Ever since leaving Portland, Oregon on November 1st we have been getting higher and drier. And no, we are not smoking medical marijuana and abstaining from alcohol. We have left the rainy lowlands of the Pacific Northwest and been traveling inland towards the higher and drier Southwestern United States.
We have spent the last week visiting with Kerri’s parents in the 7000-foot high town of Los Alamos, New Mexico; a town about 7000 feet higher than where we lived in Portland. The air is thin, the humidity is extremely low, and we keep waking up to blue skies and sunshine… EVERYDAY!!!
In Portland, waking up to blue skies and sunshine is about as rare as a polka dotted zebra. They say that Oregonians don’t tan; they rust. Even during the short Pacific Northwest summers the mornings are usually overcast and you don’t see the sun until the afternoon when the marine layer burns off. But don’t get me wrong, I love to see the sun and blue skies, but I do like variety and it has made taking photos a real challenge. Clear blue skies are a photographer’s nightmare. The lighting is harsh and the blue sky makes the photos look drab and boring. Most great photos of the Southwest are taken at sunrise or sunset when the lighting is good and the sky has more colors than just blue. Unfortunately, we generally have been out visiting the sites at mid-day when the sun is overhead.
At 7000 feet, the air is a lot thinner than it is as sea level, where we happened to live. You really feel it when hiking uphill or going up a flight of stairs when your heart starts pounding and you feel dizzy as your body starves for oxygen. Even though Kerri grew up in Los Alamos, she is no longer acclimated to this altitude and finds herself suffering just as I do. I find myself tired all the time and lack the energy I have at lower altitudes. I have often thought about heading over to a medical supply place and renting an oxygen tank for the week. Even though I would look like I suffer from emphysema rolling my oxygen tank around with me, it would be really nice to be able to breath again and feel energized.
While low humidity does not sound like a bad thing, coming from an area that often has 100% humidity and will rain for 30+ days straight to a place with 5% humidity and is experiencing a drought is little harsh on our skin. We are drying out faster than an alcoholic in detox. Our skin is dry and itchy and we find ourselves drinking a lot more water than we did in Portland. The dry air just pulls the moisture right out of you. Kerri’s parents and others that live in this area must feel like they are drowning when visiting the high humidity of the Pacific Northwest.
I look forward to heading to Paris, France on Friday where the elevation is similar to Portland. Unfortunately, so is the weather. I never thought I would say it, but I actually look forward to seeing some rain again. I just wish the weather would be a bit warmer in Paris, but at least we will be able to breath and stop itching.