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Breathless In Breckenridge

June 2, 2011 by · 4 Comments 


We were on our way out of southern Utah; having spent several days exploring Arches National Park and all of its wonders. If you haven’t heard me say it before, now you will: if you want to view one of the effects of God’s hand on earth, here it is. But more on that some other time; because now I want to tell you about beautiful Breckenridge, Colorado and the danger that waited for me there…

The plan was to stash the RV somewhere and stay in our friend’s timeshare near downtown Breckenridge. We were promised beautiful scenery and great shopping and restaurants. The plan didn’t work out because, number 1: We couldn’t find a safe place to leave the trailer, without the SUV, which we would need while we were in town, and number 2: It was dropping below freezing every night and we were concerned about frozen pipes.

Instead, we rented a nice site at the Tiger Run Resort, a 5-Woodall RV park just north of the village of Breckenridge. The resort is mostly very pricey chalets, but there are privately-owned RV sites available through Tiger Run’s reservation department. Ours had an 80 foot paved pad, with full facilities, including a heated water tap. Our site also had owner-provided extra amenities including exterior TV and barbeque pit, landscaping that included Aspen and Blue Spruce trees, and steps up the terraced hillside behind our site to an elevated seating area with a fantastic view of the resort and the surrounding mountains.

At first, the only problem was with our trailer. As we were still touring, it wasn’t winterized and we had developed a phantom leak somewhere under the kitchen cabinets; making it necessary for one of us (as in me) to stay with the trailer and keep an eye on it during those freezing nights that they were having. This meant that Maureen and our friend Karol got to stay at a 4-star condo each night while I lay awake worrying.

But it wasn’t leaks and freezing pipes that would become my greatest worry. What I became obsessed with was the feeling that I was slowly suffocating.

It took a couple of days to take effect and it was worse at night. Every time I fell asleep during those first few days, I would wake up gasping, convinced that I just couldn’t get enough oxygen into my lungs. By the third day, I was having anxiety attacks during the day, gasping for air after the slightest exertion and worrying that something was seriously wrong with me. As it turned out, there was. I was suffering from altitude sickness.

Karol confirmed that that was probably what was bothering me; noting that a friend of hers had been hospitalized because of it and her mother, a long-time sufferer from altitude sickness, had finally had to leave the state and move to Texas. And so at least I wasn’t that big a baby. On the fourth day I was a basket case and we headed up to Frisco and a doctor’s office. The doctor found that even though my blood oxygen level was normal for a person living at a near 10,000 foot plus altitude (Breckenridge sits at 9600 feet, with surrounding ski resort mountains 1,000 to 2,000 feet higher). My body, being that of a quite handsome Floridian flatlander, was used to a higher percent of oxygen and was probably screaming for MORE. “Probably?” No, DEFINITELY.

We also learned that my condition was probably exacerbated by my medical history, which includes: Pulmonary Emboli, Pneumonia, Pleurisy, and Sleep Apnea (Hey! I never said that I was perfect!). The doctors advice and treatment  included an anti-anxiety pill and a canister of oxygen, the latter commonly available at many ski/sporting goods shops in the area. Failing that and, if my symptoms continued or grew worse, the doctor advised that I “get out of town, NOW.”

Gee, what a great time I was having in Breckenridge! And after all those years of looking forward to visiting the Rockies!

We filled the pill prescription, got the oxygen bottle (it looks like a giant asthma inhaler; see insert) and began packing. After hitching up and saying our goodbyes, our friend had one last warning: In order to reach Denver, we’d have to take I-70 through the nearly-12,000 foot Loveland Pass. Oh, goody — where’s that oxygen bottle?

BTW, don’t let my experiences discourage you from visiting the Colorado Rockies. The little bit that I got to see, including the view along I-70 as you pass through the Grand Valley, with all of its fantastic mountain homes clinging to the stunning mountainsides, the Tyrolean-like village of Vail (don’t miss the Ski Museum), and Breckenridge was just great. Just be aware of your medical history and any breathing issues that you might have. Be prepared!

Till next time,

The Traveler


4 Responses to “Breathless In Breckenridge”
  1. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Traveler,
    YOU ARE ONE LUCKY PERSON !! My neighbor went elk hunting, had a breathing problem and came home BEFORE going to a doctor.. When he got back to Texas and went to the doctor he was diagnosed with clogged arteries and had 5 bypasses.. He’d been hunting that area for over 20 years and never had
    a problem…
    He is now back to normal and has already made another trip to Colorado!!!

    Smooth roads & balmy breezes !!!!!!!!!

  2. Frances Smith says:

    I remember when I moved to Utah back in the 80′s to attend school at the U of U. I felt the heaviness in my chest the first month and eventually it didn’t bother me.

    When I would go above Salt Lake City to the ski areas and would be exhausted putting on my skies.

    I enjoyed your comments and happy everything turned out alright for you.

  3. Traveler8343 says:

    Fran, I think that it’s a matter of degree, and altitude. Breckenridge’s 10,000 + altitude might take some getting used to by the average person, but my past pulmonary problems have left me less flexible v-a-v high-altitude breathing.


  4. Hans says:

    It could be that I’m kind of wimpy, but I know I was having troubles doing the slick rock riding in Moab Utah at half the elevation you are talking about. I’ve crossed the continental divide many times and when I can I always stop at the top of what ever pass it may be and try and go for a walk if there is a view point. Love your stories, thanks for sharing. Hans

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