The Wilderness with t1d

Type 1 diabetes is tough in normal everyday life so you may be wondering what it’s like to spend time in the wilderness with t1d.

Flash back to November 2015. I had my first true wilderness experience when I pushed off from Lees Ferry and traveled 270 miles down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

I also unknowingly had t1d.

How I didn’t die (or get really really sick) is beyond me, and still gives me chills when I think about it too much.

Since that experience, my desire for time in the wilderness has grown exponentially.

The whole thing is beautiful and magickal– not just the solitude and scenery, but the pain, challenges, and growth as well.

T1d is just another challenge to face– whether you are at home or backpacking in the Rockies. Some days it gets the upper hand, and some days you totally nail it.

I experienced both last week on the Colorado Trail.

I’ve been experimenting with basal insulin reduction during previous long duration physical activity, but wasn’t certain what the effects of altitude would be on my insulin sensitivity.

Ultimately, I ended up reducing my basal insulin by 60%. This was spot on for the first four days on the CT. I managed to stay at the high side of “in range”. If I started dipping lower than I’m comfortable with in the wilderness, some dried fruit easily brought me into a better range.

What I didn’t account for was how my resupply day would affect me.

I was looking forward to some “real” food. I ate a pretty big plate of rich penne, a breadstick, half of a (no-kidding) 8″ chocolate chip cookie with gelato, and two diet Pepsis.

Yeahhh.

Besides the stomach ache I had two hours later, I also woke up at midnight incredibly thirsty and my Dexcom reading “HIGH”. My blood sugar was 465.

I eventually got it back down, woke up in the low 200s, and struggled for the next few hours with “HIGH” readings followed by a scary ⬇️⬇️ on my Dexcom where I was dropping 60-70 mg/dL per 5 minutes.

All of that sounds horrible, but here’s where the growth came in. I never freaked out and I didn’t overreact.

I chose to breathe and trust myself.

Sitting at the bus stop with a 400++ blood sugar, knowing I’d be hiking uphill at 10K ft within the hour– I took a tiny bit of insulin, walked a few times around the parking lot, then sat down with my eyes closed and focused on my breath.

Once we were back on the CT at Copper Mountain, as expected, my blood sugar started dropping ridiculously fast.

I paused, remained calm, and ate one packet of honey.

We pushed on at a slower pace, I continued to monitor my numbers, and took in some more fast acting carbs.

When everything settled out, I was pretty perfectly in range and stayed that way for a few hours.

In addition to the challenges of blood sugar management, there’s also the logistics of keeping insulin cool and carrying enough supplies and fast acting carbs.

So yeah. The whole thing is hard. Life is hard. But you can’t let these things stop you from doing something you feel called to.

I’ve always loved being outdoors. But this past week on the CT, something shifted.

I felt great out there. I took to the elevation well.

There was a feeling of “this is where I need to be”.

Maybe I was made to climb mountains– and diabetes, you’re not going to stop me.

🤍 amanda maureen

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