Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Defeated at Cottonwood Lake

I passed by Cottonwood lake about a month ago and saw, in the water, that someone had gutted a fish and left its head in the water. The head looked like it would match a trout of 14-16" so I was interested to return.

Last Friday, I talked poor Amy into giving the Float Tube another try and joining me to re-visit Cottonwood Lake. She had only been on one other float-tubing adventure before and it had been a long slog and she didn't like it. I promised her that this would be an easy trip that was a sure-fire easy hike where nothing could go wrong.

I had no way of knowing it would end with sobbing. And vomit.

cottonwood lake
Sunny at Cottonwood Lake

Everything was going great. Easy drive to Lost Lake. Used the F-150 to get up that last little bit to get to the upper trailhead for Mirror Lake. 10 minute walk with tube and trailboat to Cottonwood. Got us inflated and in the water. No noise except birds every now and then.

Great weather -- probably 70 degrees out. Sunny. The lake was full of water though -- not down at all, and that should have been a clue for me. Small fish were rising, but we couldn't entice them. The lake was MUCH larger than I thought it was from shore. There's some kind of optical illusion going on there.

After about 2 hours, Amy announced she wasn't feeling well and she paddled herself to shore. When she got there she said she felt so sick. She had the worst headache of her life she thought she was going to throw up. I told her that she was probably just too cold from the water (she had been wearing thin, breathable summer waders) and that she should try to get warm.

She curled up in a ball, clutching her head and weeping (I have that effect on many women so I was not too surprised). I hurriedly packed our stuff and we started stumbling down the trail. We got about halfway down when she announced that she wanted to sit down but I wouldn't let her.

She then vomitted on my sandaled feet.

After that she slowly got better. Later, at home, she was back to normal, and decided against ever float-tubing again.

Here's what I think happened. The warm, sunny weather kept the top half of her nice and toasty and giving her the impression that she wasn't slowly freezing. But because she was wearing uninsulated waders in cold water (is Cottonwood spring-fed?) her core temperature slowly dropped until her body started taking drastic measures to keep her warm, including giving her the worst brain-freeze ever and removing all the blood from her stomach, causing her to get nauseous...

It goes without saying that I was skunked once again. These alpine lake fish are too smart for me. I was even tring 6x tippet. Maybe I need to go flourocarbon or something.


  1. Unlikely. I was a wilderness ranger for 9 years in my youth and ran across a lot of people who were not prepared and down right hypothermic - including an entire troop of boyscouts and their poorly prepared adult leaders. Hypothermia does not make you nauseated. More likely, it was something she ate earlier in the day and as soon as she got it out of her system, she got better.

    There is a smaller lake above cottonwood... not mirror but upper cottonwood... it is VERY small and hard to find. The big fish head was probably a brook trout from that tiny lake.


  2. This happens to me and I didn't know what it was. Then it happened violently when I went hunting for elk in a ponderosa forest. I knew I had allergies and always took a pill every morning. But I am extremely allergic to pine and I had a horrible headache that continued into puking and passing out. I had to go home and take a shower, blow everything out of my nose and take a sudafed. Was fine after that. Just have to double up on meds when I go walking in the woods. I am pretty positive that's what happened to your friend.