love! No photos exist for this...the camera went missing on a train...but I remember toasting myself with a cup of tea from my thermos at the top...it was a day of tough work and pure pleasure. If you walk, you know what I mean!
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8 Responses to Cytomax…my new best summer walking buddy

  1. Ingrid says:

    Glad all turned out ok. Thanks for sharing. I, like you, thought water would do the trick. Good info for when I tackle those longer hikes in heat. Stunning photos!

    • There are other drink-ades, as you know, but this was the one offered to me and it worked. Yep, I thought water and peppy black tea would always be enough, too, but that’s not the case in desperately hot weather, at least. Thanks for the nice comment!

  2. Wow! Glad there was someone there who had the right stuff to help you! Hiking with a type 1 diabetic means we always have an array of sugar/electrolyte items but it took me a while to figure I needed to use those for myself as well. It is always a tough lesson but one you will fight to never have happen again. Your pictures are beautiful of both the hikes! Keep on rambling!

  3. kiwiskan says:

    Superb wildflowers – and I’m glad you had help there when you really needed it! A bit of good advice there for other walkers

  4. Thank you…yes, our wildflowers are absolutely gorgeous now. Our state flower – Bitterroot – was in bloom along the Black Canyon trail, but it wasn’t a day for photography beyond a few snaps. Hope it see it again…it’s a beautiful, vibrant pink.

  5. This was a great story. I now have a better understanding of 2 small treks–only 1.5 hrs. ea.-in the high desert of eastern Or. last wk-end. Water, water as you said and a hat. But by the end of each trail I, too, was beet red,–and sweaty, parched and exhausted. I do have heart disease… but this rarely stops me from my little adventures. But now I believe I should have had the same sort of cocktail and feel I should have known better. I also had forgotten that the elevation is much higher than I am used to! Well, live and learn… I think it is marvelous that you do these long hikes–I have walked that mileage in years, but am grateful for what I can do. Always enjoy your lovely photos–wish I could check out the places in person!

  6. Yes, but no sense feeling that we should have known better…how could we? But, now we do and I’ll never leave home on a walking adventure again without a ziplock of Cytomax along. Other aids are probably just as effective, but this was a tried-and-true case of success for me. You’re right…the altitude, the temperature, the length of our treks…these things can all add up to a bad situation…but we’re slowly educating ourselves! Thanks, and all the best!

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